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May 21, 1997|SHAV GLICK

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: Super Speedway, an IMAX camera film.

Where: Ultra Screen Theatre, Ontario Mills, intersection of Interstate 10 and 15.

When: Opening show, 11 a.m. Thursday. Five or more shows daily.

Price: $6.75 for adults, $5.75 for seniors, $4.75 for 11 and under.

If going through Bob Bondurant's race driving school is too expensive or too time consuming, or if you think driving at more than 200 mph is too dangerous, Super Speedway is a remarkable replacement.

When Mario Andretti and son Michael dice through the corners of Laguna Seca Raceway and other tracks of the CART PPG Cup series in Indy cars, you are right in the driver's seat. It's so realistic that before the show starts, management warns you if it gets too scary or you start to get dizzy, close your eyes.

On a screen six stories high--61 feet tall and 84 feet wide--director Steve Low puts viewers into the heart of the 1996 season in which Michael won five races and finished second to Jimmy Vasser, plus the added enjoyment of driving with the retired Mario, who manages racing speeds of 230 mph despite hauling a 50-pound camera on his Newman-Haas Lola.

It becomes apparent, the way Mario drives, that he knows he made a mistake retiring when he did three years ago, although he poignantly remarks, "When Michael passed me, I realized he is a better driver than I ever was, and it was kind of bittersweet."

Narrated by Paul Newman, Super Speedway also shows surprising details of how a Lola Indy car is built, from the ground up. Intertwined with the growth of the modern aerodynamic vehicle is the restoration of a 1964 Dean Van Lines Special roadster--the first Indy car driven by the elder Andretti.

The scene stealer is Martini, a huge pet pig given to Mario by his wife. Mario admits he hated it at first but then became Martini's best buddy.

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