DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The No. 43 Ecurie Escargot Porsche 911 RSR, the overall winning car from the 1977 Rolex 24 At Daytona in which legendary Hurley Haywood drove an incredible eight-hour nighttime stint, is the latest addition to the display of overall Rolex 24 At Daytona championship cars that will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the twice-around-the-clock challenge on Jan. 28-29, 2012.
Haywood, who was unsure of the reliability of the new turbocharged Porsche 935s that made its debut in the 1977 Rolex 24, co-drove the ex-Brumos Porsche 911 to his third Rolex 24 victory with John Graves and owner/driver David Helmick.
During the night hours of the race, Haywood, who was gaining time on the track, stayed behind the wheel of the car for an amazing eight-hour stint. In each of the pit stops, Haywood would hop out of the car and enter the tent. When the car was ready to return to the track, Haywood would exit the tent and return to the car with a different helmet to disguise the fact he was still driving.
“Running an eight hour shift was not allowed really,” Haywood said with a chuckle. “Everybody kind of knew what was going on but just to sort of get underneath the wire, I changed helmets. I’d jump out of the car, run into an area that they had roped off and change my helmet. They all knew what I was doing anyway so it really didn’t make a difference.
“They have longer than eight hours of night (racing) at Daytona at that time of the year so my co-drivers did drive a little bit at night but I did a major share in one stint and I really didn’t get that tired. It was one of those things where you looked to see your progress and things were looking good so I (stayed) in.”
“Those cars weren’t that physically difficult to drive. They didn’t have a lot of G loads in the corners under brakes. It wasn’t as tasking. You could never do that today. Three hours is about all you want to spend in our current car whether it’s GT or DP (Daytona Prototype). Back then it was different. The race pace wasn’t particularly gruesome. It was an easier thing to deal with back then but still eight hours is a long time.”
While the new turbo charged Porsche 935s proved to be faster, the Haywood/Graves/Helmick Porsche outlasted them to take the checkered flag. The No. 43 car dominated the final three hours of the race to win by a margin of three laps.
“I was confident that it was going to be a good car,” Haywood said. “When the race started, everybody blew off in the dust and I was going, ‘Boy this was probably not a good move.’ As the race started to progress, (the turbos) started having problems and we started moving up the leaderboard.
“We came up on top after it was all over. It was fun. I had a good time. I love driving those RSRs and the gamble paid off.”
The No. 43 Porsche 911 RSR joins the growing field of prestigious championship cars previously announced in the display:
• The No. 96 Arciero Racing Lotus-Climax 19B from the inaugural Rolex 24 (then known as the Daytona Continental) in 1962
• The Porsche 907 from the 1968 Rolex 24
• The No. 98 Eagle GTP from the 1993 Rolex 24
• The Preston Henn Porsches from the 1983 and 1985 Rolex 24s
• The No. 6 Lola T70 Chevrolet from the 1969 Rolex 24
• The No. 9 Bob Garretson’s Style Auto Porsche 935 from the 1981 Rolex 24 At Daytona
Additional winning cars will be announced as they are secured to be part of this one-of-a-kind display.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona, the kick-off event to Speedweeks 2012 as well as the international motorsports calendar, showcases the world’s best drivers competing against each other lap after lap for 24 hours on Daytona International Speedway’s challenging and demanding 3.56-mile road course.
Tickets for the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona are on sale online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.