At 4pm, the race started in damp conditions and it quickly became apparent that they suited the Goodyears better than the Firestones. Two of the Shelby cars – the #1 of Ken Miles/Denny Hulme and the #3 of Dan Gurney/Jerry Grant – were having no issues with their Goodyear tyres, but McLaren’s was losing chunks of tread on the Mulsanne at more than 210mph.
When he pitted to hand over to Amon at 5.33pm, he sought out the Firestone representative and negotiated a switch to Goodyears. The #2 car lost time in the process, contributing to a deficit that would be wiped out only when Miles in the #1 slowed to allow McLaren to catch up for the controversial finish the following afternoon.
As Amon prepared to depart the pits, he was told by McLaren to “Go like hell”, a phrase that became the title of A.J. Baime’s best-selling book, which details the rivalry between Ford and Ferrari at Le Mans in the 1960s.
As 4pm rolled around the next day, the surviving #2, #1 and #5 Fords – the latter being the Holman & Moody-run car of Ronnie Bucknum and Dick Hutcherson – lined up for a staged finish.
The manufactured dead-heat between the two Shelby machines continues to be debated to this day, but history records that McLaren and Amon were given the win based on starting further back and therefore having traveled a greater distance in the same time. But for the early switch to Goodyears, they wouldn’t even have been in contention.