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Author Topic: WHY DONOHUE'S R-MODEL WAS DISQUALIFIED FROM THE 1966 ARRC  (Read 8710 times)
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Rick Kopec
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« on: December 02, 2007, 12:32:12 PM »

What? A section with no posts/no topics ? We can't have that.

The race record reflects that at the 1966 SCCA American Road Race of Champions (ARRC) at Riverside, held on Thanksgiving weekend, Mark Donohue was one of the invitees representing the SCCA's Northeast Division. The way the SCCA worked back then (and pretty much still does) was that National races were scored by a points system. By the end of the year, the top 3 drivers with the most points were invited to the year-end run-offs. The SCCA divided the country up into 6 divisions and the number each entrant ran on their car reflected their division (the first digit) and their finishing position within that division (second digit; if the race had two different classes, one class had one digit and the second class would have a zero ahead of the second digit). In most races there were two different classes. A/P and B/P ran together; the A/P cars were gridded at the front and after they got the green flag (they were all standing starts in those days, not rolling starts), 30 seconds later the B/P cars were flagged off. The number on Donohue's R-Model (SFM5R105) was #104. This indicated that he was from Division 1 and had finished 4th in points in that division (if one of the top 3 finishers could not attend the event, the next best finisher was invited so there would be 18 cars in each class).

The A/P - B/P race was the big one everyone was waiting for. It came near the end of the day on Sunday. The cars were loud and exciting and everyone was expecting a pitched battle between the Cobras and big block Corvettes and between the small block Corvettes and the GT350s. And it was expected by the end of the half-hour race they would all be battling each other. It wouldn't take long for the fastest B/P cars to make up 30 seconds and overtake the slower A/P cars.

The race was a good one as the 427 Cobras jumped out ahead. After about the first third of the race there was a horrendous accident on the front straight right in front of the paddock. Don Yenko's small block Corvette tapped Dan Gerber's red GT350 R-Model (5R100) sending it spinning at about 90 mph into the retaining wall. Several other cars were involved and Gerber was seriously hurt. Despite both of his ankles being broken (among other injuries) adrenalin enabled him to jump out of his car and take a step before collapsing. It was pretty exciting. I was standing at the top of the retaining wall, overlooking the exact spot where it happened. The track was about 10 feet below and there was a raining at the edge where crews hung over to hold chalkboards to send messages to the drivers. I was there crewing for Mel Wentzel's 289 comp Cobra, CSX2127.

The race was red-flagged so the safety crews could tow the cars away and clear the debris, and dry the water and oil that had leaked from the broken race cars onto the track's surface. That took about 10 minutes. SCCA rules stated that the 30-minute race was calculated from green flag to checkered flag and yellow or red flags did not stop the clock. The race was still running, even as the cars went around on one more lap (under a standing yellow) and were re-gridded on the front track for a restart. Their positions were unrelated to their class.

The crews had all come down onto the track to be with their drivers during the race's temporary halt. After the track was cleared the signal was given to start engines. Our Cobra would not start because of vapor lock. We had experienced starting problems all weekend when the engine was hot, so I had a spray can of ether in my back pocket. When the 289 cranked but wouldn't fire I opened the hood, sprayed a shot of ether down each of the Weber's stacks, and the engine fired right up.

Mark Donohue was gridded right next to us and his GT350 also would not start. I offered the ether to his mechanic, Dick DiBiasi and he popped the hood and squirted the plenum. Donohue's car exploded to life. We buttoned up the hoods, stepped back out of the way, and watched the race (or the 10 minutes that were left) when the cars were green-flagged.

After the race, one of the marshals found us and notified us that we had been disqualified because someone other than the driver had worked on the car during the race. We were stunned. Neither of us had memorized the finer points of the rule book so we didn't know this was a no-no. But as they say, ignorance is no excuse. Donohue was, likewise, disqualified. Funny how things work out. At the time, Mark Donohue had been happy to use that ether. I remember the big smile he had when I passed it to his crewman. In fact, looking him in the eye that day, smiling back, and giving him the "thumbs-up" signal will be forever etched in my mind. Had he lived, I'm sure he would not be looking back at it with quite the same fondness.




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66S285
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« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2007, 12:47:23 PM »

Rick:

Great story.  Do you know what happened to Gerber and/or his car?  He was from Fremont, Michigan very near where I grew up in West Michigan.  More specifically, was his car repaired after this race and do you know anything about the car today?

Rick



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Rex Myers
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« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2007, 02:01:42 PM »

Looking at data from the SAAC registry, which is now 10 years old...The info shows the car to be in Columbia, South Carolina. With Ricks involvement of the racecar, the registry data is very complete and good.   

 Rick, What were the positions of the two disqualified cars, 2127 and 5R100, at the end of the race. ( Before the D Q )

« Last Edit: December 02, 2007, 02:05:12 PM by Rex Myers » Logged

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66S285
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« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2007, 03:53:57 PM »

Thanks for the information.  Any word on Gerber?  Was he ever successful in racing the R?

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Rick Kopec
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« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2007, 09:21:04 PM »

Rick:

Great story.  Do you know what happened to Gerber and/or his car?  He was from Fremont, Michigan very near where I grew up in West Michigan.  More specifically, was his car repaired after this race and do you know anything about the car today?

Rick


This is a matter for the '65 Registrar to pursue. He knows R-Model chapter and verse. I'd just have to consult with him, so let's cut out the middleman. Long story short: the car was damaged beyond repair (in those days) and it was cut up and taken to the scrap yard—this verified by witnesses known to SAAC. It is officially listed as "destroyed" in the registry can can never be brought back because nothing remains.

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« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2007, 09:28:15 PM »

Looking at data from the SAAC registry, which is now 10 years old...The info shows the car to be in Columbia, South Carolina. With Ricks involvement of the racecar, the registry data is very complete and good.   

 Rick, What were the positions of the two disqualified cars, 2127 and 5R100, at the end of the race. ( Before the D Q )

Rex:

CSX2127 is now in the hands of an owner in France and is being vintage raced in Europe. As for the finishing positions of 2127 and 105, this question allows me to understand how it feels when the ex-Cobra Team guys take question at convention evening programs. It was 41 years ago and I honestly can't recall. 10th or 11th possibly—something like that. I don't have access to any records.

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« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2007, 10:29:31 PM »

Thanks for the information.  Any word on Gerber?  Was he ever successful in racing the R?

Dan Gerber was pretty seriously injured but he recovered and went on to become a writer and novelist. He presently vintage races a 289 Cobra competition roadster. The R-Model was totaled and he was recuperating so I don't believe he ever drove another R-Model (I could be wrong, there; but he never owned another R-Model).

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Jay Bentley
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« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2007, 07:26:17 AM »

I recentley have seen some pretty good color photos of 5R099 after the accident.  The person who posted the photos on the internet had apparently bought the car for parts shortly after the accident.  He put many of the parts on his 65 or 66 shelby street car.

If anyone has seen the photos maybe they can post them here.  I can't remeber where I have seen them, however it was only a few months ago.  They were fun to look at.

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« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2007, 07:55:21 AM »

Rick:

thanks for all the information.  Very interesting.

Rick

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Rick
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« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2007, 11:37:45 AM »

Thanks for the info on Mark Donahue's R-Model (105).  The car is safely in my garage for the winter.  I would appreciate any further information or pictures of the car.  Thanks Paul Andrews

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kris
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« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2007, 09:46:41 PM »

Thats a neat car to have Paul. Its interesting to read in "Unfair Advantage" how humble Mark was about his exploits with it. Its sort of a must read book for any gearhead! http://www.bentleypublisher.com/product.htm?code=GDDS




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lenmuir
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« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2008, 06:08:14 PM »

I remember Dan Gerber's crash that day. My step-father, Robert Emerick was the race physician and the Gerbers were friends and neighbors. Dan retired and became an author and some-time teacher among many other things. I moved away from there many years ago and don't know current events.
We owned a 66 gt350 and a gold 68 gt500 convertable. I can never find any references to the Aztek gold convertables. I know it seems odd but as I recall I think it had a 427. Anyone know anything about this?

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« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2008, 05:07:14 AM »

ask Pete Disher.  He knows all about 68's.  Also ask Vince the 68 registar.  Between the two, they would know.  Pete's web site is thecoralsnake.com   

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Rick
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« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2008, 02:34:22 PM »

Earlier this year a seller in Central California put an unrestored '66 GT350 Hertz up for sale on Ebay which I don't believe hit the reserve.  In the posting it was described that the car originally came from the mid-west and had a number of parts from the original Gerber GT350R.  There were also some vintage photos of both the Hertz and the wrecked GT350R in the listing, and the seller also confirmed that the Gerber GT350R remains had been destroyed after useable parts had been removed.
Craig S.

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Craig S.
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« Reply #14 on: October 05, 2008, 05:59:24 PM »

interesting.  Being from Grand Rapids the nearest biggest town to Fremont home of Gerber, I have always been interested in the Gerber car story

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Rick
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