DEL MAR — Before Saturday's Camel GTO race, all Chris Cord and Willy T. Ribbs were concerned about was finishing ahead of the Chevrolets and thereby give car owner Dan Gurney and Toyota their first manufacturers' championship.
After 16 races, the championship came down to whichever make--Chevrolet or Toyota--wound up ahead of the other in a one-hour race around the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
The possibility looked bleak on the first lap when Cord and Ribbs brushed wheels, breaking the valve stem on Ribb's car and forcing him to pit for a new wheel.
Scott Pruett, in a Mustang, jumped into the lead, closely followed by Jack Baldwin, the No. 1 Chevrolet driver. Cord was third, and Ribbs was back in 24th position, 48 seconds behind the leader.
Gradually, the Toyota scenario began to unfold.
Cord caught Baldwin trapped behind a much slower car between the second and third turns and swept around him to take second. Pruett, in the black Roush-prepared Ford, was cruising along well in front.
"At that point, I would not have sacrificed finishing ahead of the Chevies to pass Pruett," Cord said later. "Naturally, we would have liked to win, but our objective was to bring Dan (Gurney) the championship."
Which is what he did, while winning the race, too.
On lap 37 of the 49-lap race--about 15 minutes from the end--Pruett brushed the wall and lost a wheel.
"We had 'em, no doubt about it," Pruett said. "But the race is an hour long and we didn't make it. I heard a loud bang and the next thing I knew I had kissed the wall. Either the right front tire blew or the suspension broke."
This moved Cord into the lead and despite pressure from Bob Earl, in a Pontiac Fiero, he never relinquished it.
"I couldn't believe my eyes when I came around a corner on the back straight and saw the tire come off Pruett's car," Cord said. "I believe I would have had a crack at catching him, but after that I didn't have to."
In the meantime, back around the course, Ribbs was picking up cars quicker than you could keep track of them.
He caught Wally Dallenbach Jr., in the lead Chevrolet, on lap 42 to move into third, where he finished. Ribbs was voted winner of the Norelco Drivers' Cup for the day's outstanding performance.
The win was Cord's fourth in winning the individual GTO championship and helped Toyota beat Chevrolet, 256-248, for manufacturers' bragging rights.