Now it's Grand Prix road racing that's in turmoil. An imperious Frenchman, Jean-Marie Balestre, seems to be at the center of it. He heads the International Federation of Auto Sport (FISA), which has been at odds with the Formula One Constructors Association (FOCA) for almost two years.
The car owners, who control the drivers, want to dictate most of the conditions for the World's Driver Championship or Grand Prix races. Balestre feels his group, primarily a scheduling body, should call the shots.
In recent months, Balestre has banned sponsorship of Grand Prix races by car builders (both American races are underwritten by Toyota); canceled next year's South African Grand Prix because he wasn't allowed on the winner's stand this year and required drivers to attend a prerace meeting or be suspended and fined.
When a dozen suspended drivers drove in last week's Spanish Grand Prix, Balestre declared it a non-championship event. And, if those drivers or their teams don't pay up, he has threatened to cancel the French Grand Prix June 29.
Balestre's critics say these actions were taken illegally. He says they weren't, and if FISA's parent group, the International Auto Federation (FIA) doesn't back him up, he'll quit.
On top of all this, Goodyear, which supplies all except two Grand Prix teams with tires, has announced it will withdraw this support at the end of the season. Michelin supplies the other two teams and will stay in.
Unless his rivals find out the secret of Johnny Rutherford's excellent gas mileage in his Pennzoil Special, he'll start the True Value 500-miler at Pocono, Pa., on June 22 with a 12-second lead. Rutherford got 2.2 miles per gallon in winning Indianapolis, while everyone else had 1.8 miles. That worked out to six pit stops for Rutherford, one less than the others needed to refill their 40-gallon tanks. A fuel stop takes about 12 seconds.
James Draucker of Fairfax, driver for the Falls Church Yellow Cab Co., started last in a 20-car field but finished 10th in the Great American Taxi-cab Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Racing over a three-fifths mile course, the cabbies had to stop for two lights, avoid parked cars and take a detour each lap. The 48-year old Draucker has been hacking six years He was selected via an election among drivers, then had his name picked from a hat to become the racer.
With its Mello Yello championship race rained out twice, Old Dominion Speedway will go with the Coke 200-lapper (75 miles) for sportsman sedans at the Manassas oval June 14. The annual Winston Cup drag races are June 21 and 22 at the Maryland International Raceway, Budds Creek.
For car show buffs, there's the Street Rod Nationals at the Timonium (Md.) Fairgrounds today with more than a thousand pre-1949 street-driven rods on display. On June 14, Sport Chevrolet hosts the annual Antique Chevrolet Show at the Montgomery Auto Sales Park, U.S. 29 north of Silver Spring. Classic cars and racing machines will be shown and there'll be a flea market.
"It's a crazy race. It really is," says Warren Matzen of Beltsville, after he, Tom Heyser and Dick Sears, both of Laurel, raced in the recent Mint 400-mile offroad event in Las Vegas. "You can hardly see because of the dust. You have to be experienced in driving in it." A local driver won in 7 1/2 hours.
Matzen flipped their dune buggy and hurt his back but his codriver continued until stopped by carburetor problems. Heyser and Sears took over but they, too quit with the same ailment.
A field of 499 machines started but only 137 finished the $142,000 race. They coiuldn't see much but 50,000 spectators were on hand.
What luck of the Irish? Driver Derek Daly's parents traveled from Erin to Monte Carlo to see their son race in Grand Prix. What they saw was Derek smash up a sedan in a preliminary race, then crash his Grand Prix car at the first corner of the feature. The luck was that Daly was unhurt.
In the Grand Prix road racing point standings, after five races, Nelson Piquet is first with 22 followed by Rene Arnoux, 21, and Alan Jones, 19.