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Two legends were reunited on Sunday when Mario Andretti took movie star - and his former employer - Paul Newman, for a spin on one of the Minardi F1x2 cars at the City Centre Airport in Edmonton, site of Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton Champ Car race.
Andretti's list of accomplishments in North American open-wheel racing is unparalleled - four national titles, in CART and USAC competition, between 1965 and 1984, top of the all-time lists for most pole positions won, most starts taken and most laps led, and second only to A J Foyt in terms of career victories. Then there's his 1978 Formula One World Championship title, not to mention numerous SportsCar victories. In fact, other than Le Mans - and even then he came pretty close - he's won just about everything.
Last weekend in Edmonton, though, he was clearly revelling in the performance of the F1x2 car and thoroughly enjoying the reactions of the excited passengers as he provided high-speed rides around the physically demanding Edmonton track, along with fellow two-seater drivers, Zsolt Baumgartner and Mario Dominguez.
When the co-owner of Andretti's 1984 Championship-winning Newman-Haas team turned up at the F1x2 area on his paddock scooter, however, there was only one course of action, and that was to offer him a ride in the Champ Car two-seater. No mean racer himself, Newman readily accepted and was soon strapped into the passenger cockpit of Andretti's car for a memorable "double-act" in front of an enthusiastic Edmonton crowd.
On his return, and after being unstrapped, Newman stood in the passenger compartment of the Champ Car F1x2 car, and proclaimed, "That was great! Now I want to drive it, and our team will be running three cars for the rest of the year!"
Later in the day, just before the start of the Rexall Grand Prix of Edmonton, Andretti addressed the large race day crowd in his role as Grand Marshall of the event, and made a point of saying how much he had enjoyed driving the F1x2 car and seeing the reactions of passengers after completing their rides. He also praised Paul Stoddart, the owner and driving force behind the F1x2 Team, and Champ Car, for launching a programme that genuinely does allow motorsport fans, as well as members of the general public, to experience the sensations of being on track in a top-level, single-seater race car.
There was no doubt that Sunday's "meeting" between Mario Andretti and Paul Newman, at the Champ Car F1x2 paddock area in Edmonton, represented a particularly memorable moment for a programme that, over recent years, has delivered many magic moments, for passengers and spectators alike.
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