1970 24 Hours of Daytona – Race Profile Page Three
Most of the 65 cars that started at Daytona that year were in the GT and Touring Car classes and consisted of cars like the Porsche 911, MG B, Volvo 122, Shelby GT350, Camaro Z/28, 7-liter Corvettes, Ford Mustangs, a 1600 cc Datsun 510 and a 1600 cc Lancia Fulvia HF.
Besides those Group 6 prototypes like the Ferrari 312P and Matra 650 there were some very small displacement cars also running as prototypes. That included a 4-cylinder Austin-Healey Sprite, a 1600 cc TVR Vixen, and a 1800 cc Chevron B16 Ford.
Prior to and during practice for the race some of the faster drivers complained loud and long about the slower cars and the dangers they presented on the course. These complaints were nothing new. Some motorsports journalists described the process of driving around and through a gaggle of slower cars as the equivalent of driving through a mobile chicane. What became the poster boy for these complaints and really drove home the dangers of mixing faster and slower cars in a race was a fiberglass-bodied dune buggy that was powered by a 1700 cc Volkswagen engine and running as a prototype. It was classified as a prototype due to the fact that it was a “one-off” kind of race car. It did not have a custom-made fiberglass body but looked for all the world like the classic dune buggy you might see running up and down the desert sand dunes of southern California or the beach dunes in Florida. Many were amazed that the stewards actually allowed this car to be entered, let alone practice. This produced a lot of criticism from the European automotive press who referred to the Daytona 24-Hour race, with its combination of high banks and infield course, as “Mickey Mouse.” This was an obvious reference to the fact that Disney World would open its doors in Orlando, Florida the following year.
Rather than risk damaging the 917s the JWA Gulf team had entered in the race the drivers were doing much of their practice using their spare 917K or “T” car. During the first practice session on Wednesday Jo Siffert was at the wheel and on the infield section of the course when he made contact with the dune buggy between turns four and five. The dune buggy, driven by Jon Krogsund, suffered a rear punctured tire and ruined wheel but because of its high fenders sustained no other damage. The lower-to-the-ground 917K also suffered a punctured tire but also some destroyed body work and this precipitated the filing of a protest by the Porsche team with the stewards. According to the April 1970 issue of Sports Car Graphic (p.33) the complaint indicated that, “the drivers in the buggy were all over the road.”
Both Siffert and Krogsund were interviewed as well as any corner worker who might have witnessed the incident. The ruling of the stewards was that the incident should be considered a “racing accident” and neither driver was at fault. Both the dune buggy and driver could continue to practice and if the car qualified they could start the race. However, the owner and builder of the dune buggy, 37-year-old Hugh Heishman, was also a Porsche – Volkswagen dealer from Arlington, Virginia and he didn’t want to antagonize his business partners and quietly withdrew his entry much to the disappointment of his drivers. In his own words, “I didn’t want to be accused of causing Porsche any more grief.”
The unauthorized use and/or duplication of any editorial or photographic content from sportscardigest.com without express and written permission from the publisher is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to sportscardigest.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.