I was fascinated to read Joe Scalzo’s item, Stars &Gripes (October 2000 issue) — a fine tale about a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing.
But I was confused by the caption ‘Maurice Philippe got it right with Lotus 72 — and so wrong with this’. While I wholeheartedly agree about the 72, arguably the most successful Fl car, the picture involved shows the then-brand-new Parnelli-Offy Samsonite Special of Joe Leonard who, with the its help, retained his USAC title in 1972.
In the article the author refers to the Vel’s Pamelli team as a “trio of champions”, Al Unser Snr, Joe Leonard and Mario Andretti, calling it “a great white elephant” and a “financial bath”.
While I can’t argue with the last two points (when has motorsport made financial sense?), contemporary reports give the impression that the cars’ debut, at Indy in 1972, was far from a disaster; the only part that can be considered to have been wrong were the controversial dihedral wings, which were quickly removed during the month of May.
After a fairly ordinary qualifying (19th, sixth and fifth respectively), which is never that important at Indy, they went on to finish second, third and eighth. Only a few cars can have made that sort of debut.
And then compare the first few appearances of the Lotus 72 in 1970, when even the legendary Jochen Rindt considered it undriveable.
I am, Yours etc, Sam Stretton, Kidderminister, Worcs