It was the first race of the 1980 IMSA Camel GT Championship, and the race would be a success, as to the entry list, which was a huge one. Ninety three cars were listed, which was one of the biggest ever. Eighty five cars would eventually show up at the practice sessions. Porsche was the great favorite for the win, with fifteen 935 Turbos entered. A big part of them were K3s or lookalike, the latest Kremer bros creation. Interscope Racing had purchased one, which would be driven by Ted Field and Danny Ongais. The other genuine car was the Dick Barbour entry, which would be driven by the boss, along with John Fitzpatrick, the fastest Porsche driver. It certainly was a good recruit for Dick Barbour, as would the Englishman's driving skills demonstrate later in the season. Charles Mendez, who was partnered by Bob Akin in what was Racing Associates entry, had updated his car with a special kit, as well as Randolph Townsend, who did the same. The other cars were evolutions of the standard car. Brumos Racing had entered his own interpretation of the 935 with a unique design, much closer to the 935J, but with secial features designed by the team. Hurley Haywood, Bruce Leven and Peter Gregg would share the drives. Bruce Leven was the new team owner. Charles Mendez was partnered by Brian Redman and Paul Miller on the new car. Bobby Rahal, Bob Akin and Roy Woods would run the updated car and a 79 car would be devoted to Claude Ballot Léna, Gerard Bleynie and Ralph Kent Cooke. Coca Cola was the main sponsor for the three cars. Dick Barbour had entered a 79 car which was to be driven by Bob Garretson, Skeeter McKitterick and female French driver Anny-Charlotte Verney, who ran on this track for the first time. The Whittington Bros, who were the first ever to run a K3, had entered this car as well as an older one, driven by Dale Whittington and German driver Axel Plankenhorn. Ludwig Heimrath ran his own car, which was a 78 model, Johnny Rutherford would co-drive the car with Carlos Moran. John Paul was here with Al Holbert on a car entered by Preston Henn. Another 935 would be entered by Peruvian Jorge Koechlin, which he would drive with Pierre Dieudonné and Leon Walger, but the car would not go any further, breaking an engine. The two last Porsche 935s were European ones. Gianpiero Moretti was a regular entrant since 1978, and had a 79 car for himself, Nando Cazzaniga and Bruce Canepa. The car was Pirelli shod and the whole supervising staff had made the trip from Monte Carlo, which they had won. The last car was Joest Racing, who had a very modified Porsche 935, which was now called 935/2. The driving team was exclusively German driven, with Rolf Stommelen, Volkert Merl and Reinhold Joest at the wheel. It was clear that it would be a quite unbeatable armada. Facing the Porsches, BMW had three cars, which were underpowered. Kenper Miller and David Cowart had a Procar M1, which was much more a GTO car than a GTX one, but was not homologated in the lower class. Not willing to update it as the two other teams, Red Lobster Racing was improving and testing it for the next season. Christine Beckers was their co-driver.
Copyright Dave Kutz
Jim Busby had entered the very first M1 in IMSA racing at the end of the previous season, with some extremely good results, but he was quite aware of the fact that the car was not to be a winner in standard form. So he would update it, and it was no more a GT car, with a huge rear wing, and a March chassis. The car was lighter, and more effective aerodynamically, but it was still underpowered. Bruce Jenner and Rick Knoop drove the car with Jim Busby. The third car was much the same, and had run Le Mans the previous year. Entered by Robin Herd, the car was supervised by himself, and had undergone some modifications which were supposed to improve it. Patrick Nève, Mike Korten and Ian Grob were still the drivers. Preston Henn, who had a 935, had also entered a beautiful Ferrari 512BB, which he would drive with Pierre Dieudonné and John Paul Jr. A single Lancia Beta Montecarlo was to be seen, and it was not a works car. Jolly Club and driven by Carlo Facetti, Martino Finotto and Gianfranco Ricci. Cesare Fiorio was supervising the pit crew. The remainder of the opposition was made up by American cars, with some strong cars. The most attractive was, from everyone's account, the Chevrolet Monza driven by Chris Cord, Jim Adams and Dick Ferguson. It was one of the most developed Dekon car ever. Powered by a 6,0L Chevrolet engine, it could do extremely well if the transmission resisted. The All Canadian Chevrolet Camaro, entered by Maurice Carter, was no less efficient. A 7,0L powerplant made this car one of the most difficult to overtake on the banking. Joe Chamberlain had brought an impressive AAGT Chevrolet Corvette, but the car was somewhat slower. Guy Thomas had a Chevrolet Camaro, which was an AAGT car too, but he was not a contender for the top spots. The GTO class should be interesting, with a numerical advantage awarded to the Porsche Carreras. Many of them were well driven, but they had to watch over the very fast Triumph TR8 driven by Bob Tullius, John Kelly and John McComb. Mauricio de Narvaez was on the car he entered, he was co-driven by Albert Naon and Ricardo Londono.
Copyright Wayne Ellwood
Tony Garcia was on the Montura Ranch car, partnered by Terry Herman and Alberto Vadia. Bonky Fernandez drove the ex-John Paul Porsche Carrera with Tato Ferrer and Kees Nierop. Ernesto Soto drove the Hector Huerta car with Pepe Romero and Jean Paul Libert. Luis Mendez ran his own car with Tico Almeida and René Rodriguez. Another strong entry was the Diego Febles Porsche Carrera, who ran it with Chiqui Soldevilla and Mandy Gonzales. Always from South America, El Salvador drivers Jamsal, Carlos Pineda and Eduardo Barrientos drove the Scorpio Racing car. Canadian drivers David Deacon, Jacques Bienvenue and Peter Moennick drove another Porsche Carrera. Two Porsche 934s were present. Werner Frank was running with Rudy Bartling and Angelo Pallavicini while Jack Refenning, Ren Tilton and Ray Mummery could do well on such cars.
The other cars were less competitive. Ferrari was still the car to watch with the 365GTB4, a car which finished second overall the previous year. Even ageing, and driven by talented drivers, the car could still do well in the hands of John Morton and Tony Adamowicz. A bunch of Chevrolet Corvettes was entered, but it was such a pity to see Phil Currin, one of the best drivers in the field, run solo in such a race. He did not find any co-driver and would do the job alone until retiring after a few hours! Dale Kreider entered a very colorful car which he shared with Billy Hagan and Steve Bond. Philip Keirn had an older car, co-driven by Larry Trotter and Ed Errington. Don Yenko entered one car, too. It was to be driven by Kim Mason, Jerry Thompson and himself.
Oftedahl Racing entered one familiar Chevrolet Camaro, which was to be driven by Gerry Wellik, Dave Heinz and Bob Young. The car should have an interesting run. Dick Neland, Bill Ferran and Joe Cotrone drove another Chevrolet Camaro. An older BMW 3.0CSL was entered by Bavarian Motors for Bruno Beilcke, Alf Gebhardt and Helmut Trieb. Another interesting entry, if not fast, was the Pontiac Fire-Am entered by Herb Adams. Walker Evans and motorbike star Kenny Roberts were to share the driving with Herb Adams. A very old Shelby 350GT, entered by Don Cummings, closed the entry list. Guido Levetto co-drove it.
The GTU class was exciting too, with some very noisy Mazda RX7s trying to reiterate the 1979 triumph. Roger Mandeville, Jim Downing and Brad Frisselle drove the car which was purchased from the factory by textile engineer Roger Mandeville. Allan Moffat, Stu Fisher and Amos Johnson were not supposed to play second fiddle. Jim Mederer had entered one car for Walt Bohren, Dennis Aase and Jeff Kline. John Casey's Trinity Racing fielded two cars for Steve Dietrich and Lee Mueller, who drove with himself, and Lyn St James, Tom Winters and Mark Welch. Z and W Racing had a less developed car for Pierre Honegger and Mark Hutchins, as was the Chris Doyle entry. They all would have to face the reliable Datsun 280ZX entered by New Raytown Datsun, which was driven by Frank Carney, Dick Davenport and Don Devendorf. A pair of older Datsun 240Zs was entered by NTS Racing. Bob Earl, Fred Stiff and Bill Coykendall would drive the sole car which would start the race. A single and unusual Mazda RX2 was entered, and would surprisingly do well. Bruce Nesbitt, Alan Johnson and Robert Giesel drove it. The Porsche 911s were always a threat in Endurance racing, but they were outnumbered by the 914/6s this year. Mark Speer drove one car with Terry Wolters and Ray Ratcliff. Rick Borlase, Don Kravig and Michael Hammond had a bigger engine, which sent them in the GTO class. Mike Ramirez, Luis Gordillo and Manuel Villa Prieto drove the other 911. Bill Koll, Jim Cook and Greg Lacava were at the wheel of the Koll Motorsport 914/6, which was the fastest of the trio. Wayne Baker, Dan Gilliland and Jeff Scott had a four cylinder 914/4 while local entrant Zotz Garage brought a less developed car with Aro Zitza, Douglas Zitza and John Belperche driving. A now usual Lancia Stratos closed the entry list, who could count on sixty eight cars. The practice sessions would determine which Porsche 935 would start from the pole. Don Whittington, with the boost turned right, posted a 1m44s110, which was a new official record. Rolf Stommelen had a qualifying engine, but he exploded it. He would then use his racing engine to qualify in second place. John Fitzpatrick was third, just ahead of Peter Gregg. Phil Currin was the best GTO qualifyer, but he was still alone. Walt Bohren was the fastest GTU driver. The race would be set under a clear blue sky but very cold temperatures. The cars were lined up in front of the pits. After the traditional parade and a speech from FISA President Jean Marie Balestre, the cars would be lauched behind the pace car. Bruno Beilcke could not have his car ready for the race, he would start from the pits when the leader had covered four laps. At the start, Don Whittington jumped from his pole position into the lead, followed by Reinhold Joest. Running very strong, The two of them would swap the lead until lap thirteen, then the German driver would keep it for good. Gianpiero Moretti had pitted as soon as on lap two, with his car bellowing a huge cloud of smoke. Carlo Facetti, on the Lancia Beta Montecarlo, would lose fifteen minutes to have a water hose replaced after running on debris. Ralph Kent Cooke, on a Porsche 935, would stop many times with ignition problems. In fact, the mechanics would never find out what was wrong on this car and it would retire later after many pit stops. Kemper Miller, on the BMW M1, exploded a tire on the banking on lap eleven and came back to the pits without its front end. He would lose a lot of time for repairs. Up ahead in the standings, Reinhold Joest was in front, followed by Don Whittington, Peter Gregg, John Fitzpatrick and John Paul. John Paul would pit and have an oil line replaced, losing his position. The first refueling session would take place after forty seven minutes, and John Fitzpatrick was the first top driver to pit for refueling. Reinhold Joest, who had a smaller engine, would run four more laps before refueling. His stop was a little longer than Don Whittington's, and Rolf Stommelen took over. By the end of the first hour, Don Whittington was the leader, and Chris Cord had the highest placed American car, running in seventh position. Charles Mendez was a good fifth, with a new car. The Joest car was running very strong, and was charging hard. Soon, Rolf Stommelen was in the lead, and Bill Whittington, who was in second place, had a puncture. John Fitzpatrick was now in second place. The Interscope car was running smoothly, but this was due to the fact that Ted Field had taken the wheel of the car for the start, and Milt Minter had taken over the car after refueling. They were followed by Dale Whittington, who later spun on the banking. He was back to the pits to have a fender repaired, then was black-flagged because of a faulty stop light. Behind the leading Porsches, Jim Busby's March BMW M1 was hampered by fuel injection problems. The best American car, which was Chris Cord Chevrolet Monza, would lose one hour to have its gearbox repaired. Running very fast, the Triumph TR8, driven by Bob Tullius. John McComb and John Kelly, was in the top ten by the end of the third hour. They were followed by the extraordinary Ferrari 365GTB4 driven by John Morton and Tony Adamowicz.
Courtesy Tony Adamowicz
Sandwiched between the two of the them, Mo Carter's huge Chevrolet Camaro was running great too. Unfortunately for the GTO leader, its clutch would fail and the car would have to stop for a lengthy repair. Mo Carter's car would then have transmission problems too, losing some ground. As the night had fallen upon the Daytona track since long, the red lights were on : Paul Miller, at the wheel of one of the Coca Cola Porsche 935K3, had hit the wall while avoiding a spinning Mazda. The damaged car could still go back to the pits while the debris were swiped. Bill Whittington would be penalized for overtaking the pace car during the caution period. Later, the other Coke machine, driven by Bob Akin, Bobby Rahal and Roy Woods would retire with a broken engine. At the six hour mark, it was still the Joest Porsche 935 which was in the lead, followed by the Sachs Dick Barbour Porsche. Running steadily was the Whittington bros car, still ahead of the Interscope 935K3. Peter Gregg, Hurley Haywood and Bruce Leven were fifth, with an obviously slower car. Randolph Townsend, Howard Meister and Elliot Forbes Robinson were next, just ahead of the leading GTO car, which was still the extraordinary Ferrari 365GTB4 driven by John Morton and Tony Adamowicz. Following one lap down was the Porsche 934 driven by Jack Refenning, Ray Mummery and Ren Tilton. The Interscope car would then stop for more than thirty minutes, having its fuel tank replaced. The second Whittington car, driven by Dale Whittington and Axel Plankenhorn, would retire just after midnight. The race would then become quite exciting, with John Fitzpatrick car, now driven by Manfred Schurti, taking the lead from the Joest car. The two cars would then engage into a grueling duel, which was to last for two hours. Alas, it would be over when Manfred Schurti stopped for replacing his brake pads and a loose shock absorber, losing more than ten minutes. Rolf Stommelen was now leading with a two lap advantage over Bill and Don Whittington. Behind the four leading Porsche 935s, John Morton and Tony Adamowicz were the GTO leaders, but they were challenged by the Mauricio de Narvaez Porsche Carrera RSR, which was on the same lap. However, while running strong, it would lose three hours to replace a broken engine. At mid point, Rolf Stommelen, with the help from his two German co-drivers, was still in the lead. Don and Bill Whittington maintained the pressure behind, trailing them by one lap. They were still aiming at the lead, and would never release their pressure over the leaders. The GTO class was to undergo a lead change, with Jack Refenning overtaking the Ferrari driven by John Morton and Tony Adamowicz. However, it looked like nobody could be in front of the Cavallino for long as Jack Refenning hit the wall at 5AM. He walked back to the pits and it was over. The Sachs Porsche 935K3 was still in third position but Manfred Schurti would collide with a Porsche Carrera when entering turn one and it was over.
Copyright Wayne Ellwood
Behind the two leaders, the gap was now very wide and John Paul and Al Holbert, who had been delayed by an oil line replacement inside the chassis, were now emerging in third place. The Brumos Porsche 935 had lost one hour due to an oil leak. While it looked like the Joest car was utterly dominating the race, one team did not seem to be willing to relinquish the race. Don and Bill Whittington were pushing hard their Porsche 935K3. After fifteen hours of race, the two of them were three laps down the Joest car. One hour later, they were only one lap behind the leaders. It seemed that the end of the race would be fantastic, but suddenly the bright yellow Porsche 935K3 coasted to a stop in the infield. A broken distributor shaft was what would fail them. Trying to repair it, the three brothers would push the car to the pits, which was illegal. They were disqualified. From that moment, the race was over, with the Joest Porsche 935 many laps ahead of anybody else. John Paul and Al Holbert were slowly cruising to a second place finish, as Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood experienced a suspension arm failure.
Copyright Wayne Ellwood
The GTO class was still lead by the Ferrari, but it would be a disappointment for its supporters, as a broken transmission would force the drivers to retire. While the two leading cars were running smoothly, the followers were still having a tough day. The Brumos car was to undergo an engine swap, while the Intescope car was running very slowly, without clutch. Behind them, one car was running strong : it was the All Canadian Chevrolet Camaro, driven by Maurice Carter, Craig Carter and Murray Edwards. Two transmission changes had delayed them but they were charging back very hard. They would end up at a creditable fourth place overall. The GTU class was led by the old Porsche 914/6 entered by Kegel Enterprises, and driven by Bill Koll, Jim Cook and Greg Lacava. Well driven and superbly prepared, the car ran clockwise, and ended up fifth overall, easily sweeping its class, and just ahead of the GTO class winner, which was a Porsche Carrera RSR driven by Tony Garcia, Alberto Vadia and Terry Herman. The latters grabbed the lead by the end of the race, overtaking the Mauricio de Narvaez car close to the finish line. The best Mazda RX7, next behind, ended up second in class, but could not beat the incredible Porsche 914/6. Roger Mandeville, Jim Downing and Brad Frisselle had to be content with it. The incredible story was to be credited to Phil Currin, who had been the GTO fastest qualfyer. Without any decent budget to run for a 24 Hour race, he had decided to take the start, stop after one hour, then wait for the end of the race, which he ended up on sunday morning, just for fun! The Joest Racing team, from Germany, was happy to win a race they dominated for the biggest part. They shattered the previous record by 5mph, covering 715 laps, at 183,914mph. Happy people!