Brumos Porsche 911 RS at 1973 Daytona 24 Hours
Brumos Porsche 911 RS at 1973 Daytona 24 Hours

1973 24 Hours of Daytona – Race Profile

1973 Daytona Race Profile – Daytona Returns to 24 Hours

By Louis Galanos | Photos as credited

In the eyes of many who had attended the 24-Hours of Daytona since its inception in 1966 people and events in the early 1970’s were conspiring to make life difficult for this twice-around-the-clock enduro that is now so much a part of the history of endurance racing.

For one thing the ruling body for endurance racing, The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), had changed the racing rules again about engine sizes and this made producing prototype cars in the early 70’s more and more problematic for constructors. At the end of 1971 FIA rules changes outlawed the extremely popular and now iconic 5-liter cars like the Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512 and mandated only 3-liter engines for the 1972 championship season.

In 1972 the Group 6 Prototype and Group 5 Sports Car classes were both replaced by a new Group 5 Sports Car class. These cars were limited to 3-liter engines by the FIA (a move that some cynics believed was made to benefit the French Matra team), and manufacturers, like Porsche, gradually lost interest. Porsche decided not to participate in the newly renamed World Championship for Makes in 1972. Amid concerns that the 3-liter engines, normally used in shorter Formula One events, wouldn’t last for 24 hours the FIA and Ferrari applied pressure on Daytona’s Bill France to shorten his annual event to 6 hours, which he did. However, Sebring still ran its 12-hour race that year and Le Mans still did their 24-hour classic. End result was that the prestige of Daytona as a world-class endurance racing event suffered badly due to the changes and demands of the FIA.

For 1973 Bill France got permission to return to a 24-hour format but Ferrari decided not to show that year in what some automotive writers said was a manufactured dispute with France over appearance monies. Ferrari was asking for a 1200 percent increase in appearance money from the normal $2,500 to $30,000 and the notoriously tight-fisted France balked at their demands. As a result Ferrari decided to stay home and not compete in the opening round of the Championship of Makes for 1973. Also staying home was Alfa-Romeo but this had nothing to do with appearance monies. It seems that their new 3-liter cars were not quite ready for the February race.

The result of all this turmoil and rules changes within the championship series was a lackluster field of cars on the grid at Daytona on Saturday, February 3, 1973. There were only six pure 3-liter prototypes in the 53 cars to start the race. In that small group of prototypes were two John Wyer Ford Cosworth DFV V8-powered Gulf Mirage M-6 prototypes.

Englishman John Wyer was well-known to Daytona 24 race fans because of his association with the Gulf Porsche 917’s that won the overall trophy at Daytona in 1970 and 1971. To many who attended those races it was a golden era that sadly came to an end at the close of the 1971 championship season.

John Wyer
John Wyer was not above doing lap charts at races where his cars were entered. Wyer felt that the V-12 Matra at Daytona in 1973 used drafting on the high banks to get its best qualifying time and thus was several seconds slower that the V-8 Mirages. Gene Bussian photo.

Wyer and engineer/team manager John Horsman had hoped to race a V-12 Weslake powered Gulf Mirage at Daytona but they experienced gearbox failure on two Hewland DG300 units in a four-day practice session at Daytona in January. Also, the V-12 had a nasty habit of not restarting every time it came in for fuel during the practice session. The only way they could get it going was with a push start. As a result of these problems Wyer and Horsman were forced to abandon racing the V-12 at Daytona in February and instead had to rely on cars powered by the Ford Cosworth DFV V-8. Those engines had been developed six years earlier and were considered an “antique” by auto racing standards. However, it was a proven engine with over 50 Grand Prix wins to its credit. Along with those Cosworth powered Mirages the team brought along one Weslake V-12 racer to see if recent gearbox modifications had corrected the problems experienced in earlier testing. The V-12 was on the Daytona entry list strictly as a training car.

Unfortunately after only a few laps on the Daytona track early Thursday morning of race week the V-12 came into the pits with a gearbox so hot it was about to seize. Gulf team manager John Horsman threw in the towel on the V-12 and turned his attention to the two V-8’s that would start the race. Before those cars could be gridded for the race they had to correct the problem of sagging front body panels.

On the 31-degree high banks at Daytona the downward forces on the cars were greater than they expected and caused the lightweight Mirage body panels to sag, necessitating reinforcement with a steel tube across the front of the car. As Horsman would find out later the sagging was caused by a supplier’s failure to properly cure the fiberglass epoxy when the panels were constructed. Recognizing that the Mirages were far from sorted out the PR man for Gulf, Eoin Young, said to the automotive press, “We’ll run as slow as we possibly can and still try to win.”

Entered only as a training "T" car the V-12 Weslake Mirage failed to live up to its promise due to transmission and starting problems.  Fred Lewis photo.
Entered only as a training “T” car the V-12 Weslake Mirage failed to live up to its promise due to transmission and starting problems. Fred Lewis photo.
The JW Automotive Gulf Mirage team arrived at Daytona in late January for testing.  Rather than return to Slough, England they stayed at the Speedway in garages reserved for them where they readied the cars for the 1973 Daytona 24.  According to John Horsman this was not an ideal situation.  Louis Galanos photo.
The JW Automotive Gulf Mirage team arrived at Daytona in late January for testing. Rather than return to Slough, England they stayed at the Speedway in garages reserved for them where they readied the cars for the 1973 Daytona 24. According to John Horsman this was not an ideal situation. Louis Galanos photo.
The Bell - Ganley Mirage going through tech inspection.  The car would be plagued with sagging front body panels that necessitated reinforcement with a steel bar adding weight to an already too heavy car.  Louis Galanos photo.
The Bell – Ganley Mirage going through tech inspection. The car would be plagued with sagging front body panels that necessitated reinforcement with a steel bar adding weight to an already too heavy car. Louis Galanos photo.
The Mike Hailwood - John Watson Mirage suffered a variety of ills during the race that put them far back.  In the process of trying to catch up the car suffered a collapsed suspension that put them out for good.  Louis Galanos photo.
The Mike Hailwood – John Watson Mirage suffered a variety of ills during the race that put them far back. In the process of trying to catch up the car suffered a collapsed suspension that put them out for good. Louis Galanos photo.
Howden Ganley drives the Gulf Mirage M6 Ford that captured the pole position.  It led going into the first lap of the race but almost immediately began to suffer a variety of mechanical ills.  It was a DNF.  Ford Mortorsports History photo.
Howden Ganley drives the Gulf Mirage M6 Ford that captured the pole position. It led going into the first lap of the race but almost immediately began to suffer a variety of mechanical ills. It was a DNF. Ford Mortorsports History photo.

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Show Comments (20)

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  1. What a treat to read this wonderful in-depth reporting on the 24 Hours. I’m a huge Brumos Porsche fan and really enjoyed reading about their first major win. Thanks to all!

  2. Simply amazing and quite entertaining story, Bravo !!!! Being from the Great City of Titusville Florida just an hour from Daytona this story brings back so many memories of my childhood and dreams of piloting one of the 24 hour cars. The closest I ever got was having a few slot cars painted up in matching colors of some of those iconic teams…..

  3. I was surprised to see the older ’68-69 Camaros and Mustangs in the race in ’73. I guess the technology in the classes they were in was not advancing as fast as the other classes. This was a wonderful article with fantastic pictures. Thanks so much for sending it our way.

  4. I just read your article and re-lived my 1973 Daytona 24 Hr race. You made me remember details I had forgotten along with facts that I never knew. And I now know for sure that the rumor that was circulating in the paddock regarding the Porsche windshield was a fact…..the Haywood interview was revealing on this point and others.
    I was on the backstretch and not far behind when Watson spun on the banking. I didn’t have to brake , although I probably instinctively took my foot off the gas for a second. There was really little chance that the car would return up the steep banking. The potential danger was finding pieces of car on the banking or oil. Also, at the time I couldn’t be sure whether or not other cars were involved. There were a few cars between me and Watson’s Mirage and they seemed to get thru without problems,,,,,and so did I.
    Thanks Lou. AS usual: facts, details,and fantastic photos !
    If anyone is interested in a personal video of the race derived from an old home movie film:
    1973 Daytona 24 Hour Race; Part 1:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ8lkbiDYA4
    1973 Daytona 24 Hour Race; Part 2:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y08o35n8Q_0

  5. Another great article, Lou. We lost a lot of time in the pits having to raise the car and add transmission fluid on every pit stop. The sling had been installed in reverse and instead of forcing fluid back into the gears was pushing it out. The undercarriage and the rear of the car was coated hence the nickname after the race, The Olive oil Special.

    1. Guido, will you try to contact me? I crewed for Lamar and am looking for a good picture of the red/white #61 Vette.
      Thanks,
      Locke McCormick
      North Florida Corvette Association
      [email protected]

  6. Marvelous machines and story line! Wonderful photos to recapture our imagination. Darn those 911s were awesome. Thanks for the memories Lou. (Phil Ward – Moondoggie Graphics and honored to be a friend of Lou.)

  7. Another “Lou’s” moment – great story superbly told and illustrated with reams of outstanding pictures. The seagull incident could probably give a brand new meaning to the “bird’s eye view” expression. Thank you again for another great piece Lou!

  8. Incredible story and photos. Hurley can still drive with the best, even though now retired and doing the “rubber chicken” circuit which we all appreciate and are willing hands to do hot laps with him when the opportunity arises.

  9. Great story and photos..! I remember leaving after the race, thinking about the low prototype turnout and the victory by a production car and figuring that it couldn’t get any worse than that- and then the next year they didn’t have the race at all!

  10. Well-written as usual, Lou. If memory serves, I’d fallen asleep some time before midnight (in a small tent, in which I used to sleep quite well either in spite of or because of the sound). It seems that the absence of the scream of a certain V-12 engine either woke me or was the first thing I noticed upon waking up. Thanks for using a few of my photos. I hope to see you at the scene of the crime again in January. Maybe some of the posters here will be there and we can have a reunion of racing fans while we can still remember those days!

  11. This is the first article of yours that I have read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My brother, Fred Lewis, forwarded it to me. It’s exciting to see the inclusion of some of his photos with yours and others who love this sport so much. He has mentioned you several times in our conversations….always with positive comments about your writing and love of racing. I’m not that knowledgeable on the subject….I only know how much Fred loves it and has as long as I can remember. Thanks for a great story and for being one of the good guys.

  12. Another terrific documentary story, Lou. Thank you very much for sharing your recollections and photography. Even though I was half-a-planet away in the Navy in 1973, I still followed these races closely via Autoweek. I really liked seeing the photo of Bruce Jennings in the Joe Heishman 911S.

  13. Enjoyed your article, and both photos and narrative combine to weave this detailed chapter of Daytona endurance racing. All your articles might be combined and published in book form, but regardless, thanks to Sports Car Digest, we have extensive archives that can be easily accessed. Your contributions are invaluable. Keep on keeping on, Lou.

  14. UNHEARD OF . . . . TOTAL 24hr. PIT TIME INCLUDING WINDSHIELD CHANGE . . . . 28 MINUTES ! ! If you don’t believe this PLEASE call Jack Atkinson . . . . Brumos crew chief EXTRAORDINARY at 321-543-0893

  15. An excellent report on a race that was something of a bust; as always terrific photos.
    Does anyone know why it appears that the two cars supplied to Penske & Brumos teams appear to have different style headlights? One would expect them to be the same, no?

  16. I’m thinking that is Peter Gregg driving the #59 in the photo used at the beginning of the article. I have a Haywood autograph of that car that I took from late on Sunday. A good race but nothing like 1970 of course.