American Comment

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Starting next year, the Indianapolis 500 will no longer be held on its traditional date of May 30th, the American Memorial Day. A new Federal law that makes all US holidays long weekends has fixed Memorial Day as the last Monday in May and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has therefore decided it will run all future 500s on the Saturday before Memorial Day. Attendance has always been high at Saturday races and the decision also leaves the next day (Sunday) and the holiday itself (Monday) available should rain prevent the race being held on the Saturday. (The reason for never running in the rain is that there are almost no escape areas around the track. The entire track is surrounded by a concrete wall and if a driver spun during rain he is almost certain to hit the wall and bounce back into the path of all the other cars.) One result of the new flexible date for the race is that since the last Monday in May can fall as early as the 25th, as it did this year, the race itself could be run as early as the 23rd and the first qualifying weekend could be as early as the 9th/10th.

* * *

Jack Adams, owner of the only turbine-powered car entered at Indianapolis for the past two years (which was too slow to obtain a starting position in both years) plans to ask the rules committee of USAC to increase the permitted air inlet size on turbines to again make them competitive with today’s turbocharged engines. After 1967, when Parnelli Jones came within four laps of winning the Indianapolis 500 in the original STP Turbocar, the permitted inlet area was reduced from 23 sq. in. to 15.9 sq. in. In 1968, after Joe Leonard put his Lotus turbine on the pole with an average speed of 171.559 m.p.h.—a record that still stands—and also came very close to winning the race, USAC again reduced the inlet area to 11.999 sq. in. That is where it stands today, despite the fact that no turbine powered car has ever finished the Indianapolis 500 or won any other USAC race. The fastest lap at Indianapolis recorded by Adams’ car, which is powered by an Allison turbine, was 160.4 m.p.h. – far below the speed needed to make the race. Ironically, when he asks the rules committee to increase the inlet size – he believes 14.5 to 15.5 sq. in. would make turbines competitive with turbocharged engines – he will have the support of Paul Baynes, an engineer from the Allison Division of General Motors. Baynes took a leave of absence during May to help Adams with the turbine car, but two years ago Baynes was one of several turbine experts consulted by the rules committee who recommended that the inlet area be 11.999 sq. in. At that time he produced numerous charts and figures to support his recommendation and it will be interesting to see if he can now convince the rules committee that the theory and practice of racing car turbines just don’t jibe. One problem is that at its annual meeting in January USAC adopted a policy of a two-year lead time for any changes in engine sizes, and the sizes for 1972 have already been decided.

* * *

American tobacco companies, soon to be faced with severe restrictions on television advertising of cigarettes, are taking more than a passing interest in motor sport as a new advertising outlet. Liggett & Myers took the plunge first when they agreed to sponsor the SCCA’s Continental Championship series for Formula A (5000) cars, and now Philip Morris, on behalf of its Marlboro brand of cigarettes, has signed a two-year agreement with USAC to sponsor the USAC Championship series. This year Marlboro will put $50,000 into an end-of-season fund, with the winner of the championship to receive $25,000, the second place driver $15,000, and third $10,000, but next year the Marlboro championship fund will be increased to $300,000 and will be divided among more than the top three drivers.

* * *

Ford’s Mustangs, prepared by Bud Moore and driven by Parnelli Jones and George Follmer, scored their third and fourth consecutive victories in the SCCA’s Trans-Am series for sports sedans. Follmer picked up his first win of the year in the third race of the series, run over 93 laps or 148.8 miles of the 1.6-mile Bryar Motorsport Park circuit in New Hampshire. Although he started from the fourth row of the grid, Follmer took command one-third of the way through the race and then pulled away to an easy three-lap victory over team-mates Peter Revson and Mark Donohue in their American Motors Javelins. The Camaros of Gordon Dewar, Jim Hall and Bob Grossman occupied the next three places. An economic cutback by Chrysler reduced the All American Racers team of Plymouth Barracudas to one car and Dan Gurney elected to step down and give the ride to his protégé, Swede Savage. The decision is reported to have upset Chrysler, because Gurney, of course, is a far better known and more experienced driver. Gurney, however, is a good judge of talent and Savage fully justified the faith placed in him by putting the AAR Barracuda on the pole position and then dominating the first one-third of the race until he was sidelined by engine trouble. At the fourth race of the series, run over 75 laps or 180 miles of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Jones came back to score his third win in four races and this time Follmer was a token 3/10ths of a second behind in second place. Donohue’s Javelin was again third, but a distant 68.4 seconds behind and the only other car on the same lap as the winner. Fourth through six places went to Maurice Carter in a Camaro, Sam Posey in a Dodge Challenger and Warren Agor in a Camaro. Everyone expected Moore’s Mustangs to dominate the early races of the series, but this domination is rapidly developing into a stranglehold. With four of the proposed 13 races now run, Ford has a perfect score of 36 points – more than the combined score of the next three teams, which are the Javelins with 15 points, the Camaros with 14 and Dodge’s Challengers with 6. Plymouth’s Barracudas are in fifth place with just 3 points.

* * *

In the SCCA’s Continental Championship for Formula A (5000) cars, which is still suffering from a lack of well-known “name” drivers to attract the crowds, the second and third rounds were run off at the Edmonton Speedway in Canada and Seattle International Raceway. John Cannon, winner of the opening race at Riverside, skipped the Edmonton event to try and win a starting berth in the Indianapolis 500 and as a result Ron Grable had no difficulty putting his Chevrolet-powered Lola T190 on the pole and leading the 200-mile race all the way to win by 16.5 seconds from Canadian road racing champion Eppie Wietzes in a Chevrolet-powered McLaren M10B. George Wintersteen was third in a Lotus 70, followed by Gus Hutchison in a Formula One Brabham-Cosworth, Dave Jordan in an Eagle and John Gunn in a Surtees TS5A. Cannon returned to the series at Seattle and showed his clear superiority by leading from start to finish in his Chevrolet-powered McLaren M10B. Mike Goth in a Chevrolet-powered Lola T190 was second and the Japanese driver Hiroshi Fushida in a Plymouth-powered Eagle was third. Wietzes took fourth in his McLaren and was followed by television star Dick Smothers in a Lotus 70-Chevrolet and Jordan’s Eagle.

* * *

Gordon Johncock, a USAC driver who is actually better on road circuits than he is on ovals, has purchased two of the McLaren Team’s three Indianopolis cars and plans to campaign them on the USAC Championship Trail. He used one for the first time in a 150-mile race at Milwaukee just a week after Indianopolis and was running a strong third early in the race when he spun on oil dropped right in front of him by second-placed A. J. Foyt. Indy winner Al Unser in his turbo-Ford Colt led the first 59 laps over the 1-mile Milwaukee oval, but was then passed by Roger McCluskey’s turbo-Ford Scorpion and his teammate, Joe Leonard, in another turbo-Ford Colt. McCluskey held the lead through the 140th lap but found his car handling badly on the oily surface and nine laps from the finish Leonard jumped in front to win by five seconds from McCluskey and Al Unser. Lloyd Ruby (turbo-Offy Mongoose), Mario Andretti (turbo-Ford McNamara) and Bobby Unser (turbo-Ford Eagle) occupied the next three places and all of them were on the same lap as the winner.—D. G.

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