The running of the Sebring 12 Hours was much to the relief of Mauro Forghieri, Ferrari’s director of racing, whom already had a great deal invested in the event, having built two cars just for this race.
The Ferrari entry at Sebring was somewhat of a surprise since the company, having achieved their goal of winning the World Sportscar Championship in 1972, elected to withdraw from this series and sports car racing in 1973 to focus on Formula One. However the Sebring race was very important to Ferrari because of the large American market for their street/road cars. Thus the Ferrari race department, under the direction of Forghieri, prepared two of their new 365GT 4/BB Boxer models and contracted four hot-shoes, Mario Andretti, Jacky Ickx, Milt Minter, and Eppie Wietzes to pilot them.
There was a problem with tire company contracts since the cars were derived from a Ferrari street/road car and not a purpose-built racer. Andretti was under a Firestone contract, so to solve the dilemma, the cars were entered – wearing Firestone tires – by Luigi Chinetti, the North American importer for Ferrari. This was not the first time that Ferrari had used Chinetti’s North American Racing Team (N.A.R.T.) to solve a political problem. Chinetti in his youth had been a driver for Cavaliere del Lavoro Ferrari – the Commendatore. How Chinetti became the importer for Ferrari cars to North America is a story for a movie but the short of it is, he was caught out by WWII in the U.S.A.
BMW was the only official factory entered team for the event. BMW Team Manager Jochen Neerspasch entered two new CSL models and a stellar driver line-up of Hans Stuck, Brian Redman, Ronnie Peterson and Sam Posey to contest the race. The CSLs were in every way examples of Teutonic engineering at its best from the taped-on graphics to the sophisticated sound of the engine.
Jo Hoppen, the man at the helm for Porsche racing in North America, may well have had the biggest vested interest in a Sebring Race. Like Ferrari and BMW, the United States represented the largest market for Porsche and part of Hoppen’s job was supporting sales and marketing of the marque through racing. Porsche represented by far the largest number of cars entered in the race, all entered as privateers.
Four entries of note were the 1973 Sebring-winning Brumos team of Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood, the West Coast Vasek Polak team of Danny Ongais and Tony Adamowicz, the Penske team of Mark Donohue and George Follmer and the future 1976 Sebring-winning Holbert team of Al Holbert and Michael Keyser. All four teams were a force to be reckoned with, with back door Porsche factory support.
The two outstanding teams of Greenwood and DeLorenzo headlined the Corvette contingent of eight entries. Long-time Corvette racer Tony DeLorenzo had set the pole here in 1973 and was back with a new car sponsored by Bud. John Greenwood, another Tampa Gang recruit and a noted Corvette man, was present with two new wild-bodied Vettes.
Greenwood, now with his manufacturing facilities located in Florida, was on board right from the start with the Tampa Gang. In fact Greenwood’s car was being used as a promotional piece for the race with a wild “Spirit of Sebring” paint scheme. The other Greenwood Vette had an even wilder paint and signage that read “Chicken ______, You Can Eat Here Too.” Jack Ansley was running the Chicken Ranch car as a separate deal. Jack would later go on to be part owner and manager of Road Atlanta and then move to Team Lotus Sport. Today Jack owns a chain of Chicken Ranch eateries and Jack’s Bars but is best known in the racing community for throwing the best damn parties in racing.