As any fan of motorsport can attest, race teams are legendarily secretive. For a team to open its headquarters to the public is almost unheard of, and yet that is the situation that greeted auction-goers at The House That Newman/Haas Racing Built, RM Sotheby’s latest site-specific sale. One step inside the legendary Indy and CART racing team’s workshop revealed an auction setup quite literally unlike any other. A row of black Swift-chassis racers lined up near the entrance; several more were suspended behind the auctioneer’s podium. As would be apparent to anyone lucky enough to attend the event in person, this was the largest sale ever of open-wheel racecars ever auctioned.
At the same time, it was also a testament to the iconic team leader Carl A. Haas, who co-founded the team in 1983. Having signed drivers as skilled as Mario and Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Cristiano da Matta, Christian Fittipaldi, Sébastien Bourdais, and Graham Rahal, Haas had an inherent appreciation for the historic value of his team’s artifacts, and thus retained many of the team’s most celebrated chassis from new. These race-used examples tell a story of the evolution of open-wheel racing in America. Eight of them won championships.
But before any racecars were sold, an assortment of extraordinary motorsport automobilia was offered. Race-worn helmets, gloves, and suits represented physical artifacts of the team’s years of success; hard-won trophies, awarded to Haas as a team owner, proved that this team’s achievements extended internationally. After an assortment of oil paintings and signed prints depicting the team, a Nigel Mansell Race Worn F1 Helmet, gifted to Haas by the great British driver himself, commanded an impressive $90,000 USD, many times more than its high estimate. A few lots later, a second piece of automobilia from “Il Leone,” a Nigel Mansell Race Worn Helmet from his championship-winning Indy year brought an equally astounding $56,400 USD, proving that Mansellmania is alive and well among enthusiasts.
As the automobilia lots transitioned into automobiles, the crowd’s attention focused even further. Several in attendance were directly connected to the team during its many years of championship-winning seasons, lending an air of personal importance to the proceedings. A 1984 Lola-Cosworth T800 from Newman/Haas Racing’s second season, piloted by the legendary Mario Andretti, was the first championship winner to be offered, and earned a respectable sum of $401,000 USD. Several lots later, Andretti’s son Michael’s own championship-winning 1991 Lola-Chevrolet T91/00 sold for $257,600 USD, showing the Andretti legacy still burns brightly in the hearts of many motorsport enthusiasts.
Undoubtedly the star of the sale was the 1993 Lola-Ford Cosworth T93/00 made famous by Nigel Mansell as he became the only simultaneous champion of both F1 and Indy racing in history. After an exciting back-and-forth bout of bidding, the significant race chassis hammered home at $995,000 USD, making it the top lot of the sale. With a total of $6,096,800 USD and every lot finding a new home, the auction was an unqualified success. Perhaps the greatest proof of the global interest in this form of motorsport was the diversity of bidders; 237 in total, hailing from 20 countries worldwide.
Shelby Myers, Global Head of Private Sales for RM Sotheby’s, summarized: “The sale offered a unique and incredible opportunity for buyers and enthusiasts to celebrate one of the greatest teams in the history of motorsport. As the open-wheel racing fan base reaches new levels of popularity, RM Sotheby’s knew we would deliver the best results possible for the team.” For those passionate fans of the greatest era of Indy racing, this sale represented a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase race-used equipment directly from an iconic team. After all, the greatest legacies live on long after the checkered flag falls.