The Jim 'Fitzy' Fitzgerald Pages
D Production Runoffs - ARRC, Road Atlanta, 1970
The following article
is sourced from an SCCA booklet on the 1970 ARRC.
The finish of the D Production race was the wildest of any of the 15 races at the 1970 American Road Race of Champions. And it was a fitting climax to what had shaped up as one of the best races from the beginning of practice. Six of the seven Divisional Champions had entered and five of these were in the first ten places on the starting grid. Adding to the interest, factory supported teams from both British Leyland and Datsun were strongly represented. So it had to be good. And it was.
At the end of qualifying, the first five cars were within 1.1 seconds of each other, and a 3 second spread covered the first eight cars. At the head of the pack, Brian Fuerstenau, in a Group 44 GT6+ and Dan Parkinson, in a factory backed Datsun 2000 were dead equal with 1:40.7 qualifying laps. Then came Jim Fitzgerald's Bob Sharp Datsun 2000 at 1:41.1, Don McGaffee in a GT6+ at 1:41.4 and John McComb in a Pete Brock Datsun 2000 at 1:41.8. That was the first five. These were followed by Carl Swanson in a Kas Kastner GT6+ with a 1:42.5, Jack Scoville's Datsun 2000 at 1:43.0, Chris Gahman in a Lotus Super 7 at 1:43.7, Dave Frellsen in a Datsun 2000 at 1:44.0 and Dave Eagleson in still another Datsun at 1:46.1.
There was also an interesting footnote. John Morton, driving another BRE Datsun 2000, had been the fastest of all qualifiers, with a 1:39.5, 91.28mph lap. But Morton was a reserve driver from the Southern Pacific Division, having finished the regular season in 4th place, and as the three higher finishers from SP made it to the starting grid, he was a disappointed non-starter.
After two pace laps, led by Peter Revson's pace car, to let the drivers have a look at Road Atlanta left oily by the preceding Formula A race, the pack was turned loose and first it was Dan Parkinson's turn. Dan led the first three laps, chased hard by Fuerstenau's GT6+ and the rest of the pack.
Lap 1, Parky leads the pack (Fitzy hidden)
Click for larger image
Then came lap 4 and Parkinson was missing, having broken a valve lifter and dropped back, soon to retire. So that put Fuerstenau in the lead but by now John McComb had moved up a position a lap and was hard on Brian's heels. Then McComb's Datsun broke an axle on the start/finish straight and slid to a stop in front of the pits. This made the order Fuerstenau first with Carl Swanson's GT6 2nd, Jim Fitzgerald's Datsun 2000 3rd, Jack Scoville's Datsun 2000 4th and Frellsen's datsun 5th.
Then what you could call leaders luck happened to Fuerstenau and he pulled off at turn 5 and was out of the race with a broken mainshaft in his gearbox. This put Swanson's GT6+ into the number one spot but Fitzgerald's Datsun was hanging close and threatening on every turn.
At the tenth lap the leadership was still being contested. Swanson led by less than a second over Fitzgerald and they were 8 seconds ahead of Scoville's Datsun in 3rd. In 4th was Dave Frellsen, Corky Bell's Datsun was 5th and Frank Bernstein was 6th in his Lotus Super 7. Dave Eagleson's Datsun was 7h, Rick Cline held down 8th in his GT6+, Ray Kaehler was 9th in his Datsun 2000 and Dr Carl Schwenker was 10th in his TR4A. 11th was Dave Coman's Alfa 1750, 12th came Joe Hebert's Datsun, 13th was Jerry Murch in another Datsun and 14th was Dennie Wilson in a TR4. The retirement list was already full, with Gahman's Super 7, Parkinson's Datsun, Joe Locario's Alfa 1750, McGaffee's GT6+, Fuerstenau's GT6+ and John McComb's Datsun already out of the race.
Click for larger image of the Fitzy/Swanson battle
The battle for first place went on. Fitzgerald could get his Datsun past (or even) on occasion but Swanson's GT6+ was always equal to the challenge. And so it went, down to the last lap with the two cars shooting under Coca-Cola bridge down the hill towards the final turn and the chequered flag. Fitzgerald again tried to go inside and this time stayed there, the cars leaning on each other as they approached the final turn. Fitzgerald hung on, Swanson tried to squeeze him off and the tension was terrific as they battled shoulder to shoulder. Just as the issue was decided in Fitzgerald's favor, a rear wheel parted from Swanson's Triumph, just about the time he took the flag in 2nd place.
So Fitzgerald came into the winner's circle, very happy but a little apologetic, not knowing he hadn't been the cause of Swanson's troubles. Carl had been aware that something had been wrong for some laps, the wheel having been loose for perhaps half a dozen laps before making its spectacular departure.
Thus ended the wildest finish of the 1970 ARRC with Fitzgerald officially half a second ahead of Swanson's 3-wheeled Triumph, with Scoville's Datsun 3rd, Frellsen's Datsun 4th, Eagleson's Datsun 5th and Bernstein's Super 7 in 6th. Cline was 7th in his GT6+, Bell's Datsun was 8th, Kaehler's Datsun was 9th and Coman's Alfa 1750 10th. Then came Hebert's Datsun, Schwenker's TR4a, Murch's Datsun and Wilson's TR4 in 11th through 14th.
Click for the Official SCCA D Production Results, 1970
Brian Fuerstenau posted the fastest lap of the race with a 1.40.8 , 90.11mph lap, and winner Fitzgerald's average speed for the 18 laps was 88.27mph.