One that got away -- Derek Daly

1992 Sebring 12 Hours

His plan had been to retire at the end of 1991. But the chance of making history scotched that.

“Nobody had won Sebring three times in a row. I wasn’t driven by it — had the team said no I would have happily walked away — but they wanted to do it.” And so Derek Daly’s career had two more races left: Daytona and Sebring in ’92.

The former ended with a shunt for co-driver Gary Brabham. It was the latter, however, that counted — and things were looking good.

As dusk descended the Nissan NPT-91A Daly was sharing with Geoff Brabham was out front, its closest rival, the Eagle-Toyota Mk III of Juan Fangio II/Andy Wallace, having lost almost a lap via an off-road excursion. But then the lights went out. Literally.

Arie Luyendyk, who had transferred from the team’s other car after its lap 228 engine failure, jumped in for a stint, flicked the switch — and all was darkness. The team worked feverishly but the electrical gremlin proved elusive and five laps were lost. Brabham in particular drove like a demon, but when Daly climbed in for the last stint he knew the game was pretty much up. The Eagle had flown.

There was, however, a twist in the tail — and arm. “At the first corner of the very last lap the right-rear wheel came off,” says Daly. “That corner is a very fast left-hander, definitely a place where you don’t want to go off. But fortunately the wheel stayed within its arch until just after it, which meant that I had just enough braking and grip to scratch round. After that I crawled round the lap and drove straight into parc fermé.” And so his career ended on three wheels — and with one good arm…

Before the headlight drama the team had reported gearbox bothers. For a reason best known to themselves both Daly and Geoff Brabham had decided to challenge the team’s gargantuan refueller to a pre-race arm wrestle. The result? Both drivers tore a muscle in their right forearms. “It was okay to grip, push and pull, but going across the gate was very tricky because we had difficulty rotating our arms,” admits Daly. “It was great to finish my career in such a good car and with such a good team, but my desire to race had begun to wane as early as my first Sebring win, to be honest.” — PF