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Mark Donohue Reunion 2010 Road America

By Ken McClellan

[Elkhart Lake, WI] If you were fortunate enough to attend the Kohler International Challenge with Brian Redman this year at Road America, you were in for an additional treat as well. Paul Powell, Rick Dresang, Michael Argetsinger and George Bruggenthies organized the Mark Donohue Reunion 2010 hosted at Road America, and I had the great pleasure of speaking with Paul Powell about Mark, and the cars he drove.

In attendence at the Reunion were Barry Tenin, John "Woody" Woodward, Karl Kainhofer, Jerry Kroninger, Peter Law, Ron Fournier, and Chuck Cantwell. All were on hand to sign autographs, tell stories, and share in the history of Mark Donohue.

Mark Donohue was not a shooting star, not a rising star, but a star by which all other stars would come to be measured. Mark had a way of making any car he drove a winner. He had a feel for the road like no other, and he had a following that lives on today. Mark was pulled from this world all to soon back in 1975, but if you attended the Kohler International Challenge this year, you could feel his presence. Mark still lives, and is still the star by which all others are measured.

Paul Powell of UnfairAdvantageRacing.com gave me some highlights of a few of the cars on display at Road America. Paul is a wealth of knowledge on the subject of Mark Donohue, and I highly recommend you visit his website for more information on the life and career of Mark.

McLaren M6B

"This car [McLaren M6B] came out of the museum at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," Paul tells me. "It won the Indy 500 in 1972 with an average speed of 163mph. This is a record not broken until 1979 by Rick Mears in another Penske car."

Paul goes on to explain how Mark had had a bad month with this car, going through 5 turbo chargers in the month of May. "At the start of the race they put a smaller on in to save the engine, and Mark didn't think he had a chance of winning, but his teammate Gary Bettenhausen lead [I think] 114 laps, and Mark went on to win."

As Paul and I toured the Mark Donohue cars, with the roar of racecars on the track and the smell of high octane exhaust, I could imagine these cars being readied on race day, with Mark there pointing out what needed to be tweaked or adjusted before he hit the track. The magic was certainly in the air at the Mark Donohue Reunion tent.

Penske PC1

The Penske PC1 Formula 1 car was the car that brought Mark Donohue out of retirement. Designed from the ground up by Penske and crew to race in the Formula 1 Series, the PC1 was based on the Ford Cosworth V-8 motor. Originally, a promising up-and-coming German driver named Jochen Mass was slated to drive the car, but it was Mark that would ultimately take the wheel.

"This is the only F1 car that Penske still owns," Paul explains. "It ran three Grand Prix's."

Much like the Can Am series of the Day, the Trans Am series was a way to flex our automotive muscle and push the proverbial envelope of automobile and man. Mark Donohue proved that he was, as with any series he raced in, up to the challenge of the Trans Am Series.

1971 Championship Javelin

Mark drove a 1970 Javelin to the 1971 Trans Am Series Championship. Mark dominated the Trans Am Series, and for the 1971 season, he did it with a car that by rights, should not have been competitive.

"It [the 1970 Javelin] was the only Trans Am car in the series that wasn't built as a Trans Am car from the ground up," Paul tells us. "They didn't get anything from the factory, they just built it. Engine was about 50 hp short of the Mustangs."

Between 1967 and 1970, Mark chalked up 20 victories. The 1971 season was the third Trans Am championship season for Donohue.

Porsche 911 RS IROC Car

The IROC series (International Race of Champions) is a series that pits race car drivers against each other in identical race cars, becoming a true test of drivers skill, not a test of engineering, money, or resources. The series began in 1973, with Mark Donohue crowned as it's first champion in 1974.

Through the years the IROC has used different cars, but for the 1973-74 season the car of choice was the Porsche 911 RS. Featuring a 3.5L six cylinder engine, the drivers got their cars by the luck of the draw.

Again Paul Powell gives us just a bit more insight into this car. "This was the last car that Mark [Donohue] ever won a race in. Mark won the 1974 IROC race at Daytona. He retired thereafter to become a manager at Penske Racing."

The Penske Camaros

Two of Mark's three Trans Am championships came at the wheel of the Penske Camaros. The four Camaros on display at the Mark Donohue Reunion have never been together before in one place. Paul Powell walked me through each of them.

Car 1 - "Mark won the '69 Championship in this car," says Paul. "He won six races in this car that year. This is the only one left in existance." Paul informs us that there were originaly four for this season. One of the remaining two was involved in the Mexico City earthquake. "The people that were doing the excavating had no idea what they had and they accidentally crushed it."

Car 2 - Paul tells us: "This is the most original '68 Penske Camaro. This car actually has the original seat that Mark sat in when he raced the car. This car won 10 out of 13 races."

Car 3 - This is a car that Mark drove a few times. It was actually a car that Sam Posey drove most of the time, and a guy by the name of Craig Fisher.

Car 4 - "This car here has a long history to it," Paul continues. "It is the second car that Roger Penske built for the series, and the way you can tell it's a '67 is it's got wings on the windows. They drove this car at Sebring. One of the funny stories associated with this car is that they had two cars. One a very illegal car, and this car. They made the 15 car so when they came back from tech they could alter the 15 and make it 16, and that's how they did things back then."

1973 Porsche 917/30

Nicknamed the "Can Am Killer" because of it's dominance in the 1973 Can Am series, the Porsche 917/30 was created to correct some engineering issues with the 917/10. Considered to be the most powerful and most dominant race cars ever created, it was withdrawn from the Can Am series in 1974.

Paul Powell further explains, "Only 4 of the 917/30's were ever built. This particular one is the 4th one built. The 917/30 was the the last Can Am car Mark ever drove. This car [the 4th car] was built for the '74 season if they were to have one, but because of the new for '74 Can Am rules this car became uncompetitive. They were trying to make this car slow down.

The PRDA would like to thank Paul Powell from UnfairAdvantageRacing.com for his guidance and eagerness to fill in some blanks in the Mark Donohue history, and for coordinating an awesome Mark Donohue Reunion for all to enjoy.

Below are some select pictures from the weekend. Enjoy!

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Mark Donohue Reunion 2010 Road America. Mark Donohue Reunion 2010 Road America. Mark Donohue Reunion 2010 Road America. Mark Donohue Reunion 2010 Road America.
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Mark Donohue Reunion 2010 Road America. Mark Donohue Reunion 2010 Road America. Mark Donohue Reunion 2010 Road America. Mark Donohue Reunion 2010 Road America.
Mark Donohue Reunion 2010 Road America. Mark Donohue Reunion 2010 Road America. Mark Donohue Reunion 2010 Road America. Mark Donohue Reunion 2010 Road America.