Friday 15th February 1974
Having announced that it would be his last race, Mark Donohue won the first International Race of Champions Final. The 25 lap race, on the 3.81 mile Daytona International Speedway oval/road course, matched 6 drivers in identically prepared Porsche Carreras. Since the first two races at Riverside in October, 7 of the 15 brightly colored Carreras had been sold with the remainder shipped back to Germany for overhaul and then back across the Atlantic for a week of extensive testing in the hands of Peter Gregg and Al Holbert. Stiffer coil springs, adjusted brakes and a new lip to the rear spoiler were changes made to the cars. 2 of the 8 Carreras were set aside as practice machines and 2 more were used for qualifying. Donohue won the pole over Peter Revson, David Pearson, George Follmer, Bobby Unser and A.J. Foyt. An hour before the start, drivers selected their cars for the race in reverse order of the grid, with Foyt choosing first. The full oval was used only for the first lap, and heading onto the backstraight, Follmer began to pull clear only to have NASCAR star Pearson’s car catch the draft and pull Donohue, Foyt, Revson and Unser along behind. On lap 2, Foyt’s car trickled down the banking with a smoking engine, his race over. Before Foyt could coast around to the pits, Pearson too was in trouble, sounds indicating a loss of 3rd gear that squelched his attack and relegated him to an unhappy cruise to the finish. By lap 3, Donohue had towed himself past Follmer and the two of them had broken away from Revson and Unser. By lap 6, the two 2 car duels were 6 seconds apart and the leaders were pulling out nearly a full second a lap. Follmer kept his car right on the tail of Donohue’s. On the 9th lap, while tucked tightly in the slipstream of Donohue, Follmer reached for a gear change and found the selectors jamming. Follmer spun off in a cloud of blue smoke, leaving Donohue in a comfortable, unchallenged lead. Follmer pressed on, still ahead of the Revson-Unser battle, but crept into the pits after 13 laps with the gearbox now truly broken. While Donohue cruised, Revson and Unser hooked up in a great position swapping battle for 2nd. Donohue took the checkered flag and Revson popped out and around Unser with less than a hundred yards to the flag to take 2nd by inches. Pearson finished 4th, 2 laps down with the gearbox trouble. Having already announced his retirement, Donohue planned on the race being his last, but he would return to racing with Roger Penske’s Formula 1 effort.