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Join Date: Aug 2006
The Ferrari/Mulsanne problem
Carroll Shelby, after winning Le Mans in '59, wanted to return to Europe to beat Ferrari at Le Mans with a car of his own design. Having developed the AC Cobra/Shelby Cobra into a successful GT race car, he sussed that the weakness of the open-cockpit sports cars at Le Mans was the aerodynamic drag which limited top speed on the 3 miles long Mulsanne Straight to around 157 mph, nearly 30 mph down on the Fezza 250 GTO. This top speed differential represented a loss of 10+ seconds per lap which negated anything the Cobra could do in the twisty bits.
Shelby asked Pete Brock to design the Daytona's bodywork and Bob Negstad to design the suspension (the latter also designed the underpinnings for the GT40).
After sketching the design on the floor of the Shelby workshop, starting with the roadster chassis crashed at Le Mans in '63, Brock removed the bodywork and placed a seat and steering wheel in alignment of where he felt that they should be. He then sat driver Ken Miles in the car, and using scrap wood and gaffer tape, designed the windscreen. He then set out a wooden structure and used these as a guide to hand-beat the aluminium bodywork.
An aerodynamics expert from Convair said that the tail needed extending by at least 3 ft, but Brock stood by his design.
Miles took the car to the Riverside Raceway, and on the 1 mile main straight, took the car on his first five laps to 186 mph. It took another 30 days of development before Miles signed off the car, clocked at that point capable of speeds over 190 mph. It was transported to Daytona for its debut race in the 1964 Daytona Continental 2000km. Dave MacDonald earned pole position first time out.