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Pacific Coast G.P.

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Sports/Touring Car Racing

Pacific Coast G.P.

Joe Scalzo, TMS West Coast Editor
Today's Motor Sports, January 1962


1961 Pacific Coast G.P. 1961 Pacific Coast G.P. 1961 Pacific Coast G.P. 1961 Pacific Coast G.P. 1961 Pacific Coast G.P. 1961 Pacific Coast G.P. 1961 Pacific Coast G.P. 1961 Pacific Coast G.P. 1961 Pacific Coast G.P. 1961 Pacific Coast G.P. 1961 Pacific Coast G.P.
If Riverside was a Cooper parade, then Laguna Seca was a Lotus game of follow-the-leader. Stirling Moss and Dan Gurney took 1-2 in both parts of the two heat Pacific Grand Prix, each driving Lotus 19's.

A crowd of 62,500 watched Moss and Gurney duel hard in the first heat. Moss won both heats. The first heat Gurney led Moss more than Moss did him, and the second he spun on some oil and was four seconds behind at the end.

Had Gurney won heat one and Moss the second 100 miler then the overall winner would have been the man with the least elapsed time.

The first five finishers duplicated their efforts in both heats. Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, and Roger Penske, all in Coopers, were third, fourth, and fifth. Olivier Gendebien won the under 2000cc class in a Lotus 19.

Moss won $7,000 for the two heat triumph over the 1.9 mile Laguna Seca course in the San Francisco Examiner sponsored race.

Qualifications for the race found Gurney putting up a new track record of 1:14.8, almost three seconds better than the 1:17.3 time Moss set last year. Other fast times were Moss, 1:15.2; McLaren 1:15.4; Penske 1:15.4; Brabham 1:15.5; Peter Ryan (Lotus 19) 1:17.8; Jim Hall (Chaparral) 1:17.9; Gendebien 1:18.3; Chuck Daigh (Scarab) 1:18.3; Chuck Parsons (Birdcage Maserati) 1:18.7; Roger Ward (Cooper-Buick) 1:18.9; Harry Heuer (Scarab) 1:19.3; Augie Pabst (Birdcage Maserati) 1:19.3; Bob Hurt (Ferrari) 1:19.3; Chuck Sargent (Birdcage Maserati) 1:19.6; Dave MacDonald (Corvette Sp.) 1:19.7; Scotter Patrick (Porsche) 1:19.8; Ken Miles (Porsche RS61) 1:19.9; Jack McAfee (Porsche RSK) 1:20.4; Dave Ridenour (Lister-Jag) 1:21; Don Hulette (Jag-Corvette) 1:21.2; and Bob Bondurant (Corvette) 1:22.2.

Hullette proved to be a sentimental favorite with his old Jag.

Pat Pigott won the Sunday $1000 Formula Junior event, with Walt Hansgen (Cooper BMC) third. Pigott, driving his Lotus 20, averaged 86.4 mph for the 15 lap race, and won $500.

The G.P. got underway at 2:00.

Moss made the best start of anyone and left pole-sitter Gurney-who apparently missed a gear-on the line, with Penske and Hall jamming up hard from behind to hold second and third as they disappeared with Moss over the turn-one hill.

Gurney looked angry as he finally got going just ahead of the bulky, smoke-infested pack; McLaren in front of him, with Ryan, Ward, and gum-chewing Parsons in the Birdcage after him, the latter two not having wasted any time at the start.

Augie Pabst poured by towards the rear, both the front and tail of the Cunningham Birdcage bashed. Bondurant and Ridenour got less than 100 feet when the Lister-Jag spun after being hit, and was nailed almost head-on by Bondurant's Corvette. Headlights and body pieces went flying and both cars were out on the spot.

Course men hurried out and cleared the track, and the two alternate starters, George Koehne (Birdcage) and Rick Lewis (Chev. sp.), rushed into the race, already a quarter lap behind the fast-disappearing field.

All the cars were lost from sight at start/finish and the only way their progress could be traced was by noting occasional billows of dust--and then Moss appeared at turn seven and shot down the hill, already a full second in the lead. Penske and Hall still ran second and third, nose-to-tail, and further back, Brabham was ninth; Gendebien leading the under two liters, was 12th. Gurney was fourth and had closed up on McLaren and Heuer's Scarab was almost last.

Pabst eased the #61 'Cage into the pits and gingerly got out, wondering why he had no oil pressure. Other drivers could have told him his oil tank had split; they could have told him because they soon found where the tank's contents had been deposited.

The fast second turn was swimming in oil as Moss roared by, completing his first lap. He made it through ok, but other people didn't have it so good.

Penske got into mild trouble, but Hall lost his Chaparral altogether, and found the whole pack breathing down on him; suddenly there were cars everywhere.

Parsons spun and almost got hit by Sargent's red and white 'Cage; MacDonald in the #00 Corvette Spl. began spinning, taking Thompson's Maser with him ("Double zero and I rotated round and round," Thompson said); and Heuer in the Scarab and Drake's Cooper almost got involved, but kept going.

Poor MacDonald had to retire with car damage, but Thompson's 'Cage, quite beat up, continued. In fact, Hall, Thompson, and Parsons left the accident scene in that order---17th, 18th, and 19th. But Thompson retired later in the going with a broken de Dion tube.

Things began sorting out after the turn two encounter. The two most serious drivers in the race--Moss and Gurney--began getting down to business.

The order had become Moss, McLaren, Gurney, Brabham, Ward, Penske, Ryan, Daigh, Gendebien and Sargent. This was at three laps; by five, Moss continued to pull out, and had a six second advantage.

Gurney wasn't impressed. He trailed McLaren in third till the fifth lap, and then broke free and took over second.

He began working on Moss's lead. He fought traffic to do it; he and moss here lapping cars by the seventh lap, averaging over 90 mph. Dan took no chances--200 feet behind a slower car he'd raise his hand, "move over, I want to pass", and if the car didn't move he still found a way to get by, some how.

Moss was equally good, but coming down the turn seven hill the 16th lap he found the red Arciero Lotus right on his tail. And going up turn one, he watched it pass. This was it; the real race began.

The Riverside Coopers of Brabham and McLaren, running third and fourth were outgunned. The Lotuses obviously suited the oil slick track better than the Coopers, and both Brabham and McLaren looked uneasier as the race went on. Bruce removed his goggles at about ten laps.

When Gurney passed Moss in the 16th lap, things had worked out pretty well behind; Brabham and McLaren were on their own, and Ward, after a spirited run with the Cooper-Buick had retired because of overheating after holding fifth. Penske was thus fifth, then Gendebien, Ryan, Daigh, Miles, and Hulette in the Jag-Corvette, making the old car stay in contention ("Wow," someone said, "think what he'd be doing in a Birdcage"). McAfee, alarming one-under-two liter competitor because of the way he choose to negotiate turn two--sideways--was in tenth place behind Hulette, with Sargent, who had had some spin-out trouble. 11th.

Fast-qualifying Scooter Patrick, who led the under two liter class the first lap, had retired with a sucked valve. Hall in the Chaparral was coming through the field fast, and looked calm and confident. But he had a lot of ground to make up; the same with Parsons in the 'Cage.

Gurney and Moss rumbled further away from everyone on the track. Gurney led the 17th lap, Moss repassed the 18th, and Gurney got back in front the 19th--and by this time, the two leaders had lapped everyone but Brabham and McLaren. Little duels sprang up behind, like the three way fight between Heuer, Sargent, and Parsons, but the first place go topped everything/anything!

Moss blistered the traps on the short straight, hitting 131.9 mph, and Gurney answered by lapping at 1:51.1, a new race record.

At 26 laps, half way, the order stood, Gurney, Moss, Brabham, McLaren, Penske, Ryan, Gendebien, Miles, Hall, Hulette, Sargent, Heuer, Parsons and McAfee. And Gurney seemed to be stretching out. Daigh had quit with a broken half shaft.

Dan was stratching out at 35 laps, he had a 6.5 second lead. Moss, it turned out, was having throttle trouble. It was sticking, and he had to drive the car with the ignition key. But then Gurney's lap times started raising, too. His brakes were giving trouble.

Moss closed the gap on the red car, and passed Gurney on the outside of turn seven. And the race ran out in that order, although possibly there might have been a different outcome, IF Dan hadn't run into traffic on the back part of the course the last lap. Parsons, Sargent, and Heuer were all close together when Gurney came through in the midst of them, and all of them, including Dan, bobbled.

This dropped Gurney seven seconds behind Moss at the end. Brabham took third, 56 sec. behind, with McLaren third, a lap behind, then Penske and Ryan. Ryan was two laps behind, after staying close to Penske most of the race. Hall worked back to seventh place behind Ryan. Gendebien was eighth and the under 2000cc winner, with Miles ninth and Hulette tenth.

The second 53 lap heat was much more routine than the first, with Gurney spinning out at the sharp ninth turn the second lap on some oil, and never getting near Moss again until the very finish, when Moss was running out of brakes.

The first five finishers were all the same, though this time, both Brabham and McLaren were lapped by the two leaders. Penske was fifth.

In the first heat, the leading drivers had complained heavily about the blue "mover over" flag not being used enough on slower cars, and they all proclaimed things were much improved the second heat.

Peter Ryan did a stand-out job of driving in the second heat. His brakes locked up in the second lap, and he left the road, returning near-last. He was up to eighth overall at the end, and from his sixth-place in heat one, he was awarded sixth from both heats.

Hall in the Chaparral had miserable luck the second heat when the Chevy blew. Daigh in the Scarab, however, ran better the second heat, finishing seventh. He and Parsons in the Birdcage had a last lap go with Parsons finishing sixth--Daigh giving him a wave as they passed the line.

A surprise came in the under-two-liter class. Gendebien won, as expected, but finishing second to him in the final heat was McAfee in the RSK. Miles could just record a third after his tires started giving out.

Miles duelled with Chuck Sargent for awhile, but Sargent hit a hay bale and broke several gears in his transmission, thus falling back.

Heuer had poor luck also, the Scarab's brakes giving him trouble. And Hulette broke a fan belt.

So the Pacific Grand Prix ended -- Moss/Gurney, Lotus 19's, all the way.



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