Road Atlanta, July 11th.
The third Can-Am round at Road Atlanta, 50 miles north-east of Georgia’s state capital, was intended as the rubber match between Team McLaren and the works L & M Lola T260 of Jackie Stewart. Hulme had won the Mosport opener in the Gulf-sponsored M8F, but Stewart evened the score at Mont Tremblant two weeks later in convincing fashion, albeit at the expense of a sickly Kiwi team leader who had been laid low by a virulent 24-hour ‘flu bug. That Eric Broadley’s latest product was not quite right in the handling department was evident from the complete rebuild that the front end had undergone during the ensuing two weeks, including revised suspension pick-up points, a new steering rack and general stiffening.
To Peter Revson was given the privilege of introducing into the 1971 J-Wax Series the latest version of the Reynolds-developed, all-aluminium Chevrolet V-8 engine without the customary cylinder liners, which put forth a shade lees than 8-litres (480 cu. in.). It produced the same b.h.p. as the 8.1-litre engines currently in use by the McLarens, but higher up in the rev range accompanied by less torque. That such a combination was chosen for Road Atlanta’s diving and partially-blind 2.52 miles was of questionable merit, yet the final result bore out the wisdom of the decision.
A change was made in the qualifying procedure whereby the entry list was divided into three groups, based on performance in practice, and each was given two separate half-hour attempts on the track, with all laps timed. The result saw Team McLaren snatch the front row virtually unopposed, as Stewart’s L & M Lola was unable to keep pace, despite its front mods and a change in the position of the rear-mounted airfoil—now a full six inches farther to the rear. Hulme recorded 1 min. 17.7 sec. (116.90 m.p.h.) to take the pole position, Revson managed 1 min. 18.0 sec. for second quickest, but Stewart languished seven-tenths behind. Jackie Oliver was next up in the Mark II Shadow (1 min. 20.7 sec.) after it also had undergone unseen improvements—the repositioning of the fuel feed piping into the air-stream for better cooling, plus revised geometry at the front to offset undesired lift at high speed.
Three newcomers made their 1971 Series debuts: Vic Elford, Tony Adamowicz and David Hobbs. Elford was in a production-line M8E McLaren entered by Roy Woods’ American Racing Associates of California. The car was powered by Al Bartz’ supposed first attempt at building an 8-litre Chevy. Adamowicz took over Oscar Koveleski’s 1969 Series-winning M8B McLaren, following the latter’s announced retirement from competition, while Hobbs replaced Chuck Parsons in Tony Dean’s ex-works McLaren M8D.
At the start Hulme hung back, giving Revson his head to lure Stewart into an early dice. The Scot gladly obliged and took the lead on lap 7, where he remained until a punctured left rear tyre and a recalcitrant starter dropped him second from last on lap 13. He rejoined the race to pick up eight positions by lap 27, only to be forced into the pits once more with brake trouble and a badly torn right front wing—the result of some incredible overexhuberance. With Stewart so far behind, Revson had the lead to himself, and his lap times quickly dropped from the 1 min. 19 sec. bracket into the mid-20s. Motschenbacher held down third with little trouble in the ex-works M8D McLaren.
Hobbs’ engine let go on lap 31 and Elford retired after 34, with a deteriorating oil leak situation after having driven the previous 24 laps minus his clutch. He had only been able to start the race after Woods had acquired a replacement 8-litre engine from Tony Dean, when the team’s only power plant let go during Friday’s practice. After his second pit stop, Stewart leap-frogged into eighth place and-certainly would have finished in the top five had it not been for a broken right rear damper mounting on lap 63, but his respective charges through the field had been the highlights of an extremely hot and humid afternoon.
From then on it was all McLaren, but the final touch was left for Revson to supply—on the next to last lap the driving pegs on the left rear wheel sheared and the Kiwi’s number two coasted across the finish line 20.6 sec. ahead of Hulme to win his first-ever Can-Am race.—J.M.
Watkins Glen, July 25th.
Not since September, 1968, when Mark Donohue won the second Can-Am race of the year at Bridgehampton, had a native North American taken the championship lead in the annual Johnson Wax-sponsored Group 7 Series. But at Watkins Glen Peter Revson, in a works M8F McLaren-Chevrolet, did just that as he won his second consecutive event of the young season, leading his team-mate, Denis Hulme to McLarens’ third 1971 1-2 sweep. Revson completed his task comprising 82 laps over the Glen’s 2.428-mile circuit in the exceedingly short time of 1 hr. 32 min. 54.137 sec. at an average speed of 128.58 m.p.h. Hulme won $1,000 and the Ballantyne beer trophy for setting the fastest time of the day on lap 69—1 min. 06.083 sec. (132.276 m.p.h.)—following hard on his unscheduled pit stop to replace his left rear wheel which had started to crack up.
The shortness of the event brought unfavourable criticism from a few of the holdovers from the previous day’s World Championship endurance race, three of whom finished in the top ten—Sam Posey (sixth in the NART 512M Ferrari), Andrea de Adamich (seventh in the enduro-winning T33-3) and Gijs Van Lennep (ninth in a Gulf-Porsche). For his epic run Revson had at his command an enlarged version of the Reynolds-developed, all-aluminium sleeveless engine boasting no less than 510 cu. in. (8.36-litres)!
The race marked the debuts of some highly interesting machinery— Jo Siffert’s STP Porsche-Audi 917-10 and Mario Andretti’s 7-litre Ferrari. The latter was in reality nothing more than an engine test bed, since the big V-12 had been hurriedly shovelled into a re-worked 512 chassis onto which had been affixed a slab-decked after-skin. Andy Granatelli’s STP Corp. was pleased to announce its involvement with the speedy Swiss for the remainder of the series, but the future participation of SEFAC Ferrari will depend upon the results of the post-race appraisal by Mauro Forghieri and the chaps at Maranello. That the two cars finished third and fourth, however, with Siffert 20 sec. ahead, augurs well for the weeks to come.
Practice and qualifying took place alternatively with the Group 5 and 6 cars on hand for the final endurance race of the year, and Team Gulf McLaren set the pace from the opening period with both cars bracketed at 1 min. 05 sec. Stewart had a moment on Friday when the right rear radius rod pulled loose from its mounting point, and the 1969 World Champion had to settle for fourth fastest at 1 min. 06.5 sec. behind Hobbs’ 1 min. 06.4 sec, in Tony Dean’s ex-works M8D McLaren-Chev. Amid rumours that Eric Broadley was alternating cars for Stewart without notice, the latter ended the time trials with the second pole position of the season, an untouchable 1 min. 05.113 sec. (134.241 m.p.h.).
Despite the jump on the field that Stewart managed at the start, there was little to choose between the quickest three up front after the opening laps. Revson kept Stewart within easy reach, bothered by turbulence whenever he closed on the Lola, while Hulme seemed content to maintain a relaxed station in third place. Andretti easily held on to fourth after edging past Hobbs, while Siffert continually threw up a dust cloud attempting to overtake first Mark Donohue in the Kirk F. White-Roger Penske Ferrari, then Derek Bell in the Gulf-Porsche, both of whom finally succumbed by lap 13.
During this interval Motschenbacher blotted his copybook by running out of road in the final 90-degree right-hander on lap 8, collecting three chain link catch fences before finally coming to rest unhurt but through for the day. Hobbs followed three laps later, having blown good and proper Dean’s 494-cu. in. Chevrolet. Motschenbacher was unhappy at his team-mate’s disinclination to allow him to get past.
Stewart’s pit stop with a punctured left rear tyre on lap 28 let Revson into the lead, which he never relinquished, though the Scot put on a brave show with the T260 model that is slowly beginning to come right in the handling department. Rejoining the race, Stewart easily collected Andretti, but was unable to gain on the leader, his day finally coming to an end after 56 laps with no drive in the gearbox.
After four races the standings show Revson in the lead with 67 points to Hulme’s 65, Motschenbacher third with 32 and Stewart fourth with 20.—J.M.