Sports Car Graphic, October 1966
(thanks to Gordon Warren)
Article by W.R.C. Shedenhelm
Photos by J.P. Brady
The series is half over, and the Mustang and Barracudas are fighting for the lead one point apart!
UPPER RIGHT: Tom Yeager's Mustang, in second spot on the first lap, leads Richard Petty's Barracuda through the uphill chicanes at VIR. Click on photos for a 4X larger version
LEFT: On the ninth lap the O'Neill Cortina gets a little sideways and is helped onwards by the Winkler GTA, causing some body modifications.
RIGHT: At mid-point in the race the Attwood/Gardner Cortina is third, with the Jennings/Netherton Barracuda hot after him here through Turn 5.
BELOW: Leader for more than half the 124-laps, the
Feistmann/Norburn Mustang laps a Barracuda and two Alfas, finished a very
No one factor can be said to be all-important in winning an endurance race of the type run by the sedans this year. Certainly the car's suitability for the particular circuit is important, but these vary from the right-angle turns of Green Valley through the fast esses of VIR and Riverside, with Bryar and Sebring somewhere in between. The durability of the particular sedan is extremely important, of course. You don't win if you don't take the checkered flag. The minimum length of any race in the sedan series is four hours, the longest is the twelve-hour at Marlboro. The skills of the driver and co-driver are critical, to get the most out of the car without breaking it. Pure chance can always enter the scene, naturally. Then, in an endurance race, the speed of the pit stops for gasoline, tires, and emergency repairs can be a critical factor. At the Virginia International Raceway '400,' it was to put an insurmountable time-gap between the first and second placed Mustangs of Yeager/Johnson and Feistmann/Norburn.
The NASCAR drivers, recruited to co-drive several of the big Detroit sedans in the hopes of drawing more spectators in pro-NASCAR southern Virginia didn't do too well on the 12-turn, 3.23-mile road course. Dave Pearson blew the engine on the Brock Yates Dodge Dart in pre-race practice. Richard Petty took second place off the starting line in one of the Team Starfish Barracudas, spun into the boonies on the third lap, worked his way back up to tenth, went off again at the same spot, and blew a head gasket trying to get out of the mud and wet grass. Curtis Turner fared better. In Peter Lake's Mustang he moved from 23rd on the grid to ninth, blew a tire, made it back to the pits, then at 60 laps in the 124 lap, 400.5-mile race, broke a piston and holed the block. Lake got the Mustang back to the pits, pulled the rod, taped up the block (literally), and made three laps on seven cylinders to qualify as a Finisher (and fifth in Over-Two-Liters), having passed the half-way point.
But the Mustang battle for the overall lead was a tight one for most of five hours and 18 minutes the race lasted. Pete Feistmann grabbed the lead at the flag and held it for 41 laps, then pitted to let Bob Johnson into the lead for a lap before he too made his pit stop. Mustangs are hard on tires and gasoline! Frank Gardner, who had been holding down third spot in his Alan Mann Team Lotus Cortina took the lead for three laps, until the Feistmann Mustang took over again. The second round of pit stop, some thirty laps later, was critical. The Johnson/Yeager Mustang, running in second spot, was in and out in less than two minutes, not losing its position. The Feistmann/Norburn Mustang pitted two laps later, overheating. The stop for gas, tires, and oil took well over four minutes, setting the car back to third, behind the Gardner Cortina. While it took only one lap to get by the Cortina, which was to drop out with brake failure in another 15 laps, the big gap between the two Mustangs was to lessen radically only once, due to a slower final pit stop by Johnson/ Yeager, but still left with 16 seconds separating the cars. Feistmann gained and lost an occasional second or two in the waning laps, to finish nine seconds behind. With Kweck/ Andrey leading the Alfa Romeo GTAs into third-fourth-fifth overall, and first-second-third in Under-Two Liters, this class now has Alfa with 33 points, Cortina with 15, BMW with four and Volvo with two. Ford leads the Over-Two-Liter class with 26, Barracuda has 25, Dodge 14, and Chevy three.
Photos - Click for a 4X larger version.