After less than an hour of racing the Ferrari 512s, with the faulty fuel pumps, began to pit for fuel while the 917K Porsches stayed out for an additional 10 minutes building up their lead. Dan Gurney had to make two unscheduled pit stops for an oil leak and the time needed to address this problem dropped him out of his fourth place position.
At the 58 minute mark the leading Gulf Porsche 917K entered the pit for fuel with Jo Siffert at the wheel. He was asked if he wanted Brian Redman to relieve him but he said he was fine. Siffert was asked this because several weeks before Daytona he had broken his ankle in a go-kart accident and had experienced some discomfort during practice.
After Siffert reentered the race the other Gulf 917K and Salzburg 917K pitted for fuel and tires. Not until 75 minutes had passed would the pits see the first Matra. It was obvious that the 3-liter Matra engines were getting much better fuel mileage plus the Matra strategy was to avoid the tendency to drive flat out at the start of the race but to run at a steady pace and finish as high up in the rankings as possible.
The previous year’s Daytona 24 winner, Mark Donohue, was driving the Penske prepared AMC Javelin when he ran out of gas and coasted to a stop in the infield just one hour and fifty minutes into the race. It seems that Penske was using an old trick to start the race with a partially filled gas tank and then outpace the fully loaded cars in his class. Unfortunately they miscalculated how much fuel his car would use in the early minutes of the race. According to Bernard Kahn of The Daytona Beach Morning Journal the “…chubby Donohue set a new SCCA half-mile record on foot….and was clocked at 10:93 mph as he jogged to the pits” for a can of gasoline. Donohue returned to the stalled Sunoco Javelin with the fuel and got going again having lost eleven minutes in the process.
Donohue and co-driver Peter Revson would only make it one-third the way through the 24 hour event having to retire with no oil pressure after 8 hours and 13 minutes. When asked about their failure to finish at Daytona Roger Penske pointed out that the car had run the equivalent of three Trans-Am races and that’s what the Javelin effort was all about.
Jean Pierre Beltoise also entered the pits the same way Donohue did, on foot. It seems that a distributor rotor broke on his Matra and he sprinted to his pit for a spare, arriving exhausted. He co-driver Henri Pescarolo was given the spare and made the dash to the car which was parked on the infield grass. Pescarolo got the car running but this would not be the last time this problem would surface.
After only 115 laps the Ickx/Schetty factory Ferrari 512S blew a tire at speed on the high banks causing it to make a glancing blow to the retaining wall. Some of the other crews were also experiencing tire failure on the track and blame was attributed to the crumbling track. The Ickx/Schetty car sustained enough suspension damage from hitting the wall to be withdrawn but something else puzzled Ferrari engineer Mauro Forghieri. After examining the tires on the Ferrari he noticed abnormal wear on the inside edges of the tires and wondered if this was the cause of the tire failure. Not until later did some put forth the idea that the abnormal wear may have been due to cracked mounting points caused by the extreme downward forces on the car when at speed on the high banks. This caused abnormal toe-in and excessive tire wear.
Another point of view was that the stress on the suspension that led to cracking of the mounting points may have been caused by the dip in the track near a point on the high banks known as NASCAR 4. This dip was right on the line the faster cars took around the track while the slower cars stayed in their groove closer to the bottom of the banking.
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