USA

Sebring 12 hour 1967

AND THERE ARE the Chaparrals. . , that's the 2F with the wing. . . the other one's the car that won Niirburgring. . . they both have 427s in them. . . those are the Ferrari Dinos . . . the little red ones.. . . they have Pedro Rodriguez and Jean Guichet . . . hey, did you hear Dan Gurney tried to get a ride with them? . . . and the Porsches . . . they've got nine or ten of them. . . you can sure tell the factory ones. . . they're white with pretty Porsche signs painted on the rocker panels. . . no, those other little red ones with the scoops are the new Alfa prototypes . . no factory Ferraris here . . . oh, there goes Buck Fulp's Lola. . . other one, the Mk 3, didn't show. . . transmission not working or something. . . the Ford prototypes are around here somewhere. . . yeh, there's the Mark 2 . . . and I guess that big yellow boxy thing must be the Mark 4 . . . only entered those two cars. . . sure looks like Ford is soft pedaling this whole effort, don't it. . . maybe they don't think Sebring counts for much. . . ."
Sebring counts for nine points in the Worlds Championship of Manufacturers, exactly as much as Daytona or Le Mans, and Ford took home all nine with its big yellow boxy thing. It had to beat both the Chaparrals and spectator cynicism to do it. Certainly there were no other problems. Bruce McLaren and Mario Andretti, who are now unquestionably Ford's prime driving team, had a completely mechanical trouble free race. They traveled 1237.6 miles at a record 102.923 mph, and both reported that the car was as good as new at the end of the grind, though Mario said that if the Chaparral had been able to stay in the race it might not have remained that way.

Ford's CHIEF opposition on the track was the Chaparral 2F off course it was a strange combination of doubt, cynicism and apathy on the part of the public-at least as represented by the press-such as has probably never greeted the appearance of a new car from a world champion before.
The biggest fuss Ford faced all week was a battle over whose tires to use. Andretti is contracted to Firestone, Bruce to Goodyear. They decided to flip for it by running for a fast lap. Andretti's Firestones won. Even with this going on and for the first time since Ford started racing, it was possible to, move freely in the Ford pits without crashing into a crowd of reporters and photographers. The Mark 4 stood relatively unattended and un-photographed during practice and the Chaparrals seemed to get all the cheers from the cheap bleachers. All of which was, of course, a tactical error on the part of the onlookers.
However, Chaparral hardly looked like a loser at the start of practice. Ford came into the pits and set up shop, as did Porsche, and the private Dino Ferraris, and Alfa, and David Piper and his P2/3 (the only big-engined Ferrari entered), and the GT-40s, and so forth. But no Chaparrals. Then practice began, and after a while, 10, a white tornado swept past. Wha?
The Texans had set up their own private pit on the far side of the circuit just before the new chicane and chute which avoids the old warehouse straight and makes the course just a wee bit faster than heretofore. They were operating from the most remote location on the track, one which the press could not reach once practice had begun and which was as far removed from the fans as possible. Briggs Cunningham had done this same thing, officials assured questioners of the propriety of the practice, but. they failed to answer the question of how tbey could prevent every other competitor from following suit, the result being 80 private pits scattered all over the circuit and total chaos. .
At any rate, their two cars, both equipped with 427cu-in. engines, were consistently fast from the start of practice, cutting the 3-minute mark after the usual warm-ups, scuffing in and suspension adjustments. Then Ford came out and it suddenly became apparent that this whole entire gig was going to be something else. The Mark 4 instantly beat the best 'time the 2F had set and the Mark 2 did the same to the wingless 2D. The Chaparrals reappeared and lowered the times once more whereupon the Fords came out and did them in again.

THIS SORT of thing went on for two days. No matter how hard the Chaparrals tried-Phil- Hill tried, Mike Spence tried, Jim Hall tried, Bob Johnson tried, Bruce Jennings tried, and Hap Sharp would have tried but his license had expired-the Mark 4 stayed two seconds faster than anyone and, won the pole and the Mark 2 stayed faster than the 2D and started third. The Chaparrals started second and fourth.
The first Ford GT-40, driven by Dick Thompson and Ed Lowther, started fifth, followed by David Piper's 3-year-old P2/3 Ferrari, co-driven by Dickie Attwood. Then came Porsche, GT -40, Alfa, Porsche, to round out the top ten. The Fulp Lola never made it to the start, having seized up ill in practice. Neither were there any big new Ferraris, mainly because Enzo had decided months ago to take the P4s back to Europe before Sebring in order to prepare them for the Le Mans trials. A week before the race an $800,000 lawsuit was filed in Sebring against Mario Andretti, Ferrari, the Sebring organizers and Don Wester, all the result of last year's tragic Ferrari-Porsche accident in which four spectators were killed. Luigi Chinetti of the North Ameriean Racing Team - said he feared the action might result in a writ of attachment which would prevent him, as Ferrari's U.S. representative, from removing his cars from Florida after the race so he wasn't going to come. . .
Ford's 2-car entry specified A. J. Foyt and Lloyd Ruby for the Mark 2, which left Dan Gurney sort of standing out in the draft. He and Pedro decided to have a go at it. Then, at the last moment, the Ford management, even though they had no ride for Dan, and though the Mercury Division, to which he is actually contracted, had no entry at all, decided, he should not run and turned thumbs down. Jean Guichet was flown over from Paris to help Pedro.

Chaparral had a stroke as well. On the eve of the race Phil Hill had an attack of appendicitis and was removed to a hospital. Jim Hall replaced him in the 2F. Eleven A.M., the flag drops, the dash is on, there is a mighty roar from 58 engines. No, there is a mighty roar from 57 engines. The 2F is bucking, heaving, coughing and sputtering. It is stalled. The rest of the field goes - by, and finally, 20 or so seconds after all have vanished, Spence gets it started and hurtles off round the bend.

AT THE END of the first lap the pack came around with one of the new 2-liter Alfas in the lead. This little red bomb, called the Type 33, features a 90 degree 4-cam V-8 displacing 1966 cc and, is built up on a magnesium alloy backbone frame. They are already winning Hill climbs in Europe and promise to be a real threat to Porsche and the Dino for the '67 European Championship.

The Mark 4 and Mark 2 followed immediately behind it, passing to take the lead shortly thereafter, followed by Piper and Thompson. At this point a Porsche 910, driven by Hans Herrmann and Jo Siffert was 31st, having balked on the start. Another 910, with Scooter Patrick and Gerhard Mitter driving, was running right behind Thompson, with the 2D Chaparral just in back of them. An incredible fight was being waged by the 2F. Spence gained 40 places in two laps, then began pecking away at the leaders. He caught up to the 2D on lap six, followed it past the Patrick/ Mitter Porsche on lap nine, then passed his teammates' car and Thompson on the next lap.

This put him fourth but also in trouble. The Mark 4 was steadily pulling away from the second and third place cars and, in fact, was doing so in direct proportion to Spence's pursuit. It took the 2F an hour to pass Piper and then, 30 minutes later, the Fords began to pit for gas and driver changes. The Chaparral flew. It was not good enough.The Mark 4 was back on the track in 80 seconds after suffering from surging during refueling, the Mark 2, in 50. The chase went on. In fact, it jumped around for six hours, with the Mark 4 clearly the steadier and better handling machine and the 2F, with Spence, Hall, then Spence again, driving hell out of it trying to catch up. At several points, they even held the lead for a few laps, mainly because at first they seemed to have better gas mileage. Just behind them the Mark 2 and the 2D were doing exactly the same thing. Lap times dropped below three minutes almost immediately. Spence, at one point in the 'chase, set a new record of 2:48.6 and won Sebring's Sportsmanship trophy for his great effort.

Piper's Ferrari seized up the gearbox after three hours, Alfas began visiting the pits with all sort of minor development problems, which they had expected, and the inevitable began to happen. At the one-third mark (four hours) there were three Porsches in the same lap running right behind the 2D Chaparral and gaining. They had almost literally wiped out the Dinos in a couple of hours, sending them into the pits with. broken radiators gearbox failure, jammed throttle cables, non. functioning suspension, leaking gaskets and much more.

IT NOW BEING about 5 P.M..'the sun began to dip toward the horizon and it got cool. Whereupon the race, got hot. In the last series of pit stops McLaren had got a full lap up on Hall. Spence replaced him and was now driving like mad to catch up. He did manage to unlap himself once but in the fray, during the time when he, the 2D and the Mark 2 were almost literally neck and neck, the 2D suddenly suffered electrical failure and was out of the race. At dusk the 2F came limping into the pits with its rear end smoking. The friction caused by the 427's torque on the automatic transmission had boiled the transmission fluid, cooked the housing, cracked the seals leading into the differential, melted the spare tire, and was frying the body fiberglass. Something similar had happened to the 2D at Daytona. The Chaparralers packed up and instantly departed.

This left it all Ford, still running Mark 4-Mark 2. "EZ" and "SLO" signs were hung out for both their cars. They had a 6 and 8-lap lead, respectively, over their nearest pursuer at the 8-hour mark, which was, as you have undoubtedly surmised, a Porsche, namely the Mitter / Patrick 910. In the time between the halfway point and the 8-hour mark the Thompson/Lowther GT-40 had gone into retirement with a blown head gasket. But now the Porsches found themselves pursued by another GT-40, this one a sort of secret weapon. On the outside it looked just like a maroon GT-40. Inside it had Nino Vaccarella and Umberto Maglioli, both of whom are equal to any long distance race ever run. They had been just back of the top ten for most of the day and now, as night came on, they moved up into seventh then fifth, then fourth.

At this point the Herrmann/Siffert Porsche, the one which had been 31st back at the end of lap one, had climbed up the Porsche ladder behind its teammates, passing one after the other, until it was now just behind the GT40,finally passing it to take over fourth. For an hour or so it looked as though the GT-40 might go for a sprint race the rest of the distance, with both cars chasing, around on the same lap, but Maglioli/Vaccarella et, all had a great deal at stake,namely the Sport category victory and decided, therefore, to play it very cool and finish, behind Stuttgart.,

Are we done? Is that it? Not on your life. It is only 10:30 P.M.. and we have half an hour to go. Everyone knows that you never can tell. : ; .
". . . . Hey, looka . . . it's the Ford Mark 2 in the pits for gas. . . how far back is that Porsche? . . . hey, it won't start. . . the Ford won't start. . . .".

AND INDEED IT wouldn't. The car had been left in gear when it came into the
pits and upon being re-started with the clutch engaged it bucked forward and froze the distributor camshaft. While the Holman-Moody pit crew attempted repairs the Porsches kept flying by, louder and louder with each lap. At 11 :00 P.M. the Mitter/Patrick car was on the same lap as the still immobile Mark 2 and it appeared as though Stuttgart might have copped second overall. . "
But it was not to be. Even though the Ford was not running, it had completed over 90% of the total laps of the winning car in its class (the Mark 4) and was therefore accounted an official finisher. In fact, it beat the Porsche by eight seconds, the time being based on mileage covered by both cars during the 12 hours. Porsche team manager Huschke von Hanstein reflected that if only he had known, he would have done something. Like plant land mines. Usually Von Hanstein and his/little cars get my vote for the big underdog finish. But not this time. BMC brought over from England its inimitable rally team, gave them four little BMC cars, and told them go gettum. Starting in 32nd was Hopkirk Hedges in an MG Prototype. In 42nd a Sprite, with Aaltonen and Baker. In 45th a stock MGB being driven by Makinen/Rhodes and in 44th, just in front of it, a Sprite prototype being driven by Poole/Baird/Enever. What BMC did was juggle its drivers around between cars in such a way that it became impossible to tell who was driving what because all the rally drivers handled the cars exactly alike. They simply staged a 12-hour-Iong 4-wheel powerslide on full reverse lock, greatly entertained the crowd and scared their more conventional opposition witless.

At the end of the race all four cars were still running. The Hopkirk/Hedges MG Prototype finished eleventh overall. The MGB was one lap behind it, twelfth over all and the second GT to actually finish the race-a Porsche 911 S (Bob Kirby /Alan Johnson) beat it home by nine laps and won the GT category outright-followed by the Aaltonen/ Baker Sprite one lap behind; and, last, but not least, the other Makinen/Rhodes car, the second Sprite prototype, which came home 18th. Thirty five machines made it all the way to the end.

Index

SPORTSCAR RACES IN THE 60's