Still leading after almost 20 hours of racing the Rodriguez/Kinnunen 917K shows the beating it has taken. (Lou Galanos photo)
Still leading after almost 20 hours of racing the Rodriguez/Kinnunen 917K shows the beating it has taken. (Lou Galanos photo)

1970 24 Hours of Daytona – Race Profile

1970 24 Hours of Daytona – Opening Round of the World Sportscar Championship

By Louis Galanos | Photos as credited

Souvenir race program for the 1970 Daytona 24 Hours.
Souvenir race program for the 1970 Daytona 24 Hours.

The ninth running of international sports car endurance racing at the Daytona International Speedway was historic as the new group 5 Porsche 917s and Ferrari 512s met for the first time in a battle for the 1970 FIA World Sportscar Championship (WSC). This fierce competition between Porsche and Ferrari would last just two short years until the FIA closed the loop hole in the rules that allowed for the creation of the 5-liter 917K and 512S “sports cars” and mandated that for the 1972 championship (renamed the World Championship for Makes) season that ALL cars would be limited to no more than three-liters. To many in the racing community this change signaled the end of what some called the “Golden Age” of endurance racing.

However, the first points race for the 1970 WSC championship series held promise and hope for both Porsche and Ferrari. By the end of the previous year Porsche had a ten-month lead over Ferrari in development and testing of their new 917 and the car had its competition debut at the Spa 1000 Km. in May of 1969. Not one single model 512 Ferrari had been completed by then.

Despite the time lead in testing and development the new 917 race car was having teething problems to the point that some factory drivers refused to drive the car. They considered it too unstable at high speeds. The Porsche drivers instead preferred to drive the 908 in competition.

Only after Porsche decided to hire John Wyer of J.W. Automotive (JWA) were the handling and aerodynamic problems resolved. At a testing session at Österreichring in October of 1969 JWA chief engineer John Horseman made modifications to the 917 body that solved the handling problems and produced the aerodynamic 917K (Kurzheck or short tail) body that is most identified with the 917 today.

Porsche 917s lined up in preparation for FIA homologation. Porsche AG photo.
Porsche 917s lined up in preparation for FIA homologation. (Porsche AG photo)
A Porsche 917 in Gulf livery upon announcement in 1969 of the cooperative agreement between Porsche, Gulf Oil Company and J.W. Automotive Engineering of England. Porsche WERKFOTO.
Porsche 917 in Gulf livery upon announcement in 1969 of the cooperative agreement between Porsche, Gulf Oil Company and J.W. Automotive Engineering of England. (Porsche WERKFOTO)

Ferrari at one time dominated (12 titles in 16 years) the WSC series until the late 1960’s when, during the Ford – Ferrari War, Ford was able to win several championships. The Ford Motor Company also won what was the Holy Grail of endurance racing, The 24-Hours of Le Mans (’66,’67,’68,’69). It was during this time (1968) that Enzo Ferrari decided to withdraw his cars from endurance racing competition instead concentrating on Formula One.

By the end of the 1967 WSC season Ford felt it had nothing further to prove and in their mind had won the Ford – Ferrari War. This was also a great excuse for Ford to terminate their very expensive support for teams racing their products in European competition. Another thing encouraging Ford’s withdrawal from the endurance championship was the fact that the governing body for endurance racing (FIA) had again changed the rules effectively making all unlimited capacity Group 6 prototypes (such as the 7-liter Ford GT40 Mk. IV and 4-liter V12 Ferrari prototype) ineligible for competition. From 1968 through 1971 all prototypes would be limited to a 3-liter engine size. However, a group 4 Sports Car category (later renamed Group 5) was created for 5-liter sports cars as long as the cars had a minimum of two seats, a luggage compartment, spare tire and the ability to be licensed for street use.

A photo staged by the Daytona Speedway showing the new Gulf Porsche 917K in Gulf livery and a new Ferrari 512S.
Photo staged by the Daytona Speedway showing the new Gulf Porsche 917K in Gulf livery and a new Ferrari 512S. (Porsche WERKFOTO)

With Ford out of the picture Enzo Ferrari saw this an opportunity to get back into endurance racing by taking advantage of the group 4 Sports Car category and building a 5-liter “Sports Car” that could take the overall win away from the new 3-liter prototypes. The Germans at Porsche were the first to spot this loop hole in the new FIA rules and already had adapted their model 908 Porsche to meet the new regulations and called it the Porsche 917. While Porsche had the resources to build and test these new cars Ferrari was a much smaller auto manufacturer and also had a very active Formula One racing commitment. They needed to find the funds to build the 25 car minimum the FIA required for homologation of the new 5-liter cars.

In June of 1969 Enzo Ferrari sold half his Ferrari stock to Fiat. After the sale was complete he ordered development on a new three-liter race car halted and all effort turned to creating a five-liter racer to compete against the Porsche 917 for the 1970 WSC season. In a remarkably short six months the Ferrari factory had created the necessary 25 Ferrari 512S race cars for FIA homologation with five of them already on the way to America for the 1970 Daytona race. Of the five Ferraris sent to Daytona three would be entered as factory cars while the other two would be in the hands of privateers like Luigi Chinetti of the North American Racing Team (NART) and a team from Milan, Italy called Squadra Picchio-Rosso.

The 512S Ferraris were powered by 5-liter V12 engines while the 917K Porsches had a flat 12 at 4.5-liters. The Ferrari engines were rated at 550 horsepower while the Porsches were at 500 horsepower. On the plus side for Porsche they were carrying 90 pounds less weight than the Ferrari. Factory price for the Ferrari 512S in late 1969 would have set you back $40,000 while the Porsche 917K was a bargain at $35,000. Adjusted for inflation the Ferrari would have cost you the equivalent of $245,714.43 today. Considering what those cars sell for at auction today it could have been a good investment if you were flush with an extra $40,000 back then.

Ferrari 512s lined up at the factory for FIA homologation in late 1969. Ferrari S.p.A. photo.
Ferrari 512s lined up at the factory for FIA homologation in late 1969. (Ferrari S.p.A. photo)
Mario Andretti driving one of three factory Ferrari 512s entered at Daytona in 1970. Lou Galanos photo.
Mario Andretti driving one of three factory Ferrari 512s entered at Daytona in 1970. (Lou Galanos photo)
The private entry Ferrari 512S of Corrado Manfredini and Gianpiero Moretti at Daytona in 1970. Fred Lewis photo.
Private entry Ferrari 512S of Corrado Manfredini and Gianpiero Moretti at Daytona in 1970. (Fred Lewis photo)

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Show Comments (40)

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  1. Wow ! Corner worker Louis Galanos sure took a lot of notes during the race, or has a fantastic memory. Obviously when he wasn’t snapping photo’s (corner n 3 ?) he was wandering the pits taking a bunch of photos and observing a lot of girls wearing mini skirts with goose bumbs on their legs. As for the race, the usual Galanos detailed account of a historic event that I’m sure many of us really appreciate. Mario

  2. Well done again, Lou. I’m honored to have been able to make a contribution to another of your fine accounts of a significant race. This was my last race before spending a few months with Uncle Sam so that makes it even more memorable. If I’m allowed to make a plug here. for those who would like a printed remembrance of this and the other five North American races from this period, be sure to get a copy of Michael Keyser’s soon-to-be-released book about these fantastic cars and the drivers who raced them. The fellow taking a photo of Jacky Ickx in photo of the Ferrari on pit road is Michael himself. At my age I try not to “can’t wait” for the next article from Lou, but it’s difficult not to!

    Fred Lewis

  3. Great coverage Louis, I´m only assuming that you were a flag marshall at this event. And if it was so, how many hours did you do at anyone stint before being relieved, and how many “teams” did it take to cover the 24 hours?. Just of interest, as it is the likes of yourself and others that allow these events to take place… Congratulations on a fine story. Cheers from Sweden…

  4. Excellent coverage, like reading about a race that just happened yesterday! Enjoyed the photos, missed seeing the mini skirts. Guido Levetto

  5. Thanks all for the comments. I just received an email from Brian Redman who clarified a bit of history about the Porsche 917K that Tony Dean and Peter Gregg had entered at Daytona in 1970. According to Redman…”…the Peter Gregg/Tony Dean 917 was David Piper’s car, which I had driven in Argentina and which was on it’s way back to the U.K. – intercepted in Miami by Tony and taken to Daytona, without David’s knowledge!”

  6. Thank you! Thank you so, so much Louis! Thank you for sharing this with all of us! And thank you too to SCD, keep up the good work! You’re awesome!

  7. Very nice job< Louis. Interesting note: the Bill Wonder car is chassis no GT103, the same car that won the Daytona 24 in 1965. Bill went on to campaign the car for many years with great success. Love the very last shot of the infield after the race. That is how I remember Daytona – wide open spaces! I went back a few years ago and couldn't see the banking from the infield!

  8. Once again Lou has hit a home run with an incredibly well documented and imaged account of the heyday of sports car racing in the U.S. First hand accounts of this type are a true gem.

  9. As a drafted crew member on the Art Mollen/Art Reilly Volvo, I don’t remember the car retiring. I’m positive we finished.

    1. According to the official results the #86 Volvo 122S of Arthur Molin and Art Riley did not finish. They retired after only 54 laps due to engine problems. This info comes from two major sources and if you email me at: [email protected] I will send you the links. However, this info is subject to change because sometimes the wrong info gets recorded especially if the car stayed in the pits for a long time and then reentered the race later. Contact me when time permits.

      1. Hi Louis, I’m wrong! After all these years I mixed up 1970 with 1969. I thought I’d crewed in both races but after digging out my old slides of the races, it’s clear I was a spectator in 1970.

        The results in 1969 show us as a DNF, although we did send the car out for the checkered flag. The high banks took their toll on our wheels, we suffered a broken wheel center during the night and then multiple cracked wheels until we had no spares.The car was parked for about 2 hours until the last lap.

        Thanks for the superb article, it really brought the race to life for me. I remember the excitement during Sifferts’ electrifying drive back to second only to laugh later when I found out he was in second all the time.

        Looking forward to your next story!

  10. My brother, Jim Patterson, was involved in racing after graduating from college. He started out as Director of Club Racing at SCCA. When he died at the age of 47, he was with BMW Racing. Anyway, in the photo on page 6, there he was in the shadow directly across from Javelin. What a surprise for me. Thanks.

  11. I’ve been working this race as a corner marshall for a few years now. Each corner crew is devided into 3 teams of at least 4 (comm, yellow flag, other flags, runner) people. We do 4 hours on station, rotating positions every hour and have 8 hours off in between. The 3am to 7am shift can be brutal, especially when the cold fog rolls in but it’s magicial too.

    mike h

    1. Thanks Mike, I have worked as a flag marshall / time keeper / observer, when I haven´t been racing myself. I personally have worked on the basis, that one should give something back to ones chosen sport. I always took the time on the “slow down lap, to show my appreciation to the “flaggies” and showed them my gratitude by applauding their efforts. Without their involvement there just wouldn´t be any racing… Thanks once again Mike for your explaination, much appreciated. Cheers from Sweden…

  12. A great article and wonderful photos Lou. Always a pleasure to visit this site and take the trips down memory lane.
    Cheers, John

  13. I agree you Grahm about give back, I’m a current SCCA racer myself. I’m selfish though, I tend to use my flag time to study the corner and the cars to see where I can pick up a few 10ths.

    mike h

  14. Louis, The photos are awesome.Would you have any other shots of the pace car ? I have the 1970 Ford Torino Pace car from Martinsvile Speedway.They used the Torino for the 1970 nascar season. I am forever trying to find photos covering any pace car pic that year.They used the convertible and fastback models.any help would be greatly appreciated. mike Parrotta [email protected]

  15. Loved the story – so many interesting tid-bits to fill in the “official story”, like for me at least, the story of Tony A to Z having to run the 312P for 5.5 hours without coolant, or the Matra rotor problem – wow! Also love seeing the backgrounds in the photos – so few grandstands and buildings, and so few RVs!! Thanks for writing the story!

  16. I was driving a Z 28 in this 24 hour along with Larry Bock. Don’t recall when, but we DNF’d I think after around 22 hours and running 2nd in class. The Matra’s were running some sort of ELF exotic fuel that burdened hell out of your eyes each time one went past. Our Camaro would top out at about 175 while the Matras were over 200, so you got an eyeball full frequently in a 24 hour race.

  17. Jim Beebe says
    November 19, 2014 @ 8:58PM

    Lou, always interesting to see the photo’s and read the stories of the racing in the 60’s & 70’s. What a good time we all had then, thanks for the memories. Jim

  18. What a fantastic read and wonderful photos, thank you Louis for pulling this together and making it available for us to enjoy. I remember those days well. Thanks again, you are a star!

  19. What he says about the v12’s is true. That was the only race I saw. I was in the road race section of the track where Mark Donahugh ran out of gas. I will forever have the sound of the 12 cylinder engines going past me. 45 years later I can still hear them scream past me. Great story brings back many memories.

  20. What a great time in sports car racing! Your article brings back so many memories of Daytona… I never understood why all the seats weren’t filled the way they were for NASCAR events. Thanks for a trip in way-back machine, Lou!

  21. In 1970, I was in the infield throughout the race, (in the extra day allotted to pit crews of the preceding Formula Vee race) and it was great being reminded of so many events that happened throughout. I still remember the announcer asking the crowd on behalf of Jack Brabham’s Matra for anyone with a BMW to sell their distributor cap to the team as they had used up all of their spares. I remember calculating that Jo Siffert’s, John Wyre Porsche 917, which had hit a wall overnight and lost a great deal of time in repairs, was gaining on second place Mario Andretti’s 512, with it’s damaged suspension, at a rate of 2 seconds per lap, and would catch up near the end… and he did! I have also noticed that things I remember CLEARLY weren’t as I remember them. For instance when I viewed the red NART Ferrari 512’s lined up before the race, Gurney’s roof bubble was unpainted aluminum at the far end of the lineup, but the pictures I’ve seen show it painted red. I guess Alzheimer’s is kicking in. Thanks for the memories.

  22. Hi Louis,
    My Dad, William ‘Bill’ Shaw entered, raced and finished in the 1976 24-Hours at Daytona. His company and team was named CACI, they raced a Honda Civic. He recently passed away from complications from Alzheimer’s. I was wondering if there is any possibility you might have any pictures of that race that might include that little Honda?

    My family is trying to get a few pictures from that race, we have most of his other races, just no Daytona. His car was #52, we found all the grid positions and all but no pictures.

    Thank you in advance and I can be contacted at:
    Email: [email protected]

  23. We built and entered a Datsun 510 for the `70 race. No comp parts available for the car at that time. We fabricated a header, put a mild Chev grind on the cam, installed a Weber DCD on the stock intake manifold, flared the fenders a bit , added QI headlights and headed to Daytona. Since this was the first Datsun to race in international FIA competition , we had no manufacturer`s Homologation papers to be presented at tech so had to have `all applicable papers` telexed` from Japan. Took a couple days to get the big box of engineering data and then it was all in Japanese………. which no one in tech could read! We passed tech ( I think they were glad to get rid of us ) and concentrated on qualifying. At that time all cars had to make at least 120 % of the fastest qualifiers time. We were dodging GT40s , proto type Ferraris and Porsche 917s. Had to get a tow from Don Heinz`s corvette in the last qualifying session to make the grid ( last ), but we made it with the help of 14″ roadster wheels. It was decided to run the `flat` at the bottom of the banking to stay out of the way of the big boys. Electrical issues with the ignition system put us out about 7 pm as I remember. I suspect ( if memory serves me ) that we were frying points from a too aggressive ignition that was installed. Our drivers were Don Kearney and Wayne Purdy of Clearwater Florida ( the later being a last minute substitute for Dick Roberts of Datsun Competition ) . Sponsors were Don`s Foreign Car Service, Clearwater Datsun and certainly some help from Datsun Competition ( mostly encouragement from the later ). It was my first race with a Datsun 510 and one that began my 45 year racing involvement with Datsun / Nissan.

    1. Awesome narrative of your drive at Daytona with your team, definitely some exciting times for Datsun and the people that raced them back in the day.

  24. I was not a driver in the 510 , just a budding college student that would eagerly give his left gonad to be a part of the program. It was here specifically that I learned about redundant systems and hard wiring electrical systems correctly. I have to credit Don Kearney for his patients and encouragement in helping me become a well rounded and dedicated Datsun racer. Rather than chasing skirts on Friday and Saturday nights, I became a regular at his shop soaking up as much racecar building skills as I could. I would later go on building 510s and 240Zs that would race at later Daytona 24 hr races as well as the Sebring 12 hr. From the mid `70s on I would compete in SCCA`s amateur road racing series culminating in a National Championship win with the 510 in 2001. Now I`m pretty heavily involved with various vintage racing groups mainly as an engine builder.

  25. Wow sitting here watching the Rolex 24 hours gives me great memories this is Jack Blatchford on behalf of Cliff Gottlob who own a 1967 and 88 car number 89 finish second at Daytona and the GT class and 11th overall in 1970 at the same rate we drove the car from Kansas to Florida and back to Kansas you can read about this car in the book called against all odds thank you

  26. I co-drove MGB# 79 with the team owner,Chris Waldron,and Lowell Lanier in the 1970 race..We placed fjrst,car# 78,and second,car #79 in GT-!V, and second,car#78,and third,car#79 in GTU. We had a hood wrap around Lowell Laniers face in the early A/M but got it fixed quickly since Johnny and the boys were an excellent crew. I had the electrics go bad on car# 79 in the dark hours which dis-engaged the overdrive,and sent me in a double spin up,and down the East bank twice.Lucky our crew had put in a parallel electrics,and battery and I got back into the pits. The MGs were some of the best spectator seats available.Tons of fun,and great co-drivers,and crew. 50 years ago last week. William Baros