1967 BOAC International 500 – Profile and Photos Page Two
Race day arrived under leaden skies. Hulme in the works Lola sat confidently on pole with a time of 1:39.8. John Surtees brought up 2nd, on his left, the much-fancied, red Sid Taylor Lola bearing his trademark white arrow on the nose. This left Mike Spence in the lone Chaparral, to have a go round the outside of Paddock Hill Bend from the final front-row spot. The race, belying its title billing, was actually to be run over 6-hours rather than 500 miles. At mid-day precisely the capacity 36-car grid tore off the line in a glorious cacophony of V8, V12 and Flat-8 noise. No one appeared to have told the drivers that this was an endurance race and the accepted race strategy seemed to be flat out all the way.
Within 15 minutes the front-runners, led away from the line by Surtees, Scarfiotti and Spence, the latter trying to make the best of the standing-start acceleration deficit imposed by the Chaparral’s fragile Automatic transmission, were in amongst the back-markers. Blue overtaking flags fluttered everywhere. Marshals and spectators alike were on their toes. Dicing continued in thrilling confusion with the eye-popping sight, at least for the British audience, of the Chaparral, Ferrari, Porsche and Lola sharks mixing it amongst shoals of MGB, Lotus Elan and even Austin-Healey 3000 minnows. Most of the major contenders soon bore scars attesting to the need to barge through the traffic.
At the end of the first hour’s racing Hulme had lost time with a broken rocker-arm in his Lola. Surtees’ Lola was falling away from the leading group with a persistent misfire. Scarfiotti had suffered a lurid, high-speed spin in the Ferrari and Spence (Chaparral) led from Stewart (Ferrari) and the now more distant but hard-chasing Scarfiotti. A general rush for the pits now began, causing timekeepers and officials to work overtime in keeping track of things. By the second hour Rodriguez in the distinctive Blue and Orange liveried Gulf-Mirage had moved up into contention but, following routine fuel stops, his American team-mate Thompson couldn’t quite match the mercurial Mexican’s pace and dropped back, later to crash out.
After two hours of nail-biting tension the order was: Porsche (Siffert) Chaparral (now piloted by Hill) and Amon’s Ferrari bringing up third place. The Scarfiotti/Sutcliffe Ferrari had by now lost ground with tyre trouble and other maladies. A minor glitch in the Chaparral master-plan occurred during the third hour. Just as the winged-wonder’s pace was really beginning to tell and Siffert and the Ferraris had been worn down, a rear-wheel puncture intervened. Unflustered, the well-drilled Chaparral pit-crew soon had Hill back into the fray and he now put on a brilliant show to pull himself back through into a narrow lead. Had it not been for the puncture, the Chaparral duo might have retained the lead through the next round of driver changes. As it was, with the race moving into its fourth hour Spence took over from Hill, disentangling himself from a pit-lane traffic-jam to inherit third place behind the Ferrari of Stewart/Amon and the Porsche of Siffert/McLaren. Short work was made of the 2.2 litre, 8-cylinder Porsche, but the rapid 4.0 litre Ferrari Prototype was a different matter.
At the end of the fourth hour fate intervened to Spence’s benefit. Orchestrated, in true comic style, it could only have happened to Ferrari. Paul Hawkins lost the P4 he was sharing with Jonathan Williams on the exit of Clearways and spun off the course backwards. The resultant bodywork damage causing him to limp straight to the pits just as the leading Stewart/Amon car was due in for a routine fuel, oil and driver-change stop. There wasn’t room or personnel enough to attend to both cars. Ferrari Team manager Mauro Forghieri had hysterics as the disabled car blocked its race-leading sister in the narrow Brands pit lane and mechanics milled around both cars denying attention to the more deserving Amon who, by now, really needed to get going if he was to salvage anything from the charade. This episode not only cost Ferrari the race lead, it also nearly wiped out their championship hopes.
As the fifth hour drew to a close, the white Chaparral, now being driven by Hill, held a narrow 18 second lead over Amon. The metronomically reliable Porsche 910 of Siffert/McLaren still bringing up third place. Things were not quite as tight as they seemed though, since the high-revving, thirsty Ferrari had another fuel stop to make. Hill, as ever, was circulating with cool confidence and if fate was really to be on his side that day, the only thing that could upset the applecart would be another Ferrari fiasco at the final pit stop. If Mauro’s men couldn’t pull Amon out of the Maranello car and strap ‘Wee Jackie’ in followed by a good splash of fuel in double quick time, Siffert would cruise by into second place and Porsche would carry the championship silverware home to Stuttgart.
As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about this time. With only ten minutes of the race remaining the Ferrari mechanics put on a well-organised display to atone for the previous debacle. Stewart, in what he later said was ‘A most enjoyable drive in a sweet-handling car’ rejoined the fray still almost a full lap ahead of the Porsche and the German team was denied its day of glory in a championship it wouldn’t actually win outright until 1969.
According to plan, Phil Hill finally brought the still-unmarked Chaparral home to a 4-minute victory over the Stewart/Amon Ferrari with Siffert/McLaren an honourable third, one lap adrift in the white Porsche 910. At 40 years of age it would prove to be the last major victory of the American’s illustrious career and also the final hurrah for the winged wonder from Texas which wasn’t raced again after 1967.
Truly the pivotal race that we began with, and one to be savoured all the more for the fact that a small but well-organised bunch of Americans humbled the mighty European works teams on turf other than Le Mans.
[Source: John Kerruish; photos: Mike Hayward Collection]
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