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"It makes no sense to worry about things over which you have no control," he said, adding that anyone who doesn't have that philosophy would do well to adopt it. "But this team is almost comical," he continued. "By all rights Loos should never win races, but he does because he buys the best equipment. And the best drivers—you have to give him credit for that. But there is almost no communication. Last year I raced for Loos at Watkins Glen, and he wouldn't let the mechanics speak to the drivers. We wanted to adjust the rear wings, so we had to go to Ingrid—that's Georg's girl friend, who runs the team when it comes over here because Georg hates America and refuses to come—and have her call Georg in Germany, and she had him tell the mechanics it was O.K. to move the wings."
True to form, the cars arrived a day late, because of missed shipping connections. When they did get to Daytona, Gregg and Ickx each drove four laps in practice and were told that that was it, thank you. Wollek drove a few more laps, and the engine blew. The engine was replaced the next day and the car qualified fifth, after which Ingrid and the drivers of the other Loos team car went to Disney World.
The twin turbocharged Porsche 935 is all but invincible in sports car racing, because of its sheer speed and numbers, if not reliability. Gregg's competition came from other Porsches, most notably the black 935 shared by Indy car hot-shoe Danny Ongais, Ted Field and Hurley Haywood, Gregg's prot�g� who has not only won Daytona three times but Le Mans as well. Another challenger was the Porsche of Carlo Facetti, Gianpiero Moretti and Martino Finotto; Facetti had won the pole with a record speed of 130.276 mph. Also given a chance was the Porsche of 1976 Daytona winner Brian Redman, now teamed with Dick Barbour and actor Paul Newman, a former amateur class champion.
There was also a factory-supported Italian Ferrari effort, three long and low red Boxer Berlinetta 12-cylinder 512s. Ferrari had been out of endurance racing for seven years, so no one knew how seriously to take the challenge. The cars were about 10 seconds per lap slower than the best Porsches, therefore their strategy was to run like tortoises and watch the Porsches explode. However, the five tons of spare parts Ferrari brought from Italy gave one cause to wonder about the Boxer Berlinetta's own reliability.
Still, it might have been a good plan—if only the tires had been more suitable. The Ferraris used Michelins, the Porsches Goodyears; Goodyear has done extensive testing at Daytona, Michelin has little experience with what happens to tires at 200 mph around the steep banking, lap after lap. One of the Ferraris blew a tire and crashed on the oval during practice; the same thing happened to another in the third hour of the race. So at 8:30 p.m., four hours after the start, the Ferraris were withdrawn.
The Porsches started exploding early, as expected. Half an hour after the start, pole sitter Facetti was in the pits with a blown engine. The No. 2 Loos Porsche followed suit soon thereafter. At sunset, Gregg's car lost an hour when two turbochargers had to be replaced. By midnight the Ongais/Haywood/Field and the Redman/Barbour/Newman Porsches were running one-two on the same lap, the only 935s still going strong. For a while Gregg was 20 laps behind in fifth, making up ground, but during the night he retired with valve problems.
At dawn Redman went out with a blown head gasket, which left Ongais/ Haywood/Field with a 46-lap lead over yet another Porsche. A gorgeous old Ferrari-Daytona, driven by John Morton and Tony Adamowicz, was third.
When the second-placed Porsche died later in the day, the Ferrari-Daytona, over 200 miles behind Ongais, inherited second. Then with only 10 minutes remaining in the race, Ongais' Porsche slowed to a crawl with turbocharger problems. Danny parked it 300 feet from the finish line, shut off the engine to protect it from further damage and waited for the checkered flag to fall, marking the end of the 24 hours. It did, and Ongais fired up the 935 once more to get credit for finishing the race. The car blew out a charge of blue smoke and chugged across the line a winner, at about 15 mph. He and his teammates had covered a record 2,626.56 miles at an average speed of 109.249 mph.
It wouldn't take a Harvard graduate to figure out that it wasn't a perfect finish, but not all winners are fussy.