Few racing scenes, if any, capture the competitiveness of small bore sedan racing in the early 1970’s as this one at Laguna Seca. It was the last race of the 1971 Trans-Am 2.5 Sedan Challenge season and it came down to two teams: The BRE Datsun 510 with John Morton at the wheel vs. the Wetanson Racing Alfa GTV piloted by Horst Kwech.
The race itself had what great films are made of: two leading men fighting for victory and each willing to do whatever it took to win the race and National Championship. If you were camping on the famous corkscrew corner you would have seen, among other things, Horst hit and spin John (The love tap would happen again before the race was over).
Unlike vintage racing today, the race cars needed to stop for refueling. While the well-managed and factory sponsored BRE team lead by Peter Brock played it safe, the Alfa team decided to roll the dice and try to capture the race and title with only one tank of race fuel. When the checkered flag waved, Horst crossed the finish line first with John Morton behind by only 6 seconds.
However, like all good films, there was a twist. After a protest was launched, the Alfa gas tank was deemed to be oversized and thus illegal. Unfortunately for John and team, the trophy celebration and fanfare was history by the time the disqualification was publicly announced.
In the end, the BRE Datsun 510 would win the race and National Championship. While the Alfa team’s excuse that they didn’t have time to move the fuel filler to the other side of the car was good enough for most Alfistis, the debate lingers today.
Fun fact: You can see our Hyde Park #34 in P5 coming around the corner.
(Photo by Dave Nicholas)