An American Club Race
AS CAN be seen from the results appended below this year’s opening round of World Manufacturers Championship turned out to be little more than an American club race. Daytona Organiser Bill France, for some reason, decided to revert back to the original 24-hour format despite the fact that last year’s 6-hour event proved popular. This, coupled with a marked reluctance to offer sufficient starting money, reduced the serious competitors to a total of only four fully-fledged 3-litre Group 5 cars. Ferrari and Alfa Romeo decided to Stay away leaving Matra to field a single car for Cevert/Pescarolo/Beltoise (actually the exGanley/Cevert Le Mans second placed MS670), Gulf Research Racing to field two Mirages for their new pairings of Ganley/Bell, and Watson/Hailwood and there was the latest Lola T282, sponsored by Gitanes cigarettes, for Wisell/Lafosse/de Fierland. The rest of the field was completed by a couple of older Porsche 908s, umpteen Porsche 911s, a quartet of Ferrari GTB4s from NART, a couple of Chevron B19s, various Chevrolet Camaros and Corvettes and a few other motley machines. Amongst the Porsche 911s were two of the latest Carreras loaned by the works to the Roger Penske and Brumos Porsche teams, for Donohue/Follmer and Gregg/Haywood respectively. Both cars were included in Group 5 as their Group 4 homologation does not officially become effective until March 1.
Early testing by the Gulf team, who brought along their two last year’s V8 Cosworth-powered cars, plus a new V12 Weslake-engined example, showed up a weakness in the gearbox due to the forces created on the banking. This was more noticeable in the V12 car and for this reason it was decided to race the V8 cars.
The early stages of the event saw the Hailwood/Watson Mirage tempt the Matra into a race while the second Mirage played a waiting game. But later both the Gulf cars ran into trouble with broken clutch release bearings which lost them almost two hours apiece. The problem re-occurred on the Ganley/Bell car so it was retired while the Hailwood/Watson car was making up time when the rear suspension broke sending Hailwood into a massive spin at 180 m.p.h. and the car was retired. This was just after half distance and by this time the Matra was also out when a connecting rod ventilated the block. It had a massive lead at the time over the two Porsche Carreras which seemed equally matched, with the Penske car gaining at pit stops but losing on the road as it was running on some Goodyear radial tyres rather than full-racers as was the Brumos example. The Lola had retired with electrical failure.
Just before daylight on Sunday morning the Penske challenge suddenly faded when a piston collapsed and the car was out of the running after leading for live hours. Thus the Gregg/Haywood Carrera was in a good lead and the Porsche engineers kept their fingers crossed that it would last the remaining eight hours, which in fact it did. Second, some 22 laps behind, was the NART GTB Ferrari of Can-Am driver Milt Minter and his French co-driver Francois Migault, while a rumbling 7-litre Corvette was third. The championship starts in earnest at Vallelunga on March 25th.
DAYTONA TWENTY-FOUR HOURS—Groups 2, 3, 4 and 5—Daytona-670 laps-4,107 km—Dry—February 3rd
1st: P. Gregg/H. Haywood (Porsche Carrera—2.9-litre flat-6) . . . . . Group 5. Entrant Brumos Porsche Audi Corp, USA . . . 670 laps—171 k.p.h.
2nd: M. Minter/F. Migault (Ferrari GTB4—4.4-litre V12) . . . . Group 4. North American Racing Team, USA . . . 648 laps
3rd: D. Heinz/R. McClure (Chevrolet Corvette—7.0-litre V8) . . . . . Group 4. Race Enterprises and Development, USA . . . 644 laps
4th: G. Stone/M. Jennings/M. Downs (Porsche 911S—2.5-litre flat-6) . . . . . Group 4. Silverstone Racing, USA . . . 638 laps
5th: L. Chinetti/R. Grossman/W. Shaw (Ferrari GTB4—4.4-litre V12) . . . . . Group 4. North American Racing Team, USA . . . 632 laps
6th: J. Fitzpatrick/R. Kremer/P. Keller (Porsche 911S—2.5-litre flat-6) . . . . . Group 5. Porsche Kremer Racing Team, Germany . . . 630 laps
7th: R. Kessler/R. Panch/W. Pickett (Chevrolet Camaro—5.0-litre V8) . . . . . Group 2. Ray Kessler Inc., USA . . . 592 laps
8th: T. Adamovicz/M. Keyser/R. Beasley (Porsche 911S—2.5-litre flat-6) . . . . . Group 4. Toad Hail Motorracing, USA . . . 587 laps
9th: J. Greger/K. Hild/D. Schmid (Porsche 911S—2.5-litre flat-6) . . . . . Group 4. Vereinigte Süddeutsche Automobilsportler, Germany . . . 574 laps
10th: R. Bergstrom/J. Cook (Porsche 911S—2.5-litre flat-6) . . . . . Group 4. Bob Bergstrom, USA . . . 571 laps
Fastest lap not recorded—52 starters, 19 finishers