The final round of the SCCA’s Continental Championship for Formula A cars was not held until three days after Christmas, over three months after the previous race, and resulted in a fine win for Hobbs. Driving a works Team Surtees TS5, Hobbs won both 100-mile heats over a shortened 2.2-mile version of the Sebring airport circuit and picked up £3,600 in prize money.
Although Hobbs did not compete in the 13-race championship until the sixth event, this was his fourth victory in the series (more than any other driver) and brought him within one point of the championship winner, Adamowicz. Going into the race only Posey (McLaren), who had 41 points, could catch Adamowicz (Eagle), who had 47. Both drivers retired, however, giving the championship to Adamowicz, and Hobbs’ victory moved him into second place with 46 points to Posey’s 41. The race was as much a preview of the 1970 season as it was a wrapup of 1969 and it was good to see that not all the cars were powered by the ubiquitous 5-litre Chevrolet engine.
Adamowicz, who used a Chevrolet all year, switched to a Shelby-prepared Ford fitted with a Bosch fuel-injection system developed by Ryan Falconer in Los Angeles. Lotus’ first true Formula A car, the Type 70, making its debut in the hands of Mario Andretti, was fitted with a similar Ford engine but with Weber carburetters instead of injection, while Hutchinson had a 3-litre Cosworth-Ford in his ex-Ickx Brabham BT26/3. Donohue, Bonnier and Hansen all had new Lola T-190s, Broadley’s first monocoque Formula A; Cannon practiced briefly with a new McLaren M10B before reverting to his usual Eagle, and Gurney’s protege, Savage, had a Plymouth-powered Eagle.
As is often the case with new cars, however, most of them were plagued by teething troubles. Savage surprised everyone by stealing the pole position from Andretti at the last moment, but clutch and fuel problems sidelined his effort. The Lotus 70 was clearly the fastest car in the race and Andretti pulled out a substantial lead in the first heat before his oil pan split and resulted in a spun bearing. Donohue was also very fast in the latest Lola but was eliminated from both heats by a clogged fuel system.
He had a substantial lead in the second heat at the time, but this was not really indicative because he was no threat to Hobbs for the overall win and the Rugby driver wisely made no effort to race him. With Adamowicz’s Eagle-Ford sidelined by a broken connecting rod and Posey’s McLaren crashing after a course marker was thrown into its path, Hobbs won the first heat from his team-mate, Taylor, whose TS5 was suffering badly from suspension bottoming and overheating. Hutchinson’s Brabham which was second until a last-lap stop for fuel, finished third on the same lap as Hobbs.
Bonnier, whose Lola finished sixth, two laps down, in the first heat after his throttle pedal broke, ran well in the second heat and actually led for several laps, near the end of the second heat, but Hobbs passed him easily on the last corner of the last lap to win the heat and overall victory. Hutchinson finished third in this heat as well, and as the only other driver to go the full 45 laps in each heat, he was second overall. Bonnier completed the same number of laps, 88, as 1968 Canadian driving champion Kroll in an older, space-frame Lola T-142, but was awarded third overall on the basis of a shorter elapsed time. – D.G.
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