1970 DAYTONA 24 Hour
There were just two of the J.W. Automotive 917s at Daytona, though a third 917, in white and orange instead of the blue and orange of the J.W.-Gulf cars, was entered by Porsche of Austria-the Piech wing of Porsche. Ferrari, by contrast, was strong in numbers: the factory with three 512/ S models (Andretti/ Merzario, Ickx/ Schetty, Vacarella/ Oiunti) a privately entered 512/ S (Manfredini/Piero Moretti), Luigi Chinetti's North American Racing Team 512/S as well as NART's two 312/Ps for David Piper/ Tony Adamowicz and Mike Parkes/Sam Posey-who won the Prototype class-plus a 275 GTB/4 (Bucknum/Cluxton), a 365 GTB/4 (Gregory/Pickett) and an old 275 LM for Greg Young and Luigi Chinetti Jr, the same car that Gregory and Rindt drove to victory at Le Mans in 1965.
The 5 I 2/ S was fast, too: Andretti qualified his car, to be shared with Arturo Merzario in the race, for the pole at 122.9 mph while the Siffert/Redman 917 qualified at 121.5, the Matra 650 of Beltoise/ Pescarolo at 121.4 and the Rodriguez/ Kinnunen 917 at ll5.445. But Andretti said before the race began that he was quite sure that the Porsches were faster, and he was right-perhaps a bit of Wyer strategy decreed that the Porsches qualify at "leisurely" speeds.
The race itself, which began at 3 p.m. Saturday after an announcer's comment that the 24 Hours of Daytona (no longer called the Daytona Continental) is the "Most prestigious race in the Western Hemisphere," was not an exciting thing to watch for the most part. You won't find much dicing in a 24-hour race anywhere, there were no serious accidents, and about the most exciting thing I can recall from Daytona was the sound of the 12-cyl Porsches and Ferraris screaming past the grandstand at over 200 mph and 9000 rpm (think of that - 54,000 explosions per minute), the occasional trouble with what someone called Mobile Chicanes (the myriad small, relatively slow machines like MOBs and, would you believe, a Datsun 510!) and, finally, the real or imagined dice between Andretti in the Ferrari and Siffert in the Porsche in the Closing laps. Imagined, it turned out to be; the track announcer and scoreboard keepers had made an error that seemingly put Andretti's 512/ S in second place after Brian Redman in the 917 brushed the wall coming out of Turn 6 and had to pit for bodywork repair. The crowd, the Porsche pits and I believed it, so, we had, a spectacular scene of Siffert making this late scramble to regain second place and gaining, by my timing, about 3 sec per lap for nine laps until he overtook the Ferrari, As it turned out Siffert didn't need to do it; he was already in second.
Other cars with a chance of finishing well up in the field were several Ford GT-40s, obviously out-of-date but still looking very handsome, a Porsche 908(Laine/Van Lennep) and the two Corvettes entered by Owens Corning Fiberglas. As the results show, one of those Corvettes, driven by Jerry Thompson and John Mahler, did finish sixth to win the over 2-liter GT class and a GT-40 placed eighth.
It had been hoped that Matra would be there with the new 660, but instead they had two of the open 650s, for Jack Brabham/Francois Cevert and J.-P. Beltoise/Henri Pescarolo. They were neither fast enough nor reliable enough, and they crossed the finish line only on a technicality.
There was one other car everybody was watching: Mark Donohue and Peter Revson's AMC Javelin making its debut under Sunoco and Roger Penske aegis. After qualifying at over 107 mph and running nicely for 8 hr 13 min. the Javelin retired with no oil pressure. Penske pointed out that the car had run nearly the equivalent of three Trans-Am races and that that's what the Javelin effort is all about.