1973 24 Hours of Daytona – Race Profile and Photo Gallery Page Twelve
During the next five hours little changed as the Penske Porsche held on to first place with the Brumos car a close second. The much faster Watson/Hailwood Mirage was gaining ground and making up for lost time thanks to the stellar driving of John Watson.
Around 5 am Mark Donohue made a scheduled pit stop for tires, fuel and a new driver. On a previous stop a question arose about the way the engine was performing. Automotive pundits would later comment that this engine problem was attributable to the loose flywheel that Gregg warned Penske about that was promptly dismissed by Penske.
When George Follmer exited the pits to continue the race their lead over the Brumos Porsche was now one lap. Fifteen minutes later the Penske Porsche began to emit smoke but the car continued for two more laps before Follmer guided his ailing car off the high banks and onto the apron heading for pit road. When the car stopped at its pit a huge blinding cloud of smoke erupted from the engine causing fire officials to come running with extinguishers. After leading for almost five hours the Penske Porsche was out of the race due to a holed piston. The Gregg/Haywood Porsche 911 Carrera RS was now in the lead with a 35 lap advantage and nine hours to go.
When I asked him about the retirement of the Penske Carrera RS Hurley Haywood said, “While I was not there when the Penske mechanics tore down the engine after the race I feel that the engine problems they suffered from could be traced to the same loose flywheel we discovered and fixed on the Brumos car.”
With the retirement of the Penske Porsche hopes were rekindled in the Mirage pits. After a quick pit stop the Watson/Hailwood car was in 11th place and if the Gregg/Haywood Porsche began to experience any kind of mechanical problems then there was a strong chance that their faster car could catch up to and pass the current leader in the time remaining.
Unfortunately circumstances dictated otherwise as the right lower suspension pin on the Mirage broke after 366 laps while Watson was doing 180 mph on the high banks. The collapsed suspension caused the car to spin with the front body section exploding off the car as it spun down the track to the apron and then into the infield. When asked later what was going through his mind when all this was going on Watson said, “All my birthdays had come at once.”