The last of the spate of urban jungle street circuits that graced the United States in the 1980s and early 90s, Phoenix hosted three Grands Prix, of which the last, in 1991, was marred by a remarkably peculiar and dangerous on-track intervention.
With the race opening the 1991 season, the Friday morning pre-qualifying session would be the first on-track action of the new campaign. However, the action was red-flagged after only a few minutes after a man on crutches hobbled on to the track and laid down in an apparent attempt to commit suicide.
He was narrowly missed by Eric van de Poele, a Belgian driver making his F1 debut for the Lamborghini team.
“I couldn't believe it,” van de Poole said. “It was my first laps in F1 and everything was supposed to be so professional. Then I came round the corner and there was a man lying in the middle of the track.”
The man, named locally as 27 year-old Marlon Rauvelli, had been released from the Maricopa Medical Centre a few blocks away from the circuit earlier in the day. Rauvelli was subsequently taken back to hospital by the authorities, and pre-qualifying resumed.
The interruption clearly disrupted van de Poele's mojo though, as the Belgian finished plum last in pre-qualifying, a spectacular 8.7 seconds off the session pace, and 16 seconds off Ayrton Senna's ultimate pole position time.
Renegade Race Starter
Hans Heyer was an extroverted German racer who forged a respectable career in touring cars and sportscars, but is best remembered for one of F1's great guilty pleasure underdog stories; his illegal entry into the 1977 German Grand Prix.
For their maiden home race at Hockenheim, the fledgling German ATS team decided to enter a second car for the first time. Heyer, a notorious prankster who would only drive in two single-seater races in his entire career, was duly hired for his grand prix debut to help drum up support for the ATS cause.
However, driving the car for the first time, Heyer disappointingly failed to qualify after setting the 27th fastest time out of 30 runners.
Living up to his maverick reputation though, Heyer refused to be deterred. As third reserve should one of the starters suffer misfortune, Heyer lined his car up in the pits pre-race as the rules permitted at the time. The German though had a pre-meditated plan that certainly wasn't in the regulations, enacted with the friendly partisan support of a few myopic marshals.
When the flag dropped, Heyer brazenly blasted out of the pits and joined the race, making his grand prix debut to, incredibly, the complete ignorance of the authorities. The crowd cottoned on much faster than the officials, and roared their delight as the yellow ATS streaked off in pursuit of the field.