Winning Streak

Also from Issue 55

  • Hennessey ZR700
  • 1965 restomod
  • Market Report: C1/C2
  • 1982 Collector Edition
  • Tech: Cross-Fire Injection
  • Dutch collection
  • 1,000-bhp C5 convertible
  • Genes Vettes twin-turbo C6
  • 1964 Fuelie convertible
  • NCM 15th anniversary gathering
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What were the cars like to drive?

Thompson: For the time, they worked. That doesn’t mean they were easy to drive. The engines had so much torque and power that most guys were intimidated by them. There were a few—including us—who would slide them to get the most from them. You had to have some slip angle to really race them on the hard tires they had back then. All the time, somebody would come in the pits and tell us we had the worst-handling car on the track, because it was sliding so much. They’d say, “You were entering the turns almost backwards.” Then one of the crew would show them a time sheet that [we were] a second, or more, quicker than the competition. That shut them up.

Is there any truth to the legend that the paint schemes and appearance of the cars changed often to give the illusion of a larger stable of race cars?

DeLorenzo: No. That wasn’t the case. Between Sebring and Watkins Glen were several national SCCA races. We would put the A-production track back on the car—which was narrower than the FIA allowed—and they [SCCA] would let us retain the FIA fender flares and full windshield, but they made us remove the FIA headlights. It was hodge-podge, but it was better than having to tear the fenders off.

Thompson: At the time, there weren’t many teams with multiple cars. The paint jobs changed because the cars needed to be repainted often. The block stripes of the Owens/Corning paint scheme remained pretty much the same, but the rest of it changed with Randy’s whim. [Randy Wittine was the team’s paint and body man.]

DeLorenzo: The Owens/Corning people did not like the black paint on the 1970 car. We were called to a meeting in Ohio for that one and they read us the riot act.

What was the difference in the headlight rules?

DeLorenzo: We had to use the production headlight doors and mechanisms for SCCA [races]. The FIA lamps were in a fixed, aluminum housing. We couldn’t use the FIA lights in SCCA because they accused us of [having] an unfair advantage.

Thompson: Aerodynamics. And weight.

Let’s be honest, your long streak of wins caused some grumbling in the pits.

Thompson: We got on a roll. It was helpful that Tony was a preventative maintenance freak, because while other guys were making radical changes, we were just keeping parts fresh and making small changes. It paid off in consistency. We’d hear the other guys get to the track and complain, saying, “We’re all racing for third place because you clowns have already spoken for first and second.” Our plan was always to alternate wins in races we pretty much knew we could dominate—which was a lot of them in 1969. We would pass to allow the win to go to whose turn it was and finish in formation. Of course, it made the competitors sick, but we loved it!

DeLorenzo: At one stretch, we won 22 straight races—both A-Production and FIA long distance—and in 14 of those we finished one-two.

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