For sports car fans who had learned to
enjoy the freewheeling ’60s, the next
decade opened on a down note. As of 1970,
the once-wide-open Can-Am began
imposing limitations. Banned outright on
safety grounds were “moving aerodynamic
devices” as pioneered by Chaparral.
Innovator Jim Hall said it was no fun
anymore and soon abandoned the series.
Darker still was the loss of Bruce McLaren
that year. When this sunny-spirited New
Zealander who had built Can-Am’s dominant
team was killed in a pre-season testing
accident, a shadow fell across something
once considered — if naively — relatively
happy and safe.
Safety weighed heavily on the mind of
Jackie Stewart, who seemed to spend half
his 1971 Can-Am season in arguments
about trackside trees and telephone poles.
The world champion was right, but stridently
calling attention to hazards most others
ignored did not lighten the mood. More
rules were coming into other kinds of racing,
too. Free-spending Ford put away its wallet.
Congress was up in arms about smog as
Throughout many other areas besides
racing, the ’60s ship of wild-and-free
exploration was running onto bitter rocks