The 1971 SCCA Runoffs
Bob McQueen was based at Road Atlanta, a track he knew very well. Sponsored by Racing Associates Limited, Bob enjoyed a successful campaign during the 1971 season, and that year qualified his ex-BRE 2000 for the runoffs, placing third in the divisional standings in the SCCA's Southeast Division with ease. First in SE was Jim Fitzgerald.
Also qualifying for the runoffs, taking second in the SE Division, was Gene Felton. Gene, also based in Atlanta, and sponsored by Atlanta Auto Sales, had lost against John McComb in the 1967 ARRC in A Sedan (both of them raced Mustang notchbacks). Felton had coincidentally purchased John Morton's ex-BRE racer from Pete Brock, and the two ex-BRE race cars were battling once again. He had replaced the Solex-Mikunis with the Datsun's Hitachi/SUs for competition in D Production, a class in which the Datsun was far more competitive. Gene had also welded a full roll cage onto the existing BRE rollbar, although the striking BRE paintwork remained.
McQueen and Felton had enjoyed some excellent duels during the 1971 season, and the runoffs were no different. Felton qualified on pole, followed by Dave Frellsen, also in a Datsun 2000. (Dave was to become five times National champion with Datsun in the 1970s, racing the 510, 610 and A510). McQueen qualified third, with Brian Fuerstenau, in the Group 44 GT6 Mk111, fourth. Felton led early on, under heavy pressure from Frellsen and McQueen, who took Frellsen on the 2nd lap. Felton and McQueen could not be separated until 4 laps into the race when McQueen took 1st. Shortly afterwards, on the same lap, Felton span out, breaking his suspension, leaving Bob out front.
In lap nine Bob pulled out a lap record for D Production of 1:38.4 (92.32 mph). his victory was by no means assured however as Fuerstenau was up to second and challenging hard. A backmarker temporarily put paid to Fuerstenau's efforts, slowing him down and allowing Fitzgerald (Datsun 2000) to move up to 2nd spot. Unfortunately, Fitzy's challenge was shortlived, and he eventually placed 6th with a badly smoking engine.
At the finish it was McQueen and Devendorf in the Kastner Brophy GT6 who were exchanging paint. Devendorf, the previous years E Production champion in the GT6 Mk111, had qualified 16th after problems in qualifying. In a similar battle to the Fitzgerald/Swanson battle the year before, McQueen was just 0.6 seconds ahead of Devendorf with one lap remaining. By the final turn, Devendorf had mounted his final challenge only to find a backmarker (W.K.Gonzales in another Datrsun 2000) narrowing the road. He was unable to pass and McQueen held on by 0.5 seconds, earning him the 'Close Shave' trophy for the 1971 Runoffs.
The 1971 SCCA Results
Note:- In 1971, the GT6 had been moved up from E Production to D Production, it's 6 cylinder engine eating the 4 cylinder MG, Morgan and Porsche competition in EP in 1969. Despite the Triumph challenge, McQueen hung on gamely for the win, and his first National Championship, as Jim Fitzgerald had done the year before.
Allan Girdler, writing for Road and Track commented:- 'Rumour has it that Triumph spent a pile on this (D Production) Class and had planned to base the 1972 GT6 ad campaign on the DP title. Speaking as one who has been repeatedly stomped by the factory cars, all I can say is, Ha Ha Ha'.
Pete Brock, at Road Atlanta for John Morton's second consecutive C Production championship in the 240Z, was proud to see his first BRE Datsun take the chequered flag, albeit in the hands of a privateer, and two years overdue.
Gene Felton was later to go on to perform great things in a Camaro, including victory at Daytona in the 1973 Paul Revere 250, a 2nd in Class (GT1) at Le Mans in 1982 with Billy Hagen, a Trans Am victory in 1983 and a string of victories and excellent results in GTO and GTS-1, including a win at Sebring in 1984 (with Terry Labonte and Billy Hagen).
For further images of the 1971 Runoffs see the Bob McQueen Gallery on the main Bob McQueen page.