Feature race winner Ed Lowther (Genie-Ford) at Oak Tree Turn on Lap 1 with Tom O'Brien's Ferrari in pursuit. Photo by John Ewald
GETTING A bit tired of the phrase "powered by Ford"? Well read no further, for the results of VIR's National races again prove that the shaggiest hair is grown in Dearborn. Domination of Sunday's feature races by Ford-powered machinery was, if not complete, at least most convincing-
The overall field, though a tad sparse (100 official entries with 73 starting), was nevertheless sufficiently star-studded to attract a race-day crowd of 8,000. Primary interest, of course, was focused upon the final event of the day which, through a series of mishaps so typical of the racing game, ended in a flat runaway for Ed Lowther's Genie-Ford.
And finally, the highly successful Harrison Spl., entered by Fong Racing Team, showed up late Saturday evening minus driver Charlie Kolb. It seems Charlie had had some abscessed teeth removed and was still under the weather. The piloting chores fell to Jim O'Brien whose older brother Tom was entered in a 250 Dino Ferrari. With 17 major turns and two blistering straights over 3.2 miles, VIR is definitely a driver's course; and Jim with an unfamiliar car was in for a bad weekend. He managed only a couple of practice laps, and those by following the little fellows around in Sunday's first race.
Only nine cars started the 18-lap feature for CM-GM. These quickly became eight when the flag fell as Steve Quigley baked the Revmaster's clutch getting off the line. The Genie leaped ahead of the Ferrari, and the chase was on. Lowther cracked off a couple of laps at 2:22 (4 seconds off Hansgen's Cooper-Buick course record). O'Brien hung close for 3 laps, and then the chase was over as the Ferrari ruptured its oil filter.
Michael Goth moved his Lotus 23B into second and put on quite a show for several laps by hanging about 10 seconds behind the flying Genie. Dick Young had the Elva Mk. VII in third well ahead of the Harrison which was having cockpit cooling problems. The excess heat got to Jim on lap 8, and he locked up everything at the end of the 3/4 mile back stretch, sliding straight off course amid clouds of dust and scrambling flag personnel. He pitted two laps later, looking very much like he'd seen the fuzzy bear, and turned the beast over to brother Tom who brought her in a distant fourth.
Lowther was some 30 seconds ahead of Goth and stroking it when the checker fell, his winning average being 79.6 mph for the 18 laps (58.14 miles). Goth topped FM, with Roger Donovan's Elva Mk. VII fifth overall, first in GM.
Mr. Donahue (#41), meet Mr. Keck
photos by Steve Denny
There can be no question that the feature race was that only in name. The three production runs and Saturday's formula race proved much more interesting. A strong field of 12 cars started the AP-BP go, led by the Cobras of Graham Shaw, Mark Donohue, and Harold Keck; the Sting Ray of Dick Lang; Bob Grossman's GTO; and the BP Corvettes of Don Yenko and Bob Mouat. Keck was in the race only through a fine display of sportsmanship on the part of Graham Shaw. Keck's Cobra had snapped an axle in practice Saturday, and the good Tombstone sent his plane to Columbia to fetch him a spare.
Yes Virginia, it is the first lap
photo by Bill Fishburne
It was evident on the first lap that Lang hadn't read the script as he led Shaw, Donohue, and Grossman across the line. Keck was seventh with a mangled right front fender, having rammed Donohue in the rear at the end of the back stretch. After several abortive efforts, Donohue finally slipped past the Sting Ray on the 5th lap, with Shaw following suit on the 7th. Grossman was still within 10 seconds of the leaders who were running under a hanky. Keck was another half-minute back after having been black-flagged to see what great chunks of rubber the bent aluminum was tearing out of his Goodyears.
In his spectacular early dash, Lang apparently had over-revved slightly, taking some of the edge off his top-end tune. As he fell back, so did Shaw who began to experience cutting-out under hard acceleration. Keck started catching Grossman two seconds a lap, finally nipping the Ferrari on the 18th as Donohue took the checkered flag 16 seconds ahead of Shaw and another second in front of Lang. The Cobra had averaged 80.6 mph, one mph faster than the Genie-Ford's winning speed. Yenko took 6th and BP, Mouat having pranged a pole on the 15th lap while running 7th.
Unfortunately for Dick Lang, the race did not end with the checkered flag. The Sting Ray's rear fender wells had been altered to accommodate a pair of monster tires. Same old protest; same decision. Lang was disqualified. His subsequent appeal is now pending action.
While we are still on the subject of mild surprises, perhaps mention should be made of the 16-second shellacking the Bob Tullius TR-4 gave the Bruce Jennings Carrera in the CP-FP race. Looks from here like the British machine is going to make it from EP to CP in three years. Jim Ladd in the Healey 3000 put on a short but spirited drive, running close behind Tullius for 3 laps before going out with a jammed overdrive. Art Riley, master of the ragged edge, drove the P-1800 into 4th place, first in FP, with Ron Grable's Porsche fifth, first in EP. In all, 14 of the 23 starters finished. Prominent DNF's included Ed Diebl's TR-4 with rear-end problems on the first lap and Alex Dearbom's TVR with a broken axle cum thrown wheel on the second.
Twenty-three cars started the 18 lapper for GP-HP-HM, with Ed Walsh's Lotus 23-Saab lapping 16 of the 19 finishers. Turning a consistent 73 mph, Walsh easily outdistanced John Gordon's Osea and Pete Van der Vate's Morgan 4./4 Mk. IV. Van der Vate had no complaints though, for he thoroughly wiped the Spitfire of Erwin Lorincz who had given his Mk. I Sebring Sprite such fits at the close of 1963. Behind Lorincz came the beautiful little Rene Bonnet of Howard Hanna who took third in HM. The HP Abarths of Ron Catalano and Sam Caronia fought off the Mk. I Sprite of Henry Horne, as those three finished in that order in the closest class competition of the day.
By far the scrappiest show of the weekend was staged by three openwheel VWs in Saturday's formula race. While Michael Taylor zipped away in the only junior entered - a Cooper - Whit Tharin and James Miller in Formcars and Jim McDaniel in an Autodynamics became engaged in a real woolly. For 16 laps it was slip, slide, and swap. Then in the right-angled Oak Tree Turn, Tharin tried to dive under Miller and literally almost did. In the resulting skittery-do, Miller spun off course; Tharin got completely out of sorts; and McDaniel, trying to avoid, looped her into the ditch. Tharin got off first, followed by McDaniel whose rear springs had collapsed giving his car the appearance of an expectant dachshund. Finally, Miller found a cog and roared off in pursuit, nipping the wounded Autodynamics for 2nd in class on the last lap. All six starters finished.
For you statistically conscious readers, 56 of the 73 starters finished-40 of 55 in the production classes, 10 of 12 in modified, and 6 of 6 formula cars. The most conspicuous DNS was Donna Mae Mims whose Hollywood MGB threw a rod in practice Saturday while Don Yenko was "breaking it in." The highest class casualty rates were in DP with 4 and HP with 3. Only one DNF was the result of a crash.