The whole thing wasn't quite that easy, but the two problems the Porsche team had—a massive accident and a broken throttle linkage—were more its own doing than anything else. As expected, Ickx, in the GT-40, took the lead when the cars got sorted out after the start at 3 p.m. Saturday. He held it for two and one-half hours, or until Co-driver Brian Redman took over and discovered his transmission had broken down. Then the second GT-40, driven by Paul Hawkins and David Hobbs, went ahead and set a hot pace until just before midnight, when a brake-pad change took an inexplicable 40 minutes and let three factory Porsches into the first three positions. From then on it was just a matter of waiting around through the long, cold night and a very hot Sunday to see which Porsche would take the checkered flag.
In the fourth hour the only serious accident occurred. It was a beaut and very nearly cut the Porsche team in half. Gerhardt Mitter, in Car No. 53, spun on an oil slick near the end of the tri-oval straight, punctured a tire and flipped at 120 mph. Coming behind, Masten Gregory—in one of two outclassed Ferraris entered by Enzo's man in New York, Luigi Chinetti—spun and flipped, and behind Gregory a private Porsche, driven by Dieter Spoerry, spun and wound up wrecked against the outside wall. The first car to reach the debris was Elford in Porsche No. 54. "I couldn't see a thing except dust," he said. "But I didn't have much choice as to where to go." Fortunately he went low, avoided Spoerry by inches and continued on.
Then around 11 a.m. Sunday the throttle linkage on Jo Siffert's leading Porsche broke, and he spent nearly half an hour getting that back together and in the process gave up the lead to the Elford car for good. He completed 2,526 miles at an average speed of 106.697 mph.
The turbine made an excellent, but short-lived, showing. Thompson moved it from seventh place to fourth during the first hour; but the throttle stuck when Lowther took his first driving turn and the grand experiment wound up against the wall and out of the race.
In the Trans-American division Penske's Camaro led early, until a cylinder head let go. The Horst Kwech-Allan Moffat Shelby Mustang had a suspension failure, and the other Shelby car, driven by Jerry Titus and Ronnie Bucknum, coasted home an easy class winner, fourth overall but some 165 miles behind the winning Porsche. Another Porsche was the Trans-Am two-liter winner.
The Alfas were never really in the race. This was their first serious venture in years, and a lot of bugs needed to be worked out, both in the engines and among the pit crews, who attacked the racers with operatic inefficiency.
Although the race lacked the excitement of the previous Ford-Ferrari duels, there was at least some heartening news for European fans. Both Porsche and Alfa are working on engines right at the three-liter maximum, and there is a good chance that one or maybe both factories will have them ready for the Se-bring 12 Hours on March 16. If not by then, surely by Le Mans in June. The patient will live, but a transfusion is indicated.