OUT AFTER NINE HOURS
JUST AFTER NASSAU last December I flew to Milan to have another talk with team manager Dragoni about driving for Ferrari during the 1966 season. While I was there, it was decided that I would have a test drive in a Ferrari P2 as they were doing some endurance tests at Monza at the time. I had never driven one before so this would give Dragoni a chance to see how adaptable I was and also give me a chance to see whether I liked the car. The weather at Monza that day was damp and very cold. Most of the factory drivers were there and had been going around all morning. I arrived at the circuit at 11 A.M. and finally got into the car about 1:00 that afternoon. By that time I was so cold I could hardly feel a thing. It took me four or five laps to get warmed up and thaw out enough to get used to the feel of the P2. It was quite different from a Ford GT but I liked it and soon I was doing laps in the 35s consistently. The day before Scarfiotti had set a new unofficial lap record of 34 flat so I didn't feel too badly about my time. Dragoni and crew seemed satisfied as well, especially since I was only 0.2 sec slower than the fastest time that day.
Back at Dragoni's office, we discussed the races that I might drive for Ferrari and the amount of money I'd get for them. I also wanted to drive Formula I but he couldn't promise me a car for sure. After this I came back to the States and talked with Ford. Ford has always been good to me and I appreciate the breaks they've given me so I didn't want to go to another team without being fair with them. As a matter of fact, it was Shelby who convinced me that it would be better for my racing career at this stage if I would drive for Ferrari rather than Ford!
I then went home to California and spent the next few days thinking things over. When I had definitely decided to drive for Ferrari I sent a cable to Dragoni accepting his offer and within a few weeks I received my contract. Now more than ever I was looking forward to the 1966 season.
My first factory ride would be at Sebring. Then I heard there would be only one Dino 206 and one 330P3 at Sebring and I wasn't certain that I would be driving at all. At last I found out I was teamed with Mike Parkes in the 330P3. This was great news because Mike had done all the test development on the P3 and knows it better than anyone else. Parkes is also an excellent long distance driver and a bit underrated even though he has shown how good he is in many races.
But the one thing that worried me was whether the 4-liter P3 would be competitive with Ford's 7-liter Mk II. The Mk II is a fully developed car and after Daytona it seemed that it would be reliable as well. After arriving in Sebring on Tuesday before the race I had a long talk with Mike and after that I felt certain that our car would be competitive.
The next morning we arrived at the garage early and I saw the two cars for the first time. They were beautiful! Mike gave me a ride into town in the P3 for inspection and on the way he gave me a little demonstration of how much power it had, how good the brakes were and how well the gearbox worked. I was impressed.
During the first practice session, Mike did most of the driving as he was familiar with the car and could set it up more quickly than I. We also had some drama on the third lap of practice when Parkes was engulfed in a cloud of smoke from the engine compartment. No one in the pits knew what had happened but it looked like the engine had blown sky high! What a way to start, I thought.
Much to our relief, about 15 minutes later he returned to the pits with the car. It was found that an oil pipe connection had come off which wasn't as serious as it looked from the pits as Mike had caught it in time and shut off the engine before it was damaged.
Other than the usual suspension adjustments and experiments with tire compounds, everything went smoothly and I finally got about half a dozen laps in the car. It felt very strong on power, noticeably stronger than the 275-LM I'd driven at Daytona, and the brakes seemed extremely effective. In order for me to drive the car, I had to make a seat insert to bring me within reach of the pedals as the car was set up for Mike, who is 6 ft 3, and I'm only 5 ft 11. If I'm not comfortable, I don't go as quickly and in an endurance race like this, it's important to be as comfortable as you can.
That night the engine was changed in our car in case there had been some damage to it when the oil line came off. The poor mechanics worked all night and I believe they had about two hours' sleep before practice the next day. The engine change resulted in us missing night practice so we had to try and ad
just our lights on the runway the next evening. Luckily, both of us had driven at Sebring before so missing night practice wasn't as serious as it might have been.
The next day's practice was good to us. The first part was used to run in the new engine and after that Mike got going very quickly. In fact, he turned a 2:56.6 lap for the fastest time of the day and a new lap record. I only drove the last 12 laps but got down to a 2:59, which I didn't think was bad.
Our new engine worked fine and actually pulled about 500 more revs down the straight. Oil pressure, oil temperature and water temperature all were right where they should be. It's nice to drive a car that pulls 7800 rpm lap after lap and never drops a beat. We used Dunlop tires and after trying both the white spot and red spot compounds we decided on the white spots.
The next day's practice was only for one hour in the morning. We had a lot of tires and brake pads to bed in as well as everything to check over. Mike went out first, bedded in one set of pads and tires and changed the rear suspension settings. By the time the hour was up, the car was right but I hadn't even sat in it.
During that busy hour of practice, two things happened. One, Gurney had taken the lap record in a Ford Mk II with an astonishing 2:54.6. Second, a Porsche Carrera 6 driven by Mitter had taken the 2-liter lap record back from our Dino with a 3:03.6 lap. So both our cars had been moved down a notch in the starting order.
That night Mike and I sat down with the results from the last 10 years of Sebring races to plot a graph for the average speed of this year's 12-hr race. Mike has a very ingenious method for doing this and it works beautifully. According to our figures, the winning car would have an average lap time of 3:04.0. With four Mk lIs and two Chaparrals, if they got them working right, we knew our job was really cut out for us. When you have only one Ferrari P3 and the older P2 of Chinetti's to work with you have to conserve what you have and stick to a predetermined lap time. We couldn't really extend ourselves for fear of damaging the car and putting Ferrari out of the race.
Race day was nice and sunny and our P3 was second in line next to the Gurney/Grant Ford and ahead of the Graham Hill/Jackie Stewart Ford GT-40. Parkes was starting in our car and Scarfiotti in the Dino 206/S which was the second 2-liter car down the line. At the drop of the flag, all the drivers were off and running for their cars. The first car into the first turn was Scarfiotti in the Dino followed by Graham Hill in the Ford GT-40 and a whole flock of cars. Parkes started, then stalled, then took off. In fact everyone got off except Gurney and when he finally got going he went like Jack the bear.
At the end of the first lap, Graham Hill had gotten by the Dino and was leading. Parkes was about 7th in our P3 and moving up fast. On the 6th lap, Mike got into the lead and stayed there for almost an hour.
In the meantime, Gurney was really hustling through the pack. By the end of 45 minutes, Mike was about 15 sec ahead of Miles and Gurney was 1 sec behind Miles. By the end of the hour, Gurney had made up the deficit and taken over the lead, which put Parkes in second and Miles third.
At the end of an hour and a half, Parkes came in for our normal pit stop for fuel, tires and driver change. He told me everything was working beautifully so I hopped in, fired it up and was off. When I came around on my first lap, I was signaIled that I was still in 3rd place. The car felt great. It was decided before the race that I would turn laps of 3:03-3:04, which I was doing comfortably. Now all there was to do was just drive consistently and carefully, keeping everything together. At the end of my hour and a half I came in for a normal pit stop and Mike took over. Toward the end of Mike's stint he went back into 2nd place ahead of Miles to make it a Ford-Ferrari-Ford sandwich.
Shortly before Mike came in we all saw a cloud of black smoke billowing up into the sky. It looked as though it was coming from near the hairpin. All went quiet in the pits, each team checking to make sure its car came by. Both of ours did, which was a relief, but the smoke continued for what seemed a long time.
When Parkes came in he said our car was still in excellent shape. We took on fuel, tires and front brake pads, then I was off again. When I arrived at the hairpin, the tow truck was just taking away the remains of the Comstock Ford in which Bob McLean had been killed. What a terrible sight. I think that must be the worst way to go.
The race went on, the P3 still running without problems. I was really enjoying driving it except that I was beginning to notice how heavy the steering was. That hour and a half dragged on and it seemed like a long time before it was time for me to hand over to Parkes again. Everything was going on pretty much as we had calculated it would. Gurney and Grant's Ford was a good distance in front of us and we were about 25 sec ahead of the Miles /Ruby Ford. None of us figured Gurney's Ford to finish because of the fast pace he had set.
The Alitalia Airlines people offered us the use of their trailer behind the pits and this was really great as we used their shower to freshen up and could relax and rest between our stints at the wheel. When I figured it was about 15 minutes before time for Mike to come in, I went back to our pit and got ready to go. When I got there this time, I found his lap times had dropped a couple of seconds per lap and no one knew why. With one more lap to go, I put on my goggles, helmet and gloves and perched up on the pit counter.
When Mike came in he told me that second gear was completely gone but that everything else seemed fine. This was the reason for the slower lap times. Out I went without second gear. It wasn't too bad to drive except it was slower getting out of the slower corners and my lap times dropped accordingly. The thing that really worried me was what would happen if a piece of broken gear got mixed up in the good working parts. That would be the end of us. On the other hand, we could possibly go the distance but it wouldn't be possible to win.,
After about 20 minutes, Miles caught me and after two laps went by. So now we were third. Later we went back into second when he made a pit stop. Then the gearbox started acting up. It was difficult to downshift from 4th to 3rd and would go into 5th instead of 3rd. About 10 laps later, while going into the hairpin where you come down to first gear from 4th, the shift lever stuck between neutral and the 2nd gear slot. I pulled off the road to try to get it into some gear in order to make it back to the pits where the mechanics might have a chance to fix it.
How frustrating. It was dark and I had no flashlight and couldn't see a thing. I even lifted up the back deck and tried to move the linkage but all to no avail. I finally gave up, climbed over a spectator fence and headed for the pits. I thought I'd try to get Parkes to come back and possibly get it in gear as he knows the P3 better than anyone. One of the spectators offered me a ride back to the pits on his motorcycle and I'm sorry I didn't get his name because I would like to thank him.
When I arrived at the pits it was decided to leave the car alone so we were officially out of the race after being in 2nd place at the end of the 9th hour. It's rough, holding a strong 2nd place, knowing you have a good chance to win the race, and then have something like that send it all down the drain.
A beautiful car, running strong, engine never missing a beat but just that one thing wrong.
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A HILLCLIMB IS DIFFERENT
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