Training Wheels

Also from Issue 160

  • Ruf 3400K coupe: A 400-hp Cayman
  • Steelie Screamer: Early 911 Hot Rod
  • Riding Shotgun with Walter Röhrl
  • 911 SC-based 953 Rally Replica
  • Inside Penske Racing’s Premises
  • 997 GT2 Preview
  • Great White: A 680-hp 996 GT2
  • Market Update: 914 and 914-66
  • Porsche Icon: 917/30
  • Project 914 3.6: Fiberglass Bumpers
  • Installing Wheel Spacers Properly
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“We were very close friends and, even though there wasn’t any professional road racing at the time, we felt that it was imminent and wanted to get in on the ground floor together,” continued Gurney. “So, essentially, we trained each other. And, early on, we started using a stopwatch. It didn’t take us long to realize that the only genuine tool we had was that stopwatch. When you talk about reality and time that’s gonna tell you what’s important and what isn’t when it comes to racing. We made a solemn vow that, no matter who looked good or bad, we were going to be totally honest and give each other the most accurate timing — no matter what.”

The two applied all they knew from hot-rodding to their new toys, tuning the cars to maximize power, painstakingly adjusting the distributors and carbs, searching for every possible advantage. Then, continues Gurney, they “would take the Speed-sters out to the orange groves in River-side and set up a circuit, all on dirt, (nick- named “The Burma Road”) that we could do lap times on. That’s when we started to develop what would become our driving styles.” Or what Hudson would later describe as the search for “the perfect four-wheel drift.” Said Gurney: “We did the first vestiges of setting up the chassis — ride heights, torsion bars, tires, and stuff like that. It showed up on the stopwatch and, well, it was pretty fun. I remember we would drive the Speedsters up to Palmdale and stay at the ‘X Motel.’ It had this giant ‘X’ out front. You could go to the office and ask for the key to the padlock for the gate that let you into Willow Springs race track and they’d give it to you! We could take the Speedsters out there and race each other with no one else around. Those were the days…”

“It’s funny now,” says Darrell Vittone. “But, at the time, it looked like Skip was going to become the better of the two behind the wheel.” In the beginning, Skip drove and Dan wrenched. Hudson’s most impressive drive in #80032 may well have come at the Cypress Point Handicap at Pebble Beach — a race for under-1500-cc cars — on Sunday, April 22, 1956.

Hudson, starting behind a pair of more powerful Carrera Speedsters, quickly seized the lead and proceeded to lay waste to the field. However, on the 11th lap, while attempting to pass a backmarker, he carried too much speed into a corner — the same spot where Ernie McAfee would fatally crash his Ferrari 121LM chasing the Del Monte Cup trophy later the same day — and put his car off-course, side-swiping some trees that lined the circuit. Hudson managed to recover and finish second to season-long rival Dale Johnson, who was driving a four-cam. Hudson had beaten Johnson head-to-head at Palm Springs earlier in the season and surely would have claimed the win at Pebble had he not gone off-course. Behind Hudson’s bathtub was another Carrera plus a flock of lesser entries.

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