Can-Am—Revson draws away

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Lexington, Ohio. August 22.

Virtually identical half-shaft breakages eliminated Team Gulf McLaren from the fifth Can-Am round at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, 70 miles south of Cleveland and paved the way for Jackie Stewart to cruise to his second victory of the year in the Johnson Wax-sponsored Group 7 Series in America. Half of the World Champion’s opposition was dramatically ousted on the opening lap when Denis Hulme had his right drive shaft snap a U-joint under braking for the very first turn, generating instant chaos throughout the 27-car field. Hulme’s ensuring gyrations gathered up several first division contenders, including the McLarens of Motschenbacher, Brown, Adamowicz, and Dutton. Dave Causey dealt the works M8F a death blow amidships with his T222 Lola, and the later retirements of both Motschenbacher and Brown may well have been caused by their having taken to the grass verge in a frantic series of phenomenal avoidances.

But the race was almost overshadowed by events which took place during practice. Appalled at the atrocious condition of the tight and narrow 2.4 miles that make up the mid-western US circuit, Stewart threatened to withdraw rather than risk what he termed a “heartrending incident”. And Tony Dean added considerable weight to cries of “unsafe” and “dangerous”, when he spun off in the same spot that Hulme was to make famous. Dean was unhurt but the McLaren’s tub was badly bent and must undergo an extensive re-build before its return to the Can-Am wars. In addition, various suspension breakages on both Stewart’s and Revson’s cars prompted Carl Haas and Teddy Mayer to petition the Stewards of the Meeting to have the race distance shortened from its intended 80 laps (192 miles) to a reported 50 to guarantee some finishers, but after consideration they announced that 80 laps it would be. Stewart reversed his decision not to run, but revealed later that he had agreed with Haas to drive for a finish only.

After the first-lap incident, Revson took the lead for Team McLaren and had little trouble staying in front. He pulled steadily ahead to where there was a secure 20-second interval before the Lola passed by, when his right half-shaft let go at the back of the course near the Valvoline bridge. Only 8 laps remained at the time, and, with his 2-lap edge over Siffert in the STP Porsche-Audi, Stewart simply stroked his way to the chequered flag. Adamowicz was third in the Jerobee Industries McLaren, Herbert Muller followed in his 512M Ferrari, Chuck Parsons was fifth in the Overhauser T160 Lola, and Milt Minter sixth in Vasek Polak’s 917 Porsche Spyder.

Statistics show the race completed in a time of 2 hours 16.763 sec. at an average speed of 95.777 m.p.h., and Revson was awarded f.t.d. honours for his performance on lap 49–a time of 1 min. 28.0 sec. (98.18 m.p.h.).

The Mid-Ohio race marked the end of the first half of the 10-race schedule, and, with drivers permitted to count only their four best finishes out of five, the top ten were as follows:

1st: Peter Revson, 67 pts.; 2nd: Denis Hulme, 65 pts.; 3rd: Jackie Stewart, 40 pts.; 4th: Lothar Motschenbacher, 32 pts.; 5th: Tony Adamowicz, 30 pts.; 6th: Jo Siffert, 27 pts.; 7th: Chuck Parsons, 18 pts.; 8th: Milt Minter, 17 pts.; 9th: Bob Bondurant, 10 pts.; 10th: Mario Andretti, 10 pts.

***

Elkhart Lake. August 29.

Peter Revson won his third Can-Am race for Team Gulf McLaren at beautiful Road America in a smooth, trouble-free run, after having been forced to start from the back of the field since he had been unable to set an official time. The reason for this strange occurrence was that the Kiwis’ number two could not qualify as planned for USAC’s second annual California 500 at Ontario Motor Speedway due to engine trouble, and, consequently, had to forfeit much-needed track time at Elkhart Lake to place a McLaren car in the 33-car field at OMS.

Denis Hulme had taken the pole station to start the second half of the Johnson-Wax Series, with only a feeble reply from Stewart in the L & M Lola. There had been no familiar Gulf orange cars at the opening practice session, since both Hulme and Revson were in California. Hulme, however, returned to Road America on Friday night, disgusted with his USAC car’s performance, and after arrangements had been completed to have the American Gordon Johncock take his place. Until the dying moments of Saturday’s time trials it appeared as if the Wisconsin race-goers would have to choose between watching Revson carve his way through the field, or Hulme and Stewart battling it out for the edge from their front row starting positions. Jackie Oliver, however, took a hand in upsetting things. The Bryant-Nichols Shadow Mark II returned to the Series, after giving the Mid-Ohio event a miss, and Oliver pushed his way past Stewart in this qualifying session to partner Hulme at the head of the smallest field to date–22 cars.

Somewhat unexpectedly, it was Hulme and Stewart who set the pace from the green flag, but most knew this would not last. The World Champion had cooked his 8-litre Chevrolet engine during the pre-race warm-up, and no one expected him to be around for long. Stewart retired after only 11 laps due to severe engine overheating, but the surprise was Hulme’s departure after 5 more, with a broken crankshaft. Revson, meanwhile, after having picked up 12 places on the opening lap, vaulted into second place on lap 13, only to lose his stable-mate soon after. Ever mindful of his suspension breakage at Mid-Ohio one week before, Revson drove with great discretion for the rest of the afternoon, and had little to fear when Oliver ran into a pair of punctures at the rear, and both Motschenbacher and Elford slowed with handling trouble and overheating tyres respectively.

Entirely unopposed, Revson completed the 50-lap, 200-mile race in 1 hour 50 minutes 4.758 seconds at the new record average speed of 109.012 m.p.h., while Hulme set f.t.d. on lap 11–2 min. 8.137 sec. (112.377 m.p.h.) – to erase yet another mark. 

The non-finishing of the L & M Lola was most discouraging for the works-backed crew, as every conceivable method is being employed to make the unusual newcomer handle with sufficient authority to continue applying pressure to the 1970 champions.–J.M.

***
Donnybrooke, September 12th

Team McLaren were right back on top at Donnybrooke finishing in a customary one-two formation. Again it was Peter Revson who took the top honours with Denny Hulme finishing second. Jackie Stewart who started the L & M Lola from the second row led for the first three laps before being headed by Revson. A couple of pit stops towards the end of the race dropped Stewart to an eventual sixth and it was Gregg Young who took third place in the second Motschenbacher McLaren formerly raced by Bondurant. Full report next month.