1969 Daytona 24 Hours
- Saturday, February 1, 1969
- Daytona 24 Hours
- International Championship of Makes
Any race that starts a series is liable to be restricted in the variety of entry, as many competitors are not ready for the start of the season. This year's race was no exception and for the second year, the first race in the Manufacturers' Championship was little better than a good Club event. The only 3-litre prototypes really ready were the Porsche team which was fielding five works 908 cars under its new team manager, "Rico" Steinmann. The 908s were very similar to the Le Mans cars with a little more power and a new five-speed gearbox. The "Porsche machine" looked capable of grinding any opposition into the ground. The ten drivers were Siffert/Herrmann, Attwood/Buzzetta, Elford/Redman, Mitter/Schutz and Stommelen/Ahrens.
The only potential opposition to this formidable German challenge were the two J.W. Engineering Ford GT4Os and four Lola T70s. John Wyer's new 3-litre Mirage was still only in the early stages of testing, and so his hopes were on the two GT4Os, which were almost the same as he raced here last year. The drivers for 1969 are Ickx/Oliver and Hobbs/Hailwood. The Lolas were separate entries, one from Roger Penske's Sunoco stable for Donohue/Bucknum, two from James Garner's American International Racing Team for Motschenbacher/Leslie and Patrick/Jordan, and one car from Sports Cars Unlimited, Switzerland for Bonnier/Norinder. The Penske car had been completely stripped and re-built to his higher standards, many parts being replaced and others strengthened. This car was also fitted with the latest dry-sump Chevrolet engine and was using Lucas fuel injection into the Hilborn inlet manifold. In the qualifying practice sessions, Bucknum's finger, which he had broken in a motorcycle accident, began to give trouble, and it was decided at the last moment to replace him. This was done by flying in Chuck Parsons, a veteran Californian driver who took over on the morning of qualifications. The two Lolas in Garner's A.I.R. team were both older cars and one was the car Surtees used at Le Mans with the Aston Martin engine in 1967, which in the meantime had been converted to the road car for use in Los Angeles and has now been converted back for racing. Both cars were fitted with Chevrolet engines and both were on carburetters. The other Lola entry from Switzerland was a new car but, like the A.I.R. cars, was fitted with a carburetted Chevrolet engine. One car which would have put up some opposition to the Porsche threat was the Matra 630, which, although little changed since last September's Le Mans, had a much more powerful V12 engine, now putting out a reliable 415 b.h.p. Unfortunately in a semi-official night practice session before the official qualifying day, Pescarolo lost control on the very fast shallow bank turn before the pits and the grandstand and crashed, spinning for 200 yards on his roof before the car righted itself and collided with a Porsche 911. The damage to the car was severe, but the driver climbed out, looking completely unconcerned and without a scratch.
The rest of the entry for the 24-hour race was very "clubby", with bevies of 911 Porsches, many TransAm, the occasional fast car such as the private Alfa T33, and 910 and a 907 Porsche, and, of course, the "moving chicanes" whose lame discipline and use of mirrors caused the faster cars many a moment.