Automobile

This Dune Buggy Would’ve Raced the Daytona 24 If It Weren’t for Porsche

The VW wasn’t seriously damaged, limping back to the pits with a bent wheel but an intact fiberglass body. The Porsche, on the other hand, wasn’t so fortunate. It sustained damage to the left rear wheel, which deflated the tire, and was later discovered to have damaged suspension—it would be towed into the pits and not return to the track all weekend. JW Automotive was furious and filed a complaint with the race stewards about the car and its driver, alleging “the drivers in the buggy were all over the road,” according to the April 1970 issue of Sports Car Graphic.

Organizers investigated, and after interviewing witnesses came to a less damning conclusion: It was a racing incident. The Deserter GS was clear to start the race, but it wouldn’t make the green flag regardless. Not because of the race organizers, or Porsche, but because Heishman—who dealt Porsches—didn’t want the snafu impacting his livelihood, and withdrew the car.

“I was a Porsche/VW dealer and I didn’t need any headaches associated with my business partners,” Heishman later recalled. “I didn’t want to be accused of causing Porsche any more grief.”

In the end, Heishman deserted Daytona, and even though his driver was cleared of fault, he and the other slower entries got what Porsche would’ve considered just. At the last minute before the 1971 race, teams that couldn’t qualify average above 93 mph in qualifying were reportedly barred from starting, effectively banning slower, grassroots entries. Even though the Deserter GS never actually competed, it still seems to have left its mark on the face of endurance racing at Daytona.

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