Jim Hall's Chaparral 2G would have a new engine for 1967. The aluminum version of the production 427 Chevy engine produced 120-130 more horsepower then Chaparral's previous 327 but would prove that bigger is not always better. Hall remarked that while the car with the bigger engine could "go like hell", it felt heavier and was not as nice to driver as last year's car. It also wasn't very reliable, suffering a total of 11 engine failure over the course of the season. Hall would also enter the season as the solo driver for Chaparral, with the retirement of Phil Hill.
Before the 1966 season had even ended all Bruce McLaren could talk about was Jim Hall, his Chaparrals and how to beat them. Jim Hall and his wild creations, and his relationship with General Motors were looked at with a mixture of awe and inspiration by the team, an inspiration that would bring about the new McLaren M6A as a weapon to beat it's foe. Mclaren's choice was to build a light simple car with aerodynamics that could provide sufficient downforce without having to resort to a large rear wing so as to not be accused of simply copying the Chaparrals. By that time Robin Herd had joined McLaren from the aerospace industry, having worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) on their Concorde supersonic aircraft project. The cars unlike last year's red would be painted orange, similar to their new sponsor, Gulf Oil. The color would soon come to be know as McLaren orange. Another important development was around the tires that McLaren would use, switching from Firestone to Goodyear, who worked closely with the team in race tire development work. This led to changes with the Mclaren suspension which was redesigned around the new wider rubber giving them a distinct road holding advantage forcing the other teams to scramble to catch up.
With Chris Amon joining Ferrari for Formula 1, Denny Hulme, another fellow New Zealander would be Bruce's team-mate for the new season and like Bruce, Hulme had won the New Zealand Driver to Europe scholarship. When Hulme stepped from the car after some testing at Goodwood, the laconic driver could be heard to comment; "Leave it alone. I'll race it like that."
Circuit Mont-Tremblant was replaced by Road America near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin as the initial round of the Can-Am series.
In the early 1950's, sports car races were being run on the streets in and around Elkhart Lake. When the state legislature banned racing on public roads, a man named Cliff Tufte organized a group of influential local citizens and leaders of the of the Chicago Region of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). This group developed plans and sold stock to build a permanent racecourse. The overall vision of Road America grew out of the dreams of Tufte, a highway engineer, who chose 525 acres of Wisconsin farmland outside the Village of Elkhart Lake for the track.
Tufte's dream became a reality in April 1955, the natural topography of the glacial Kettle Moraine area was utilized for the track, sweeping around rolling hills and plunging through ravines. By September 10, 1955, the track's first SCCA national race weekend was held. At 4.048 miles in length, with 14 turns, the track is virtually the same today as it was when it was first laid out and is revered the world over as one of the world's finest and most challenging road courses.
In qualifying Bruce McLaren put his car on pole when he broke the existing track record by 10 seconds! Hulme qualified 2nd with Gurney in 3rd.
On race day the 3rd of September Hulme proved true to his words, with a race victory over Mark Donohue driving the Roger Penske Lola T70 MK3B in 2nd while last year's champion, John Surtees, also in a Lola came in 3rd. Jim Hall in the Chaparral 2G was 4th. Bruce McLaren retired out of the points due to an oil leak. Donohue was the United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) champion but for him there was no comparison between series.
|"The USRRC was fine, but it was like playing tennis with your wife."
Mark Donohue - Road & Track
The next race at Bridgehampton saw Hulme grab pole over his teammate with Gurney's Lola-Ford qualifying 3rd. Behind them on the 2nd row was occupied by Jim Hall and George Follmer, Donohue's teammate. Mario Andretti driving something called a Honker II so as not to be confused with the Honker I qualified a lowly 23rd. Hulme stormed into the lead that he held to the end even with a mid-race spin, followed by McLaren in 2nd with a pair Lola T70s in 3rd and 4th, driven by George Follmer and John Surtees respectively. Hall was done in by another engine failure. Andretti struggled home in 8th. The Honker II was actually produced by some of the same people involved in Ford's LeMans program and was named in honor of John Holman, of Holman Moody, the car's backers who loved the air horns of his firms trucks. Finishing just ahead of Andretti, in 7th was Italian Ludovico Scarfiotti driving a Ferrari P3/4.
At Mosport Park, Hall and his Chaparral were no shows, deciding to take his car back to Midland for more preparation. Andretti showed up for practice but the Honker II drove more like a stinker and was so woefully slow that Andretti vowed not to drive the car until it improved. Both McLarens qualified on the front row with Hulme edging out McLaren with Gurney 3rd. 4th was Mike Spence driving the ex-Amon McLaren M1B. The car was entered by the Canadian Ecurie Soucy Racing team. At the start, Hulme stormed into the lead. Bruce's McLaren was delayed by the replacement of a leaking fuel tank, but once again the race saw a McLaren 1-2 with Hulme winning again. Hulme last couple of laps were quite eventful which included steering linkage coming loose which caused him to go off course and into the banking. After his car stopped and seeing that it was still drivable, just he continued on with a flat front tire which jammed the wheel against the body. Hulme literally had to drag the car over the starting line, forcing him to walk to the podium to collect his trophy. Gurney, who had been in 2nd suffered a clutch failure on lap 69. The surprise of the race was Mike Spence's 3rd place driving an ex-Amon McLaren M1B.
Laguna Seca saw Bruce McLaren grab pole position with Dan Gurney qualifying 2nd. Hulme was able to qualify a trouble prone 3rd with Jim Hall's Chaparral 2G next to him in 4th. The race was now a single race rather than the two heat affair of the previous year. Gurney was able to grab the early lead only to drop out with overheating. With the retirement of Parnelli Jones the race was again a McLaren 1-2 until Hulme's engine let go. Bruce McLaren would go on to win the race with Jim Hall in has Chaparral 2nd followed by George Follmer in 3rd. The championship battle, if it could be called that, now had Hulme with 27 points over McLaren with 21. Hall and Follmer were tied for 3rd at 9 points each.
Dan Gurney, the acknowledged master of Riverside set a time on Friday that was enough to claim pole from which he led the first 3 laps only to suffer another blown engine. This put Parnelli Jones in the lead but having used up his tires he could not prevent McLaren from taking the lead followed by Jim Hall. Having to avoid a spinning back marker allowed the Chaparral into the lead. The McLaren was able to out brake the Chaparral but the Hall again passed in traffic. The Chaparral, it's rear wing flapping furiously like a big angry bird was able to beat the orange Mclaren only to be passed at the very end losing the race by a mere 3 seconds. A lap down was Mark Donohue's Lola T70 in 3rd. With the win McLaren was able to assume the championship lead over Hulme who's race ended when he clouted a boundary tire that had been knocked askew by Jones earlier in the race.
The final race at the Stardust International Raceway, Vegas had McLaren on pole with Hall along side of him. Gurney and Jones on row 2 with Hulme, who had suffered engine trouble during qualifying, and Peter Revson on row 3. Jones jumped the rolling start and burst into the lead. However before he could be penalized a gearshift linkage had failed. Hulme had to pit due to a flat tire possibly from running over some debris. Around the same time McLaren's engine failed. Coming back into the race Hulme lapped the field and moved all the way to 4th when his engine blew up. The race was eventually won by John Surtees who passed Donohue within sight of the finish when Donohue ran out of gas causing him to drop back to 2nd with Mike Spence 3rd. Both Hall and Gurney had dropped out earlier, Hall while leading. Bruce McLaren would win the Can-Am Championship with Denny Hulme 2nd and John Surtees 3rd.