Image74On the 50th anniversary of his winning drive with Dan Gurney at Le Mans, it's still hard to pick what was the most impressive thing about A.J. Foyt's performance.

1) The fact he had no testing and just a handful of practice laps.

2) That he shared the non-adjustable seat and pedals with his much taller teammate.

3) Or that he even went over there.

But considering the famous French circuit was 8.3 miles long and had no chicanes back then and very little safety, knowing USAC's all-time winner jumped into the Ford GT and got right up speed is indicative of his talent.

"The first practice session I think that I went out was the morning before qualifying and Dan was supposed to qualify the car," recalls Foyt. "I had no testing and probably had two or three laps before Dan qualified.

"He had a lot of experience over there running it, so after the first shift, I think four-hour shifts, I get in and I think I wanna pull out of the pits. I think Denny Hulme went by. And I knew Denny and I knew he knew the racetrack. So I followed him I guess for three or four laps. Then I was just so much faster, so I went on by my way."

foyt 67The American duo led all but the first 90 minutes in their Ford GT Mark IV but the only thing that changed during pit stops were the drivers as the 5ft-10 Foyt and 6ft-3 Gurney couldn't adjust the pedals, seat or steering wheel and had to make do with a compromise.

"Well, it was a great run and one thing about the cars today, they got three to four to five drivers, they got seats that's all adjustable," continued Foyt. "Gurney was so much bigger than I was at the time. His arms were about four or five inches longer, so. I tell you, it was pretty rough and we kinda split the difference. Only thing you could do is tighten the seat belts and loosen them.

"And nowadays, we got to have these special seats and all of that and we had to do with what we had and that's the way it was then. Like I say, it's a different ball game with the drivers today than what it was back then."

Even though he was a demon on the dirt and obviously one of the greats at Indianapolis, A.J. always ran well in the few sports cars races he tried and first got the call from Ford in 1966.

"I was supposed to go over in 1966 and I got burnt. Remember at Milwaukee? And Ken Miles and another one, I can't remember his name, lost his life and Lloyd Ruby crashed his airplane. That's when they decided, well, they lost a lot of their drivers, so we went over in '67," said Indy's first four-time winner.

"I was happy because I'd known Carrol Shelby for years and it was actually two Ford programs. Holman-Moody and Carroll Shelby. So, when they asked me to drive with Dan Gurney, I was honored."

But the legend with 67 IndyCar wins quickly adapted to driving at night, the rain and slower traffic on the circuit where speeds topped 200 mph on the Mulsanne Straight.

''Well, I never cared that much for road racing," said Foyt, who went on to score USAC champ car wins at Castle Rock, Mosport and Silverstone. "Fortunate enough, it seemed that I got along with it pretty good. I liked the rain; it wasn't that bad. One thing about the rain, I had some good eyesight and I think that's what plays a big part. And my eyes at that time was 20/15 and like I said, I enjoyed running in the rain. It was kinda hairy and tricky, so you had to play it cool."

COTA

RACER.com coverage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is presented by Lone Star Le Mans, a six-hour sprint deep in the heart of Texas: September 15-16 at COTA.

 

 
 

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