The changes in Michael's team are even more drastic. First, car owner Maurice Kraines decided to drop his two-driver format and go with Michael Andretti alone.
"Having only one car to prepare eliminates so many problems," Michael said. "A two-car team takes four times the effort of a one-car team."
Kraines then hired Barry Green as chief mechanic and team manager, and Adrian Newey as engineer.
Green came from the Forsythe team, where in 1983 he guided rookie driver Teo Fabi to the pole at Indianapolis and rookie-of-the-year laurels. Newey, who was with Bobby Rahal last year, is credited with designing the March cars that Michael and most other Indy car teams use.
"I'm very pleased at the way my new March runs, but I'm more pleased at the team Maury has put together," Michael said. "We have one of the best, if not the best, organizations in racing. I have great confidence in winning, especially after the Lean Machine ran at Phoenix. Of course, you never know in this game. In two weeks, things could be entirely different."
The season turned around just that quickly for Mario last year.
After winning the CART Indy car championship in 1984, Andretti picked up where he left off by winning three of the first four races and finishing second in the other--to Danny Sullivan in the Indianapolis 500.
"Life was so much fun for a while," Mario said. "Then, I don't know what happened. Everything happened. Everything that could happen that was bad, that's what happened."
The first thing, and perhaps the one that led to many of his later problems, he caused himself when he dumped his motorcycle on a Pennsylvania road the week before a race at the New Jersey Meadowlands.
"It was my stupid mistake," he said. "I just lost it and I banged up my ribs pretty bad. I never had to endure such pain. It hurt the whole season, every time I breathed, or moved my arms, or did anything. I drove with them taped up, but it hurt like hell. Especially when I slowed down. Then I had time to anticipate the pain. I don't know what was worse, thinking about it or feeling it."
After winning at Long Beach, Milwaukee and Portland, and running second at Indy, the elder Andretti finished only 2 of the remaining 11 races and finished in the top five only once. It wasn't that he wasn't competitive, it was always that something happened.
At Cleveland, for instance, he was well in front with only four laps remaining when a fire broke out in his car. He finished 14th.
"When I saw the smoke and the fire coming into the cockpit, I was so depressed and my ribs hurt so much I could have stayed right in it and burned," he said.
Michigan was two weeks later, and Mario led at the start and was still running strong when he crashed into a wall nine laps from the end and broke his right shoulder and cracked a hip joint. It caused him to miss the next race, at Elkhart Lake, Wis. Amazingly, it was the first race he had missed in 22 years.
"It was bad enough to be in the hospital and miss a race for the first time in my career, but then I hear that Beatrice has let James Dutt go and I know that means trouble for our sponsorship," he said.
"I know when big organizations make changes like dumping the chairman of the board, and he's the guy who loves racing, it means changes will be felt all down the line, but that's their prerogative so you can't do anything about it. But it didn't make lying there any more pleasant.
"Then my dog, Bosco, died of heart failure. He was only 4, but I took it hard. It was like losing a son. I was still feeling bad and hurting from the rib and the shoulder when it was time to race at Pocono. We had a lot of folks up to our place by the lake, so we hired a couple of helicopters to take us to the race track.
"I took off with Paul (Newman) and some others and we were hovering around when the other chopper, with Michael and Kevin (Cogan) and their girlfriends took off. I could see the way it was taking off, it was going right into some wires.
"It was the most traumatic experience of my life, to be up there watching, knowing what was going to happen and not be able to do a damn thing about it. I knew it would crash, I knew there could be a fire and I knew they could all be electrocuted. I was terrified."
The chopper dropped about 30 feet to the ground, snapping the wires so quickly that it cut off the power, and fortunately no one was injured seriously. Michael suffered back spasms from the crash and was taken to a hospital, where he was checked and released. He immediately hopped into another helicopter for the ride to Pocono, 76 miles distant.
"There were only about eight minutes before the race when he arrived," Mario continued. "He barely had time to put his helmet on and get his radio hooked up when it was time to start the engines. When the race started, he drove like a man possessed and took the lead. He drove like hell until the car quit.