Can Am


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Can Am
Don Packwood Gallery


 
 

The 1968 season saw Edmonton Speedway Park replace Mosport Park in Canada as the single Canadian track. Most of the teams were expecting to use the new 7-litre Chevy engines which were now generally available. All sorts of rumors swirled around what type of car Chaparral would unveil. Lola's John Surtees was expected to have a new car. All American Racers were expecting to field a two-car team with Dan Gurney and Swede Savage. Roger Penske Racing was back to fielding a single heavily modified McLaren designated as a M6B car for Mark Donohue. Carl Haas and Shelby American Racing would field single car teams for Chuck Parsons and Peter Revson respectivly.

1968 McLaren M8A 7-litre Chevy Engine

For the opening race at Road America the McLaren Team arrived one day early with two McLaren M8As. Robin Herd had left and was replaced by Gordon Coppuck as chief designer assisted by Swiss engineer, Jo Marquardt who had worked at Lotus. The McLarens when compared to last year's car was more evolutionary than revolutionary. The main difference in the chassis was the use of the engine as a fully structural member with a subframe attached that would hold the suspension. The engine would be the ZL1 Chevy dry sump aluminum block 427. The engine was said to develop 620 hp and way approximately 360 lbs. The major difference between this year and last that would effect the team was the amount of preseason testing that was done, about 500 miles as compared to 2,000 the year before.

When race day arrived at Road America, rumor met cold reality. Neither Surtees or Dan Gurney's team made the trip up north and Ferrari was nowhere to be seen. Chaparral's newest sensation was still back at the shop and Hall showed up driving an updated version of last year's Chaparral 2G.

McLaren M8BThe two McLarens on the front row were followed by Hall and Donohue on the 2nd row. It began to rain as cars were formed on the grid with most drivers opting for wet rubber. Hulme led from the start, followed by McLaren, Hall and Andretti, with Donohue ending on the grass. Andretti would soon pass Hall. By mid-race the rain had tapered off and Donohue, recovering from his first lap spin was cleaving through the field. Andretti's 5.0-litre Lola T70 was no match for the larger cars and was soon moving backwards as the track dried. With less than two laps to go Andretti's Ford engine let go of a connecting rod and he was out. Hulme suffering a sick engine but had enough of a lead to nurse his car home ahead of McLaren and a charging Donohue in 3rd. Road America would see 5 McLarens in the first six places with Hall's Chaparral 2G in 5th, two laps down as the outlier. Motschenbacher, driving a privately entered McLaren M6B had the honors of setting the fastest lap.

Jim Hall - Chaparral 2G

The next race in New York at Bridgehampton on the 15th witnessed the addition of Dan Gurney's All American Racers' modified McLaren, the 'McEagle' powered by a Weslake-Ford engine. John Surtees brought a modified Lola T160 entered as a Team Surtees-Chevrolet. The aluminum Chevy engine included reworked cylinder heads made by Harry Weslake in England. The car also included a fixed wing attached to the suspension uprights. The wing on Donohue's Penske Mclaren M6B was also now fixed as he would later explain in his book:

Penske Mclaren M6B'I was going to trim it out on the straightaway, and the car took off like a rocket. So, about halfway down the pit straight, going well over 170 mph. I released that beauty (wing) - and I damn near lost it! On the straightaway!' 'It happened so suddenly that it was like being hit by a brick. Naturally I backed off immediately and kept it in a straight line, but that scared me so bad that I could never bring myself to use it again.'

Mark Donohue The Unfair Advantage

Lola T70 MkIIIBoth factory McLaren M8As qualified on the front row. Behind them were Peter Revson an Mark Donohue in customer Mclaren M6Bs followed by Jim Hall in his Chaparral 2G and Gurney in his McLeagle. Dan Gurney's teammate Swede Savage was back in 17th driving a Lola T160.

In the race the McLarens grabbed the early lead with Donohue in 3rd and Hall in 4th. The crowd was at once enthralled as the Chaparral passed Donohue for 3rd and then McLaren for 2nd and then dejected when the Chaparral lost power. Donohue passed the Chaparral and as Hulme, his engine puffing white smoke until it blew, the blues Penske car was now in 2nd. A few laps later Bruce McLaren joined his teammate and was also out of the race, a main bearing was said to be the culprit. Donohue was now in first trailed by the Chaparral and there it stayed until they crossed the line. 3rd was Lothar Motschenbacher. The was Donohue's 2nd Can-Am win, the first since 1966 and last before the Porsche Era. Swede Savage was recorded as finishing 4th though 5 laps in arrears. Mario Andretti in the Lola T70 M3B, probably wished he had stayed home. Though the race marked an up tick in Penske Racing's fortunes, Donohue understood that this was just a fluke and it would be extremely difficult to beat McLaren with their own car from last year no matter how much it was improved. To expect both cars to break was too much to expect on a regular basis.

1968 Can-AmThe series would now move to Canada for their only visit to the Great White North at Edmonton Speedway Park near Edmonton, Alberta. Initially in the late 1940s, it was the location of a dirt track called the Breckenridge Oval. Later in 1967, a drag strip was added and a 4.067 km road course was was built which opened in time for the first Can-Am race this year. The trip from New York to Edmonton took the teams 3 1/2 days to trailer the cars to the circuit.

The McLarens again locked out the front row. The best of the rest for this race was Jim Hall in the Chaparral 2G followed by the Penske Racing Mclaren driven by Mark Donohue, starting in 4th. Gurney and Revson would fill the third row. The race started with Hulme in the lead while Mclaren battled the white Chaparral. A brake caliper repair forced the Chaparral into the pits for repairs that would leave them 15 laps behind the leaders where Hall would end up in 11th place. Revson ()main bearing), Gurney (oil leak) as well as Surtees (blown head gasket) all dropped out with engine trouble. Surtees qualifying a lowly 15th was moving backwards, his relationship with the Lola had soured before the season began and it was obvious that both sides had suffered. Surtees would not score a single point during the entire forgettable season. Lola Cars eventually sold twelve Lola T160s with Carl Haas being the American distributor, that was said to be a cleaned up T70 but the handling was suspect and went through many revisions, the teams that raced them were left on thier own. The list of retirements was joined by half the field, enough to fill a junkyard. Hulme suffering his own engine problems but again was able to nurse his car home for the win followed by McLaren in 2nd and Donohue in 3rd.

John Surtees decided his car needed more work so passed up going to Laguna Seca. Joining the polesitter Bruce McLaren was the Chaparral of Jim Hall. Hulme would start on the second row next to Revson. On row three were Donohue and Chuck Parsons. The weather on race day called for rain and rain it was for the entire day causing multiple accident and off-track excursions for cars, frankly unsuited for the rain, all except one.

1968 Can AmAt the start the Chaparral would not start forcing it to be pushed to the side. Revson, coming up from the 2nd row passed Hulme in to 2nd behind McLaren with Donohue in fourth. Englishman John Cannon had the foresight and a bit of luck by putting intermediate F1 Firestone rain tires, suggested by their technician, on his vintage space-framed McLaren M1B. Down on power but up on traction he was lapping 2 seconds faster than the leading McLarens that he would soon pass from his 10th place starting position! With cars spinning all around him Cannon was not satisfied with maintaining a lead but came around to lap the leaders again. Cannon would win almost $20,000 for his amazing performance. Hulme finished 2nd a lap down followed by George Eaton in 3rd. Mclaren could do no better than 5th on the day that John Cannon had slain Goliath.

Cannon's car turned back into a pumpkin at Riverside, qualifying 15th. Both McLarens were back on the front row followed by Donohue and Hall. On the third row were Revson and Gurney. Surtees was back with his Lola, qualifying 8th. The McLarens blasted into the lead with Hall out braking Donohue to grab third. Hulme would lose his second place when he had to run off track to avoid a spinning car damaging one of his front fenders. Donohue was able to pass the Chaparral into second where he finished behind Mclaren with Hall in 3rd. Hulme brought his damaged McLaren in 5th.

1968 McLaren and HulmeGoing into the last race Stardust International Raceway, Hulme was leading the Championship with 26 points with McLaren and Donohue tied for 2nd with 23 points each. Chris Amon brought his Ferrari 612. As usual both McLarens qualified on the front row with Hall and Revson behind them. Amon could do no better than 9th while Sam Posey and Mario Andretti were on the third row. Chaos greeted the opening lap of the race when too many cars tried to go through the first turn. By the time the dust settled Charlie Hayes and Chris Amon were out and McLarens had to pit to repair body damage. Hulme was in the lead followed by Andretti and Revson. By the second lap Andretti was slowed by a puncture. After a series of pitstops Mclaren, Chaparral and came upon a slow moving Motschenbacher. Hall hit the back of the private McLaren and was launched into the air, after which he was pulled from the wreckage just as it burst into flames. Hall would suffer two broken legs and a fractured jaw. Jim Hall would never race in Can-Am again. Hulme would win the race and the Championship, George Follmer was 2nd and Jerry Titus was 3rd. Bruce McLaren would finish 6th and 2nd in the Championship, Mark Donahue 3rd.

1968 Canadian - American Challenge Cup
         
1 Denny Hulme Bruce McLaren Racing McLaren M8A 35
2 Bruce McLaren Bruce McLaren Racing McLaren M8A 24
3 Mark Donohue Roger Penske Racing McLaren M6B 23
4 Jim Hall Chaparral Cars Chaparral 2G 12
5 Lothar Motschenbacher Dana Chevrolet Racing McLaren M6B 11
6 John Cannon John Cannon Racing McLaren M1B 10