by Russell Atkins

Mario Andretti is one of the most celebrated names in motor racing, with more than 100 triumphs across an illustrious carer that has spanned an incredible five decades. While he may now be 67, that passion for the sport he loves still clearly burns as brightly as ever.

In addition to his Formula 1 World Championship success with Lotus in 1978 and four IndyCar crowns, the American has also tasted victory champagne in the iconic Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500 races. Reunited with some old friends - in the shape of both drivers and cars - at Donington Park's inaugural GPlive event this weekend, he confessed to feeling somewhat akin to a kid in a sweet shop.

"I just love these events," he enthused to "I'm happy (GPlive organiser) Richard Morgan invited me to come here and gave me the chance to revisit these old cars with so many fans. British fans are just the best; they are so knowledgeable. I've been meeting some new ones and have seen so many old friends as well.

"I've been around a long time - many of us grandfathers here were teenagers one day! Some of the Lotus mechanics here actually worked for the team when I raced with them. The chief mechanic Bob Dance and three or four others who were with me in best days with the team are still here. It's very nostalgic and just a wonderful feeling for me."

The Italian-born star took to the track in a number of different machines, bringing back memories - but not, he admitted, quite as quickly as he may have hoped...

"Going out with the old Lotus 49B, I forgot it didn't have ground effect and I took it into the first corner really deep and immediately did a 360!" he joked. "That brought me back to some semblance of reality! They all felt just a bit strange at the beginning, but it was fun being able to revisit how these cars felt. They are still beautifully-prepared and go very well."

Andretti undoubtedly has many happy memories to reminisce over from his 47 active years in the sport, and the family dynasty certainly looks set to remain in good hands courtesy of son Michael - a former CART title-winner himself - and grandson Marco, currently competing for Andretti-Green Racing in the Indy Racing League and tipped for a potential Formula 1 break in the not-too-distant future. It is very much a family affair in every sense of the word.

"You always have to judge your career by the successes," Mario stated, "because those were the most joyful moments. There are also the team-mates I've been able to share the team with and all the friendships I've made over the years. Motor racing is like one big family ultimately, and when you come back to it that's really what it feels like. This has been my life."



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