Can-Am 1970

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St. Jovite

Hopes that the 1970 Canadian-American Challenge Cup series might at last find some serious opposition to the all-powerful McLaren team took a severe blow at the second round. Like the first, this took place in Canada, moving from Mosport to the beautiful St. Jovite circuit nestled in the Laurentian mountains north of Montreal. Here it was that the Autocoast Ti-22 came to a spectacular end. Its driver, Jack Oliver, the man who had challenged the McLarens at Mosport, qualified third fastest behind Gurney and Hulme after some suspension trouble in practice.

St. Jovite is notorious for the hump on the very fast back stretch, scene of several amazing past accidents, and it was at this point that Oliver crashed heavily. The instability created by the hump was aggravated by the tremendous turbulence generated by the low wings mounted on the cars in front of the Autocoast, which reared up and performed a complete backflip before landing and sliding on its nose. Fortunately for Oliver the titanium chassis absorbed all the damage and enabled him to escape virtually unscratched.

Hulme’s 7.6-litre engine suffered from the big Chevrolet’s known tendency to overheat and he retired, leaving McLaren’s team-mate Dan Gurney to win from Lothar Motschenbacher, who had a remarkably trouble-free run considering that his private McLaren had been virtually rebuilt after its first-round accident.

Watkins Glen

The third round of the series took place on the day after the World Manufacturers’ Championship 6-Hour race at Watkins Glen in New York State. It attracted many of the sports cars which had raced the previous day and they had a distinct advantage over the Group Seven cars because their more robust design was much better suited to the appalling condition of the rapidly deteriorating track surface, the result of faulty resurfacing. Group Seven honour was saved by Hulme, whose McLaren had been fitted with the smaller 7-litre engine to combat overheating. This time it was Gurney (using a 7.6-litre V8) who retired and Hulme duly won in spite of his car’s air intakes being seriously clogged with loose gravel.

Behind Hulme were no fewer than six Group Five cars, all of which had raced for six hours the previous day! Jo Siffert’s JW Automotive Porsche 917 closed the gap on Hulme in an inspired display of driving by the Swiss and he had got it down to only nine seconds when slower cars twice forced him to spin off. Nevertheless, Siffert finished two laps ahead of the remaining Group Five cars.

A welcome new car in the series was Jim Hall’s latest Chaparral, driven by Jackie Stewart and illustrated in this month’s colour spread. Suffice to say that this car’s auxiliary Rockwell JLO engine creates a vacuum under the glassfibre body which is equivalent to 1,000 lb.: compared with a wing it offers effective operation at all speeds and virtually no drag. Missing at Watkins Glen were the Autocoast (destroyed at St. Jovite) and the AVS Shadow, which had been seriously damaged in a trailer accident.

Edmonton

The Can-Am brigade returned to Canada for the fourth round of the series but for a number of reasons it was a rather decimated field that assembled at Edmonton International Speedway, on the outskirts of Canada’s Oil Capital, for the Klondike 200. Jim Hall skipped the race to iron out some of the problems that the Glen event brought to light in his chaparral 2J; the Autocoast and AVS Shadow teams had still not recovered financially from their separate accidents during and after the St. Jovite race; and several other competitors apparently decided that their chances of success did not justify the 4,400-mile trip to Western Canada.

Seeking their 17th consecutive Can-Am victory, the works McLaren team was also noticeably changed. Dan Gurney, who joined the team after Bruce McLaren’s death and won the first two races, ended his association after the Glen race as a result of conflicts between his personal contracts with Castrol and the team’s contracts with Gulf. Peter Gethin was therefore recruited and was remarkably quick to adapt to this new (to him) form of racing. Modifications to the radiator outlets of the M8Ds appeared to solve the overheating problems that have plagued the team’s 7.6-litre engines, but Hulme elected to stay with the smaller 7-litre engine, at least for one more race. He still won the pole position – with a non-record time of 1 min. 23.6 sec. (108.818 m.p.h.) – and Gethin was alongside him at 1 min. 24.0 sec., but this was just 1/10th of a second faster than Lothar Motschenbacher’s McLaren M8B, which is becoming more competitive at every race. As it turned out, these were the only three cars in the race because Peter Revson’s Lola T190, which is now handling much better, ran into a raft of engine trouble. Two engines were lost in practice and a third one, borrowed from the McLaren team and hastily installed on race morning, could not be sorted out in time.

With only 22 starters and no real opposition apart from Motschenbacher, Hulme and Gethin had a relatively easy time as they ran one-two throughout the 200-mile race. Motschenbacher harried Gethin for 50 miles but then fell back with fuel surge trouble and was lapped just before the finish. Bob Brown’s ex-Gurney McLeagle, which is also showing a good turn of speed with only a 7-litre engine, was running rich all through the race and had to settle for fourth, two laps down. George Eaton’s BRM, with a tired 1969 engine and its handling still diabolical, was never a factor and retired with wheel-bearing failure. Not one of the best Can-Am races – if, indeed, it was a race at all. – D.G.

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Accuracy

It would be nice if a Law could be passed preventing writers, especially historians, from perpetuating inaccuracies. Then there would be an end to libraries full of books, many of which are not 100% accurate and some of which are downright misleading. But it wouldn’t work, for sooner or later every writer is apt to commit an error and if such an Act came into force we shall all, including ourselves, have to stop writing.

These thoughts came to us after reading an advertisement in the Sunday Times in which a gentleman who overhauls automatic gearboxes, we understand very proficiently, claimed that a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I which had apparently run 250,000 miles would maintain 129 m.p.h., a similar Silver Cloud II 135 m.p.h. and a Silver Cloud III 138 m.p.h. Further, this advertiser claimed a World (sic) record of 14 hours for the run from Sandown Lodge (which we believe to be near Epsom) to Monaco in a Silver Cloud III that had done 127,000 miles. This included ferry-time and the claimed average speed was 102 m.p.h.

It all seems too good to be possible. But not, apparently, to the Sunday Times.

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