Stewart arrived early at Watkins Glen, gorgeously decked out in the freaky clothes and shoulder-length hair that have earned him more cachets with young fans around the world than any other driver in the business, and waited a full day before the Vacuum Cleaner could be readied for a test drive. He took six laps, steering the great white box tentatively around the circuit at modest speeds. "It feels glued to the road. There is no sensation of sideward motion whatsoever," he said after the trip. Another half-dozen laps two days before the race and he had the machine within whiskers of the times being clocked by Gurney and Hulme in the indomitable McLaren. The only apparent flaw in the 2J was its eagerness to carpet-sweep right along and whisk the track clean of loose stones and gulp them into its sensitive network of fans, but that problem was solved by the installation of a filter screen.
Charity about other people's cars is hardly a tradition among the racing crowd, and much of the postrace comment was restricted to grudging compliments about the Chaparral's brief flurry of speed—and bad puns about Hall "racing his car in the box it came in." Lola-Chevy Driver Peter Revson, who followed the 2J in fourth place during the early stages of the race, said, "It was hard to see anything exceptional about it except the driver. Stewart did a fantastic job, because that thing was all over the road." Winner Hulme noted condescendingly that he knew little about the 2J because he "was never behind it on the track." Then he shrugged, "It may be all right in time."
But Tyler Alexander, the chief mech-talent on Hulme's McLaren team, summed up most of the opposition's reaction—and latent fear of the Chaparral's potential—when he said, "I hope the car doesn't get going any quicker, so I don't have to go back home and build one like it."
Stewart and Hall left the green hummocks of western New York having learned what they sought to learn: the Chaparral 2J—complete with its arcane gadgetry—is, in fact, the raw material from which automobile racing revolutions are created.
Jackie Stewart will return to the Can-Am wars when breaks in his Grand Prix schedule permit, and the future looks bright. "Don't forget," cautions Hall, "a car of this type has a slight disadvantage on long straightaways. Its strength lies in cornering and braking. Yet Watkins Glen is a very fast circuit, without many corners. When we get to some slower tracks the true advantage of this system will become really apparent."
Take heart, Electrolux fans, the Chaparral lives.