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The 1985 Season

The 1985 Season


Stefan Bellof (Tyrrell) & Michele Alboreto (Ferrari).

My personal reminisces of bygone seasons has reached 1985, one that produced eight different winning drivers from its sixteen rounds as well as the first to be all turbo. The diversity of winners, however, owed as much to the propensity of the powerful and thirsty motors of the day to self-detonate or run short of fuel, as much as to the racing.

Alain Prost (McLaren) comfortably claimed the first of his four World Championships although Michele Alboreto’s Ferrari had topped the standings for much of the season.

Personally, I only attended three Grands Prix although they did produce many of the season’s highlights and landmark moments. In fact it should have been four but for Belgium in May I got as far as Dover docks for the Saturday evening ferry when I heard that the race was cancelled due to the newly-laid Spa track surface breaking up. I was unable to make the rearranged date in September – the only Grand Prix at the re-opened shortened Spa circuit I have missed.

So my first race was the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which also happened to be the only one I attended that year in a working capacity. I was employed by a publicity company looking after personnel from Jaguar Cars amongst others with a berth in a fairly luxurious camper van in the paddock as part of the arrangement. Silverstone was at its bleakest with the weather more like November than July. First practice on Friday was delayed by the medical helicopter being unable to fly due to rain and low cloud whilst in the evenings we huddled around the barbeque to keep warm.

On track, the highlight was Keke Rosberg’s Williams-Honda’s record breaking 160.9 mph (257 kph) pole-setting lap, but it was Ayrton Senna’s Lotus that was looking set for a comfortable win until he ran out of fuel a few laps from the end gifting the race to Alain Prost.

Next up for me was a day at the seaside and the Dutch Grand Prix at a bright and blustery Zandvoort in August. I watched from my favourite Zandvoort spot, atop a sand-dune just after the Scheivlak bend at the back of the circuit. In a close finish Niki Lauda took his only victory of the season holding off team-mate Prost to win by just a car’s length. It was unknown at the time but this was to be Lauda’s final Grand Prix win and the last to be held at Zandvoort. Also it was to be the last Grand Prix for Stefan Bellof who would die later at Spa in a round of the WEC. He was undoubtedly destined for great things but unfortunately his best result would turn out to be third place in a Tyrrell at a soaking wet and prematurely halted Monaco the previous season, a brilliant performance largely overlooked by Ayrton Senna’s run to second. Germany would also lose Manfred Winkelhock at the Mosport WEC round in September.

We British benefitted once again when proposed street races at New York and Rome did not materialise resulting in Brands Hatch being awarded with the ‘filler’ European Grand Prix at the beginning of October. I attended Friday practice but returned to Devon to play football on the Saturday before heading back to Brands for race-day. A photograph I took during practice was published in the magazine ‘Prix Editions’ and a few years later won me the new Canon eos SLR camera in a competition judged by a panel of leading F1 photographers of the day. It was a wide-angle shot of Philippe Alliot’s RAM-Hart entering Hawthorn’s Bend taken from general admission against a low autumn sun using Cokin diffuser and graduated grey filters to accentuate the dark clouds and add some atmosphere. On race day some friends had a spare grandstand seat at Clearways so I was able to watch in comfort as Nigel Mansell, now in his sixth year of F1, finally won his first Grand Prix. To be honest it was something I thought would never happen, let alone that he would go on to become a serial winner and World Champion. Alain Prost’s fourth place finish clinched his Championship after any lingering hope for Michele Alboreto literally went up in smoke after his Ferrari pulled off early with its rear end ablaze.

Alain Prost was justly rewarded having won seven of the sixteen rounds, particularly as he had won more races than anyone else in the previous two seasons but had missed out on the Championship by two points and half a point respectively. Niki Lauda’s points scoring consistency ensured McLaren would retain the Constructors’ Championship whilst Ferrari’s late season unreliability blew it for Michele Alboreto (shades of 2017). Ayrton Senna won two races in his first season for Lotus truly announcing his arrival as a top class driver.