It might only have been a quarter of the distance of traditional Daytona 24 Hour enduros, but the 1972 edition of the Florida classic still produced an epic scrap among the big guns.
FEB 06th 2017
On this day in... 1972
The second round of the World Championship of Makes had been reduced to a 10am-4pm sprint by circuit boss Bill France Jr in line with the governing body the FIA’s mandate to keep sportscar races – with the exception of Le Mans, of course – to a maximum of six hours.
The fabulous five-litre formula in which Ferrari’s 512s and Porsche’s 917s had starred, had been outlawed at the end of 1971, replaced by 3-litre prototypes that were, certainly in Ferrari’s case, Grand Prix cars with all-enveloping bodywork.
And it was the Italians who struck gold in the opening encounter in Argentina, its 312PBs taking a one-two in the Buenos Aires 1000km courtesy of the Ronnie Peterson/Tim Schenken and Brian Redman/Clay Regazzoni machines. The third car, driven by Mario Andretti/Jacky Ickx, was delayed in the South American heat and finished 10th.
Ferrari again entered three prototypes for the Daytona 6 Hours with an unchanged driver line-up. With no top-class Porsches in the series, the 312PBs’ only real competition would again come from the three Autodelta-run, works-blessed Alfa Romeo T33s pedalled by Vic Elford/Helmut Marko, Andrea de Adamich/Nanni Galli and Peter Revson/Rolf Stommelen.
With a field made up of the super-quick, three-litre prototypes, as well as production-based and special GT machines and Group 1 and 2 touring cars, 56 of the 72 entries would line up for the race.
Ferrari produced a not-unsurprising rout in qualifying, with Andretti securing pole in the #2 machine, ahead of Redman/Regazzoni in number #4 and Peterson/Schenken in #6
The drama for the polesitter began quite early on when Andretti’s 312PB fell onto 11 cylinders, which meant the American carried a power and top-speed disadvantage. Regazzoni picked up the baton and appeared to have the event under control until he too hit trouble – in the shape of a high-speed puncture. The Swiss Formula 1 ace got the car back to the pits but lost several laps while his Ferrari crew repaired the bodywork damaged by the flailing tyre. Things didn’t improve for the Redman/Regazzoni machine; it suffered another puncture and a fire in the pits during a routine brake change. All these problems would drop the car to fourth come the race’s end.
Up at the front, it was the Peterson/Schenken Ferrari that held sway. But the Swedish and Australian pairing hadn’t accounted for Jacky Ickx. The Ferrari Grand Prix winner was on a charge in the #2 car, despite its misfire. The Belgian paid no notice to team orders to nurse the car and follow the leader home, passing Peterson with a handful of laps to take the lead and secure victory.
Following a recount by the official scorers, the final winning margin for Andretti/Ickx was two laps over the sister car. Third place went to the best of the Alfa Romeos, the #5 machine of Elford/Marko.
Another Ferrari one-two was a portent of things to come: the Scuderia took victory in eight of the remaining nine 1972 Championship rounds – at Sebring, Brands Hatch, Monza, Spa-Francorchamps, Targa Florio, Nürburgring, Osterreichring and Watkins Glen.
Only the big one, the Le Mans 24 Hours, eluded Ferrari – and that was because it chose to miss the twice-round-the-clock event, preferring instead to concentrate on the 1000km sprint races for which the 312PB had been conceived.
As far as Daytona was concerned, there wasn’t quite the same level of enthusiasm for the reduced-duration format, so for 1973 the race returned to its favoured length and the fans flocked back to one of the spiritual homes of American speed.
Daytona 6 Hours, 1972
1. Mario Andretti (USA)/Jacky Ickx (B) – Ferrari 312PB, 194 laps
2. Ronnie Peterson (S)/Tim Schenken (AUS) – Ferrari 312PB, 192 laps
3. Vic Elford (GB)/Helmut Marko (A) – Alfa Romeo T33/TT/3, 190 laps
4. Brian Redman (GB)/Clay Regazzoni (CH) – Ferrari 312PB, 179 laps
5. Andrea de Adamich (I)/Nanni Galli (I)– Alfa Romeo T33/3-71, 175 laps
6. Hugh Kleinpeter (USA)/Tom Waugh (USA) – Lola T212-Ford, 166 laps
Images courtesy of LAT
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