Recollections of the 1972 Daytona 6-Hour Continental – Peter Revson and Alfa Romeo
By Louis Galanos
Within the racing community in 1972 Peter Revson was a household name.
The previous year he became the first American to win the Can-Am Championship as well as finishing second in the Indianapolis 500. In addition he was named to the McLaren Formula One team for the 1972 season.
As volunteer race officials for Sports Car Club of America my wife and I had the opportunity to meet and observe Peter Revson in action when he drove for team Alfa at the 1972 Daytona 6-Hour Continental race in late January of 1972.
In 1971 Revson had signed to drive for Autodelta in the newly renamed Championship For Makes and at their request arrived at Daytona Beach, Florida in early January to do some testing with the new 3-liter Alfa Romeo 33/TT/3 that he would be driving in the Continental.
Readers out there might ask, “What is a 6-Hour Continental and wasn’t the 24 Hours of Daytona supposed to be run in late January?” Technically you would be right but 1972 was a transition year for FIA sports car endurance racing. It seems that the governing body for sports car endurance racing (FIA) was trying to get speed and costs under control. They eliminated the Group 6 Prototype and Group 5 Sports Car classes and replaced them with a new Group 5 Sports Car class with an engine limited to 3000cc. When this announcement was made there were some automotive writers who wrote that this was a not too subtle attempt by FIA to help the French Matra team be more competitive in endurance racing (FIA is headquartered in Paris).
As a result what you had showing up at Daytona for the 1972 race were cars very different from the previous years of endurance racing. Gone were the 5-Liter Ford GT40’s, Chaparral, Alfa Romeo 33s as well as the hugely popular 5-liter Porsche 917’s and Ferrari 512’s that battled it out at Daytona, Sebring, Nürburgring, Spa, Monza and Le Mans in what many call the Golden Age of Sports Car Racing.
Besides a name change for the series (World Sportscar Championship to Championship For Makes) the FIA requested that (for 1972) endurance races like the 24 Hours of Daytona be limited to 6 hours with the 24 Hours of Le Mans being the exception. Their reasoning for this request was concern in some racing circles that the new cars, with their 3-liter formula one engines, might not last 24 hours. They wanted to avoid the embarrassment of not having a prototype there at the finish to take the checkered flag.
Daytona Speedway owner Bill France acceded to FIA’s request because he believed that spectators would prefer a shorter race rather than sit through a longer one and it seems that he was right if you take into account the additional 10,000 people who showed up compared to 1971’s turnout for a 24 hour race.
Autodelta arrived at Daytona for practice and qualifying with three V8 powered Alfa Romeo 33/TT/3s and a T33/3 spare. Drivers Vic Elford and Helmut Marko were assigned the number 5 car, Peter Revson and Rolf Stommelen would be in the number 7 car and Nanni Galli and Andrea de Adamich would be in the number 9 car. Unfortunately Galli crashed his car in practice and he and de Adamich started the race in the spare T33/3.
Alfa’s competition consisted of three 12 cylinder Ferrari 312PBs , two Lola T280s but no Matras or Porsches. The Porsche factory decided to sit out 1972 rather than incur the cost of developing a high powered 3-liter engine. Instead Porsche concentrated on providing very high powered cars for the Can-Am series where their 917/10 and 917/30 would be so successful that some race historians say these cars eventually killed the series because few could compete with Porsche.
Matra declined to race in any event that year except for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Instead they concentrated on building a new car for the 40th anniversary of the Le Mans race. At that event they fielded three new MS670 cars and finished first and second.
For those of us who had worked previous 24 Hours events, the lack of competition in prototypes was a major disappointment. Many wished for the “good ole days” of 917s, 512s, T70s and GT40s.
The announcement that Peter Revson would be driving for Alfa at Daytona received a considerable amount of exposure both in the national press and locally. His celebrity status in racing was well established but he was also fodder for the media because of the fact that he was the heir to a billion dollar Revlon Cosmetics fortune. He was also well known for his exploits with beautiful women, fast cars, yachts and attendance at parties of the rich and famous. “Revvy,” as most in the racing fraternity called him did not take the media’s characterizations that he was a playboy heir to a great fortune kindly and said so in an interview with the Daytona Beach News Journal (2/4/72).