Legendary US team owner and sometime Formula 1 entrant Carl Haas has died at the age of 86. Haas had been battling Alzheimer’s Disease and passed away on June 29. His death was announced by his Haas Auto business on July 7. He was the last F1 team owner from the United States prior to the unrelated Gene Haas’s current programme, creating an outfit in partnership with ex-McLaren chief Teddy Mayer, Ford and Lola in 1985 and ’86. But it was in the CART Indycar Series where Haas enjoyed most of his success. He joined forces with famed American actor Paul Newman, who had been a rival team owner in Can-Am, for 1983 with Mario Andretti as their driver. Newman/Haas claimed the title with Andretti in only its second year in 1984 and became synonymous with the Andretti family as it ran Mario for the rest of his racing career and then added his son Michael when it expanded to a two-car line-up for ’89.
The younger Andretti delivered a dominant second championship for Newman/Haas in 1991, and when he moved to F1 with McLaren two years later the team was able to lure grand prix racing’s reigning world champion Nigel Mansell as his replacement. Mansell famously won the US championship at the first attempt, bringing more international recognition to both the series and Newman/Haas in the process. Haas stayed loyal to CART during the rivalry with the Indy Racing League, sticking with the championship even as the likes of Penske and Ganassi drifted away early in the 2000s and taking Cristiano da Matta to the 2002 title. The team ultimately dominated the final years of what had by that time become the Champ Car World Series, running Sebastien Bourdais to four straight titles from 2004-07.
When the warring championships merged for 2008, Newman/Haas/Lanigan – as it became for three years when Mike Lanigan temporarily joined the ownership roster – was on the back foot given its main rivals’ greater experience of the IRL Dallara-Honda package. It still won its second IndyCar Series race with Graham Rahal in mixed conditions in St Petersburg and was competitive enough to triumph in a straight fight in Detroit with Justin Wilson that year. That proved to be the team’s final win. After Newman’s death in 2008 and Lanigan’s departure to join forces with Bobby Rahal’s team at the end of ’10, Haas was back in sole charge for ’11. The team ran Oriol Servia to fourth in that year’s standings and James Hinchcliffe to the rookie title, but then withdrew from racing citing the poor economic climate.
Haas had started out as a racing driver himself in sportscars in the 1950s. He created his Carl Haas Automotive Imports Inc. business in 1960, and by ’67 was Lola Cars’ exclusive importer in North America. He also ran teams in Formula 5000, Can-Am, Super Vee and NASCAR, although Haas’ at-track presence wound down in the later years of the team.