Home Can-Am at Laguna Seca Stirling Moss's Column From 1970

Stirling Moss

by Stirling Moss

editor's note: This article appeared in the 1970 program guide for the Monterey Castrol GTX Grand Prix.

The men who tally the facts and figures - the dollars, the dates, the records - tell a remarkable story about the growth of the Can-Am series since its beginning in 1966. To them, the Can-Am is a story of continual growth, a record of progress on almost every statistical front. Crowds are bigger, cars faster, drivers more prestigious, purses larger.

But the statisticians miss something. And perhaps in doing so they miss the story entirely. In my view the Can-Am is what it is today for many reasons than can be tallied on a balance sheet. The reasons bear on how you, the spectator, have reacted during the past four years to the spectacle of Can-Am - top drivers competing in some of the most exciting race cars ever built.

The statisticans can't record how it feels to have the earth shake under you as a field of Can-Am cars roars away from the starter's flag. Nor can they record the tingle of excitement one gets seeing a pair of Can-Am cars travel side by side into a tight corner.

The sights, the sounds, the smells, the vibrations - this is what the Can-Am is all about. And no mater what else is said, the Can-Am would not be the same without you. It would be nothing at all.

But here we are together, looking at a new group of drivers and cars. What can you, sprawled on a grassy spot near your favorite corner or perched on the edge of a grandstand seat, expect out of the 1970 Can-Am series? I'm betting there will be plently to see.

First of all, there will be a group of very young men trying to put an end to the tradition of "The Bruce and Denny Show." That's the title applied to the 1969 series, during which the late Bruce McLaren and his partner Denis Hulme swept to one of the most impressive championships ever recorded in motor racing. McLaren ended up on top, winning more than $160,000 and the J/Wax trophy as the first repeat champion in the Can-Am series. His teammate and fellow New Zealander, Denis Hulme, finished close behind on points and was himself richer by more than $110,000 at series end.

The two New Zealanders combined money, talent and a painstaking attention to the details of preparing their cars to race. Not only were these two men consistently the fastest at each of the eleven races in 1969, but the were consistently the most reliable. Their rewards were deservedly won.

The team will be without its leader, of course, in the 1970 series. Bruce McLaren was killed in England, on June 2 while testing the team's current Can-Am car.

Even so, it will be tougher than ever to catch the McLaren Team cars in 1970. Just as the car you drove to the track took years of Detroit talent to develop, race cars too have a way of slowly evolving. Bruce McLaren worked at developing the present team Can-Am car since 1967. Each year the design has become a bit more sophisticated and this, coupled with a continuing program of development of his engines, has made his cars a bit faster.

The team's competitors can take one of two roads in attempting to match it. They can buy a production version of last year's McLaren and get a well developed but slightly out of date machine and hope they can do something to it to update it. Or they can go to something entirely new. We'll see quite a bit of both in 1970.

But one thing we won't see are those high wings that last year seemed to sprout over the rear sections of all of the top cars in the series. This year the wings will either be down much closer to the tops of the cars - and, therefore, less effective - or the cars will carry no wings at all.

One important innovation in race car design this year is the Chaparral 2J of Jim Hall. The quiet Texan is returning to Can-Am action this year after a full year's convalesence following his crash in the final race of the 1968 series. Hall's new Chaparral once again demonstrates his creative talent. Through the use of fans mounted in the car, the Chaparral is "sucked" closer to the track go give those wide, wide, Can-Am tires a better "grip."

In 1966 the man to beat in the Can-Am was John Surtees. He drove a Lola. Since then the fortunes of Lola drivers have been eclipsed by the all-conquering McLarens. In 1970 Lola designer Eric Broadly will field an all new car to be driven by the talented Peter Revson of New York, in an attempt to win back some of the glory Lola once knew.