Britain’s David Hobbs clinched the L & M Continental 5000 Championship on August 1st at Edmonton, Canada, with his fourth victory of the series out of six starts. The former JW and Team Surtees driver earned his first major North American crown at the wheel of the Carl Hogan McLaren M10B powered by a Traco-built 5-litre Chevrolet, and his latest win gave him a total of 95 points, 40 more than his principal adversary, Sam Posey, of Sharon, Connecticut. His last year’s McLaren is the same machine which John Cannon drove to championship victory last season.
Up till the sixth round in Western Canada Poser, who drives a Surtees TS8, had a mathematical chance of overtaking the lanky commuter from the little Warwickshire village of Upper Boddington, but a second heat spin-out into an earth bank put paid to any hope of a fight to the finish.
The eight-race schedule started on a bad note for the 1971 titleholder, who failed to appear in the points column in the season opener at Riverside in California on April 25th. One month later, however, with two consecutive victories safely tucked away, Hobbs took over the points lead and could not be headed. His talkative nemesis from Connecticut tried desperately to overhaul the likeable Englishman, but to no avail, despite a close win at Mid-Ohio on July 5th. Two straight Hobbs’ successes followed, culminating in victory and the coveted title at Edmonton early last month.
On paper the series was certainly not the runaway it appears; for the Sports Car Club of America likes to think it is the most competitive of all its professional schedules. Regrettably, it has not been given its due either by the enthusiast or the daily Press, despite the best efforts of the makers of L & M cigarettes to influence otherwise. Before the Championship Car Division of the United States Auto Club, SCCA’s ConChamp pales, its few drivers of either national or international importance deign to give it much thought. All of which raises doubts of the series’ future. It is one thing to be called Champion. It is quite another to go unrecognised as such, irrespective of the dollars involved.
Faced with an ever-increasing need to gain a competitive edge, Peter Bryant is expected to remodel his version of Don Nichols’ Advanced Vehicle Systems Shadow Mark II Can-Am challenger for the fifth Can-Am round at Mid-Ohio on August 22nd, a front-end redesign was anticipated, featuring a return to conventional-sized front wheels, which will more than likely bring the car into line—at least visually—with the much-lamented Ti22. The team stoutly maintains that little trouble, if any, has occurred with the front Goodyear tyres overheating, so the problem appears to relate to the lack of sufficient rubber to stabilise the handling properties.
Bryant, a well-travelled journeyman mechanic, will be best remembered for his burst upon the Group 7 scene with the now historic “Mornin’ Afta” special in 1969, which featured extensive use of titanium. Jackie Oliver’s fine performance in the 1970 Can-Am opener at Mosport when he stole the lead from Dan Gurney in a works M8D McLaren, paid tribute to Bryant’s hitherto unsung design abilities.
Oliver will retain his association with the Universal Oil Products entry, for, judging from Bryant’s recent remarks, he has more than a passing interest in the car’s success in Group 7 competition.
The live telecast of the Watkins Glen Can-Am race appears to have survived the viewing test of the nation’s motorsport enthusiasts. The overall reaction has been generally good, with favourable remarks having been passed on the transmission of much of the action downfield instead of a dull lap-by-lap repetition of the leader’s position. Road racing is perhaps one of the most difficult spectacles to convey adequately over the tube, with enormous production costs having proved insurmountable for many a stalwart company in the past. Should the Arutunoff Enterprises venture succeed, the Sports Car Club of America will have struck gold, drawing many millions more into the fold, which can do nothing but benefit the sport at a time when sponsor participation is becoming increasingly hard to obtain.
Success in America for New Zealander Bert Hawthorne who has raced extensively in Britain in Formula Three cars. At the end of last season Hawthorne, a former works Brabham mechanic, seemed to he at the end of his racing career with no money left in the bank and no offers of drives despite several good performances. A chance meeting at the Racing Car Show brought him a job at an American racing drivers’ school. He brought with him a one-off Formula car called the Tui built by a fellow New Zealander Alan McCall, which Hawthorne had raced in a few F3 events. The school helped him with an engine and now Hawthorne is just about the fastest man in American Formula B racing. With three recent wins, including two in Mexico, he is now a close second in the SCCA Formula B Championship while for McCall it looks as if there will be a demand for further Tuis in the USA.
NASCAR’s all-time super star, Richard Petty, recently added another record to his ever-increasing list of successes in the big stock saloons. Atlanta International Raceway was the scene of the Dixie 500 on August 1st, and Petty’s 15th victory of the year pushed his career earnings past the magic $1 million figure for the first time in the history of Bill France’s organisation. Late model saloon racing in the NASCAR mode is virtually unknown outside the United States, but in 14 years Petty has made it his own special preserve.
Though he began racing on the Grand National circuit in 1958, his first win didn’t come until 1960. Since then he has paraded into victory circle on 134 occasions, far outdistancing the previous mark set by his father, Lee Petty. Of the 551 races in which lie has started he has been placed in the top ten on 386 occasions and in the top five 321 times. A total 94,044.6 competition miles have produced an average purse of $3,399.56 aggregating $1,017,853.
Starting life as a tobacco farmer in his native North Carolina, the famous citizen of Randleman took his first ride at the tender age of 20 and has never looked back. He has won more races in a single season than anyone else (27) and his latest win in Georgia pushed his season earnings to $189,295.—J. M.