THE THINKING MAN’S HERO
– and neither had Roger, at least in
open-wheel. He’d been successful in sports
cars and road racing, but it takes a while to
figure out how to get around at Indianapolis.”
Still, considering how well Donohue
and Penske had run in their first two
attempts at IMS, it was hard to imagine
why McLaren would sell a couple cars to
“R.P.” when it was fielding its own two-car
effort for Peter Revson and Denis Hulme.
“Bruce [McLaren] was a good friend and
we had a long history together – I sold him
my Xerex Special sports car,” says Penske
of the well-respected F1 and sports car
winner who died in a 1970 Can-Am testing
accident. “I wanted to go to Indy with
Revson and Mark, but Teddy was going to
run Revson, so he sold me a couple cars.”
Penske didn’t unveil his newly-acquired
McLaren M16 until May, having Donohue
run a Lola-Offy and a Lola-Ford at
Phoenix and Trenton, respectively.
“We tested the M16 at Phoenix,” recalls
Penske. “We took off the wings to see what
it was like, then we put them back on and
it was a rocket ship. Mark couldn’t believe
how well it went around the corners, and
we couldn’t wait to get to Indianapolis.”
First glimpse of the Gordon Coppuck-
penned, Offy-powered M16, with its sleek
(LEFT) The parade lap of the 1972 Indy 500.
Mark Donohue is on the outside of the front
row, alongside Peter Revson’s McLaren
(center) and pole-sitter Bobby Unser’s Eagle.
(ABOVE) Penske perfect. Another finely-tuned
pit stop for Donohue’s McLaren-Offy M16B.
DONOHUE AT THE INDY 500
In five Indy appearances, Mark Donohue never
qualified outside of the first two rows. Come race
day, his fortunes were tied to car reliability.
“He got all that attention
for being an engineer when
the fact is, he was a damn
good racecar driver”