Lap 26

September 23, 1972 was a big day for me. That was the day I took a navigator for life as Liz and I tied the knot and got married. We had a great wedding, with my brother Greg as best man and Bunky and Eric included in the wedding party. Jack and Margie were also in the wedding party, so we had both race and rally represented. I felt I had to have Jack included because I had stood up for their wedding and besides, this was sort of his fault, and Margie and Liz had become good friends.

Liz, my beautiful bride and navigator for life

Our reception was held at Mr. Duke’s, across the street from my old apartment. The reception was a great time and, taking a hint from Jerry and Lynne’s wedding, we stayed to the very end of the affair. As Jerry told me, "You’re going to be together the rest of your life, but you will have only one wedding reception, so why not enjoy it all the way to the end." I thought that was good advice, and since we were not leaving for a honeymoon for another week, we followed Jerry and Lynne’s lead and enjoyed the reception all the way to the end.

We spent our wedding night in a nice hotel nearby and the next morning, after counting the take from the wedding gifts, we jumped into our new Datsun 510 and drove up to Blackhawk Farms for the Council race. As we drove through the paddock with the customary "JUST MARRIED" sign (painted by Jimmy of course) taped to the back of the car, I heard some one say "Hey, look, they are married now." We did not work corners or anything that day, but just had a great time visiting with friends and watching the racing. All my racing buddies knew I had a keeper with Liz, since not many brides would be willing to spend their first day of marriage at the racetrack!

For our honeymoon, we planned to drive up though Sault St Marie, Michigan and into Canada where we would make our way east through Ontario with stops in Ottawa and Montreal. We would drive down into Vermont to enjoy the fall colors and then head west again into New York state. We decided to defer the start of our honeymoon for a week so that at the end of it we could be at dear old Watkins Glen for the Grand Prix on October 8, 1972! I told you Liz was a keeper! Not only did we spend the day after our wedding at Blackhawk, we spent three days of our honeymoon camped in a tent at the Glen.

Actually, the tent was better accommodations than the motel we had stayed in the night before, south of Burlington, Vermont. We got to Burlington late in the afternoon. We did not have any reservations, so we drove though town scouting for a likely hotel. Most had vacancy signs on so we figured it would be no problem. When we got to the south end of town, we had picked out a couple of places to try. As we drove back north through the town, all the vacancy signs had been replaced with "NO VACANCY". We had not realized that because it was fall and color change time in Vermont, the place would be swarming with "leafers". Leafers were people from cities like New York who took some time out to drive up into the forests of Vermont and enjoy the fall colors. Unfortunately, they had snapped up all the hotel and motel rooms in town.

We finally gave up and started driving south, planning to stop at the first place with a vacancy. After a couple of hours, we came upon a modern looking motel with "praise the Lord" - a vacancy sign! I went to check in and found out that they had just one "cabin" left. Since we were pretty beat, I took it and the desk clerk directed us around behind the modern looking motel to where they had three or four little cabins. Oh well, after all, we were tired and how bad could it be?

Light was provided by a single bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling. This revealed a cracked linoleum floor, a metal bed barely larger than a twin bed and couple of wooden chairs. There was no closet, but there was a shelf on the wall and some hooks under it on which you could hang your clothes. There was a bathroom, but I think those were possibly the very first porcelain fixtures ever manufactured.

I nervously searched the floor for bugs but, thankfully, did not see any. Liz conducted her own search by pulling down the sheets to make sure it would just be the two of us in the bed. The mattress followed the lead of the rest of the room and felt as though it had been stuffed with rocks. To its credit, the cabin had a tiny enclosed front porch, but no chairs. No matter, we were beat and climbed into bed and went to sleep looking forwards to the air mattress and sleeping bag we would be using the next night.

After a pleasant ferryboat ride across Lake Champlain and a visit to Ausable Chasm, we arrived at the Glen late the next afternoon. We pitched our tent in the same area we had the year before, just west of the boot. Having learned her lesson last year, Liz had brought plenty of warm weather clothes. But the Finger Lakes weather had reverted to form and the temperatures stayed in the 50’s and 60’s all weekend. No matter, Liz was now a believer in Carl’s corollary and had warm clothes as well.

Saturday morning, Liz and I wandered over to see if anything was happening at the bog. Of course there was, and a new wrinkle had been added this year. In keeping with last year’s cry, "If it doesn’t move, burn it!" enterprising fans of the bog this year had towed old beater cars to the track to drive through the bog. Sure enough, whenever one got hopelessly stuck in the mud, the driver would climb out and set the car on fire, eliciting a huge cheer from the crowd.

Flames in the bog

Whenever a vehicle got stuck, the crowd would chant, "If it doesn’t move, burn it!" If the driver was able to extricate himself, the crowd would boo him. It didn’t really matter because no one who brought a beater to the bog planned to take it home. They would keep driving through until they were completely stuck and would burn it. By the end of the day, the bog was a parking lot of burnt-out hulks.

Aftermath in the Bog

Since we had much cooler temperatures, I took advantage of them to show Liz the rest of the track. Last year, because of the heat, we did not stray far from the new section. This time, we went inside the track and through the garage to watch the mechanics work on the cars, then down into the grandstand on what had been the old front straight to watch the practice action in the up hill esses. We went back inside the track and strolled down the long back straight to the carousel to watch the final qualifying.

There was a huge field of 31 cars for this the last race of the season. Several teams had entered a third car. Team Lotus had Dave Walker and Reine Wisell, along with the newly crowned World Champion, Emerson Fittipaldi. Tyrell ran a third car for Patrick Depaliller, and McLaren gave its spare car to a newcomer by the name of Jody Scheckter. Team Surtees ran four cars, loaning one out to Sam Posey in addition to running Tim Schenken, Mike Hailwood and Andrea De Adamich. John Surtees himself briefly drove a fifth car, but did not race due to a shortage of engines. BRM also had four cars.

When the dust settled after qualifying, there was a familiar face on the pole - none other than Jackie Stewart in his Tyrrell. Peter Revson and Denny Hulme filled out the three-car front row with their Yardley McLarens. Francois Cevert’s Tyrrell shared the second row with Carlos Ruetemann’s Brabham. Clay Regazzoni (Ferrari), Chris Amon (Matra) and the impressive young Scheckter were on the third row. Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti in a Ferrari completed the top ten.

Race day dawned under threatening skies, but the rain held off through the morning. A glance in the direction of the bog revealed another large crowd gathered there and smoke rising into the air.

The Bog draws a crowd

We decided to watch the race from the same grandstands we had the year before in the heel of the boot. I had given up on the Boone’s Farm experiment and packed some beer and ice in a cooler and we headed for the grandstand. We wound up sitting next to some folks from Cleveland and struck up a conversation with them. One of them offered us some strange looking potato chips that were all the same shape and size and nested together in a can! I had never seen such a thing. They said they were new and were being test marketed in the Cleveland area. They were called Pringles.

Peter Revson in the McLaren M23

Down the row a couple of seats from us sat a French Canadian fellow with bright red hair and a bushy red mustache. He was a very nice fellow and spoke with a thick French accent. He was talking to a guy next to him who, at one point, said, "You got a pretty good young driver up there in that Guy-alls Villain-new-wave-ah." The French Canadian fellow just sort of cringed, and Liz and I looked at each other and smiled. He was referring to the great Gilles Villeneuve, who eventually went on to win six Grand Prix’s for Ferrari and was tragically killed in 1982 during the Belgium Grand Prix at Zolder. At least the guy had heard of him, but man, did he butcher his name!

While we sat in the stands waiting for the race to start, we had some unexpected entertainment as some guy ran down the track in front of us wearing only a pair of shoes. Other than that he was buck-naked. This was not the type of racy action we had expected, but the crowed loved it and cheered him on as he streaked past us and headed for the Toe of the Boot.

The streaker heads into the Toe.

When the real race started, Stewart came by in the lead, followed by Hulme. We heard over the PA system that Regazzoni had come together with Ruetemann and Revson. This put Fittipaldi into third place with Scheckter fourth. A fast-starting Jacky Ickx had come from twelfth to fifth and the recovering Regazzoni was sixth. Both Ruetemann and Revson had to pit for repairs and were out of it. On lap 5, Fittipaldi had to pit to replace a tire with a slow leak from a puncture. This was possibly the result of running over some debris from the Regazzoni, Ruetemann, Revson shunt. Fittipaldi’s problem allowed Scheckter to move into third place.

Francois Cevert now began a charge and after passing both Ferraris, he was able to catch and overtake Scheckter for third place. At the half way point of the race, Cevert made it a Tyrrell 1-2 as he managed to catch and pass Hulme. Then it began to rain but Liz and I, thanks to Carl’s corollary, were prepared and put our rain gear on. Scheckter was apparently less prepared, and he spun on the wet track, dropping him down the order. Regazzoni also had problems and was overtaken by Andretti and a very hard charging Ronnie Peterson in the March 721G. Peterson was impressive as he had come all the way from 26th on the grid to 6th. He was soon past the Ferraris of Andretti and Ickx as well, and into fourth place.

Francois Cevert in the Tyrrell 006

Jackie Stewart led flag to flag for the win, with Cevert second, Hulme third, and Peterson an impressive fourth. Ickx and Andretti filled out the points paying positions. My old favorite, Graham Hill, had managed to move from his disappointing 27th starting position to finish 11th. Posey had also moved well up the field from 22nd to 12th place.

Fittipaldi in the Lotus 72

Emerson Fittipaldi had won five of the eleven events that year and won the first of his two World Championships, beating out Stewart by 16 points. At age 25, he became the youngest champion in Formula One history. This year was also the first year Colin Chapman’s Team Lotus appeared in their new black and gold trim John Players Special livery. For the next several years, the JPS Lotus team was regarded as having the most beautiful cars on the F1 grid.

Copyright © 2006 by Terry Aasen


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