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 – Race Profile Page Four

Later that same afternoon it was Brian Redman’s turn to practice in a Porsche 917K for the race. As he entered the infield portion of the Daytona road course the 917’s Graviner automatic fire extinguisher system inexplicably went off filling the driver’s compartment and engine compartment on the 917K with fire suppressing gas.

Although blinded and choked by the gas Redman was able to get the car off the paved track coming to a stop on the infield grass. He struggled to open the car’s door to get a breath of much needed fresh air and when the corner workers arrived at the car he was partially incapacitated and had to be assisted from the car. He eventually recovered but many in the Porsche pits shuddered at the thought of what could have happened if that fire extinguisher had gone off somewhere on the high banks with Redman going at over 200 mph.

The Porsche factory wasn’t the only team dealing with problems during the fourteen hours of practice for the race. Two of the new Ferrari 512s were experiencing transmission problems and some overheating even in the cool January temperatures. According to a Ferrari spokesman, “This is a new car. We’ll need a couple of days to get sorted out. After that, we’ll go as fast as anybody.”

Vaccarella/Giunti 512S suffered overheating problems during practice. (Fred Lewis photo)
Vaccarella/Giunti 512S suffered overheating problems during practice. (Fred Lewis photo)
Mike Parkes/Sam Posey NART Ferrari 312P would outlast the factory 512S of Nino Vaccarella and Ignazio Giunti and finish fourth overall and first in class. (Lou Galanos photo)
Mike Parkes/Sam Posey NART Ferrari 312P would outlast the factory 512S of Nino Vaccarella and Ignazio Giunti and finish fourth overall and first in class. (Lou Galanos photo)
Dan Gurney drove a factory Ferrari 512S but it failed to finish. His co-driver was Chuck Parsons. (Fred Lewis photo)
Dan Gurney drove a factory Ferrari 512S but it failed to finish. His co-driver was Chuck Parsons. (Fred Lewis photo)
The dome on Gurney's Ferrari was put there to accommodate his 6'2" frame. (Fred Lewis photo)
The dome on Gurney’s Ferrari was put there to accommodate his 6’2″ frame. (Fred Lewis photo)

Dan Gurney and co-driver Chuck Parsons had a number of headaches with the NART Ferrari 512S they were scheduled to drive in the race. There were fuel pump problems caused by vapor lock and because he was much taller than the average Italian driver, Gurney had to deal with a cockpit that was too small for his 6’2″ frame. The NART mechanics addressed Gurney’s height problem by creating a dome to accommodate his helmet. Using the dome and sitting on the floor he could drive the car but it was not an ideal situation for him. Gurney also had the audacity to suggest to the Italian mechanics that they replace the Italian-made fuel pumps with ones made in America. This did not go down well with the Italians.

After fourteen hours of practice officially timed qualifying was to take place on the Friday before the race starting at 8 a.m. and run for two hours. For some reason an afternoon timed qualifying session was not announced and it became apparent later that many of the teams were unaware of it.

On that Friday morning it was cold and a light rain was falling. When the timed session ended the Mario Andretti – Arturo Merzario Ferrari 512S held the pole position with a time of 1 minute, 51.6 seconds and a record speed of 122.9 mph. Second on the grid would be the Jo Siffert – Brian Redman Gulf 917K at 121.5 mph, the Jean Pierre-Beltoise – Henri Pescarolo Matra-Simca 650 was third at 121.4 mph and the Gulf 917K of Pedro Rodriguez and Leo Kinnunen was fourth at 115.445 mph.

In interviews prior to the start of the race Mario Andretti was his normal very candid self when he indicated that the Porsche 917s were probably faster than his Ferrari 512. He also opined that the Porsche drivers were probably told not to try for the pole position as part of the overall Gulf Porsche strategy. Andretti’s opinion would be proven correct before the first lap of the race was completed.

While Andretti was on the track during that rainy qualifying session in the morning there were several teams in the garage and paddock working furiously in an attempt to get their car ready for qualifying. Several of them assumed there would be an afternoon timed session. When word spread that the morning session was all there was going to be and anyone who didn’t qualify that morning would be put at the back of the pack a number of protests were filed with the stewards. After a hasty meeting the stewards relented and scheduled an afternoon timed qualifying session. The only complication was that the weather had improved with bright sun and a dry track so the stewards created a “rain handicap” for the afternoon session and the cars were placed on the grid accordingly. By the close of the second qualifying session on Friday a complete starting grid was published and cars with the “rain handicap” were indicated with an asterisk next to them.

Mario Andretti would win the pole position in his factory Ferrari 512S and be the only one of five 512s to finish the race. (Lou Galanos photo)
Mario Andretti would win the pole position in his factory Ferrari 512S and be the only one of five 512s to finish the race. (Lou Galanos photo)
Arturo Merzario listens intently as Mario Andretti explains the NASCAR art of drafting on the high banks at Daytona. (Fred Lewis photo)
Arturo Merzario listens intently as Mario Andretti explains the NASCAR art of drafting on the high banks at Daytona. (Fred Lewis photo)

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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