During the race Mr. Bizzarrini would supervise the #8 car and their European drivers while Mr. Argento would supervise the Americans in the #9 car. This led to some conflict when Mr. Argento advised Mr. Bizzarrini to use Castrol brake fluid for the #8 car like he was using in the #9 car. It had a much higher boiling point than the Dunlop fluid recommended by the brake manufacturer. Mr. Bizzarrini dismissed the advice.
Because they were on a shoe string budget the four drivers were admonished not to push too hard during practice and qualifying. Regardless, the cars were very quick and the Chevy V8 engines held the promise of a lot of extra power if needed during the race. The #8 car was gridded 24th and the #9 car was gridded 25th out of the 66 cars that started the race. On the pole was the eventual winning Chaparral 2A with a mind-boggling time of 2:57.6 while the best time for the Bizzarrini team was 3:20 flat. This time didn’t reflect the true potential of the cars but the strategy was to finish and not break anything getting there. They fully expected that the early “hard chargers” would fall by the way side and one or both team cars would steadily move up the ranks.
The morning of Saturday, March 27 dawned with some ground fog blanketing the nearby orange groves. Weather predictions for race day were for temperatures in the 70-to-80 degree range and clearing. However, by 8:30 a.m. it was already approaching an uncomfortable 90 degrees with high humidity.
The previous day there were weather reports, on distant radio stations, about a line of severe thunderstorms scheduled to move across the peninsula of Florida bringing strong winds and heavy rain. Unfortunately local radio updates to that weather report were next to impossible to find on the radio during race day because both the U.S. government and the Communist government of Cuba were blocking radio transmissions to and from the south Florida area. This had been going on for years following the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Out at the front gate of the track there was already a traffic jam that at one time extended up to 12 miles. In the heat of the morning disabled cars were being pushed onto the grass along the entrance road with hoods up and steam pouring from radiators. Some race fans would not get into the track until three hours after the start of the race.
By 9:30 a.m. almost all of the race cars were in place on the grid in preparation for the start. Temperatures were now 94 degrees in the spectator area and a blistering 130 degrees on the track. The governor of Florida was given the privilege of dropping the starting flag at 10 a.m. and the 66 drivers sprinted 25 feet across the track to their cars in what was referred to in those days as the Le Mans-style start.
First away was the Corvette Grand Sport of Delmo Johnson. As others buckled up their seat belts Delmo did not and got away in a hurry. Films show the car leaving the grid with the driver door swinging open as he raced down the front straight. For the first two laps he had to grip the steering wheel tightly to prevent being thrown around inside the car. While on the back straight during lap two he took a moment to buckle up.