Although Group 7 racing has been killed by the trade and the race sponsors in Europe, it is still flourishing well in the U.S.A. and Canada. At Las Vegas, in Nevada, during November there was run the sixth and final race in the Can-Am series for cars built to Group 7 specifications.
The series developed into a battle between the three dominant makes, Lola, McLaren and Chaparral. The Lolas were the most prolific amongst the top drivers and teams. Team Surtees ran one car for John Surtees in all races and a second car at Riverside for Graham Hill. All American Racers had a car for Gurney and at the start a second car for Jerry Grant, but after an unnecessary crash at Mosport, he was dropped from the team. John Mecom Jnr. had two or three cars for each race. Jackie Stewart, Parnelli Jones and Andretti being the usual drivers. Andretti’s car was fitted with a 7-litre Ford Mk. II power unit with automatic transmission from the “J ” car and was always surrounded by top Ford engineers, which seemed to indicate Fords were trying some race testing. Denny Hulme had Sidney Taylor’s car but was dogged with bad luck for the whole series. Two top American road racers in Lolas were George Follmer and Mark Donahue.
McLarens had more private owners than recognised teams. However, Bruce McLaren Racing Team Ltd. had two cars at every race for McLaren and Amon and they were always up with the lead although luck kept them from actually winning. Many top American road racers had privately-entered McLarens running, Skip Scott, Lother Motschenbacher, Chuck Parsons, Sam Posey, John Cannon, Mike Goth and Charlie Hayes, all well-known road racing names across the Atlantic, being a few of the best.
The third big challenge, and the car that was technically the most exciting, came from the new Chaparral 2E. Jim Hall and Phil Hill missed the first race at St. Jovite but appeared at Bridgehampton. The cars had been completely re-designed since last year, although they are still propelled by a Chevrolet engine and automatic transmission. The big alterations were the movable spoilers both back and front, actuated by the same pedal control. The rear spoiler was held high over the car on struts which were attached direct to the suspension uprights and held vertical by their own radius arms. The ” wing ” had two pistons, almost feathered for straight-line driving, and pivoting in the centre, it tilted for braking and cornering, putting the increased ” g ” loading right on to the wheels. The front spoiler was in what on most Group 7 cars is the upswept radiator duct. This front spoiler was a flap that completely sealed the duct off when the wing was in the feathered position so forcing air under the car. When the wing put pressure on the rear, the front flap opened, letting much frontal air out over the top of the car, so pushing the nose down. As the Chaparrals were automatic, they had only two pedals, throttle for the right foot and brake for the left. Therefore, a spring-loaded plunger for the left foot to press when not braking kept the spoilers feathered. On braking, the foot lifted off the plunger to brake and the springs put the spoilers into maximum loading position. The displaced radiator was split and put on either side of the car behind the driver. Big air scoops drew the air through the radiator and then ducted it back over the rear wheel arches.
In the five races the Chaparrals ran, they dominated practice and the psychological warfare they waged, the ease with which they put in fast laps, certainly had more effect on other drivers than if they had won every race. Phil Hill won at Laguna Seca but, on the whole, they were dogged with troubles, not the least of which was the wing mountings on rough tracks. Surtees won three races and did not finish in the other three. Twice he was involved in accidents which put him out and the other was a retirement when his oil pressure went. The McLarens were never fast enough consistently. Bruce McLaren had a movable rear spoiler at Riverside and set the fastest practice lap and led for the first few laps, only to be let down by the fuel injection system.
Young Mark Donahue won at Mosport when the opposition dropped out and drove into places in four of the other races. A very creditable performance for him and the beautifully prepared Sunoco Special (Lola) he drove.
With increased crowds at each circuit, race and lap records all being broken, radio, television and press coverage all increased, tremendous trade support and 360,000 dollars in prize money, this series was, without a doubt, very successful.
Total Points for the Can-Am Challenge Cup (top five):
John Surtees (Lola T70 Chevrolet) — 27
Mark Donahue (Sunoco Special Lola Chevrolet) — 21
Bruce McLaren (McLaren Mk II Chevrolet) — 20
Phil Hill (Chaparral Chevrolet) — 18
Jim Hall (Chaparral Chevrolet) — 12