The eighth round of the 10-race series for the International Championship for Makes was run in the form of a six-hour endurance event at the 2.3-mile Watkins Glen circuit in New York State that is also the venue for the U.S. Grand Prix. The organisers were fortunate indeed that Le Mans was postponed to September for, had it not been, it is doubtful if this third American race in the series would have attracted the entry that it did. That is not to say that the entry was sparkling. The F.I.A.’s precipitate decision to restrict prototypes to 3-litres has produced few enough cars as it is, and with only Porsche and Ford in contention for the Championship hardly any other European entrants made the expensive trip across the Atlantic.
With four victories and two second places to their credit, Porsche went into the race with 42 points from their best five finishes and a win at Watkins Glen would have wrapped up the title for them. Ford, on the other hand, had three victories and one third place for a total of 31 points and had to win to keep their Championship hopes alive. Porsche’s works entries consisted of four short-tailed 3-litre 908s for Siffert/Elford, Herrmann/Attwood, Patrick/Ikuzawa and Buzzetta/Follmer. Buzzetta has driven for the team on several occasions—he drove the winning Porsche in the Nurburgring 1,000 km. last year—while Patrick probably has more experience with Porsches than any other American, Follmer is not as familiar with the marque, although he did win the U.S. Road Racing Championship in 1965 with a Porsche-powered Lotus 23. Ikuzawa is the Japanese driver who has been racing Formula Three in England for several seasons. The only changes to the Porsches since they ran in the 1,000 km. at Spa were an air scoop mounted on top of the left wing to cool the oil tank behind the left front wheel and two stabiliser flaps at the rear. The flaps, a foot wide and seven inches high, pivot on rods attached to the body above and slightly behind the rear suspension. They are connected to the lower suspension arms by means of a short horizontal arm and a long vertical rod. The flaps are raised at a 35-degree angle and on the straights they act simply as spoilers. However, the linkage is arranged in such a way that when the car corners the angle of the flap on the outside (loaded) rear wheel is reduced, thus reducing the aerodynamic pressure on that side of the car. Conversely, the angle of the flap above the inside rear wheel (which, of course, tends to rise in a corner) is raised, and the air pressure on that flap is increased. The combined effect of the two flaps is to flatten or stabilise the car. This is a development experimented with by the Japanese Nissan firm, and flaps have been used on Porsche hill-climb cars this year, but not on the race cars. They are of little or no benefit on slow corners but Elford said they probably helped on fast sweeping bends.
The two Gulf-sponsored J.W. Automotive Engineering GT40s again provided the only serious opposition to the Porsches, lckx sharing his lightweight car with his countryman, Lucien Bianchi, while Hawkins and Hobbs were back in the lightweight de-Miraged car that was being overhauled during Spa. The only major change since that race is the fitting of full 5-litre engines, still with Gurney-Weslake heads, instead of the 4.7-litre engines they have used up to now. (One 5-litre was tried in practice at Spa but was changed for the race.) The drivers said the main advantage was not so much the increased power as the wider and more flexible rev. band.
The Howmet team entered two cars for Heppenstall/Thompson and Dibley/Tullius, and for the first time both cars appeared. The only small change is the fitting of an inertia separator—a bulbous protrusion mounted just in front of the air intake that forces airborne debris to fly off at a tangent and away from the air intake. Since running in the B.O.A.C. 500, incidentally, one of the Howmets became the first turbine-powered car ever to win a sanctioned race. This was at an insignificant regional meeting, but it then went on to win one of the S.C.C.A.’s more important 4½-hour endurance races.
Alfa Romeo didn’t enter any works cars although they were represented by a private 2-litre Type 33 driven by Kwech and Martino. Bonnier brought over his yellow Group 4 Lola T70 to co-drive with Axelsson (although on race day, without any practice in the car, former U.S. champion Chuck Parsons was pressed into service at the last moment). Woolfe was sharing his 3-litre Chevron-Repco with Piper, while Baker came to drive the same Sprite prototype that he took to a class win in the Nurburgring 1,000 km. The car has now been sold to an American but it was still fitted with the 1,300-c.c. Nurburgring engine. The remainder of the field was none too exciting from an International point of view, although several of them placed well at the finish as the result of a 50% attrition rate.
Practice was limited to hours in three sessions on the preceding Friday and Saturday, and seemed at first to be insufficient. However, it was terribly hot and humid and since no one was anxious to wear out their cars the track was often idle or 15 minutes or more. The four Porches went out in line astern as soon as the first session opened and there was no surprise when Siffert set the fastest times because he has driven Formula One cars at Watkins Glen several times. Before the first session was over he had recorded 1 min. 10.2 sec. (117.95 m.p.h.), a time that stood up through the remaining two sessions to give him the pole position. lckx won the other front row position on the two-two-two grid with a time of 1 min. 10.8 sec., but his GT40 was boxed in by Porsches. The Herrmann/Attwood car recorded 1 min. 11.1 sec., the Patrick/Ikuzawa car 1 min. 12.1 sec., and the Buzzetta/Follmer car 1 min. 12.3 sec. The Bonnier/Axelsson Lola was on the third row with 1 min. 12.4 sec. and the officials gave the second Gulf GT40 a time of 1 min. 12.6 sec., although their pits timed both Hawkins and Hobbs below 1 min. 12.0 sec. The two Howmet turbines occupied eighth and ninth with times of 1 min. 13.6 sec. and 1 min. 14.6 sec., and they were followed by the Woolfe/Piper Chevron at 1 min. 16.95 sec.
It was still hot and oppressively humid when the 28 starters took the green flag for the rolling start at 1.15 on the Sunday afternoon. Ickx’s GT40 jumped into the lead at the first corner but Siffert quickly reversed the order, and at the end of the first lap his Porsche led from the GT40, with the Porsches of Patrick, Herrmann and Follmer in third, fourth and fifth. Thompson’s Howmet turbine was sixth, followed by Bonnier’s Lola, Hawkins in the second Gulf GT40 and Dibley in the second Howmet.
Siffert held the GT40 at bay for 12 laps but on the 13th lap Ickx again got past the Porsche and this time made it stick. One lap later the first of a succession of Porsche problems began when Follmer missed a change in the 6-speed gearbox and over-revved the engine. The Type 33 Alfa also retired early with a broken engine and the Woolfe/Piper Chevron was beginning to pump out all its water through a leaking cylinder-head gasket. After half an hour (25 laps) the field had settled down, with lckx’s GT40 holding off Siffert’s Porsche by a slim second and Patrick’s Porsche 5 sec. back in third and going very well. Bonnier had advanced his Lola to fourth, 20 sec. behind Patrick but 11 sec. clear of Hobbs in the second GT40. Thompson’s Howmet turbine was almost half a minute further behind, and the only other car not lapped by the leader, Herrmann’s Porsche, was seventh and not going too well, while the North American Racing Team’s 2-litre Dino Ferrari driven by Charlie Kolb and Rodriguez (no relation to B.R.M. Rodriguez) held eighth.
For 15 minutes Siffert harried Ickx and on the 37th lap he flashed around the course in 1 min. 11.11 sec—the fastest lap of the race until then—to take the lead. It proved to be Porsche’s last brief moment of glory in the entire race. Two laps later Ickx was back in front again, and for the remaining 5¼ hours the leading position was the private preserve of John Wyer’s cars.
As the clock marked off the first hour of the race. Porsche’s problems began in earnest when Siffert stopped at the pits with the left front wheel bearing seized. As the mechanics set about changing it, Herrmann’s car came in with the alternator overcharging and then moments later Patrick stopped from second place. The car had barely stopped before the semi-conscious driver, completely overcome by the heat, collapsed in the pit lane as he almost fell out of the car. He recovered fairly soon, but with three cars in the pits at the same time, Porsche was obviously in deep trouble. Since Patrick’s car was so well placed the driver pairings were changed, the experienced Attwood taking out Patrick’s car while new man Ikuzawa was assigned to Herrmann. It was good strategy, but to no avail because one hour later Attwood stopped with the left front wheel bearing seized, and half an hour after that Elford retired his car with exactly the same problem. The Watkins Glen course consists almost entirely of right hand corners and Elford said there was a very bad bump in one the fastest of these corners that was putting a tremendous strain on the left front wheel. The Herrmann/Ikuzawa car, in which Siffert also took a stint, managed to keep running but a succession of stops to replace tired batteries and repair the throttle linkage kept it well down in the field and out of contention. Bonnier’s Lola lost all but 5th gear and also fell far behind.
The two Gulf GT40s, on the other hand, were running like trains in first and second places. At the two-hour mark almost to the second they were pulled in for lckx to hand over to Bianchi and Hobbs to Hawkins. The Ickx/Bianchi car, however, was suffering from fluctuating oil pressure on the corners and Bianchi eased his pace considerably. A frustrated Hawkins was signalled to stay in second place and he did so for 1½ hours until Bianchi suffered a puncture. The stop took 1 min. 51 sec. and when the cars made their second fuel stops and driver changes right on the four-hour mark Hawkins gave Hobbs a lead of almost two laps over Ickx. Since the GT40s were now more than 10 laps ahead of their opposition both drivers were given an almost continuous succession of EASY signs by their pits. lckx, however, was apparently having difficulty reading his pit signs because he spent the next two hours charging around the course at an almost record clip, first unlapping himself and then passing Hobbs a secondtime to take the lead half an hour before the finish. This didn’t go down too well with either Hobbs or Hawkins, both of whom had followed the EASY instructions from the pits. At the six-hour mark the two cars crossed the finish line just 11 sec. apart, both completing 286 laps, or 657.8 miles at an average speed of over 109 m.p.h.
Behind the GT40s the two Howmet turbines put up by far their best performances ever and really showed their potential for the first time. The Heppenstall/Thompson car took over third place at the two-hour mark on its 80th lap and held it all the way to the finish despite having to make 2½ times as many pit stops as the GT40s and losing 9 min. in the pits to replace the voltage regulator and starter. Third overall also gave it first in the prototype category. The sister car, driven by Hugh Dibley and an America, Tullius, ran in the top six for more than half the race and had moved up to fourth behind Heppenstall/Thompson after 200 laps before the differential gave out with three-quarters of an hour to go. A repair was jury rigged and the car managed to take the chequered flag under its own power to be classified 12th overall. Two Porsche 906s ran reliably to take fourth and fifth places, and they were followed by the ailing works 908 driven by Herrmann/Ikuzawa/Siffert. The result evens the number of victories at four each for Porsche and Ford, but Porsche still leads the standings by 42 points to Ford’s 40 (based on the best five finishes). Since the Austrian Grand Prix counts only half points, the International Championship for Makes will have to be decided at Le Mans.—D. G.