1973 24 Hours of Daytona – Race Profile and Photo Gallery Page Ten
Considering all the problems the Mirages were giving the team going back to the earlier testing session at Daytona the team mechanics hoped they were prepared to deal with any problems that might arise. Well, they didn’t have long to wait as Derek Bell’s car entered the Mirage pits with a loose alternator mounting bracket which was followed not long after by a broken metering unit coupling. Next came a faulty spark plug that was causing severe misfiring then the clutch needed to be readjusted. Finally, after four hours of racing, co-driver Howden Ganley brought the car in to have the clutch thrust bearing replaced. This repair alone cost the team just over an hour.
The other Gulf Mirage seemed to be doing much better for the moment and as the sun began to set over the Speedway the Hailwood/Watson Mirage was in the lead with the Beltoise/Cevert/Pescarolo Matra in second. The Joest/Casoni/Blancpain 908/03 was third and the Gregg/Haywood Carrera was fourth followed by the Donohue/Follmer Carrera in fifth. At one point the leading Mirage had been clocked at just under 185 mph coming off of NASCAR four and onto the grandstand straight.
As darkness settled on the Speedway campfires began to spring up in the infield as the fans tried to ward off the February chill which was 15 degrees cooler than the previous day. Experienced Daytona race fans hoped that the winds, which blew all day, would continue throughout the night or the bowl-shaped racing facility might fill up with smoke from the campfires.
If the typical Atlantic Ocean morning fog came ashore, like it did most winters, it could combine with the smoke hanging over the Speedway and create dangerous visibility problems for the drivers. On at least one previous occasion Daytona race officials contemplated red flagging the race due to dense smog conditions.
Just after 6 pm the race saw its first spectacular accident as the 911S Porsche of Dominican Republic driver Horacio Alvarez lost control on the high banks as he was coming into NASCAR four. The race car began to spin and was headed toward the entrance to pit road when he hit a retaining wall and began to flip. And flip he did, over and over until landing right side up on all four wheels. The roof of his car was flattened down to the roll cage. Minutes later Alvarez strolled into the infield hospital, “…smoking a cigarette, and not injured.” Also retiring from the race, but not as dramatically, was the very quick Tony De Lorenzo – Maurice “Mo” Carter Corvette. It was sitting, forlorn and abandoned, on the back straight with a broken clutch after completing only 101 laps. They were the 13th car to retire and there were still 20 hours left to race.
One hour later the leading Hailwood/Watson Mirage had to pit for a clutch rebuild which allowed the Matra to take the lead with the Joest Porsche 908/03 in third place. Both Cevert and his co-drivers were racing conservatively. In fact their lap times were not much faster than the Porsches belonging to Brumos and Penske.
The Joest Porsche could not take advantage of the lengthy Mirage pit stop because they had to make an unscheduled pit stop themselves. The culprit was one of the fuel cells on the Porsche that was dragging on the track. They would eventually retire after 244 laps with gearbox problems.
With the prototypes experiencing so many problems the battle between the Brumos Carrera and the Penske Carrera began to take center stage as the cars moved up into second and third spot. Porsche fans were beginning to experience a bit of giddiness at the thought of street car like the Carrera possibly challenging the prototypes for the overall win at Daytona.