I read the article The One that Got Away about Bobby Unser and the 1979 Indianapolis 500 with great interest.
Both Geoff Ferris, the chief designer of the PC7, and myself still work for Roger Penske, and many times we recount the days of ‘Uncle Bobby’. He was, and remains, a remarkable man, but he raced for himself first and foremost, making life for those within the small team ‘politically difficult’ at times.
Rick Mears was the team’s rising star and Bobby recognised his threat. To counter this, Bobby used all his guile to develop a car to suit himself.
The PC7 was a derivative of the PC6, and the full effect of aerodynamic development was very much in its infancy. We remade the tunnels on the PC7 many times during the month of May; the template for the new shape being no more than a chalk design on the garage floor, and many sheets of aluminium and pop rivets were used in an attempt to find the correct centre of pressure.
Three days before qualifying, Bobby convinced Roger that a new rear wing was needed. In a pit lane conference, I was asked if a new wing could be made by the next day. I told Roger that it could, but if I achieved this he had to fly me home on Concorde. Perhaps feeling he was safe, RP agreed.
So I flew back to Reading with the cardboard template of the wing profile that Bobby himself had ‘designed’. Working all night, I made the wing and took it back to Indianapolis the next day.
Bobby tried it, but took it off after a couple of laps. And I flew home on Concorde! Roger has always been a man of his word.
Thanks to Bobby’s stubborn persistence and Geoff’s brilliant design, the PC7 became one of our successful cars, winning eight races and the championship in 1979.
I am, Yours etc, Nick Goozee, MD, Penske Cars, Dorset