The hottest driver in the Sports Car Club of America these days is an irrepressible Texan named Carroll Shelby. He never has more fun than when he is winning races, and last weekend at the Sports Car Club of America national meeting at Beverly, Mass. he had a whale of a time.
Before Shelby got his turn, though, there was speed aplenty on the A-shaped, 2.6-mile Beverly Airport course. The fastest race of all was an 18-lap scramble of classes F, G and H modified cars in which the Porsche Spyders of Jack McAfee and Ed Crawford dueled fiercely from the start.
Crawford gunned his bright blue car into the lead and kept it there for three laps, but on the fourth McAfee's silver one, which has accounted for a long string of victories, nosed ahead. After McAfee stayed ahead for three more laps, Crawford's pit crew flashed a "hang on" signal. Crawford hung on so well that he overtook McAfee.
On the last lap the cars streaked side by side into the homestretch. The last corner, a right-angled right-hander, was decisive. As McAfee went deep into the turn, Crawford squeaked through on the inside and picked up a split-second advantage that he kept to the finish line.
July 16, 1956
The Crawford-McAfee affair was so keenly contested that it produced the day's best time, an average speed of 80.2 mph, although larger and faster cars were yet to be seen.
In each of the remaining races there was a runaway triumph.
Take the 18-lap event for Class D production cars—the race of the Mercedes 300SLs and Austin-Healeys. When Charles Wallace put his flame-red 300SL into the lead, he was there to stay. SCCA Champion Paul O'Shea made it close for a few laps, but then began losing oil—and ground—and Wallace lapped every car but O'Shea's before taking the checkered flag.
A hands-down victory in the 65-mile Class C production race went to Dr. Richard K. Thompson Jr. in a beautifully tuned Corvette. Jaguars captured the next three places.
A rewarding day for Porsches, highlighted by Crawford's narrow victory, was rounded out by the performances in this little speedster by E. M. Pupulidy in the Class G production race and Lake Underwood in the run for E and F production cars.
As the feature race approached, Carroll Shelby was as relaxed as the cattle ruminating on an adjacent hillside. The unrelenting drizzle which had made the previous day's practice an unpleasant and inconclusive chore had ended in the night. The sky was sunny now, the air cool. Cool enough, Shelby thought, to keep the engine of his 4.4-liter Ferrari from misbehaving during the 35-lap, 91-mile race ahead.
That there would be more rain had been the hope of Masten Gregory, the bespectacled young Kansan whose 3-liter Ferrari Monza was giving away more than 70 hp to the Shelby Ferrari. Gregory knew that he could not long keep up with Shelby on the straightaway, but he calculated that rain-slick asphalt would cause the more powerful Ferrari to spin its wheels on fast getaways from the corners and thereby give the Monza an edge.
Dry course or not, Gregory was out to diminish Shelby's fun. So were 36 other cars of classes B, C, D and E modified, notably four D Jaguars and Jack McAfee's 3.5-liter Ferrari. Driving the Jaguars were Louis Brero, the Californian who finished close behind Shelby at Elkhart Lake, Wis. two weeks before, Ernie Erickson, Sherwood Johnston and Johnny Benett.
Shelby, wearing his beloved tattered overalls and a shortsleeved pink shirt, zipped out in front of the pack when the starter's flag fell.
Johnston, who had escaped injury in a serious accident at Elkhart Lake, pressed Shelby for two laps and then dropped back behind eager Masten Gregory. Within a few laps the pattern of the race was firmly established-Shelby ahead, pursued by Gregory, with Johnston cruising unthreatened and unthreatening in third spot.
Gregory upset the pattern briefly but dramatically. Winding his engine up to the point of risking a breakdown, he doggedly closed the gap between his blue and white Ferrari and Shelby's red speedster until, after 12 laps, he was only a second behind. Gregory's brakes, better than his opponent's, gave the Kansan a chance to pick up precious yardage at the corners; he could afford to delay longer than Shelby before backing off.
On the 14th lap Gregory achieved the improbable feat of passing the flying Texan and even managed to snatch a precarious lead now and again through the next lap.
FIRST FOR KEEPS
When Shelby seized first place on lap 16, it was for keeps. Shelby had more punch accelerating out of the corners, and the miracles of speed Gregory could accomplish by straining his engine to the limit could be effortlessly matched by Shelby.
Brero's bid to make up for a bad start was valiant. His D Jag picked off car after car, but 12 laps from the end, while lying fifth, he was forced out by a broken oil line.
Shelby inexorably stretched out his lead over Gregory until, at the finish, he was ahead by a comfortable 15 seconds. More than a minute behind Gregory came Johnston.
Shelby grinned as he accepted congratulations from Gregory (who, incidentally, came out of the race with a badly blistered right hand. He had misplaced his driving gloves and had driven barehanded).
"Weren't we having a lot of fun?" Shelby laughed.
"Man, I thought we were going to bang each other going into those corners," Gregory said. "I hate to be second, but if I have to be second to anybody, I'm glad it was you."
FIRST RACE: Class G Production, E. M. Pupulidy (Porsche 1300) 65.6
SECOND RACE: Unrestricted, G. Weaver (Maserati) 72.2
THIRD RACE: Overall, E. Crawford (Porsche Spyder) 80.2
FOURTH RACE: Overall, L. Underwood (Porsche Carrera) 72.5
FIFTH RACE: Class D Production, C. Wallace (300SL) 71.6
SIXTH RACE: Class C Production, R. Thompson Jr. (Corvette) 73.7
SEVENTH RACE: Overall, C. Shelby (Ferrari) 75.9