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Peter Brock recalls exciting times with SCCA Datsuns

Ex-racer Peter Brock has fond memories of bringing the famous Datsun SCCA racers to the track

 

 

After the Japanese Grand Prix of 1967, when I’d had to battle to get the Hino Samurai GT through tech inspection, Toyota was still pissed at me and I still couldn’t figure out what was wrong. We’d already signed a contract for me to run 2000GTs in the USA and I’d borrowed the money to build up the shop ready for the Toyotas. When I got back to the USA, the cars never showed up. Finally I got a phone call from a friend at Shelby; he told me we wouldn’t be getting the 2000s because they were at Shelby’s place, where they were going to be prepared for the coming season. I figured out that Shelby had snaked the deal away from me, which is why I began talking with the people from Nissan.

When I went down to Nissan [USA] and told them why I wanted to race their cars, they threw me out. They didn’t know who I was, or didn’t believe in their cars, so I called the CFO at Hino and explained the situation. He said he knew some people at Nissan Motor Corporation and would see what he could do. A couple of days later he called back and said that two Datsun 2000 roadsters were on their way, with enough money for the 1968 season. It turned out his schoolfriend at Nissan was now the chairman of the board! He’d told them that I was reliable and that we’d worked together well for the past three years.

We had to run against Shelby, who had the Toyota 2000s in California. We built the Datsuns in secret, without telling Nissan USA what we were doing; we showed up at the first race, and were very fast. Naturally I’d pissed off everybody at Nissan in the USA because I’d gone over their heads and got the program without their approval, but we won the Pacific Coast Championship in the first year with the car so they couldn’t help but be very impressed with what we’d done. They relented and introduced me to Yutaka Katayama, the president of Nissan USA, who was delighted that we had won and knew nothing of my initial approach. He said, ‘here’s my private number, call me if you need anything, and thank you for everything.’ From that moment on we had a perfect relationship with Nissan and won the US Road Racing Championships with the 240Z and the 2.5 Trans-Am series with the 510.

When we first started working for Nissan on the 2-liter roadster (above), the SCCA rules said that only changes discussed in the rulebook were permitted. You could not innovate on your own unless there was a specific paragraph about what was allowed. So I looked real carefully at those rules.

Our problem at that time was that, with Art Oehrli, we’d developed that engine on the dyno and were getting more horsepower than we could cool the engine compartment for. The Roadster hadn’t been designed for a 2-liter – it was a sedan chassis and they’d put a 1,500cc pushrod in it for the Japanese market and put a sports car body on it. By the time the capacity had been increased to a 2-liter, there wasn’t enough airflow through the engine compartment. You could get it through the radiator but it would then stop because of the battery, the plumbing on the inside, the master cylinders…all the stuff was in the way and the air wouldn’t go through the radiator to cool it.

I knew the answer was to put an airdam on the front of the car to prevent any air from going under or around the car and force it through the radiator. We then took everything out of the engine compartment and put it in the rear of the car. We even turned the master cylinders around onto the other side of the firewall, to help the air flow through.

Nobody had ever seen an airdam on a production car before because it wasn’t allowed in the rules. I came up with a strange-looking device with a central vertical dividing line and pointed out that the rules said that brake scoops were allowed. I said was starting the brake scoop in the middle of the car and going clear over to the side!

Before the first race I took the airdam to the tech inspecting crew and they agreed that we’d followed the rules. When the car was so successful, everybody caught on to what we were doing and began to copy it. There were about eight rules in the SCCA rulebook that I invented. It’s very important to read the rulebook and interpret the rules and protest your own car prior to the event – get the officials to analyze what you’ve done and ensure it gets through.

Peter Brock spoke to Graham Heeps

Images courtesy of http://bre2.net

 

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