James Drake/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images
“Those two years with those
cars were about as good as it
gets for a race driver”
on our pit stops and our reliability. We
spent less time in the pits than Revson,
it was that simple.”
After another win at Milwaukee to
make it five out of six for the VPJ Colt II,
Unser talked Vel and Parnelli into
switching from Ford to Offenhauser.
“I think brother Bobby convinced Al it
made a lot more power, but it was crazy
to change because we had a 1,000-point
lead halfway through the season and could
have easily won our second consecutive
championship,” continues Dilamarter.
“Our car wasn’t built for an Offy and it
had terrible vibrations that a Ford didn’t
have, so we never finished another race
all year. But Joe [Leonard, in the second
VPJ Colt] stayed with a Ford and won the
title. That still pisses me off today.”
Leonard’s triumph at Ontario that
September was his lone win and the last
one for the VPJ Colt, which was replaced
by Maurice Phillippe’s designs in 1972.
“They said I was lucky to win in ’ 71 and
that’s OK, but I’ll always consider it a
great win in my career because of how we
did it,” said Unser, who would go on to
become the second of the Indy 500’s
four-time winners with victories in 1978
and ’ 87. “George was a very talented man
who had a knack for hiring good people
and getting the best out of them. Those
two years with those cars were about as
good as it gets for a racecar driver.”
Jones, whose lone win as a driver at
Indianapolis could have easily been one
of four or five, still relishes the memory
of the 1970 win as a team owner.
FIGURING THE COLT
THAT WAS CLOSE!
Al Unser was never too bothered about going for poles
(although he took 28); but if the opportunity was there,
he’d do just enough. He took that attitude to extremes
at Indy in 1970. After four laps, his margin over second-placed Johnny Rutherford was 0.01sec, equivalent to...
The dominance of Unser’s VPJ Colt-Fords over the
course of 400 race laps of IMS in ’ 70 and ’ 71 is clear
in the stats. But Al’s wariness of Mark Donohue’s
Penske-run McLaren was justified. The following year,
“Captain Nice” scored the first of Penske’s 15 Indy wins.
LAPS LED – 1970-’ 71
A George Bignotti-run Lola had already won the Indy
500 in 1966 with Graham Hill at the wheel, and Al
Unser raced the all-wheel-drive car in 1968. In ’ 69,
when USAC restricted tire widths on AWD cars so
much as to make them unviable, Bignotti converted
the Lola T150 to rear-wheel drive, added side-mounted fuel cells and designed distinctive square
funnels to direct airflow to the oil coolers. This
Colt-Lola won at Phoenix, the season finale, and
provided Bignotti with a foundation for his third step
– the “500”-winning VPJ Colt – as well as winning
four other races for Unser in 1970.