Finally Scheckter got another car, a spanking new Lola T-330 in canary yellow from Bob Lazier. The car had never qualified with distinction in any race, which was more a reflection on Lazier's background (he runs a swank ski lodge in Vail, Colo. and races for the "ambiance") than on the machine's potential. The team's backup engine was plugged into the Lazier chassis overnight, and the "rent-a-racer" was ready to run.
"I didn't sleep too well," Scheckter admitted next morning. "My neck was stiff—pulled a muscle in the shunt, I guess—and I didn't really know if I could sort the new car. That's the problem when you're young in this sport. A good car can make a mediocre driver into something sensational. Maybe the Trojan was just that good car; maybe I was nothing more than a chauffeur. And my neck was hurting something fierce. I wished I had someone there to massage it, a girl, maybe, my fianc�e Pam, maybe, Like that."
But Jody resolved both his doubts and his sore neck pretty quickly. Within 10 laps in the borrowed car he had broken his own lap mark for a Formula 5,000 machine, and three laps later he ran an astounding 1:41.227—the equivalent of 120.095 miles an hour, which was quicker than Jackie Stewart ever took a Formula 1 car around the course during a Grand Prix. Indeed, only Peter Revson—clocked in 1:39 in a McLaren Can-Am car with fully 850 hp to Scheckter's 500—had ever run the course faster.
What was most interesting about Scheckter's runs in the Lola was the smoothness of his style. Gone were the sideways glitches, the wrenching corrections on the wheel that had previously made everyone's heart leap. Instead, he took the corners coolly and directly, with a polish that had been lacking in his earlier appearances on the circuit. When he went on to win the Watkins Glen race itself the next day, it was in the same smooth manner. Nobody was remotely close, not even Redman, who finished second and seemed undismayed by the fact.
"I don't know," Scheckter said of himself. "Up to early this year I was just a kind of flat-out runner. That was meaningful then. It got me noticed, it got me rides. Now maybe it's time to learn other things. How to sort things out and learn what a car is all about. I think I did it with the Lazier Lola. That shunt in the Trojan may have been the best thing that ever happened to me." He ran his hand through his kinky brown hair—his "South Afro," as it is known, which he maintains is good only for scrubbing pots and pans. His sleepy, gun-fighter eyes were dead cool. "I hope so," he added.
He sounded anything but brash and arrogant. And nobody laughed. Because at the end of five L & M races, Jody David Scheckter, age 23, had won four, along with 95 points and $87,350. Not bad for a rookie.