Lap 8

 

A month later, I was back in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. I still was unable to convince anyone to join me for the trip to the Glen so once again I drove my MGB into work on Friday morning and left for the Glen right after work. I was not all that upset about having to go alone because I planned to hook up with Bob and his dog, Brandy, when I got there. It would have been nice, though, to have someone to share the eleven-hour drive with me.

When I got into the track that Saturday morning, October 5, 1968, I headed for the same area near Big Bend where I had stayed the last year. Sure enough, there was Brandy, fetching a ball thrown by Bob. I actually think that dog remembered me as she came running to me as soon as I called her. It was good to see them again. Recalling the kegs of Utica Club, I brought less of my own beer and gave Bob some money to cover a share of the kegs. He told me I did not need to do that, but it made me feel better.

To the south of where we were camping there was a huge circus-like tent. Curious, I went to check it out. Inside the big tent were a bunch of smaller tents! They even had a campfire going in the middle of it all, so I walked over to find out what it was all about. Everyone in the group had pitched in to cover the cost of the big tent because they did not like camping in the rain. This way they could be outside their individual tents and still be out of the rain.

The group called themselves the Fucowwees. Of course, I had to ask and they told me the name came from a lost Indian tribe. The chief of the lost tribe climbed a hill and looked around and in frustration called out, "Where the Fuc ow wee?" I was soon named an honorary member of the Fucowwee tribe.

They had all come to the track in an old converted school bus. They had taken some seats out of the back to give them room to carry their camping gear plus the circus tent and other supplies, including a lot of beer. The Fucowwees would also have fit in at Road America. On top of the bus they had built a platform and they could climb up there to watch the on-track activities.

One member of the group was a young woman with large breasts and an apparent love of beer from the way she was pounding them down. She was obviously feeling no pain and the beer buzz had apparently relaxed her inhibitions enough so that she was soon up on the platform on the bus flashing those big boobs repeatedly. When someone wandered near that she thought might not have had a look, she would shout out to get their attention and up came the shirt.

Deciding that wasnít enough, she decided to moon the crowd she had drawn. She dropped her shorts and panties and, bending at the waist, rotated a full 360 degrees to ensure every one got a good look. I mentioned to one of the Fucowwees that it seemed like she was having a good time. He smiled and said, "We call her Fanny the Flasher - for obvious reasons. She does that every race we go to." Having seen more than I needed of Fanny the Flasher, I retreated to Bobís more subdued group and the keg of Utica Club.

That Saturday evening, I had planned to drive into town and get another turkey dinner at the church, but I had heard about another place called the Seneca Lodge. Seneca Lodge was the Watkins Glen equivalent of Siebkenís in Elkhart Lake. It was located up in the hills west of the village and a couple of miles north of the track. Rumor had it that you could see drivers there and they had good food, so I decided to check it out.

It was a rustic looking place and it was jam packed with race fans. The dining room was so crowded that I gave up on the idea of eating there but did manage to get a couple of beers at the bar. I looked around the place to see if there were any drivers there but did not see any - at least not any I recognized. It would have been awesome to see Graham Hill or Jackie Stewart relaxing over a pint in the bar. I finally gave up and left for town to get something to eat. The church was done serving turkey by that time so I hit a McDonalds for a big Mac and headed back to the track.

That year, Colin Chapman was fielding three Lotus entries for Graham Hill, Mario Andretti and Jackie Oliver. The team was doing well despite the devastating loss of their leader, Jimmy Clark, earlier in the year. Hill came into the US GP tied with Denny Hulme at 33 points each for the championship. The Lotus cars were not in my favorite British Racing Green livery. The ban on sponsorship advertising on cars had been lifted and Team Lotus was now Gold Leaf Team Lotus and the cars were red and gold, the colors of Gold Leaf cigarettes.

Another major change from 1967 was that many of the cars had sprouted wings and spoilers. The wings were funny looking as they sat high above the car about two feet above the driverís head. They just did not look like a part of the car as they sat on two spindly looking supports. It was as though someone looked at the car after it was completed and said "Hey, I know, letís put a wing on it!" I suspect they were put up so high to get them into clean air undisturbed by the airflow over the carís body. In all fairness, teams were just now beginning to explore aerodynamics and the wings on each side of the nose on the Lotus 49B did not look bad.

Lotus 49B

The Ford Cosworth engine that had powered the Lotus comeback in 1967 was the dominant engine in Formula One in 1968. The power plant was now being used in eight of the twenty cars in the field, and wound up powering the winner in 11 of the yearís 12 events. Even Dan Gurney had given up on his unreliable Eagle Westlake V12 after the Italian Grand Prix, but McLaren had provided a McLaren M7A for him powered by the Ford Cosworth.

This year there were three Americans entered in the race as Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser joined Dan Gurney. Unserís record at Indianapolis is second to no oneís, but he was out of his element on the road course at the Glen where you actually have to shift up and down and use the brakes for something other than making a pit stop. By the end of qualifying on Saturday, Unser had blown up three BRM engines and was 19th on the grid out of 21 cars. Mario, on the other hand, surprised everyone and put his Gold Leaf Lotus on the pole in his Formula One debut, an amazing feat.

Alongside Andretti on the front row was the wee Scot, Jackie Stewart, who was still in the thick of the championship race. Stewart had been reunited with Ken Tyrrell, his old mentor from his F3 days. Because of the availability of the Ford Cosworth engine, Tyrrell decided to come back into F1 using the Cosworth engine and a Matra chassis and formed Matra International. This was different than the works Matra Sports entries driven by Jean Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo. The Matra Sports machines were powered by Matraís own engine. The second row had Graham Hill on the inside and Chris Amon alongside in the Ferrari. My man, Dan Gurney, was 7th on the grid with his McLaren Ford.

I climbed out of my MGB on race day morning to overcast and threatening skies. I had rain gear with me but would prefer to leave it in the car. Turns out I was able to leave it in the car. The skies remained cloudy all day but it never did rain. I helped Bob carry the fresh race day keg of Utica Club over to the fence in Big Bend. This was the same corner we watched from last year, so we did not have to carry the keg very far. I had spent most of Saturday checking out other viewing spots and was content to stay with my new friends and the keg; after all I had paid for part of it. We tapped the new keg to a series of cheers as tradition was maintained for another year and we settled in to wait for the race.

About an hour before the race, the cars took to the track for a warm-up. The warm-up did not go well for Jackie Oliver and his Lotus. He suffered a wheel failure and crashed heavily and would not make the start. Unbelievably, Unser blew another engine during the warm up, his fourth of the weekend. This was turning out to be an expensive weekend for his team.

Formula One uses a standing start and the start/finish line was just around the corner from us down the hill so we knew when the start took place even though we could not see it. You could hear the engines rev up and as the green came out, the scream of 19 high-pitched Formula One engines was almost deafening. As they charged off the start line up into the esses, we could follow their progress by the sound of their engines. The noise faded as they ran down the long back straight to the carousel, a nearly 180-degree corner at the south end of the track, then rose again as they headed towards our position.

As the noise grew, so did our anticipation. Who would be in the lead? We leaned over the fence with our eyes glued up the track. Suddenly, there they were and it was Stewart in the lead with Andretti second followed by Amon, Hill and Hulme. Unserís team, probably because of all the practice they had, managed to bolt in a fifth engine in time for him to start the race and he came by at the tail end of the field.

The order remained stable for the first few laps, then Amon spun and dropped back. We were very disappointed when, on lap 14, Andretti came by dragging part of his bodywork. He had to pit and resumed at the end of the field. He was making progress back toward the front when his clutch failed and he retired on lap 32. Three laps later, Unser made it a complete sweep by blowing up his fifth engine. Bobby blamed it all on faulty engines, but there were five other BRM-powered cars in the field that did not blow up, although one retired with ignition problems and another with a broken camshaft. Not surprisingly, this was Bobby Unserís one and only Formula One start.

The race settled down with little change at the front, but behind the leaders, cars were dropping out of the race like flies. On Lap 59 Amonís Ferrari was missing. He was out with a broken water pipe. Hulme was up to third behind Stewart and Hill. My man, Dan, had come from seventh to fourth. Then Hulme spun in some oil and had to pit. That moved Gurney up to third and I was thrilled. The legendary John Surtees, who was in the twilight of his great career but still fast, was fourth. Gurney dropped behind Surtees after a spin but managed to retake him. On lap 92, Hulme failed to come by and we learned that he had crashed but was OK. Then in the final minutes of the race Gurney had a puncture and Surtees went by him again.

Jackie Stewart gave us all a preview of what he would do many more times in the future as he steadily extended his lead over Hill and took the checker after leading all 108 laps. He beat Hill to the line by over 24 seconds. Surtees filled out the podium with third place and Gurney hung on for fourth. Attrition was high this year with only 6 cars out of the 19 that started making it to the finish line with Jo Siffert coming home fifth and Bruce McLaren, in the last car running, was sixth. Oliver and Pescarolo did not start.

This shuffled the top of the championship lead as Hill now had 39 points, Stewart 36 and Hulme, who had not scored any points this race, still at 33. The championship would come down to the last race of the season in Mexico. Hill won the Mexican Grand Prix, handily beating Bruce McLaren to the flag by an incredible 1 minute 19 seconds. Stewart finished out of the points and Hulme crashed again and did not finish. Graham Hill was World Champion.

With the death of Jim Clark, it was a year of tragedy for the Lotus team and it was very much to their credit that they were able to overcome it and win Graham Hillís second Championship. I really wish I could have seen Hill win the race, but thatís racing and Stewart was definitely the class of the field that day.

I decided to pass on rushing to the pit lane this year and fighting the crowd for autographs I could not read. As I walked back to my MGB, I glanced over at the Fucowwee encampment. They had struck the circus tent and all the little tents and were busy packing things away in the back of the bus. Not all of them, however, as up on the platform on top of the bus, Fanny the Flasher was still doing her thing.

I said goodbye to Bob and his friends, gave Brandy another hug, and headed for home. This was the last time I would see Bob and Brandy as Bob graduated from grad school at Cornell and took a job on the west coast. Unfortunately, that was a little too far away for him to make the trek to the Glen.

Fanny the Flasher?

Copyright © 2006 by Terry Aasen

 

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