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Friday favourite: The forgotten Ford a Le Mans winner prefers to Porsche's 917

The Ford P68 never finished a race in its period history, yet holds a special place in the heart of 1970 Le Mans 24 Hours winner Richard Attwood. He explains why the F3L, as it was better known, was in his view better than a Porsche 917 or a Lotus 49 in Autosport's continued series

Frank Gardner, Richard Attwood, Alan Mann Racing Ltd, Ford F3L P68

“I loved the cars that gave you an advantage. Unfortunately, whenever I had one of those something seemed to go wrong and we didn’t win anyway!”

Notwithstanding his 1970 Le Mans 24 Hours victory in a Porsche 917, Richard Attwood didn’t always have the best luck during a career that spanned Formula 1 and sportscar racing in the 1960s and early 1970s.

PLUS: The 'slow' Porsche that started a Le Mans legend

Perhaps the best example to support his quote is the story of the car that Attwood picks out first when asked to select a favourite: the Ford F3L.

World sportscar championship regulations were changed for 1968, instigating a three-litre limit for sports-prototypes. The Ford P68, or F3L as it was better known, was a svelte car designed by Len Bailey and built and run by Alan Mann Racing.

The Cosworth DFV-powered F3L proved fast, qualifying second on its debut at the Brands Hatch BOAC 500, but suffered from aerodynamic instability and it never finished a race in period.

“It had speed but reliability was poor,” confirms Attwood, who doesn’t believe the famous DFV vibrations were the cause of the issues as they were in other sportscars. “I raced it twice, at the Nurburgring [with Frank Gardner] where it was completely unsuited but we still qualified fifth, and the Oulton Park TT.”

The non-championship Tourist Trophy attracted 35,000 spectators and a strong field, including Denny Hulme in Sid Taylor’s successful Lola T70, the similar car of Jo Bonnier, David Piper’s Ferrari P3/4 and Australian ace Paul Hawkins in his Ford GT40. Attwood outpaced them all in practice, taking pole by 0.4 seconds from Bonnier and more than a second quicker than everyone else. Over the first 10 laps of the race, Attwood pulled clear of the pack before being halted by differential problems.

Attwood presses on with the F3L at Oulton Park in 1968 before broken differential put him out

Attwood presses on with the F3L at Oulton Park in 1968 before broken differential put him out

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“Denny was reigning world champion so that shows how good the car was,” says Attwood, who went on to finish second behind Hulme sharing Piper’s Ferrari. “But then it started steering all over the place.”

Before the problems were solved, the car morphed into the ugly, bewinged and unsuccessful P69 of 1969, which only appeared briefly before the project was canned. Nevertheless, Attwood is adamant the programme should have continued.

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“I loved it, there was nothing wrong with it,” asserts the 82-year-old. “They should have persevered with it but Ford didn’t want it. When you get a car with an advantage the job becomes a different game.”

Aside from the F3L, Attwood also points to some of Piper’s cars – “we couldn’t buy a Ferrari 512 so he bought a Porsche 917” – and the Lola T55 he raced in Formula 2 in the second half of 1964 as the finest cars he raced. Quite impressive given Attwood drove a Lotus 49B to fourth at the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix…

PLUS: Lotus F1 milestones – The 49

Attwood drove many fine cars including period F1 machinery, taking second for BRM in the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix

Attwood drove many fine cars including period F1 machinery, taking second for BRM in the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

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