The 1973 season was a new step to IMSA's recognition as an international road racing series. A car appeared at that time : the Porsche Carrera RSR. It would soon be one of the most dominating one in IMSA's history. The car had appeared at the 24 Hours of Daytona for the first round of the World Sportscar Championship and the car, entered by Brumos Racing, had won overall, driven by Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood, beating the prototypes!
IMSA had grown as a full featured organisation and was now a solid structure.
Sebring was the race of the season and saw a Porsche Carrera victory : it was the first ever in IMSA and Peter Gregg-Hurley Haywood won on a Dave Helmick entered car. This one made history! (see complete article here)
The next race was to be held at Daytona. Once again, it was a Gregg-Haywood victory, this time in Gregg's car. The first hour was a lead swap between the two Corvettes driven by Dave Heinz and Wilbur Pickett-Bill Bean and Gene Felton's Camaro. The Porsches of Peter Gregg and Michael Keyser were just behind but the big American cars had to refuel twice, the German cars only once. After the Corvettes had refueled, the Carrera driven by Milt Minter took the lead but had to retire later after the car broke a transmission. Heinz took back the lead after Gregg refueled but he had to pit for the second time. He finally managed to retain his second place as Michael Keyser had to stop for an unscheduled refueling splash.
The third race was a 500 Miler held at Pocono Raceway, a tri-oval meant for high-speed machinery. At the end, it was a well-deserved victory for Canadian Maurice Carter Chevrolet Camaro. He was co-driven by Tony de Lorenzo who beat the Porsche Carrera driven Michael Keyser-Steve Behr. Third was the Chevrolet Camaro driven by Gene Felton-Robert Hennig. First in GTU was a Porsche 911S driven by Bob Bergstrom-Jim Cook who managed to place 6th overall.
The second Daytona race was to be won by Gene Felton, who was never challenged in his Chevrolet Camaro.
Gene Felton driving his big block Chevrolet Camaro at Daytona
Photo courtesy Gene Felton
He managed to dominate the race, only letting two of the 66 laps to his competitors. His two pitstops were well scheduled and he finally won by a 10 second margin over Peter Gregg-Hurley Haywood who could not challenge the big V8. They would not make it three in a row! Third was Maurice Carter in another Camaro, just ahead of Michael Keyser and the Corvette driven by Wilbur Pickett-Bill Bean.
The next race was the Mid Ohio 6 Hours.
The Mid Ohio start
Copyright Mark Windecker
A quite competitive race as Michael Keyser-Bob Beasley led earlier in the race ahead of Ike Knupp- Allan Barker on a Corvette, Gene Felton-Hurley Haywood(who was entered but could not drive) and the Ford Capri driven by Horst Kwech-Harry Theodoracopoulos. After losing the Camaro with a blown engine, the Corvette experiencing refueling problems, it was a Capri-Carrera battle. The Capri seemed to have the edge over the Porsche, but, as it seemed to earn a well deserved victory, it experienced axle problems and it was Michael Keyser-Bob Beasley who finally took the chequered. Second was the well driven car of Ike Knupp-Allan Barker who overtook the Capri in the final stages of the race.
Next race was held at Lime Rock and 41 cars took the start of the race.
A lot of close action was to be seen at the short Connecticut track and Keyser won the first heat ahead Gregg and Sam Posey in a Greenwood Corvette, then Warren Agor who had started from the pole. Peter Gregg won the second heat ahead of Warren Agor and Sam Posey.
In GTU, a new face was to be seen as Ludwig Heimrath won his class on a Porsche 911S. He finished ahead of Bob Bergstrom, who was beaten for the second time of the year in GTU, after Sebring.
Next race took place at the Road Atlanta race track and John Greenwood started from the pole. Greenwood took the lead but not for long as Peter Gregg wound up his way through the lead. Gene Harrington took the lead in front of Horst Kwech but Peter Gregg was not far away. Harrington was soon plagued by a series of pit stops and Kwech had to pit to have his suspension checked.
Peter Gregg had his victory on his track. Second was Horst Kwech who managed to keep his rank, third was Michael Keyser who was still leading the Championship points lead.
Next race at Indianapolis Raceway Park saw a new Peter Gregg victory : he ran solo for the 3 Hour event. At the start of the race, it was Warren Agor who took the lead but he had to pit after 4 laps, as a fuel connection got loose. He had to retire and John Greenwood took the lead, building a 21s lead until lap 30. Then he hit something on the track and had to retire from the race. Peter Gregg then took the lead and was never to be caught by Michael Keyser-Tony Adamowicz and Harry Theodoracopoulos Ford Capri. 56 cars had taken the green flag!
Before the start of the Daytona Finale, Michael Keyser led again by a mere 1.5 and he had to place ahead Peter Gregg to win the Championship. At the start of the race, it was Warren Agor who was on the pole, but in the race, the scenario remained the same as he had to pit twice, one more time than the Porsche, and he finished second behind Peter Gregg, who clinched the Championship on that very race. Michael Keyser, whose car ran seemingly more slowly, had lost the Championship to "Peter Perfect", again on the last race.
New cars had to be seen in 1973 as Alfa Romeo Montreal or De Tomaso Panteras and one Mangusta was to make an occasional appearance on the IMSA circuit. They were a welcome addition to the traditional IMSA entry but they did not prove real contenders for the overall.