Jackie Stewart tests AJ Foyt’s Mclaren M10B Chev F5000 during Questor GP qualifying, perhaps the only time the Scot drove an F5000 car?…
The Questor Grand Prix was an intensely interesting experiment, a shame the Ontario circuit didn’t repeat it in subsequent years.
The event took place in March 1971 at the newly completed Ontario Motor Speedway. Promoted as the ‘Battle of Two-Worlds’, the USA and its Formula A/5000 cars against the best of European F1.
In 1971 there were only 11 championship F1 events so it was relatively easy for the teams to fit the event in, it gave them an extra race test without championship points at stake early in the season, and the prize money was $US278K or in 2015 $ terms, $M1.6, so it was well worth the effort!
For the Ontario Speedway promoters it was an ideal way to promote their new venue, the owners had aspirations of having a second US GP there, running of an event successfully provided the essential credentials to advance that goal. The event was well promoted with over 65000 punters rocking up on raceday.
The course itself comprised the start/finish straight, the first banked corner of the oval layout and a twisty infield section.
The American entry included Peter Revson’s Surtees TS8 Chev, Mark Donohue Lola T192 Chev, George Follmer Lotus 70B Ford, AJ Foyt in a McLaren M10B Chev, Bob Bondurant’s Lola T192 Chev and Al and Bobby Unser, both in Lola T190/2 Chevs, Swede Savage was Eagle Mk5 Plymouth mounted and Tony Adamowicz raced a Lola T192 Chev.
3 litre GP entrants included Ferrari with 2 1970 spec 312B’s (Mario Andretti and Jackie Ickx), Lotus (Emerson Fittipaldi and Reine Wisell in 72 Ford’s), BRM (Jo Siffert and Pedro Rodriquez P160, Howden Ganley P153 V12), Brabham (Graham Hill BT34 Ford ‘Lobster Claw’ and Tim Schenken BT33), Matra (Chris Amon MS120B V12), March (711 for Ronnie Peterson), Tyrrell (Jackie Stewart in 001), McLaren (M19A’s for Denny Hulme and Peter Gethin), and two privateer March 701’s entered by Frank Williams (Henri Pescarolo and Derek Bell).
We may never see such a star studded battle ever again. All the heavy hitters from each side of the Atlantic were there. A race fans dream which some saw as a repeat of Monza’s ‘Race of Two Worlds’ held in 1957 and 1958.
The race was run in two 100-mile heats because the F5000’s didn’t have the fuel capacity for a 200 mile race, a GP’s normal duration.
Mario Andretti, having just taken his first GP win in the season opener at Kyalami, South Africa, had an accident in qualifying on Friday and missed most of the session. He also had an Indy race on Saturday at the Phoenix Oval. He started in 12th place, standing on his Friday time.
With AJ Foyt racing at Phoenix Jackie Stewart did some laps in his McLaren M10B doing a time good enough for 11th on the grid. Foyt was uncomfortable with the Scots setup and reverted to his own.
Jackie Stewart was on pole in his Tyrrell from Amon, Ickx, Hulme, Rodriguez and Hill with Donohue’s Lola the best of the F5000’s, then Siffert, Fittipaldi and Follmer’s Lotus 70.
In the first heat Andretti worked his way to the front, caught and passed Jackie Stewart under braking for the first turn and won pulling away, much to the delight of the American crowd.
Initially Ickx used his Ferrari’s power to take the lead from Stewart, Amon, Hulme, Hill and Siffert . Spins for Siffert and Hulme dropped them back, while Stewart battled to get past Ickx, outbraking him and moving ahead. There was a high attrition rate, Foyt retired early with handling issues and Follmer with an oil fire in his Lotus, Hill was the first F1 car to drop out as he felt his Cosworth engine tighten, Savage crashed his Eagle heavily into a concrete wall off the infield section of the course suffering severe leg and head injuries. Their were other Chevrolet failures amongst the Formula A contenders, both the F1 and 5 litre cars engines were suffering as a consequence of the long straight and therefore long period at maximum revs.
Andretti was moving up, Donohue, defended strongly in his Lotus before Andretti passed him for third, which became second when Amon pitted with a puncture.
Together with three laps remaining, Andretti moved ahead to the delight of the crowd, taking the win from Stewart, Donohue was forced to pit from third with fuel injection dramas allowed Siffert into 3rd with his BRM.
Retirements included both Marchs; Pescarolo with a cracked chassis member and Peterson going off after a shock absorber failure, both Lotus 72s retired, Fittipaldi with an injection issue.
In the 2nd heat outside front row starter Jackie Stewart got the jump on Andretti and led. Andretti stalked Stewart for a handful of laps then repeated his first turn, first heat overtaking manouevre on Stewart to take the lead and the win.
Twenty-two cars gridded for heat two 45-minutes after the first. Foyt was persuaded to venture out in his McLaren Chevy and Peterson rejoinined after repairs but only once a large part of the race had been run.
Andretti was on pole but lost out to Stewart on the opening lap. Behind, Siffert led Ickx, Hulme, Amon and Donohue, that order changed when Ickx tried to dive past Siffert at the end of one of the short straights, Ickx spun and took Siffert with him. Whilst Seppi continued Ickx pitted with a puncture.
Luckless Donohue pitted from third with injection dramas after a fine run, easily the quickest of the Formula A’s in his Penske Lola T192, Amon took over third in his Matra.
At the front, Andretti was closing in again on Stewart, the Tyrrell suffering a broken rear anti-roll bar which was causing issues on the banking, Stewart elected to yield as Andretti made his move.
The tough nature of the circuit again took its toll. Even Andretti was impacted, his Ferrari not revving cleanly and puffing smoke. He held on to win though with Stewart second from Amon. Rodriguez benefited from Siffert slowing after losing a suspension bolt to take fourth ahead of Hulme, Schenken and Ron Grable the first FA car home in seventh.
In terms of overall results the complex points structure meant that a car with a high finish in one race could outscore a car that had finished both, gave Andretti the win he deserved, Stewart was second from Hulme, Amon and Grable heading the US-runners in seventh.
The race was popular with the crowd, the American racers felt their cars had been uncompetitive and the European’s, other than those who had extensive sportscar experience of Daytona, were not fond of the banking!
The Questor Group, builder/owners of the circuit encountered financial problems shortly after the event so it was not repeated, leaving it a ‘great might have been’.
Certainly as F5000’s became more sophisticated into the 1970’s, the Lola T330/2 famously as quick as many F1 cars at Mosport and Watkins Glen, circuits upon which they both raced, would have made such an event much closer, perhaps, than the Questor GP was in 1971?
Overall Results: 1 Andretti; 2 Stewart; 3 Hulme; 4 Amon; 5 Schenken; 6 Siffert; 7 Grable; 8 Gethin; 9 Ganley; 10 Rodriguez. Fastest Lap: Rodriguez, 1m42.777s (111.49mph).
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