American Comment

The United States Auto Club has gone a long way toward putting its house in order by finally naming a full-time executive director to oversee all its operations and at the same time announcing that all engine sizes will remain unchanged for two years. The price of achieving this badly needed rules stability was the rejection of a Rules Committee recommendation (reported last month) that the size of stock block engines he increased from 5.25-litres to 5.5-litres. As a result of the moratorium, stock block engines will remain at 5.25-litres, unblown overhead camshaft engines at 4.2-litres, and blown overhead camshaft engines at 2.65-litres for the next two years. Any changes intended for 1972 must be announced by December 31st this year, and there is a move afoot to persuade U.S.A.C. to adopt a formula of 4-litres for unblown overhead camshaft engines and 5-litres for stock block engines—sizes that would coincide with those mooted for Formula One. The man named as U.S.A.C.'s new Executive Director is William J. Smyth, a long-time follower of the sport and until recently personal assistant to millionaire sportsman John W. Meerim Jr.—who was a prominent sponsor of Indianapolis and Group 7 cars in the early sixties. Smyth will be in overall day-to-day control of all U.S.A.C. operations and Henry Banks, the Director of Competition, will report to him. U.S.A.C. has never had is full-time Executive director, the President being an unpaid, part-time official.

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Mario Andretti continued his march toward the U.S.A.C. National Championship, scoring his sixth win of the season (out of 15 races) when he drove a front-engined dirt car to victory in a 100-mile race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. In the following event at the new Dover Downs 1-mile paved track Andretti was one of four drivers eliminated by crashes—the track's steeply-banked (24 degrees) turns being ideal for stock cars (for which the track was designed) but imposing excessive loads on the suspensions of the less robust Championship cars. The race was nonetheless significant because Art Pollard, Andretti's team-mate in Andy Granatelli's STP stable, won the race in a Gerhard powered by a 5.25-litre stock block Plymouth—the first U.S.A.C. Championship victory ever for a Plymouth engine. It was bad enough that the venerable Offenhausers should be beaten on a paved track and almost the height of indignity when they were both out-qualified and outrun on one of their traditional stamping grounds—the 1-mile dirt track at DuQuoin. Greg Weld began the rout when he qualified fastest in a car powered by a stock block Plymouth (the second time in three races that the Plymouth-powered car was on the pole in a dirt-track race), and Al Unser completed it when he won the race in a car powered by a 2-o.h.c. Ford—the first victory ever for the Ford in a dirt-track race. Andretti was second in an Offenhauser-powered car and Foyt third in another Ford-powered car, having been robbed of victory when he was chopped off by a slower car with only seven laps to go. In the next event, the 100-mile Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, Weld put his Plymouth-powered car on the pole for the third consecutive time in a dirt-track event, but in the race itself the veteran Foyt came through to a convincing victory—his sixth in the Hoosier Hundred and the second in a row for Ford on the dirt. The remarkable Offenhauser engine having been around for more than 35 years, it would be a brave man indeed who wrote its obituary, but with Ford's turbocharged engine, Plymouth's stock block engine, Ford's 2-o.h.c. and even Repco's 2-o.h.c. winning on the paved tracks, the dirt tracks and the road circuits, the Offenhauser stalwarts are going to have to work hard to stage a revival. Although Andretti scored only one victory in the four races mentioned here, he also picked up one second place and one sixth, and continues his commanding lead in the U.S.A.C. Championship with 3,205 Points. Bobby Unser is second with 1,785 points, followed by Foyt with 1,470, Johncock with 1,290 and Gurney with 1,240.

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Three more races in the S.C.C.A.'s Continental Championship for Formula A races have been held since last month and they emphasised the competitive nature of this series by producing three different winners. The first of these three races, at Mosport, was dominated by the Eagle-Chevrolets of John Cannon, Tony Adamowicz, and Bob Brown, and the Surtees TS5s of David Hobbs and Andrea de Adamich (the latter making his first appearance in the series). Cannon won the pole, with Hobbs and de Adamich tied just 0.2 sec. behind, and the expatriate Canadian had to fight off strong challenges from both Surtees cars before de Adamich fell back with a plug lead adrift and Hobbs retired just after the halfway mark with a broken piston. Cannon, Adamowicz and Brown then completed a one-two-three Eagle victory. The first six cars all finished on the same lap, Cannon winning by 30 sec., and only another 30 sec. covering the next five cars. The finish in the next event, at Lime Rock, was even closer. Sam Posey in a McLaren M10A won the pole position from de Adamich by 0.2 sec. but the Italian jumped in front and led for half the race before making two stops to repair a broken throttle spring bracket. Posey then took the lead from Hobbs but George Wintersteen in a Lola T142 made a tremendous late charge, passed Hobbs, and came within nine-tenths of a second of taking the victory away from Posey. Hobbs finished third, with Adamowicz fourth, Cannon fifth and de Adamich ninth. In the last of these three races, Hobbs won the pole position from Posey by one-tenth of a second but he and de Adamich then went on to a convincing one-two victory just feet apart, with Adamowicz 44 sec. behind, Canadian Eppie Wietzes fourth in a Lola T142 and Cannon fifth. The race was marred by a number of incidents, being stopped for the first time after an eight-car crash on the very first lap which wrecked Wintersteen's Lola. It was stopped again after eight laps when lightning knocked out the course communications during a torrential rainstorm, and was finally cut short after 21 of the scheduled 40 laps because of darkness. After 11 of the scheduled 13 races, Adamowicz retains his lead in the standings with 43 points, but there is a great battle for second place involving Posey with 35 points, Wintersteen and Cannon with 31 and Hobbs with 28.

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The decision by Mark Donohue and car-owner Roger Penske to abandon the Can-Am series after one race to concentrate on the S.C.C.A.'s Trans-Am series for sports saloons continued to pay dividends as the team's Chevrolet Camaros scored their fourth and fifth consecutive victories (for a total of six out of 10) at Laguna Seca and Seattle International Raceway. In both races either Pamela Jones or George Follmer in Ford Mustangs prepared by Bud Moore qualified on the front row and then went charging off into the lead as though they were running a 10-lap sprint (instead of the 225 miles at Laguna or 300 miles at Seattle). In both cases, however, the Mustangs suffered tyre and/or mechanical trouble, and one or both of Penske's Sunoco-sponsored Camaros would be right there to take command. "The idea", says Donohue, "is to go the whole distance and have a car underneath you at the end of the race"—which may not be an original thought but is certainly one many drivers seem to forget. "We wait until the first pit stop", Donohue added, "hanging back and not straining the car, and then decide how fast we have to go". Chevrolet now has a score of 72 points from its best nine races and Ford a score of 62 from its best nine. Even if Ford won the remaining two races it could only tie Chevrolet for the Trans-Am Championship because both teams would then have 72 points from six victories and three second places.—D. G.