The Six Hours of Watkins Glen

Clean sweep for Gulf-Porsches

Watkins Glen, New York, July 11 th

The long-distance race for Sports-Prototypes (Group 6), Sports cars (Group 5) and GT cars (Group 4) held on the short but fast Watkins Glen circuit in the north-west of New York State in America was significant in that it saw the final demise of 3-litre Group 6 cars, which the FIA have been trying to encourage. Since Porsche built twenty-five 917 models and Ferrari twenty-five 512S models, to comply with the HA regulations for Group 5 Sports cars, the days of the 3-litre Sports-Prototypes were numbered, apart from an occasional freak situation like the Targa Florio. The 5-litre Group 5 Sports cars, in spite of having to carry road-going equipment and use a full-size windscreen, were just too fast and too powerful for the 3-litre free-formula Prototypes to combat. Le Mans was the ultimate showdown, when the fastest 3-litre could only manage fourteenth place in the starting line-up, and when the entry for the Watkins Glen race was drawn up all factory 3-litre entries had been withdrawn, Matra and Alfa Romeo giving the race a miss. Although it counted points towards the Manufacturers' Championship, that side of the race was insignificant for Porsche had won the Championship already, so the race could be viewed on its own merits as another round in the spirited battle that Porsche and Ferrari have been waging all season, always with the odds heavily on the side of Porsche, as they give factory support to two teams, the Gulf Oil Company sponsored JW Automotive team and the Porsche Konstruction, Salzburg team, the latter having much stronger support from Stuttgart in the way of mechanics and engineers from the present factory, the Gulf team being much more self-supporting. Against this two-pronged Porsche attack the works Ferrari team have had to battle alone, with only rather feeble background support from private owners, but in spite of this the Italian cars have never let the German ones have an easy time. For the 6-hour race round the small 3.7-kilometre (2.3 miles) circuit the Gulf team were at one end of the pits and the Salzburg team at the other, with Ferrari in the middle. JW Automotive fielded two blue and orange 917 Porsches with 5-litre engines, with their strong driver teams of Siffert/Redman and Rodriguez/ Kinnunen, while the two Salzburg 917 Porsches, also 5-litres, were entered by Porsche-Audi Division, USA, and in deference were painted blue with white stripes; they were driven by Elford/Hulme and Attwood/Ahrens, the New Zealand McLaren driver joining the team as a replacement for Hans Herrmann who had finally decided to give up racing, having been at it in the top ranks since about 1952. The Ferrari force was made up of two 512S Spyders, driven by Ickx/ Schetty and Andretti/Giunti and all these works cars, both German and Italian, were using short chopped-off tail bodywork.

As a supporting cast the German International Martini Racing Team were running their 4/2-litre 917 Porsche in its hideous purple and green flowery colour scheme, driven by Larrousse/van Lennep and one of their 908 Porsches driven by the Austrian drivers Marko/Lins. Another 908 Porsche was in the hands of Dean/Revson, and Bonnier had his T70 Lola coupe which he was sharing with Wisel. Two lesser private entries from Europe were the 911 Porsche of Garant/Wicky and the Ferrari 512S of Loos/Plesch and the rest of the twenty-six entries was made up by SCCA club-drivers, some of whom were lacking in experience of racing amongst professional factory cars. While the total entry was small it was no bad thing, for the top runners were a fearsome lot and the bottom ones were very inexperienced, and with lap times in the order of 1 min. 06 sec., and more than 300 laps to be covered in the six hours, there was more than sufficient traffic circulating to keep the works drivers right on their toes. A greater quantity of entry, rather than quality, would have produced impossible situations of blockage and baulking, to say nothing of the possibility of slow cars being bounced off into the bushes, for sports-car drivers of the calibre of Rodriguez, Siffert, Redman, Ickx, Elford and Andretti do not wait for gaps to appear in slow traffic, they create gaps, and they do this without getting tangled up with the slower cars, which is the hall-mark of a fast sports-car driver.

The race was due to take place on Saturday, July 11th, starting at noon, and there was a Can-Am race scheduled for the following day. Practice was held all day on Friday, with alternating sessions for 6-hour competitors and Can-Am competitors, and as all the works cars were also entered for the Cam-Am race it meant they were able to practice in all sessions. The Gulf team had a spare car with them for training which was also entered for Sunday's race for Redman to drive, so they were able to get the most out of the practice time available. During the Can-Am practice session only the nominated Sunday-race drivers could go out, which meant that Siffert, Rodriguez, Redman, Ickx, Andretti, Elford, Attwood, van Lennep, Larrousse, Bonnier and Dean could do plenty of practice, while Kinnunen, Schetty, Giunti, Ahrens, Marko, Lins and Wisell were limited. The Watkins Glen organisation is a limited amateur set-up which restricts practice to one day for the 6-hour race, where really there ought to be two days. As a rolling start is used, the racing cars doing a complete lap behind a pace-car, they are lined up in pairs, and the results of practice produced equal shares of the grid for the two main protagonists, with Siffert on the right of the front row and Andretti on the left, even though the official grid showed them to be the other way round, followed by Rodriguez behind his Gulf-Porsche team-mate and Ickx behind his Ferrari team-mate, then came van Lennep and Attwood, Elford and Bonnier and the rest. It was warm and dry as twenty-five of the starters set off on the pace lap, though slight rain showers were forecast to arrive during the afternoon. The pace-car pulled into the pits road, leaving Siffert and Andretti to continue side-by-side round the sharp downhill bend by the pits and head towards the starting line, but once round the corner Andretti did not wait for the starter to wave his flag, he just gave the Ferrari all it had got and roared across the starting line flat-out with Siffert and the rest in hot pursuit, the starter getting hurriedly out of the way and feebly waving his flag at the departing cars. After they had all gone a Chevrolet-Corvette joined in from the pits road, to make the total of cars on the track up to twenty-six.

As far as the leading drivers were concerned the race was on in earnest and there was little thought of six hours' endurance. Andretti was out in front and going hard, with Siffert and Rodriguez after him, followed by lckx and the Salzburg Porsches. It did not take long for Andretti to catch the tail of the field and then the excitement began as the professional Ferraris and Porsches whistled in and out of the American club drivers, passing on the right, on the left and on both sides simultaneously. It was terrific stuff, with the leaders showing fantastic judgement and just why they are professional sports-car drivers. In the traffic Siffert was clearly superior to Andretti and out-fumbled him in the hurly-burly and took the lead, while his Gulf team-mate was in trouble. Coming up behind some slow cars Rodriguez reached out to switch on the headlamps as a warning to those in front and inadvertently switched off one of the fuel pumps and with loss of fuel pressure the engine began to die. He was so busy with cars all round him that he had no time to look around, and lost a lot of ground before he noticed the fuel pressure gauge reading low and realised what he had done. Out in front it was a straight fight between the 917 Porsche of Siffert and the 512S Ferrari of Andretti, with Rodriguez in third place, followed by Ickx, Elford, Attwood, Bonnier, Marko and van Lennep, everyone else having been lapped. Siffert's superiority in passing slower cars began to show and Andretti could not keep up with him, while Rodriguez, who is even better at traffic-driving than Siffert was closing rapidly on the Ferrari. Not only did the Mexican pass Andretti but he swept on and passed Siffert almost before the Swiss had realised it, and only 35 minutes of the six hours had run. Some rain had now began to fall on the far side of the circuit and at the same time Siffert's engine began to falter at high r.p.m. and thinking it was water getting into the electrics he carried on. What was happening was that the automatic rev-limiter was retarding itself, this being the first time the 5-litre Porsches had been fitted with this device. The first refuelling stops were now due, at about 50 minutes, and Rodriguez was the first in and while petrol was put in from a gravity hose, the rev-limiter on his engine was eliminated in case it played tricks, like Siffert's was doing. Rodriguez continued to drive, as did Siffert after his refuelling stop and with the rev-limiter cut out his car was back on full song, but the erratic running had lost him a lot of time and Rodriguez was coming up to lap him. Andretti was still in third place, with Elford right behind in the blue and white 917 Porsche, and when Rodriguez lapped them Elford profited from the confusion to get ahead of the Ferrari. Just after 1.30 p.m. Rodriguez was right behind his teammate, who was not too keen to move over and in the ensuing pushing and shoving that went on, especially as they lapped slower cars, the two Gulf-Porsches collided, Rodriguez collecting a crumpled right side to the cockpit and Siffert collecting a punctured left rear tyre. He stopped at the pits for a new tyre and Redman took over, and this let Rodriguez get more than a lap ahead.

The initial Grand Prix type flurry now subsided a bit and at the next refuelling stops the rest of the co-drivers took over and the pace steadied down, with Kinnunen in the lead with strict instructions to merely keep the car warm and keep out of trouble, which he did admirably while Rodriguez had a rest. Redman was naturally much faster than any of the other co-drivers and not only regained all the ground that Siffert had lost, but more besides and got ahead of Kinnunen, and when Andretti took the number one Ferrari back from Giunti he moved up into second place ahead of the Finn. Refuelling stops were playing an important part in the race order as the Porsches and Ferraris were stopping at different times, and when Redman stopped for petrol and oil just after 2.30 p.m. Andretti went by into the lead, mainly because the exit from the pits is badly placed and the Porsche was held up by a lot of passing traffic. The temporary order was now Andretti (Giunti), Redman (Siffert), Kinnunen (Rodriguez), Hulme (Elford), Ickx (Schetty) and Ahrens (Attwood). It was only a matter of time before Redman overhauled Andretti, and passed the Ferrari in the heavy traffic, and then Hulme had an emergency stop with great chunks of rubber torn out of a rear tyre, for the track surface was breaking up and getting terribly rough. The van Lennep/Larrousse 917 Porsche was handling badly and a change of front tyres was tried but made no improvement and finally a broken right rear shock-absorber was discovered. It was changed and the car rejoined the race, but two laps later it was in again, as the spring retaining ring on the shock-absorber unit had been damaged by the initial breakage and it collapsed and let the suspension drop, so a lot of time was lost putting everything right, which dropped the car back two places and right out of contention. A few minutes before the halfway mark the number one Ferrari refuelled and Giunti took over again, leaving the pits just as Kinnunen stopped for petrol and oil and to hand the Gulf-Porsche back to Rodriguez, who was now all set to drive for the final three hours. The Mexican soon overhauled the Ferrari and took second place, and when Redman went into the pits Rodriguez took the lead. The Gulf-Porsches were using a modified crankcase breather system with outlets front and rear, but this was not working out too well and a lot of oil was being pumped out of the rear one, filling the catch tank. The full one on the Rodriguez car had already been changed and now the one on the Redman car was being changed and the rear breather was closed up, which lost the car quite a bit of time, but Siffert took off like a Dragster when the job was done, joining the track from the pit road on full throttle and some opposite lock, much to the consternation of the exit marshals who were more used to the gentle behaviour of American club racers.

With the two top drivers in the Gulf-Porsches and the number two driver in the leading Ferrari the issue at last looked settled, although there were still refuelling stops to be made, at which the pit crews could win or lose a race. Rodriguez was now 32 seconds ahead of Siffert and the gap was more or less constant, the JW Automotive pits signalling the Mexican the extent of his lead over Siffert but leaving the Swiss driver in the dark as to how far ahead his team-mate was, but letting him know he had nothing to fear from Giunti. At 4 p.m. Rodriguez was in for a refuelling stop and at the same time the front brake pads were changed, and a little later Siffert was in for a similar routine stop and it looked as if the JW Automotive team had things nicely under control, for the gap between the two blue and orange gaps was still 32 seconds and they were over a lap ahead of the Ferrari that was out of step with them on refuelling stops and driver changes, so was soon to be two laps behind. The expected light rain showers kept appearing but never stayed long enough to really wet the track, the loose gravel on the surface due to deterioration of the tarmac being much more troublesome than the rain. The gap between the two Gulf Porsches widened to 48 seconds when Siffert got held up lapping Elford, and shortly before 5 p.m. both cars made their last routine stop to refill the petrol tanks, Rodriguez continuing in the leading car while Redman took over the second-place car, setting off at a terrific pace to try and catch his team-mate during the final hour. He was closing the gap steadily until he got thoroughly boxed in by a bunch of slower cars and lost more than the time he had regained. Rodriguez was now nearly a lap ahead and the pits signalled them both to ease-up, which they did. With plenty of time in hand the two cars made a quick stop for 5 gallons of petrol just before the finish and completed a very convincing 1-2 for the John Wyer Gulf team, the AndrettilGiunti Ferrari being third, having settled for a certain finish after they were out-manoeuvred in pit stops and driver changes.—D. S. J.

Another motor-hotel

On July 14th the Trust Houses Group opened The Post House at Hampstead, London, which is called the "Formula One" because it is built on the site of the Vandervell home. A plaque, with wording by the editor of Motor Sport, commemorates the success of the late Tony Vandervell's F1 Vanwalls and the opening ceremony was performed by Tony Brooks who, with Stirling Moss, gained so many victories for Britain in these green Vanwalls.

Clothes and the Girl

It has been said that clothes maketh the man and to girls they are all important. Jill Robinson, who won the Ladies' Cups in the RAC and Welsh rallies, is not only a good rally driver but looks nice in the Wear-Dated frocks made by Monsanto in their acrylic fabrics and their Blue-C nylon. Jill and her navigator naturally wear these because she has been sponsored in four international rallies by Monsanto Textiles.

Apology

On the 2nd July 1970 the following statement was made in open Court in an action brought by Norman Cole and Partners (a firm) and Norman Reece Cole against Teesdale Publishing Company Limited and Tee & Whiten and J. Mead Limited:—

Plaintiff's Counsel

In this case I appear for the Plaintiffs and my learned friend Mr. Peter Bowsher appears for the Defendants.

The Plaintiff Firm, of which the Second Plaintiff is the Senior Partner, has an international reputation as auctioneers of veteran cars. The Defendants are, respectively, the publishers and printers of the monthly magazine Motor Sport.

In July 1969 the Plaintiff Firm in conjunction with the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain held an auction sale of veteran cars which included the famous car known as Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang II. At the auction this car was sold for £16.500 but proceedings were then instituted by one Mr. Hollis who claimed that he had been the owner of the car for many years. The Plaintiffs are not and never have been a party to those proceedings.

In the September issue of Motor Sport the Defendants published an article under the heading "The Odd Affair of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang", which strongly criticised the Plaintiffs for not having checked up on the true ownership of the car. In fact the Plaintiffs had prior to the auction made exhaustive enquiries as to the car's ownership, and furthermore Mr. Hollis had himself agreed that the auction should take place as planned.

The Defendants now accept that there was no foundation whatsoever for any of the criticisms they made of the Plaintiffs and they unreservedly withdraw them. The Defendants have paid into Court a sum by way of damages which the Plaintiffs are content to accept together with their costs. The Defendants have also agreed to publish the text of this Statement in the next issue of Motor Sport.

In these circumstances the Plaintiffs are naturally content not to pursue these proceedings any further.

Defendants' Counsel

On behalf of both Defendants I indorse everything which my learned friend has just said. The Defendants very much regret that they published these criticisms of the Platntiffs and they apologise to the Plaintiffs for the distress and embarrassment they have been caused.