Indianapolis 500-mile race

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(May 30th/31st)

This year Indianapolis returned to normal, for the U.S.A.C. oval track racers seemed to have learnt how to build and drive the rear-engined “funny cars” introduced by Brabham and Lotus. The result was that qualifying speeds were impressively high and, apart from Gurney in one of his Eagle-Ford V8 cars, the Grand Prix-type drivers were relegated to the back of the grid amongst the also-rans, even Clark being unable to get higher than the sixth row in a Lotus-Ford V8. Fastest qualifier was Andretti at 168.982 m.p.h. and Gurney was second at 167.224 m.p.h., slowest qualifier was. Clark with 162.213 m.p.h. but as he did his official timed four laps on the first week-end of qualifying he kept his sixth row position even though the remaining five rows that qualified on the second official week-end were faster. Very impressive was the STP Turbine car driven by Parnelli Jones, which qualified at 166.075 m.p.h. in full race trim and was on the second row of the start, just behind cars that had qualified on nitro-methane fuel and which could not hope to repeat their performance in the actual race. The STP-Paxton Turbocar was built by the Granatelli brothers of the Studebaker Corporation and was powered by a Pratt & Whitney helicopter turbine engine giving 550 horsepower. Mounted on the left side of the car it drove all four wheels through a Ferguson 4-w-d transmission, and the driver sat on the right-hand side. As the only known formula for equating turbines to piston engines for racing car use was drawn up three years ago it is now rather outdated, in the light of later knowledge, so that the Paxton Turbocar was at quite an advantage over its piston-engined rivals. It is like equating supercharged and unsupercharged engines at the time when little development work had been done on the unsupercharged one.

On the first lap of the race the Turbocar took the lead and motored away from everyone, but then the rain came down and the race had to be abandoned. Only 18 of the 200 laps had been completed and as the rain continued the race was postponed to the next day, when it was restarted in single file in the order on the eighteenth lap of the previous day. It was the same story, the turbine-powered car ran away from everyone and Parnelli Jones had built up 52 seconds lead by the 190th lap and all seemed set for a revolutionary victory, with the old-fashioned “funny cars” trailing along behind. With only three laps to go it ball race in the transmission broke up and chewed up the drive from the turbine shaft, and that was that. A lucky A. J. Foyt who had been winning the “piston-engine race” found himself the happy winner or the 1967 Indianapolis 500. Apart from Hulme, who worked his way through the field, amid a great number of retirements, to finish fourth, the Grand Prix-type drivers had a bad time. Clark and Hill in Lotus-Ford V8s both retired with engine trouble, as did Rindt with an Eagle powered by a Gurney-Weslake pushrod Ford V8 engine, while Gurney himself was in second position at one point with his 4-o.h.c. Ford-powered Eagle when trouble in the fuel system caused a burnt piston. Stewart retired with engine trouble in his Lola-Ford V8 and it was a chastened group of Europeans who returned to Grand Prix racing, leaving the U.S.A.C. drivers to continue their round of track racing amid cries of “ban the turbine” – “unfair to piston engines” – “we’ve only iust got control of the ‘funny cars,’ now we have to start again.”

For Indianapolis-type racing the 4-w-d turbine-powered car must be as inevitable as the jet-powered record breaker, and though the opposition will complain and try and rule it out, it must surely be like the scream that went up when Chapman took the first Lotus to Indianapolis. “Unfair to front-engined cars,” they said.

In the 33 cars that qualified for the start there were twenty-three 4-overhead-camshaft Ford V8 engines, seven Offenhauser 4-cylinders with exhaust-driven turbo-blowers, one Gurney-Weslake pushrod Ford V8, one supercharged Offenhauser 4-cylinder and one turbine engine. There were seven A.A.R. Eagle cars and seven Gerhardt chassis cars. For the first time in 43 years Firestone tyres did not equip the winning car, it was on Goodyear tyres, and at the start there had been 17 cars on Firestone and 16 on Goodyear.

Hockenheim – Formula Two (June 11th)

The young Surrey driver Robin Widdows won the poorly supported Formula Two race at Hockenheim-Ring on Sunday, June 11th. The meeting, which clashed with L.e Mans, was hastily organised by the Badischer Motorsport club and, as it was of National Open status, graded drivers were barred from entering. Rees in the Winkelmann Brabham led until two laps from the end when he ran short of fuel due to a split fuel pipe. This gave Widdows his first Formula Two win, while Lambert was second following the demise of the two wooden Protos machines with engine malfunctions.

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