Marco Apicella: an 800 meter careerWritten by 'Αγγελος Φωτσεινός
Translated by Giannis Binas
''Better be lucky than good''.
Marco Apicella definitely wasn’t familiar with this saying.
He didn’t have any luck, either.
As a result, he went down in history for a unique record: he is the driver with the shortest career in Formula 1, to the day.
As it seems, he will remain record man for many years to come.
Born near Bologna on the 7th of October 1965, his career began at the Italian karting circuits.
In 1984, he moved to single-seater racing, competing in the national Formula 3 championship, from where he ‘graduated’ in 1986 as a runner up champion, behind Nicola Larini.
In 1987, it was high time for the major supportive Formula 1 series, the international F3000.
At his first year in the league, he classified 19th with 1 point.
Four more seasons followed, where the results were clearly better (11nth in 1988, 4th in 1989, 5th in 1990 and fifth again in 1991).
However, already from 1987, he was a member of the Minardi family.
He remained as a test driver for the Faenza based team until 1992, while in 1992, he had the opportunity to test on behalf of another Italian team, the Modena Lamborghini.
In the same period, he also moved to Japan, in order to perform tire testing for Bridgestone, which was evaluating its return to Formula 1.
His first contact with Japan was not the last one too.
In the end of 1991, Apicella was after the next step in his career.
He sought a place in Formula 1’s grid, but didn’t make it, as neither Minardi, nor any other team was interested.
For that reason, the Itlaian moved to the Japanese F3000 (a series on par with the International F3000), signing a three year contract with Dome.
Everything showed that, in spite of his remarkable appearances in the Land of the Rising Sun, both in 1992, as well as 1993, the F1 dream would be forgotten forever.
Nevertheless, two unexpected developments brought him ‘from nowhere’ to the paddocks of Monza, in the context of his home country’s GP.
At the last race, held at Spa-Francorchamps of Belgium, the local hero, Thiery Boutsen, decided to hang up his gloves in front of his compatriots.
That meant that ahead of the Italian GP, Jordan had a vacant position.
Then, Eddie Jordan offered the team’s test driver, Italian Emanuele Naspetti, the ability to race at his home GP, but for unknown reasons, he refused!
The owner of the Irish team had the alternative solution ready: he was familiar with Marco Apicella from the International F3000 years and called him immediately.
Contrary to Naspetti, APicella had no reason to deny the big opportunity.
He secured Dome’s permission, caught the first flight and a few days ahead of the race, he ‘landed’ at the circuit of Imola, in order to try the Jordan 193.
The time margins were so narrow as to allow the Italian only a brief acclimatizing with the car.
That fact, together with the 12-lap confinement in qualifying, didn’t allow for anything better than 23rd place (out of 26 entries).
It must certainly be noted that the time (1:25.672) recorded on Saturday, was with the spare car, as he had an exit at the first Lesmo on Friday.
His team-mate, Rubens Barrichello, qualified 19th, with a time half a second down (1:25.144).
The start of the race offered quite some thrill.
The ‘expected’ congestion at the breaks prior to the first chicane brought 3 different incidents.
Up on the first places, there was a contact between Ayrton Senna and Damon Hill.
In the middle of the rank, the civil war between the 2 Footworks of Derek Warwick and Aguri Suzuki led to a double retirement, while further back, Jyrki Jarvi Lehto collided with the 2 Jordans, dragging them out of the race.
The turmoil of the start, from 8:00 onwards, in the following video:
Until the 193 had accelerated, Apicella was out of the race.
His only, as destined, appearance lasted something less than 15 seconds.
That way, he entered the statistics as the driver with the shortest in distance covered career in the history of Formula 1.
At the next race, the GP of Portugal, Naspetti also made his only appearance of the season and was replaced for the last two races (Japan and Australia) by Eddie Irvine.
Apicella returned to Japan and was declared champion of the domestic F3000 for 1994 on behalf of Dome.
An earthquake that caused extensive damage to Dome’s facilities, was the reason of the temporary ending of its cooperation with the Italian for 1995.
In 1996, the cooperation revived, as the Japanese team chose Apicella to test their first and last F1-spec single-seater they built, the Dome Mugen-Honda F105.
However, the project didn’t move on and Dome didn’t eventually make it to Formula 1.
Apicella spent the next years of his career at his racing ‘Ithaca’, Japan, moving to GT championships.
Moreover, he made occasional appearances (1995, 1999, 2006, 2007, 2009) at the 24 hours of Le Mans, while, in 1993, he won the third place at the Italian F3000 and decided to return, after 8 years, to the International F3000, but failed to qualify at the race of Spa.
It can be supported that ‘negative records, are records too’.
Anyway, in Apicella’s case, the record that comes along with him, on the one hand is due to Jyrki Jarvi Lehto; on the other, it wouldn’t exist if Eddie Jordan had granted him one more opportunity.
It goes without saying that he wasn’t deemed as unfit to race in 800 meters.
It is also understood that opportunities aren’t abound in Formula 1.
The Italian didn’t have enough luck for a second chance; at least he gained a place in the statisticians’ books.
Now, if this achievement is considered as luck or misfortune, is left to everyone’s discretion…
- Translated By: Ioannis Binas