Seppi made a good start in the race until a slow pit-stop dropped us to third. Now it was my turn. I caught Kurt Ahrens for second place and closed on the leader, Leo Kinnunen in the team’s sister car, and sat immediately behind him as we approached the 10.5 Kilometre Jump in top gear. Anyone can attack a jump and make a racing car fly; landing safely is what tests a driver’s skills. When the front wheels first touch the track’s surface, they must do so together and be pointed perfectly straight or the car will lurch sideways uncontrollably. Leo, who may have been distracted by me in his mirrors or by the loss of his friend Hans Laine, took flight at a slight angle and I was an eyewitness to the developing crash. Like a shot, Kinnunen’s car went off to our left and up onto the trackside bank, which launched it airborne back across the circuit. I cringed as the Porsche and Leo sailed directly over my head, missing my helmet by inches. Miraculously and thankfully, neither Leo nor I were hurt. He was out of the race. I carried on.
At half distance I was in the lead, ahead of Ahrens, when I noticed the oil pressure start to fluctuate. I headed for the pits and handed the car over to Jo while the mechanics topped up the oil. Then there was a second bad omen: the engine took a long time to fire. Seppi returned to the track but only briefly before the engine seized. Our race was over and a seemingly certain win had evaporated.
Victory went to Kurt Ahrens and Vic Elford in one of the Porsche Salzburg 908/03s, which, miraculously, showed no sign of lubrication problems. Many years later, I learned the truth from Klaus Bischof, a Porsche Salzburg mechanic in 1971 and later the manager of the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart. Klaus revealed that Ferdinand Piëch had fitted the two Salzburg 908/03s with oversize oil tanks as a precaution against just such a problem. I still find it remarkable that Piëch chose to hide this insider advantage from John Wyer and his own ‘factory’ team. Blood, it seems, is thicker than oil.