With the leading car out of the race the Ferrari 330 P4 of Mike Parkes and Ludovico Scarfiotti took the lead with the Amon/Bandini P4 in second, Gurney and Foyt in third in their Mk. II and the Mairesse/Beurlys Ferrari 412P in fourth.
Somewhere in that top five mix was the Ford GT40 Mk. II of Andretti and Ginther but they were in the pits for a transmission repair along with the Donohue/Revson Ford GT40 Mk. II that needed a new shock absorber. Long faces and dashed hopes seemed to have settled into the Shelby American and Holman Moody pits.
As more and more of the GT40 Mk. IIs made unscheduled pit stops a gaggle of reporters, photographers, race officials and lookie-loos began to crowd the Ford pits corralling anyone they could find to ask them what was going on with the Mk. II’s.
Finally several signs were posted by the pits to “Keep Out” and in those pits mechanics, drivers and crew were told to keep their mouths shut. If you asked them anything the response was always the same, “I dunno nuttin.”
In the garage area the bays now housing the growing number of broken Ford cars had their garage doors unceremoniously closed to prying eyes.
After six hours of racing the picture was becoming clearer and in that picture you could see Ferrari in the first four positions with no one to challenge them save the Foyt/Gurney Mk. II
in 5th place. Unfortunately they were also in and out of the pits for such mundane things as a bad battery and clutch trouble.
Back on the track there was a bit of excitement when the Porsche 906 LH of Walter Habegger collided with the Ferrari 275 GTB/C of Carlos Salas Guterrez. The Porsche hit the retaining wall near turn one, then flipped and burst into flames that shot thirty feet into the night sky.
Habegger miraculously escaped but had to be hospitalized with shock and deep facial cuts. Guterrez was not injured and both cars had to be withdrawn from the race with the Porsche getting the worst of it by being totally gutted by the fire.
Almost forgotten in the drama of the 6th hour was the lone remaining Chaparral 2D of Bob Johnson and Bruce Jennings. Ford’s bad luck with their Mk. II’s meant that the 2D was moving steadily up the field from 14th to 7th. It later had to retire when their secret 3-speed automatic transmission crapped out after completing 334 laps.
With both Chaparrals now out of the picture and the Ford’s plagued by transmission problems (Ford mechanics would use up all 12 spares) there was little for Ferrari to worry about in the over 2-liter category. At the 9 p.m. mark the Parkes – Scarfiotti Ferrari was averaging 109.410 m.p.h. and Ferraris were running 1-2-3-4.
In the 2-liter and under category the works team of Hans Herrmann/Jo Siffert continued to lead in their Porsche 910. They held a comfortable lead over the two older Porsche 906’s that followed.
In group 4 (Sports +2.0) category the John Wyer GT40 of Jacky Ickx and Dick Thompson was leading and would remain there for the rest of the race with the William Wonder – Ray Caldwell GT40 far behind.
From 10 p.m. on the Ferraris continued their smooth and relentless pace with few to challenge them. The only car that had a chance was the Gurney/Foyt Mk. II but they were 30 laps behind the leader and at 1 a.m. they had to pit for a new transmission.
Learning from their problems with the faulty T-44 transmissions the Ford mechanics installed an older model GT40 transmission in the Gurney/Foyt Mk. II. A second one was installed in the McLaren/Bianchi Mk. II when it also came in for a transmission repair. Unfortunately those two older transmissions were the only ones available to the Ford team. After the quick transmission swap the Gurney/Foyt Mk. II reentered the fray and began to reel in the Ferraris and after 18 hours of racing actually made it back up to 5th position when the engine gave out after completing 464 laps.
At this point there was only one Ford GT40 Mk. II left and it was the McLaren/Bianchi car but they were many miles behind and still having to make frequent pit stops due to overheating. After Dan Gurney’s car retired he was allowed to drive the McLaren/Bianchi car but after several very hot laps the car had to slow down due to the overheating problem. So ended Ford’s last remaining chance to salvage something from this event.
Average lap times began to fall for the leaders as the word went out to the Ferrari drivers to slow down and conserve their cars. Around 8 a.m. on Sunday the race average had dropped to 106.7 m.p.h. which was far off the record 118.5 m.p.h. set by Phil Hill in the Chaparral 2F during the early hours of the race.