Sep 29 | Rolex 24 Flashback: Porsche - Daytona's Ever-Present Storyline
This manufacturer's Rolex 24 of Daytona résumé reads like a history in brief of international sports car racing over the past half century.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- This manufacturer's Rolex 24 of Daytona résumé reads like a history in brief of international sports car racing over the past half century.
It's notched up victories with factory cars and privateer cars, and prototypes and GTs. That vast array of machinery has been powered by flat-12s, flat-eights, flat-sixes and even V8s, some of which were turbocharged and some normally aspirated.
And then there's the list of racing legends who've helped notch up all those triumphs: Rodriguez, Redman, Bell, Haywood, Gregg, Joest, Foyt, Wollek, Pescarolo, Stommelen, Holbert, Ongais and Rahal. And that's not forgetting multiple victories by that great U.S. racing dynasty, the Unsers.
That marque is, of course, Porsche.
The German manufacturer has been a constant through the rich, 50-year history of international sports car racing at Daytona. More than half a dozen Porsches took part in the inaugural Daytona Continental 3-hour race in 1962 and it has been represented on the grid every year since. In that time, it has notched up a phenomenal 22 overall victories, a total that includes three wins as an engine supplier.
That amazing run began at the 1968 24 Hours, the third edition of the Daytona enduro to be run to the twice-around-the-clock format. Victory for Jo Siffert, Vic Elford, Rolf Stommelen, Hans Hermann and Jochen Neerpasch at the wheel of a factory-entered 907LH was the first overall win for Porsche in any of the big sports car enduros at Daytona, Le Mans or Sebring. The tone had been set.
Porsche had to wait a couple of years for its first success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but not before the design that would achieve that breakthrough win had already notched up another Daytona success for the marque. In a very short time, the 917 would make an indelible mark in the history of motorsports and the psyche of every sports car fan.
Ask anyone to conjure up an image of the great 917 in their mind, and the chances are that it will be in the powder blue and orange of Gulf Oil. Those were the colors in which John Wyer's JW Automotive team triumphed at Daytona in 1970, with Pedro Rodriguez, Brian Redman and Leo Kinnunen behind the wheel. Wyer, Rodriguez and Jackie Oliver would then repeat the feat 12 months later, with Gulf backing, of course.
The red, white and blue of Brumos is another color scheme that shall be ever associated with Porsche at Daytona. Peter Gregg's Brumos team claimed victory in the 24 Hours three times in the 1970s, twice with a Carrera RSR and once with a 935, and the Florida-based team triumphed again in 2009 nearly 30 years after its owner's untimely death with a Porsche-powered Riley Daytona Prototype. Brumos was, of course, the team that gave Daytona legend Hurley Haywood the first two of his record five 24-hour victories at "The World Center of Racing."
The flame-breathing 935, an ever-more extreme silhouette special, was unbeaten in the 24 Hours from Brumos' 1978 triumph through '83. Domination by one Stuttgart design then merged into another, with a solo victory in between by the first of the "Powered by Porsche" wins at the Daytona International Speedway. Victory by the Kreepy Krauly March-Porsche in 1984 paved the way for the phenomenal success of the Porsche 962.
The IMSA GTP version of the Porsche 956 that had already won Le Mans in 1982 and '83 came on stream in 1984 and went on to win the Rolex 24 no fewer than five times. Just about everyone who was anyone in U.S. motorsports raced this classic machine over a long career that stretched into the 1990s.
The 962 coupe was the machine in which the great and the good went head to head at the start of each season. Mario Andretti, who'd given the car a first-time-out pole position at Daytona in '84, the Unsers, Indy car legend A.J. Foyt and, of couse, Al Holbert would all play starring roles in one of the classic periods of U.S. sports car racing.
The rivalry between Foyt and Holbert, who was Porsche's factory representative in the U.S., spanned the middle years of the 1980s. Foyt was only an occasional competitor in the Rolex 24, but he ended up winning the race with Preston Henn's Swap Shop team and its 935 in 1983 (after joining its lineup during the race) and then gave the 962 its first Daytona success with the same team two years later.
Holbert's factory car, shared with Derek Bell and Al Unser Jr., had finished second that year, but he got his revenge in 1986, with Foyt finishing a close second in the Henn car this time. The four-time Indy 500 winner returned with his own entry (run by the Brumos team) the following season and remained in the hunt until an engine failure in the final hour.
The career of the 962 appeared to be at an end with the demise of the GTP category in 1993, but an open-top version complying to the new World Sports Car rules claimed an against-the-odds victory in 1995. The Porsche factory had been due to contest the race with its WSC95, an "American" Porsche developed out of TWR, Inc.'s Valparaiso headquarters on a 1991-vintage Jaguar Group C chassis and scheduled to be driven by Mario Andretti and Scott Pruett, but scratched its entry courtesy of a late regulation change. The privateer Kremer team was affected by the same power-sapping rule tweak, but chose to push on with its plans to contest the big race with its 962-based contender.
The Kremer-Porsche K8 wasn't the quickest car in that year's 24 Hours, but it was the most reliable. As the fast but fragile Ferrari 333SPs fell by the wayside, the Porsche came through to score an unlikely victory with a driver lineup including Christophe Bouchut and Marco Werner.
Not quite as unlikely, however, as the triumph by The Racers Group in 2003. Its GT class 911 GT3-RS outlasted the debuting Daytona Prototypes to take the laurels by nine laps.
It was a little bit closer the next time Porsche took the overall win in the Rolex 24. The Porsche-powered Brumos Riley that triumphed in '09 enjoyed a winning margin of just 0.167sec after the closest 24 Hours on record.
The Riley chassis gave Porsche win number 22 the following season. This time, though, it was powered by a V8 engine developed from the Cayenne SUV powerplant.
That's quite a résumé already, but it's sure to be added to in the years to come. The shape, size and sound of cars has changed over the years at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, but one thing remains constant: the sight of a Porsche up on the banking.
Sep 28 | 2012 NASCAR Preseason Thunder At Daytona Scheduled For Jan. 12-14
NASCAR Preseason Thunder, the annual three-day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test session in advance of the season-opening 54th annual Daytona 500, will be held on Jan. 12-14.
All NASCAR Preseason Thunder test sessions begin at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m., weather permitting. Each includes a lunch break from noon until 1 p.m.
Race fans can also rev up their new year at the NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fest – the companion event to the January test sessions. Along with watching NASCAR Preseason Thunder track activity from the Sprint FANZONE, fans can enjoy two Fan Fest driver sessions – from 5-9 p.m., on Thursday, Jan. 12 and from 5-7 p.m., on Friday, Jan. 13.
The schedule of driver question-and-answer and autograph sessions will be finalized closer to the event. Tickets for the NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fest, which include autograph session wristbands, will be available for purchase at a later date. For fans who would like to be contacted regarding NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fest ticket information can sign up online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/thunder
Fans can also watch each day’s testing at no cost from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands.
“NASCAR Preseason Thunder is an important opportunity for teams to acquire vital on-track data as they prepare for the sport’s biggest, richest and most prestigious race of the year – the Daytona 500,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said. “It’s also exciting time for race fans who are anxious to see their favorite drivers and teams preparing for the new NASCAR season.”
The Roar Before The Rolex 24, the tune-up session for the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series teams in advance of the historic 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, is scheduled for Jan. 6-8.
Information on tickets for both the NASCAR Preseason Thunder and the Roar Before The Rolex 24 will be available online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Sep 28 | Roar Before The Rolex 24 Set For Jan. 6-8
The Roar Before The Rolex 24, the critical three-day test session prior to the historic 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, is scheduled for Jan. 6-8 at Daytona International Speedway.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Roar Before The Rolex 24, the critical three-day test session prior to the historic 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, is scheduled for Jan. 6-8 at Daytona International Speedway.
Sports cars from the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge will test the twists and turns of the “World Center of Racing’s” 3.56-mile road course for three days as they prepare for their respective season-opening events.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona, celebrating its golden anniversary in 2012, will kick off the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series season on Jan. 28-29 and showcase the world’s best drivers competing against each other lap after lap for 24 hours. The GRAND-AM 200, the season-opening event to the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, is slated for Friday, Jan. 27.
In addition to the testing sessions, there will be open garage access during the Roar Before The Rolex 24 as well as fan forums, pit stop demonstrations and tech talks.
Tickets for the Roar Before The Rolex 24 are $15 and are on sale now by visiting www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Ticketholders for the 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona and children 12 and under will receive free admission. Tickets for the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona are also available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Sep 27 | 1981 Rolex 24 Overall Champion Porsche 935 Added to 50th Anniversary Display
The No. 9 Bob Garretson’s Style Auto Porsche 935, driven to victory in the 1981 Rolex 24 At Daytona by Bobby Rahal, Brian Redman and Garretson, will join the display of past overall Rolex 24 At Daytona championship cars as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the twice-around-the-clock challenge on Jan. 28-29, 2012.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The No. 9 Bob Garretson’s Style Auto Porsche 935, driven to victory in the 1981 Rolex 24 At Daytona by Bobby Rahal, Brian Redman and Garretson, will join the display of past overall Rolex 24 At Daytona championship cars as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the twice-around-the-clock challenge on Jan. 28-29, 2012.
The Rolex 24 victory was a significant moment for the young Rahal, who went on to a successful open-wheel racing career as a driver and owner including a win in the 1986 Indianapolis 500. For Redman, it was his third and final victory for the sports car legend in the prestigious endurance race.
The No. 9 Porsche joins the growing field of prestigious championship cars 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
Additional winning cars will be announced in the coming months as they are secured to be part of this one-of-a-kind display.
Under the direction of Redman, the No. 9 Porsche 935 ran a steady and conservative pace in the 1981 Rolex 24 and avoided turbocharger problems that claimed many of the other top contenders.
Throughout qualifying and in the race, Redman insisted the team not show their full hand. Entering the race weekend, he had no interest in the pole and didn’t want to see the car at the head of the field for the first 20 hours.
The strategy paid off. With exception of a crack exhaust header and a right-front suspension issue, the car ran a smooth race. Redman, Rahal and Garretson claimed the win by a margin of 13 laps and covered 2,718.72 miles, 708 laps with an average speed of 113.153 mph.
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.
Sep 26 | Nasr Captures Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge
Newly crowned British Formula 3 Champion Felipe Nasr wins the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge and earns a seat in the 2012 Rolex 24.
DERBY, England - This past Saturday morning, the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 drivers qualified for the weekend's racing at Donington Park and newly crowned British Formula 3 Champion Felipe Nasr set pole position with a time of 1:23.012 and in doing so clinched the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge after gaining 20 points.
Nasr went into this race weekend needing just 12 points to win the Sunoco Daytona Challenge. The qualifying session was close with Racing Steps Foundation driver Jack Harvey fighting hard for the top spot but Nasr bounced back and went faster by 0.064 seconds.
The Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge is now in its third year, and in previous years, a Formula 3 driver was knocked out at the last minute. The inaugural challenge saw 2009 British Formula 3 champion Daniel Ricciardo miss out on the Daytona drive by just two points; last year saw the 2010 British Formula 3 champion, Jean-Eric Vergne, also finish runner up by just over 10 points. However, this year the newly crowned 2011 Cooper Tires Formula 3 Champion Felipe Nasr has become the first British Formula 3 racer to win the Sunoco Daytona Challenge and a race seat in a Daytona Prototype with a top team in the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 28-29.
Nasr is originally from Brazil. Despite only having four years car racing experience Nasr has an impressive racing resume; starting in Formula BMW where he competed for 2 years until moving up into the British Formula 3. Felipe finished fifth overall in the British F3 last year and this year was back to take the title - claiming the championship win with 2 rounds to go and a lead of 123 points.
"Its such a great feeling - winning the championship three weeks ago was amazing and this is definitely up there with that, Nasr said. "I want to thank everyone for this opportunity; it's a big thing for me and is a massive mark in my career. I will be taking it very seriously and I will take it forward and do my very best. I can't wait to get stuck in."
Said Anders Hildebrand of the Anglo American Oil Company: "From the start of the Sunoco Daytona Challenge the feeling amongst F3 drivers has been that they will not be able to win due to the fierce competition, within the class, resulting in that F3 drivers are ‘stealing' points from each other. However, Daniel Ricciardo in 2009 and Jean-Eric Vergne in 2010 came very close to winning the most wanted race seat but lost out at their last race. Now it's third time lucky and we are delighted that we will have the current British F3 Champion, Felipe Nasr, racing in the 50th anniversary of the famous endurance race against stars such as Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti and Jimmie Johnson.....what an experience!"
Said Mark Raffauf, GRAND-AM Managing Director of Competition: "GRAND-AM would like to congratulate Felipe on winning the British Formula 3 championship and the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge. Our first two winners of the Challenge came from the Radical series, and did an excellent job. Now, having a driver with an outstanding resume from an open-wheel series is going to add additional excitement at the historic 50th Rolex 24 At Daytona."
The 2012 Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge consists of:
- 2 full days testing at Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
- 2 days testing at Daytona in December
- 3 days testing at the ‘Roar Before The Rolex 24' in Daytona
- A race seat in a top team at the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona with pre-race testing included.
The first test session will be at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., on October 17-18.
Tickets for the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona are available online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Sep 23 | Rolex 24 Flashback: The Magnificent Seven in 1997
Dyson Racing’s No. 20 Riley & Scott Mk III-Ford started the 1997 Rolex 24 as an afterthought, but finished the star when it ended the team’s near-two decade quest for a first win in the prestigious endurance classic.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dyson Racing’s No. 20 Riley & Scott Mk III-Ford started the 1997 Rolex 24 At Daytona as an afterthought, but finished the star when it ended the team’s near-two decade quest for a first win in the Florida endurance classic. The fact that it took just about anybody and everybody in the Dyson pit who owned a driving suit to get it into victory lane – seven in total – just adds to the legend.
For 1997, team owner Rob Dyson had two Riley & Scott Mk III Ford V8s entered, but one looked on paper to have a much better chance of producing a win. The team’s lead entry featured full-season championship challengers James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger, with Andy Wallace and John Paul Jr. joining for Daytona.
The second entry was more of a “have fun and see what happens” scenario, with Dyson set to be joined by Elliott Forbes-Robinson and John Schneider.
“How we ended up with Elliott and John Schneider was that Elliott said, ‘I’m putting together a deal to run Daytona, and want you to run the second car,’” Dyson recalls. “‘I’ve got John Schneider on board, and he wants to do the race.’ I didn’t know the guy. He was a good pair of hands, not a pro. Reliable, safe and progressive.”
As it turned out, they’d need it.
The relative tortoise to the No. 16 hare, Dyson’s No. 20 notched up the laps, but fell behind its leading, sister car and the stunning Ferrari 333SPs fielded by both Andy Evans’ Team Scandia and Gianpiero Moretti’s MOMO Corse.
At seven hours, Moretti’s bullet hit an oil leak that cost the team three laps, and later a fire destroyed the car’s electronics.
Not long afterward, Dyson’s lead entry hit problems when the engine failed. Asked what triggered it, Leitzinger and Wallace both joke that things were fine until Weaver got in the car.
The strategy changed with Dyson’s backup car now the only contender. Paul was already scheduled to switch from the No. 16 to the 20 after eight hours, and his co-drivers soon followed.
“Around midnight, leading, the (16’s) engine blew to smithereens,” Leitzinger says. “That car had some problems, and JP had switched to the 20 car. Everyone thought it was over; the 16 was out, but JP said, ‘We could still win this.’ And everyone else agreed. I thought, ‘I’ve only driven once.’ I went over to (team manager) Pat (Smith) and asked, ‘Can I drive that car?’”
It was an optimistic assessment by Leitzinger, and one that took a moment to register for the rest of the team. But as Dyson recalls, with no rule against it, they figured they might as well go for it.
Almost immediately, the cars in front of them began dropping out like flies.
“I got in after JP,” Leitzinger continues. “Then all of us drove through the night. A few unfortunate things happened. The Scandia Ferrari had some sort of issues, and the MOMO Ferrari might have had gearbox problems. And then Wayne (Taylor) launched a motor really big on the straight.”
“Something happened to George Robinson’s car, he fell out too,” Dyson interjects. “All the other Rileys started falling by the wayside.”
As the night went on, Leitzinger said the race was coming to them – and he was left wondering whether his British co-drivers were off gallivanting.
“Right about three or four in the morning, when suddenly we were fighting with Scandia at that point. All this time, James and Andy are having a nice dinner, about 25 beers.”
Wallace and Weaver have to defend themselves at this point against Leitzinger’s playful jesting — lest they be accused of pulling a Max McGee in the first Super Bowl in competing after a night out.
“We were actually having a shower, a shave and said, ‘Oh let’s go and see how the boys are doing,’” Wallace says.
“We were going to have a few beers, but we were so depressed after falling out, we couldn’t even work up the enthusiasm to go out for any!” Weaver admits. “We woke up, went to the track to provide some moral support, and when we arrived Pat said, ‘Jump in!’”
Smith granted both aces a shot aboard the car.
The situation was unexpected, and although everyone had a fair shot, Leitzinger drove the lion’s share of the remaining hours for several reasons.
From 4 a.m., the engine began overheating on the No. 20 car. It was the start of a plethora of problems that nearly sent Dyson into a pitfall from the lead.
“We ran two different engine configurations, and the No. 16 had more power,” Leitzinger explains. “And then the 20 was falling apart. It kept overheating. We had to pump water in at the pit stops. It had electrical issues. The water temp was a very bad sign. We kept going slower and slower.”
“Evans was right behind us, trying his best, but he had brake problems,” Dyson adds. “They were on the same lap, and if they would have stopped to change brakes, they would have lost time over the final three hours. They were limping with no brakes.”
Leitzinger’s brakes weren’t much better, but the Ferrari was still pushing hard.
“The Scandia car was plugging away behind us,” Leitzinger says. “It felt really bad. One of the front brake pads was falling apart. I had to rub the brakes, and I couldn’t stab on the brakes. It was probably fortunate the thing didn’t have any power then, because I couldn’t use it.”
Weaver recalls the car ran sprint brakes, per Smith’s recommendation. Dyson remembers the brakes were bathed in liquid nitrogen, which would make them last, even if they were falling apart by that stage in the race.
Weaver’s request to get behind the wheel as the car began its self-destruction was later denied!
“Butch was driving as it went into a rapid descent,” Dyson says. “James said, ‘I should get in.’ Smitty replied, ‘No, Butch knows how to drive it. It’s so quirky.’ We were barely able to get in and out of the pits.”
Scandia’s charge ended when Charles Morgan spun out behind the wheel. Weaver, who had eventually made his case for another stint, almost avoided it but contact further damaged the Dyson car’s electronics.
“The Ferrari that was leading spun, I was right behind. I went up the inside of him.” Weaver says.
Both cars were battered and beaten, but not defeated. Only one would fall by the wayside and, on this occasion, it wasn’t going to be Dyson.
Leitzinger drove the final two hours waiting for the car to spontaneously combust. But, while it came apart in pieces, it never did as a whole.
“The car deteriorated lap by lap. I had my hand on the gear lever ready to put it in neutral,” Leitzinger says. “As bad as the engine was going, it was very surprising it did last.”
“We had to go and nurse it home,” Wallace concurs. “It was more than just driving around, it was babying it to the finish.”
After dropping a cylinder, plus the continuous overheating, it was a miracle the car made the finish. The No. 20 won with a record seven drivers – a mark unequaled before or since, and one that will stand forever as new regulations have capped the maximum number of drivers per car.
The win not only set a record, but it caught the race sponsor off-guard.
“I remember the Rolex people panicking,” Dyson says. “They only had provision for four watches and we needed seven! They gave us the other three later. Now they have a rule where they only give out four.”
Looking back on it, the guys who drove those 24 hours admit this was a magical – if draining – moment of success.
“After the race we got so much grief for putting so many guys in, but they were fresh,” Leitzinger says. “I’ll use a baseball analogy – it’s the last game of the World Series and we have all these pitchers on the sideline. So we kept throwing fresh people at it. For me, being in hour after hour, I was absolutely wiped out.”
“A lot of things have to go right and you do ask, ‘How many times did Rob do it before winning?’” Wallace says. “During the race, you never think, ‘Oh, we have a great chance of winning this.’ You don’t think that. If it’s going well, you push the thought out of your mind.”
“It’s not just the drivers, but the team, suppliers, engine, gearbox, every single part of the car,” Weaver says. “To build a car like that to last is really difficult, it’s not like Porsche or Audi. It’s a purpose-built hot-rod. We stuck a Ford V8 in the back and saw how it goes.”
The guy who his co-drivers respectfully call “Governor” sums it up, and also notes Paul’s dedication to the cause.
“When we were finally able to bring the car home in first place, it was a combination of elation and relief we were finally able to do it,” Dyson says. “We did everything we could to win it. We were always contenders.
“And John Paul never left the pits the entire race. He was in the car or stayed in a chair. That’s dedication.”
Paul finally did leave the pits – to take the short walk to victory lane, with his six co-drivers and crew in tow.