1970 24 Hours of Daytona – Race Profile Page Eight
In the early going some observers thought the Gulf Porsches were braking later than the Ferraris going from a speed in excess of 200 mph to a first turn speed of 60 mph in less than 200 yards. This might have contributed to the 5-second lead that Siffert’s Porsche held after the first 30 minutes of the race.
The Pedro Rodriguez/Leo Kinnunen 917K Porsche still held onto second place with the Mario Andretti/Arturo Merzario Ferrari third and right on the tail of Rodriguez. At one point Andretti used his NASCAR drafting skills to pass Rodriguez at over 200 mph on the high banks but Rodriguez would have nothing to do with this and repassed Andretti before diving into turn one ahead of him. This brought several thousand fans in the grandstands to their feet. Following them into the first turn was the NART Ferrari 512S of Dan Gurney who passed the Elford/Ahrens Salzburg 917K to go into fourth place. It was rumored that the Salzburg team had their own strategy to finish Daytona and it didn’t include fighting for first place so early in the race.
Those early minutes of any endurance race usually separate the men (and some women) from the boys and this race was no different as some drivers pushed their cars too hard in the early going and had to pit for repairs. Also poor race preparation and faulty parts showed their ugly heads early and sidelined several cars.
The dubious distinction of being one of the first cars to retire was a Porsche 908/02 entered under the team name of Juan Manuel Fangio. The other car was the former Penske Lola T70 Mk. 3B being driven by John Canon and George Eaton. The Lola began smoking on the pace lap and continued to show the poor handling that was evident in practice. The car pulled into the pits and eventual retirement. They failed to complete even one lap. In the years to come this car would have an interesting but not successful race history. It appeared in the Steve McQueen movie Le Mans and in 1972 was purchased by a fellow who robbed a bank to pay for the car.
Next to retire was the Datsun 510 of Don Kearney and Dick Roberts after 24 laps due to overheating problems. They were also having problems with the racing tires making contact with the inside of the fender wells. This was a result of the car’s speed on the 31-degree high banks which produced a downward pressure on the car’s body allowing it to make contact with the tires.
Following them into retirement was a Shelby GT350 (26 laps), a Porsche 911T (29 laps), a Volvo 122S (54 laps), a Ford Mustang, GT40, Chevron B16 and another Mustang. Of the first ten cars to withdraw eight of them were American entries.
Finally after just over an hour into the race the Ignazio Giunti factory Ferrari 512S smacked the retaining wall coming out of turn six as it joins the high banks. The infield track surface in that spot was beginning to break up which was not something new for that turn. Large bits of asphalt collected on the outside of turn six and any car getting into those marbles would slide dangerously close to the retaining wall.
When the Ferrari smacked the retaining wall it caused a tire to deflate and Giunti drove along the bottom of the tri-oval headed for pit road. Upon entering his pit the Ferrari crew spotted damage to the rear suspension which they hastily repaired by installing a new upright. Back on the track the car was not handling well due to what later was found to be a twisted chassis. The car would eventually retire after only 89 laps. Co-driver Nino Vaccarella never got a chance to drive in the race.
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