In 1973, Porsche introduced 2 new models in the Porsche 911 range. The Porsche 911 RS , equipped with a 2.7 liter version, and intended for street use. For racing purposes, you had the lighter and stronger Porsche 911 RSR 2.8 liter, producing 300 HP. The Porsche 911 RSR’s were meant for racing in Group 4 Special Grand Touring cars. However, FIA had only visited Porsche the Monday before the race for inspection. Even though Porsche had produced well over the required 500 of the new Carrera RS, final approval could only be expected at March 1st. And that’s why the 2 cars that the Porsche factory had in the 1973 Daytona 24H, ran in the prototype class.
Penske Racing Team and Brumos Racing
The Penske Racing Team had one of the cars, Brumos Racing the other. The 1973 Daytona 24H was a test case. The engines of the cars had never ran more than 18 hours on the test bench. Even though both teams had ‘factory delivered’ cars, they were shere rivals in the race. And despite that rivalry, Peter Gregg of Brumos racing tried to help Penske Racing Team even before the race. Gregg wanted to know as much as possible of the new car he would race in Daytona. So immediately after delivery, he ordered his team to disassemble the car, and take a deep look at every nut and bolt with just one goal : try to learn as much as possible about the car. Doing so, they found out that the flywheel was loose. Peter Gregg reported that issue to Roger Penske, but his warnings were neglected. Penske believed this was one of Peter Gregg’s ploys.
The Brumos Racing Porsche 911 RSR #59 turned out the fastest of the 2 RSRs in the race. Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood started the race on the 4th row in 8th position. The Penske Racing Porsche 911 RSR #6 with Mark Donohue and Georg Follmer at the wheel 2 rows behind them, in 12th. Early in the race, the real prototypes kept coping with bad luck. After 5 hours, it looked like the battle for victory was over. The Matri-Simca of Francois Cevert / Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo took the lead. The spectators found the excitement in the race in the battle for 2nd spot between the 2 Porsche 911RSR. Both teams were never more than a lap apart. They had a pace, that they even took 3 laps of the lead of the Matra-Simca, who seemed to be cruising to victory. But to no avail, they quit the race early too.
The Penske Car quits the race
Close after 5 in the morning, a cloud of smoke poured from the Sunoco livery Porsche 911 RSR #6 from Penske Racing that was in the lead at that time. One piston was holed, probably because of the loose flywheel that Peter Gregg warned them for. In a sudden, Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood ran in 1st position. Norbert Singer, and his Porsche factory mechanics, who had been focusing on the Penske car mainly because of a closer connection to Roger Penske, all-in a sudden changed box to back-up the Brumos #59.
The seagull story
Hurley Haywood led the race with many laps advantage to the 2nd, when suddenly the car hits a seagull. Remnants of the bird stuck through the windshield. Haywood radiod for instructions to Jack Atkinson, the Brumos Racing chief mechanic. While the team went on a search for a new windshield, Haywood continued the race in the fear of being blackflagged. After some 15 minutes, a spectator was willing enough to have the windshield taken out of his street Porsche 911 to serve as a replacement for the broken one. When the team replaced the windshield, they lost some laps. Peter Gregg took over the wheel and entered the field again, still having an advantage of about 50 miles.
Because of the huge lead, Gregg received the orders to slow down, to make sure the car would make it to the finish. At first, Gregg denied the orders and kept going at full speed. That turned Norbert Singer and team chef Bob Snodgrass mad. Finally, Gregg slowed down, approximately 8 seconds per lap. After 24Hours, he took the checkered flag with 22 laps advantage to the 2nd. Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood won the 1973 Daytona 24H with a Porsche 911 RSR 2.8 in its first race.
Pictures courtesy Porsche AG and unknown