The Pepsi Challenger was thwarted at Indy, but rebounded at Milwaukee. (IMS photo)
Mike Mosley and Dan Gurney's All American Racers gave the radical "BLAT" Eagle-Chevy its one and only CART IndyCar victory on this day 31 years ago today in the Gould Rex Mays Classic 150 at the Milwaukee Mile. And the circumstances were appropriately epic.
The '81 Eagle continued the exploration of BLAT (Boundary-Layer-Adhesion Technology) approaches to generating downforce pioneered by chief designer John Ward (Gurney, Wayne Leary, Trevor Harris, Phil Remington and others made significant contributions as important members of the AAR design team), as an alternative to the skirted ground-effect systems that other IndyCar and Formula 1 designers of the period were following. BLAT, which featured a narrow tub with a uniquely wide rear deck rather than conventional sidepods, was better suited to the dimensions of the normally aspirated, aluminum block Chevrolet V8 engine that AAR developed and built as a less-expensive alternative the more-expensive Cosworth turbo V8s that were widely used in CART in the early '80s. The BLAT Eagle went through several iterations, but the '81 car brought its greatest success.
Mosley had qualified the car on the center of the front row for the Indianapolis 500 a couple of weeks earlier, bested only by Bobby Unser's Penske which would go on to win, then lose, then win the race under appeal. Mosley's and AAR's hopes of challenging Unser in the "500" were thwarted early, as a holed radiator stranded him after just 16 laps, so he and AAR went on to Milwaukee eager to remove the sting of a last-place result. They would do with an exclamation point.
It started with another setback, as Mosley's Chevy expired in pre-qualifying practice, forcing the team to skip time trials. The car was slotted in at the back of the grid for the race as a promoter's option, and with the race only 150 laps of the mile oval, prospects seemed dim. But Mosley tigered through the field, passing cars on the inside and outside, and by lap 106 swept past Tom Sneva to take the lead. No one could muster a challenge to the Eagle the rest of the day, and at the end of 150 laps Mosley had lapped the field!
Mosley shared the Pepsi-backed Eagle that year with Geoff Brabham and Rocky Moran, who took over the car for road races. Brabham took pole with it at Riverside and rocketed off to a comfortable lead before a crossed wheel nut sidelined him, while Moran also looked headed for a victory at Watkins Glen before a fuel glitch caused to him to run out of fuel on course. But there were to be no more upsets for the Eagle. Loss of sponsorship curtailed the team's efforts, and subsequent rule changes effectively banned the BLAT design and restricted the pushrod Chevy out of IndyCar racing.
However, elements of Ward's 30-year-old concepts have made a comeback this year in the all-new DeltaWing, which All American Racers has built for Highcroft Racing's Le Mans effort this year.