ATLAS F1   Volume 7, Issue 9

  Rear View Mirror

Backward glances at racing history

Three of Three: A Tale of the Life andTimes of the Grand Prix World, 1966 to 1968
by Don Capps, U.S.A.

Part 3: Be Careful What You Ask For, Lessons 1,963, 1,964, and 1,965...

Note to Our Readers: Karl Oakie has asked me to give you fair warning that we will be jumping around a bit from place to place and series to series in this part of the tale and those that follow. When we put all the racing events we thought should be a part of this tale, it was not unusual for some weekends to be pretty crowded. Although this tale has Grand Prix racing at its core, we decided to approach this project with the same broad range of interests that we held at the time - Grand Prix (only occasionally called "F1" but it was term that was to be encountered more frequently during these years), sports car racing (the FIA Manufacturer's Championship, the SCCA USRRC, and the Can-Am), the USAC National Championship, the NASCAR Grand National Championship, the SCCA Trans-Am, F2, and a few other odds and ends that caught our attention at the time. You have been warned. Don Capps

After the initial surprise of the announcement of the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI) of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) in November 1963 concerning the new Grand Prix formula to into effect in January 1966 started to wear off, the discussion started. The 2:1 ratio of the maximum displacements of unsupercharged to supercharged engines - 3,000cc to 1,500cc - caught almost everyone by surprise. The three litres was not so much a surprise as that there was an option for supercharged engines.

Not long after the announcement, Colin Chapman was asked about his thoughts on the new Grand Prix formula. His initial thoughts were that the new formula would see power in the 500-horsepower region fairly early on. Chapman also thought that the supercharged option would have to be seriously considered. He felt that the supercharged option would be the best option in the end. Chapman also mentioned the use of four-wheel drive and automatic transmissions coming to the fore with the anticipated increases in available horsepower. He expressed the thought that he could build a monocoque four-wheel drive racing car about as easily as building a current two-wheel drive monocoque. He also thought that four-wheel drive passenger vehicles would be available in 20 years.

When Chapman was asked about the physical size of the cars increasing, he thought that the difference would be minimal, seeing no reason for why they should get much larger. He also mentioned that four-wheel drive would mean the end of the tail-loose drifting that many thought the extra power would bring back. When asked about the possibility of the new formula bringing the Americans back into the fold, Chapman expressed the opinion that he thought that few Americans - if any - would take the chance. The lack of know-how, the resources required, and the lack of desire to compete in an essentially European enterprise did not seem to bode well for any significant American commitment in Chapman's opinion. In his view, the problems of getting started would cause even the large manufacturers from getting involved. This lack of initial success would probably not make it worth their while to get involved.

Another set of opinions about the new Grand Prix formula was expressed during the annual Ferrari press meeting - held on 11 January 1964 - in which Enzo Ferrari found the opportunity to expound upon a number of items before he finally turned to the new formula. Ferrari likened the new formula to the return of the pilgrim - to 1921. He mentioned his proposal and subsequent early support of the three-litre Intercontinental Formula. Ferrari mentioned the objective of the formula - to invite the Americans to join the formula and there be an interchange between the two sides of the Atlantic, particularly between Indianapolis and Monza.

Ferrari did not think much three-litre cars charging about a "drawing-room circuit" such as Monte Carlo. He thought the cars would be far more suited for Reims, Spa, Monza and similar circuits. Ferrari also took a few shots at the CSI using the three-litre formula as an excuse. He assailed the CSI for "political compromise" and the resulting "mishmash" which could be the end of racing as it was known. Given the demands to prepare for 1966, Ferrari raised the possibility that this was not possible. Given that fact, it was entirely possible that Ferrari would terminate its participation in Grand Prix racing at the end of the current formula at the end of 1965. It was vintage Ferrari and few - if any - gave it the slightest credence.

Then the new formula took a back seat to the realities of racing. Although the teams were obviously pursuing efforts to prepare for the new formula, the focus of the press, the fans, and the teams themselves was firmly on the business at hand for the 1964 and 1965 seasons. There were the occasional short pieces on the new formula or something in one of the sports gossip collections about what this or that team were up to as 1966 approached. Needless to say, much of it was wonderfully imaginative and entertaining and once in awhile even true.

In the Fall of 1964, the Americans seemed to be heading in the direction the CSI had intended - towards a mutual, truly international formula. In 1963 and 1964, the Indianapolis 500 witnessed a significant shift in its character. The Ford Motor Company sponsored an effort by Team Lotus in 1963 using an engine based on its new small V-8. It resulted in Jim Clark finishing second in his rookie effort at the Brickyard and later winning a 200-mile event at Milwaukee. In 1964, Ford produced a new engine that was a pukka racing engine - dual overhead camshafts, bundle-of-snakes exhaust emerging from the middle of the vee. Road racers in America and abroad suddenly were paying very close attention to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

That Fall the USAC (United States Auto Club) Board of Directors met to discuss various issues. The Board announced that it effective 1 January 1967 until 31 December 1971 that USAC would run its events under the formula announced by the CSI, the "three-litre formula." The vote was eight for the change, six against, and one abstention. It was a decision that was seized upon by some as the beginning of a new era, but others cautioned that the closeness of the vote meant that taking a wait and see attitude might be best.

In early 1964, the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) began a study on open-wheeled (or formula) road racing. There were several reasons for this. First and foremost, formula road racing was in something of a shambles in America. While Europe witnessed the debut of the new one-litre Formula 2 and Formula 3 classes in 1964, the SCCA still ran races for the now defunct Formula Junior class. Indeed, the whole story of post-war open-wheeled road racing has yet to be fully explored, but suffice it to say that the focus of the SCCA was centered almost exclusively on sports cars. And amateur racing.

In the Fall, just like the USAC Board, the SCCA Board made an announcement concerning the adoption of a three-litre formula. The SCCA created something called "Formula SCCA." The new formula would go into effective starting with the 1965 season. The formula would consist of three classes:

  • FA - Engine displacements between 1,601cc to 3,000cc, with a minimum weight of 1,105 pounds.

  • FB - Engine displacements between 1,101cc to 1,600cc, with a minimum weight of 848 pounds.

  • FC - Engine displacement of up to 1,100cc, with a minimum weight of 750 pounds.

    The thinking was pretty clever. The FC cars would allow the FJ cars to have another lease on life. The 1,600cc class - X Modified - was a very popular one so there was the assumption that engines would be available for those competing in FB. As for FA, there was a supply of Climax FPF engines becoming available as domestic V-8s from Ford, Chevy, and Oldsmobile supplanted the FPF in the sports racer categories such as the USRRC (the United States Road Racing Championship) and the D Modified class.

    However, there was no championship put in place for the Formula SCCA cars. They were simply to be an added class to the weekend "Nationals" and would be included in the new run-offs at the end of the season, the American Road Race of Champions. It was a start, however, and one appreciated as much for its intent as its reality.

    In 1964 and 1965, the new one-litre F2 witnessed its first years. In its first year it was quite successful if for no other reason than it provided organizers an alternative to staging either a Grand Prix/ Formula 1 or an FJ event. The F2 regulations allowed for four-cylinder engines that were pukka racing engines and a minimum weight of 420 kilograms. Using the wonderful Ford 105E engine as the starting point, Cosworth produced the SCA (Single Cam type A or as some suggest the "A" stood for Anglia). It was dropped into a variety of new cars built for the new formula: the Brabham BT10, the Lotus 32, the Lola 54, and the Cooper 71, among the others. There was an attempt from BMC at an F2 engine, but it never quite panned out. Autocar ran a domestic F2 championship which fell to Jim Clark, while French F2 championship - les Grands Prix de France - fell to Jack Brabham. Incidentally, the winner of the first F2 event of the season at Pau was a certain Scot farmer...

    During the 1964 F2 season, there were a few moments worth remembering. The XII London Trophy held at the tight Crystal Palace circuit saw a surprise winner take not only both heats, but the young Austrian had to tiger for his win against some stiff competition. Indeed, in the first heat he barely nicked Alan Rees at the line - both were given the same time, in fact. The young Austrian was driving a Brabham entered by Ford (Austria) and seemed destined for bigger things. Indeed, for the 1965 season Jochen Rindt was signed to team with Bruce McLaren at Cooper. In Berlin at the AVUS, the X Grosser Preis von Berlin saw Tony Hegbourne win both heats in his Normand Cooper 71 (F2/2/64) to give Cooper its last win a formula it once completely dominated. In a not so pleasant moment, the XXX Grand Prix de Reims saw Peter Arundell have an almighty shunt in his Ron Harris Team Lotus entered Lotus 32. After getting loose and putting a wheel off the road, Arundell shot back on the road in front of Richie Ginther who was having an outing in a Midlands Racing Partnership Lola 55. Ginther tee-boned the Lotus and both drivers were fortunate to survive, but Arundell was severely injured as the result of being ejected from the car. It was generally thought that he was the first team driver that could perhaps hold his own with Clark, particularly after his brilliant start to the season. He would return to racing in two years, but he was never the same after Reims. Also suffering serious injuries at Reims that weekend, this time during the sports car 12 hour race, was a young French driver - Jean-Pierre Beltoise.

    The 1965 F2 season was an excellent season. The balance between the new Brabham BT16 and the Lotus 35 was just about as equal as you could imagine. In 1964, the Brabham BT10 was perhaps the better of the equals in its matches with the Lotus 32. In this season, the fields were large, the teams generally well-turned out, and the races usually very exciting. In addition to the Cosworth SCA, there was another one-litre engine to choose from - the BRM P71. However, the P71 lacked the same horsepower as the SCA and saw relatively little success. The Brabham team experimented during the season with an engine produced by Honda. But, there was a sense at the end of the season that it was nice while it lasted, but it was already time to move on. The CSI did not extend the one-litre F2 and had already announced that in 1967 there would be another F2, this time for 1,600cc engines.

    In contrast to 1964, the quest for the 1965 World Championship was for second place. Even after skipping the Grand Prix de Monaco to race at the Indianapolis 500 - a decision that sent many reeling at the time, Jim Clark still took the Championship with ease. He won at East London, Spa-Francorchamps, Clermont-Ferrand, Silverstone (with a duff engine - actually shutting it off in several corners in the final laps), Zandvoort, and the Nurburgring. The last five were consecutive victories. Fellow Scot Jackie Stewart won his first Championship event at Monza in a great dice with his teammate Graham Hill. Hill added Watkins Glen to his earlier win in the season at Monte Carlo. At Mexico City, Richie Ginther, Honda, and Goodyear captured their first Championship victories.

    In 1964, the Ford and Chrysler teams had waged a great campaign on the tracks where the NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing) Grand National Championship was contested. It was, however, a season overshadowed by the deaths of several of its stars. At Riverside, defending 1963 Champion Joe Weatherly was killed when his Bud Moore Mercury struck a retaining wall after losing control coming out of the Esses. In July, Glenn "Fireball" Roberts died as the result of burns he had suffered in an early race crash at Charlotte in the World 600. He was pulled from the flaming wreckage of his car by Ned Jarrett, the 1961 Grand National Champion and fellow Ford driver. Despite hopes that he might recover, he caught pneumonia after an operation to remove more of the burned tissue and died. On 22 September 1964, Jimmy Pardue was conducting tire tests at Charlotte in his Burton-Robinson Plymouth when a tire burst going into the third turn. The red Plymouth hit the guardrail and burst through it, literally sailing down the embankment, through a chain-link fence, and finally coming to rest near the entrance of the tunnel leading to the infield. Remarkably, he was still alive, but died almost three hours later of head injuries apparently caused by one of the support posts coming through the window and striking him.

    As a note to the uninitiated, the NASCAR seasons did not always correspond to the calendar. The "1964" season actually commenced on 10 November 1963 in Concord, North Carolina with the Textile 250, a 125-mile event on the half-mile dirt track. It was followed by what was intended to be a 510-mile event on the new three-mile road circuit in Augusta, Georgia on 17 November. They managed 417 miles before halting the race due to the 17000 (5 o'clock PM) curfew, and the win went to Fireball Roberts in a Holman-Moody Ford. However, it is the next race that made history. On 1 December 1963, at the 100-miler at the Jacksonville Speedway Park, the winner ended up running 202 laps in a 200 lap race. The original winner was declared to be Buck Baker in his 1963 Pontiac, but after protests were lodged against the timing and scoring of the event. The official in charge of NASCAR timing and scoring was Johnny Bruner, Senior. The scorer for the number 34 car missed two laps, Bruner announced, and the four hours after the race the trophy was finally given to winner. The winner was Wendell Scott in his 1962 Chevrolet. Scott is still the only African-American to win a race in NASCAR's premier series.

    At Daytona, the Chrysler teams finally could use their new weapons to effect. After getting waxed by Ford in 1963, Chrysler took an engine it had used from 1951 to 1956 off the shelf, updated it and revamped it for racing. The engine featured hemispherical combustion chambers - hence the "Hemi" moniker - and with the new valve layout was capable of producing up to 500 horsepower. In a Plymouth the Hemi was called the "Super-Commando" and in a Dodge it was called the "Hemi-Charger." It was put into something that resembled production as defined by NASCAR and changed the fortunes of the MOPAR teams. With the new Hemi, Richard Petty drove a Petty Enterprises Plymouth to victory in the World Cup of NASCAR, the Daytona 500. Petty also emerged at the end of the season as the Grand National Champion, picking up nine wins during the season. Interestingly, Ned Jarrett won 15 GN races that season, but these were mostly on the smaller dirt tracks where Jarrett was a Master. Few could match his skill on these tracks. He did win the 400-miler at Atlanta in the Spring.

    Near the end of the 1964 season, on 19 October, NASCAR issued new its rules for the following season and although it kept its maximum engine displacement at 428-cubic inches (seven litre), the engines were now to be more in line with their true production brothers and sisters and not the (very) limited production Hemi and it s Ford equivalent, the High-Riser (so called due to its high-rise manifold design). NASCAR also upped the minimum wheelbase for cars on Super-speedways (those tracks one mile or longer) to 119-inches while the wheelbase for the other tracks remained at 116 inches. NASCAR also restricted the engines to a single carburetor, which was to have a maximum opening of one and 11/16ths inches. NASCAR also mandated that fuel cells would be mandatory and would remain at a maximum capacity of 22 gallons.

    Chrysler Corporation did not react well to the news that its Hemi was now outlawed. The head of the Chrysler racing effort, Ronney Householder, blasted NASCAR and locked horns with NASCAR President Bill France. The end result was that the Chrysler teams would sit out the 1965 season unless changes were made. In the months that followed, neither side blinked. The result was that when Freddy Lorenzen won the 1965 Daytona 500 in a Holman-Moody Ford, it was a driver in either a Ford or a Mercury until one came to the Herman Beam Chevrolet driven by J. T. Putney - in 14th place.

    NASCAR's mortal enemy in stock car racing, USAC, was quick to point out to Chrysler that it was continuing to use the same rules it had in 1964 and the Plymouth and Dodge Hemi teams were welcome to compete on that circuit in 1965. Many did, including Paul Goldsmith, Bobby Isaac, and David Pearson. Richard Petty and Petty Enterprises went drag racing. In a Barracuda that they called "Outlawed," Petty attracted large crowds wherever his raced. Unfortunately, on 28 February 1965, the same day that a 100-miler was being run at the Asheville-Weaverville Speedway in Weaverville, North Carolina, Petty and "Outlawed" were at Southeastern Dragway in Dallas, Georgia. During a match race with Arnie Beswick, the Barracuda experienced transmission problems off the line. As Petty tried to find second gear, the car started to get loose. When Petty finally got it into second gear the car suddenly broke loose, turned towards the spectator area, and hit the embankment. The Petty Blue Barracuda vaulted the embankment, being launched almost straight up, which carried the car over the fence that was supposed to protect the spectators, and into the crowd. Seven people were injured when the Barracuda slammed into the people who had come to watch the match races. One of these suffered severe head injuries, but there was an eighth victim, Wayne Dye - an eight-year old from Austell, Georgia. He died of his injuries before he reached the hospital. Petty suffered light injuries in the violent crash, but the shock of the young boy's death stayed with him for years.

    The fans stayed away from the races, the various track owners finally forcing NASCAR (Bill France) to take another look at the rules. On 21 June, new rules were issued. In one of the ironies of the times, USAC and NASCAR agreed that they had more in common than they realized since while Ford ruled NASCAR there were practically no Fords running in USAC. The new rules - applying to both USAC and NASCAR - stated that for each cubic inch of displacement, a minimum weight of 9.36 pounds would be allocated - the weight being for a car in "ready to race" configuration with fuel, oil, and water. At 427 cubic inches that came out to 3,996.7 pounds. The Hemi would be allowed in the "big" MOPAR cars - the Dodge Polara and the 880 and the Plymouth Fury - on Super-speedways and in the "smaller" Dodge Coronet and Plymouth Belvedere on the smaller tracks. By the end of August, the MOPAR gang was back and winning again.

    However, not all was now sweetness and light. When he ventured into Hampton, Georgia to watch the USAC race being held at the Atlanta Speedway, he was informed by track owner Nelson Weaver that the Atlanta track was not planning to run any NASCAR events in 1966, holding USAC events instead. It was hinted that others were thinking along similar lines. Fans were unhappy, promoters were unhappy, neither Ford nor Chrysler were exactly thrilled, and the teams and the drivers were getting a bit weary of the whole mess. Bill France realized that he needed to do something and do it fast, especially after a delegation of promoters spoke with him the weekend of the Atlanta USAC race.

    Bill France had kicked Curtis Turner and Tim Flock out of NASCAR after they attempted to get drivers to join a union - the Federation of Professional Athletes, an affiliate of the Teamsters Union - as a condition of a loan made to build the Charlotte Speedway. Bill France had reacted violently and banished the two into the Outer Darkness. However, it was becoming clear to France that he needed to do something to create fan interest and it had to be good. The call went out to Turner, who not only accepted the call to return to NASCAR, but that he would be happy to be back. Upon his return, Turner found things a bit more challenging than he expected. He was welcomed back, but he had trouble finding a ride that late in the season. After scrounging several rides of greatly varying quality, Turner was offered the services of a Woods Brothers Ford for the last several races of the season. In the inaugural event at the North Carolina Motor Speedway at Rockingham, Curtis Turner won and proved a point.

    Until next time, Mister Peabody, Sherman, Karl Oakie, and I will be frantically scrambling to write an episode on...

  • Don Capps© 2007
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