Any race weekend at Watkins Glen is a great event but for me, the July 1970 Six Hours and Can-Am at Watkins Glen holds special meaning. At the ripe old age of 15, armed with a Minolta SRT-101 camera and a pair of lenses I was already a “veteran” race fan, having been to Lime Rock for two events, an SCCA regional and the 1970 Trans-Am. This was my first trip to the Glen and it was quite an exciting time for me.
Arriving at the track early Friday morning after driving up with my brother and his buddy in a 1968 Ford Cortina from Northern New Jersey, I was ready! We drove to the loop where the view was excellent. This was the last year of the original configuration of the Watkins Glen track; you could stand within 25 feet of the race cars at this location.
The cars for the Six Hour race were the first out and you could hear them howling down the straight. A Salzburg Porsche 917 was the first one by and I just about wet my pants! My brother still reminds me to this day how far I jumped when that car went through! Here were the cars that just ran in the 24 Hours of Le Mans right in front of me; I was impressed to say the least!
One thing about this weekend that really stood out in my mind was how accessible the track and drivers were. After practice you could walk across the track right into the pits, or right into victory lane.
There were 27 cars in the various classes entered for the race, and it was going to be a battle between the Porsche 917s and the Ferrari 512S factory cars for the overall win. The weather was always a factor at the Glen and this weekend was no exception with Friday’s practice and qualifying and Saturday’s race held under cloudy and damp conditions with an occasional shower. After qualifying the #1 Porsche 917 of Siffert/Redman was on pole next to the Ferrari 512S of Andretti/Guinti.
The race moved ahead at a fast pace and at the end of the day the two season dominating cars of John Wyer ended up 1-2 with Rodriguez/Kinnunen leading Siffert/Redman home. We were lucky enough to get a good spot in victory circle really topping off a great day.
The following day the Can-Am was held under nice sunny skies, Denny Hulme was on pole position in his McLaren M8D, alongside teammate Dan Gurney in another M8D. This was to be Gurney’s last appearance for the McLaren team, a conflict of oil company sponsorship was to prevent him from finishing the season with them.
In 3rd position was the outrageous Chapparal 2J debuting with Jackie Stewart at the wheel alongside Peter Revson in a new Lola T220. The McLaren team was dominant at the time but the new challenge from the Chapparal made things interesting. The Chapparal was a radical design with its rear bodywork enclosed by Lexan skirts right down to track level. Under the hood was a second engine, a small snowmobile power plant that drove two fans which blew the air out from under the car creating a vacuum effect. Handling and braking was improved dramatically and Stewart got into second place quickly in the race before fading with mechanical problems.
There were many cars from the previous day’s Six Hour race entered in the Can-Am, eventually won by Hulme but surprisingly followed home in second place by Jo Siffert in his Porsche 917. The 3rd through 7th place finishers were also cars from the 6 hour race, quite a showing for cars not really designed for such racing as the unlimited Can-Am series. This was a very memorable weekend for me, thinking of all the great cars and drivers in one place certainly makes me feel privileged to have witnessed it first hand.
1970 Watkins Glen Six Hours and Can-Am Photo Gallery (photo credit: Rich Martin)