• by Matijs Jutte

Sting in the Tail

The final round of the 1971 International Championship of Makes (the equivalent of the current WEC) took place north of New York on the Watkins Glen circuit with the 6-hour race.

It was to be the last official race where the 5-litre cars where allowed and Porsche would face Ferrari a final time. Indeed, even though Porsche was already ensured of the title, two Gulf Porsches were entered for Siffert/Van Lennep and Bell/Atwood.

The main opposition was expected from the immaculate blue and yellow Ferrari 512M prepared by Penske for Donohue/Hobbs, the works 3-litre 312P for Ickx/Andretti and some private Ferrari’s from NART and Ecurie Francorchamps.

But of course there were the Alfa’s. After two outright wins this season, Autodelta wanted to show they were a force to be reckoned with next year. They entered 3 cars for Pescarolo/Stommelen, Galli/Elford and de Adamich/Peterson. Galli/Elford disposed of the experimental TT33 with tubular frame, in preparation for 1972, but unfortunately Galli crashed after a coming together with a slow Porsche 911 and the car was written off and they needed to take the spare T33 for the race.

Watkins Glen Start

The Penske Ferrari was fastest in qualifying, followed by the fastest Porsche 917 (Siffert) and the Ferrari 312P, the Porsche of Bell and the Ferrari 512 of Posey. The Alfa’s qualified 6th, 7th and 8th.

The race started under dry conditions but menacing sky and the Penske Ferrari took the lead immediately and set off in the distance, followed by the Porsches, the 312P in 4th and the Alfa’s in close contention.

The blue Penske Ferrari retired in the second hour with a steering-problem whilst the 917’s suffered several punctures. Then Bell suffered a broken throttle cable and the lead was now disputed between the Ferrari 312 (Andretti) and the fastest Alfa driven by Ronnie Peterson who was making a guest appearance for this race.

The Ferrari retired after a starter problem in the 3rd hour and the Alfa took the lead.

The end of the race was marked by bad weather conditions, which led to many accidents, which unfortunately also eliminated two of the Alfa’s. Stommelen ran into another slow 911 and ended in the guard-rails. Elford running 3rd towards the end of the race was surprised by a slower Lola T212 when passing between a Porsche and a Corvette. The result was a major push of the Lola by the Alfa and both cars were out.

Muller's Ferrari crash

But the Peterson/de Adamich car survived and held off the recovering Porsche’s to score the 3rd overall win of the year. A great result for Carlo Chiti and his team against the mighty 5-litre cars.

De Adamich change Driver, Ing.Carlo Chiti at rear

The next day the Can-Am sprint race was held and some of the 6-hours contestants also participated to this race. Among them the 6-hour winning Alfa for de Adamich, as well as the Penske Ferrari, the Porsches and a 7-litre Ferrari 712M to take on the regular 6-and 7-litre Can Am machines. Pescarolo had qualified 15th but could not start as his car was crashed in the 6-hour, whilst de Adamich qualified 19th out of 29

The Alfa ran exceptionally against these much more powerful cars and finished 7th overall (there were 14 finishers); a most remarkable result in such a field.

Cam-Am Start

Porsche Cam-Am 7 litres

Some pictures from Motorsport magazine - All rights reserved to owners

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