1973 24 Hours of Daytona – Race Profile and Photo Gallery Page Eight
The weather on race day dawned bright and clear. The weather front had passed through the day before but along with the clear sunny skies came high winds and much cooler temperatures. No doubt some drivers welcomed the cooler temperatures when driving a race car but the high winds made driving at speed on the high banks a little tricky.
It was the Daytona 24 custom in those days to drop the green start flag, which they did at 3:03 pm, on the back stretch of the tri-oval. The accepted reason for this was safety. The faster cars could outpace the slower cars and prevent a traffic jam coming off the high banks and into turn one. Passing under the NASCAR start/finish line on the front straight was Derek Bell’s Mirage in the lead followed by the Mirage of teammate Mike Hailwood and then Francois Cevert in the Matra. Upon exiting the infield the Bell Mirage began to falter on the back straight and was eventually passed by Hailwood then Cevert’s Matra then the Lola of Reine Wisell. The Bell/Ganley Mirage was suffering from a loose alternator but they were able to keep ahead of the rest of the pack for the moment.
While the Hailwood/Watson Mirage maintained the lead the Cevert/Beltoise/Pescarolo Matra kept pace with the leader but did not appear to consider challenging them. As most know a 24-hour endurance race is not a sprint and running a conservative race could result in a win. Not running a conservative race, at least in the early minutes, was Arturo Merzario in his NART Ferrari Daytona. He powered his Ferrari Daytona through the infield turns with a great deal of opposite lock much to the pleasure of fans and photographers alike.
As with every endurance race there will be retirements and several cars bit the dust within the first 30 minutes. First on the list was one of the two John Buffum entered Ford Escorts that withdrew without completing even one lap. Next to withdraw was the Chitwood Racing Z28 after six laps followed by the John Greenwood Corvette. The Greenwood Corvette suffered a bit of bad luck when they had to pit early for tire problems Those problems were related to the street radials they were using for the race. During the tire change a car jack slipped and when the car fell the jack punched a hole in their radiator. In disgust Greenwood withdrew the car after only seven laps. Finally the last Buffum Escort was parked behind the pit wall after only nine laps.