SI Vault
Barbara La Fontaine
February 14, 1966
The most serious threat to Ferrari's long supremacy in sports-car racing was posed by Ford in Daytona's new Continental as Californian Ken Miles in No. 98, driving swiftly by day and boldly by night, led a team of Mark IIs to a notable victory—the opening battle in the season's hot Ford-Ferrari war
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February 14, 1966

24 Hours To Shake A Champ

The most serious threat to Ferrari's long supremacy in sports-car racing was posed by Ford in Daytona's new Continental as Californian Ken Miles in No. 98, driving swiftly by day and boldly by night, led a team of Mark IIs to a notable victory—the opening battle in the season's hot Ford-Ferrari war

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He expressed the prevailing disaffection with a 24-hour race, saying, "I can understand Bill France's wanting to run a 24-hour race, but from our point of view it doesn't really make too much sense. A 12-hour race here is about right. And there's really only room for one 24-hour race. However, I don't mind long races. I like them. I'm tough. I'm wiry. This race is a great gamble, though. The faster you go the more chance you have of winning and the less chance you have of finishing. The slower you go, the more chance you have of finishing and the less chance you have of winning. Somewhere in between these two conflicting demands is a speed that is just right—I believe somewhere between 1:59 and 2:10 a lap is the winning time."

Asked what he did in the evenings after practice for the great gamble, Miles said, "I brought down a large assortment of crossword puzzles. And I brought my chess book with me. We spend the early part of the evening eating, and we talk about automobiles and tires and people. And I've had more sleep at Daytona Beach than I've had in the last six months."

On the face of it, sleep seemed to be about the only thing Miles had in common with his co-driver, Lloyd Ruby, who slept all the way through an appointment Thursday evening and whose eyes are not more than half open the rest of the time. Ruby, 37, is a big Texan and a seasoned Indianapolis driver with solid experience in just about every other kind of car and no great interest in any of them. He had no objections to 24 hours on the Daytona track: "Just another race."

And he said he had no favorite distance or race: "I just go where the money is." About the swarm of Ferraris around him he confined himself to, "They'll always be there."

The day of the race was bright and cold, 34� in the morning, and the field went around alternately moaning and saying that, well, it would be good for the transmission. Three o'clock loomed up, race time, and nobody appeared tense. Along the pits, a mechanic sat digging quite a large hole in the road with a seashell. MG Pit Man Russ Brumbaugh rushed in from a Daytona matinee of the Nutcracker ballet still wearing the Mother Goose wig of his dance role. He kept the wig on thereafter except when working; he said it kept his head warm. Ferrari Driver Bob Bondurant sent his manager back into town for thermal underwear.

Mario Andretti, Indy's rookie of the year and the co-driver of Rodriguez' Ferrari, leaned on the sunny wall of the track cafeteria to talk to friends for a while and then went inside to consume—stoically—a very dry roast-beef sandwich. Andretti is a small man, perhaps 5 feet 4, and he is one of the few drivers with the old glamour, the marvelous arrogance that one associates with the late Marquis de Portago and the racing heroes of the movies. "Mario," a newspaperman said to him seriously before the race, "you've shown me a lot of class in the last three days." Andretti considered that and replied, "How?"

For some reason Daytona did not copy the start to which Le Mans has given its name—drivers sprinting across the track to their cars, starting the engines and commencing the race in a Place de la Concorde traffic jam—but instead let them roll away, two by two, in track-racing fashion. It was Bonnier in the Chaparral out front at the first call, followed by Miles, Walt Hansgen in another Mark II Ford and Rodriguez in the most promising Ferrari, which eventually placed fourth. This was the one closest to the factory—entered by Enzo Ferrari's man in America, Luigi Chinetti, under the aegis of the North American Racing Team. (A still newer Ferrari was withheld from the race on the ground that it was not yet ready.) After Lucien Bianchi's Ferrari came the stylish American Richie Ginther, winner of the Mexican Grand Prix (his first world championship win and the first for Japan's Honda car), in yet another Mark II Ford, which boasted an automatic transmission. Ford has been vexed over the success of Hall and his Chevrolet-engined Chaparrals, which have performed sensationally with automatics, and this was clearly a step toward equality. But it failed at Daytona, the car retiring after 329 laps.

The Chaparral's lead was short-lived. On the second lap Miles put his foot down and nosed his black-and-white Ford past it, and from that point he and Lloyd Ruby were invincible. Rarely has one car so dominated so long a race. Miles and Ruby steadily increased their lead through the remaining hours of daylight on Saturday afternoon, through the gold twilight and into the frigid evening, when the racers' headlights lit the speedway like a giant carnival ride and the temperature slowly dropped below 20�.

The wind was off the sea. The moon was full and in its glow the cars zipping around the course looked like fluorescent water bugs. To spectators the road seemed to disappear in the darkness, and headlights etched patterns that looked as if they would cross one another and result in alarming collisions. In the pits it got colder and colder. Figures moved about muffled from their eyes to their ankles in blankets and scarves. The cold and the constant roar, the tension in even inactive pit crews seemed stranger and stranger as the night wore on, and by midnight one was as fatigued as if it were hours later, just from nerves. Carroll Shelby stayed up virtually all night to watch his Fords. "I sat in the car for a minute, but I got a crick in my neck," he said. Baron Huschke von Hanstein was as vigilant over his Porsches, one of which—the new Carrera—lanced in among the bigger and faster cars and finished sixth.

Most vigilant of all were Miles and Ruby, who had faultlessly compounded the equation for victory. Lord knows they did not go so slow as to risk losing the race; they won by a stunning eight laps, or 30 miles. And yet they did not race so swiftly as to risk destroying their car.

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