Can-Am was in a McLaren rut it needed a new Challenger. Chapparal blew into town with its 'sucker' car but, as Paul Fearnley explains, was upstaged by Yorkshire common sense.
They called it the 'Bruce and Denny show' with good reason. The New Zealanders' orange McLarens were untouchable. They had won 19 Can-Am races in a row. They hadn't missed out on a pole since Riverside in 1967. But they sucked at Road Atlanta in 1970.
Or rather they didn't. The ground-breaking, ground-hoovering Chaparral 2J was back, its pair of two-stroke snowmobile engines vacuuming the air from underneath its ugly oblong body and blowing it right up McLaren's nose. Hulme qualified with a ferocity rarely witnessed, but could only get to within 1.2 sec of Vic Elford in Jim Hall's latest wonder car. We had a race. At last.
It would go from bad to worse for the series benchmarks. Denny hit the front from the start, but for once mistimed a lapping manoeuvre (he got a lot of practice at this in Can-Am) and wrecked his M8D's nose-cone against another car on lap 10. Gethin did the same, albeit after spinning off on oil. He was patched up and sent out again, retaking the lead before cruising past the pits fishing for gears. We would have a new winner.
But it wouldn't be Elford. The Chaparral's storm had blown out even before Hulme had shunted.
Peter Revson, then, in the improving Lola T220?
Yes, he looked likely to succeed until a puncture sent him into the Armco on lap 30.
Bobby Brown in the McLeagle?
True, he led for a few hundred yards. Trouble is, he was out of control at the time, in the process of going off on the rubble strewn about by Revson's crash.
How about George Eaton in the BRM P154?
Funny you should say that because he was, for once, enjoying himself in this troublesome car. And he led until his oil pressure sagged with 13 laps to go.
So who then?
Try a second-hand car salesman from Leeds.
Tony Dean spent four seasons in kart racing before bursting onto the British club scene in 1964. He was a late starter at 34, though, and his ideas were big, as befits a man in a hurry. In 1969, he planned to do a season of sportscars in a year-old ex-works Porsche 908. That was until he finished ninth in the Watkins Glen Can-Am round, which ran the day after the sportscar encounter at the same circuit. He finished ninth, six laps behind the winner and picked up a big cheque for doing so. His season changed tack.
He was never going to challenge the big-block big guns, but he was often the best of the rest in the reliable Porsche: an eighth, sixth and two fifths saw him finish eighth in the overall standings.
It was meant to be more of the same in 1970, albeit with a newer 908 in the back of the converted coach he used as a transporter. He finished fourth in round one at Mosport, and had good reason to believe that would be his best result of the season...