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Rolex 24 at Daytona
Rolex 24 at Daytona
Venue Daytona International Speedway
Corporate sponsor Rolex
First race 1962
Distance 24 hours (endurance)
Number of laps varies
Previous names Daytona 3 Hour Continental (1962-1963)
Daytona 2000 (1964-1965)
24 Hours of Daytona (1966-1971)
6 Hours of Daytona (1972)
24 Hours of Daytona (1973, 1975-1977)
24 Hour Pepsi Challenge (1978-1983)
SunBank 24 at Daytona (1984-1991)

The Rolex 24 at Daytona, formerly known as the 24 Hours of Daytona, is a 24-hour sports car endurance race held annually at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. It is run on a 3.56-mile (5.73 km) combined road course, utilizing portions of the NASCAR tri-oval and an infield road course. Since its inception, it has been held the last weekend of January or first weekend of February, part of Speedweeks, and it is the first major automobile race of the year in the United States.

The race has had several names over the years. Since 1991, the Rolex Watch Co. is the title sponsor of the race under a naming rights arrangement, replacing Sunbank (now SunTrust) which in turn replaced Pepsi in 1984. Winning drivers of all classes receive a steel Rolex Daytona watch.

In 2006, the race moved one week earlier into January to prevent a clash with the Super Bowl, which had in turn moved one week later into February a few years earlier. In effect, these two major events switched dates.

Contents

Beginnings

In 1962, a few years after the track was built, a 3-hour sports car race was introduced, the Daytona Continental, which counted towards the World Sportscar Championship. The first Continental was won by Dan Gurney, driving a 2.7L Coventry-Climax powered Lotus 19. Gurney was a factory Porsche driver at the time, but the 1600-ccPorsche 718 was considered too small and slow for what amounted to a sprint race on a very fast course.

In 1964, the event was expanded to 2000 km (1220 miles), doubling the classic 1000 km distance of races at Nürburgring, Spa and Monza. The distance amounted to roughly the half of the distance the 24 Hours of Le Mans winners covered at the time and was similar in length to the Sebring 12 hour race, which was also held in Florida a few weeks later in the year. Starting in 1966, the Daytona race was extended to the same 24 hour length as Le Mans.

24-hour history

As in the Spa 24 Hours (introduced in 1924) and the 24 Hours Nürburgring (1970), the purpose of the event is to determine which team of drivers can take their sports car the farthest in a fixed time period, rather than the shortest time over a fixed distance as in most conventional auto races.

Unlike the Le Mans event, the Daytona race is conducted entirely over a closed course within the speedway arena without the use of any public streets. Most parts of the steep banking are included, interrupted with a chicane on the back straight and a sweeping, fast infield section which includes two hairpins. As unlike Le Mans, the race is held in wintertime, when nights are at their longest. There are lights installed around the circuit for night racing, although the infield section is still not as well-lit as the main oval. However, the stadium lights are turned on only to a level of 20%, similar to the stadium lighting setup at Le Mans, with brighter lights around the pit straight, and decent lighting similar to street lights around the circuit.

In the past, a car had to cross the finish line after 24 hours to be classified, which led to dramatic scenes where damaged cars waited in the pits or on the edge of the track close to the finish line for hours, then restarted their engines and crawled across the finish line one last time in order to finish after the 24 hours and be listed with a finishing distance, rather than dismissed with DNF (Did Not Finish). This was the case in the initial 1962 Daytona Continental (then 3 hours), in which Dan Gurney's Lotus had established a lengthy lead when the engine failed with just minutes remaining. Gurney stopped the car at the top of the banking, just short of the finish line. When the three hours had elapsed, Gurney simply cranked the steering wheel to the left (toward the bottom of the banking) and let gravity pull the car across the line, to not only salvage a finishing position, but actually win the race. This led to the international rule requiring a car to cross the line under its own power in order to be classified. Ironically, Gurney himself fell afoul of the new rule at the Sebring 12 Hours in 1966, when the engine in his race-leading Ford GT failed with two minutes remaining. Gurney, in his frustration, attempted to push his car across the line, leading to his disqualification.

After having lost in 1966 both at Daytona and at Le Mans to the Fords, the Ferrari P series prototypes staged a triumphant 1-2-3 side-by-side parade finish at the banked finish line in 1967. The Ferrari 365 GTB/4 road car was given the unofficial name Ferrari Daytona in celebration of this victory.[1]

Porsche repeated this show in their 1-2-3 win in the 1968 24 Hours. After the car of Gerhard Mitter had a big crash caused by tyre failure in the banking, his teammate Rolf Stommelen supported the car of Vic Elford/Jochen Neerpasch. When the car of the longtime leaders Jo Siffert/Hans Herrmann dropped to second due to a technical problem, these two also joined the new leaders while continuing with their car. So Porsche managed to put 5 of 8 drivers on the center of the podium, plus Jo Schlesser/Joe Buzzetta finishing in 3rd place, with only Mitter being left out.

In 1972, due to the energy crisis, the race was shortened to 6 hours, while for 1974 the race was cancelled altogether.

In 1982, following near-continuous inclusion on the World Sportscar Championship, the race was finally dropped as the series attempted to cut costs by both keeping teams in Europe and running shorter races. The race continued on as part of the IMSA GT series.

The regular teams were expanded to 3 drivers in the 1970s. Nowadays, often four or five drivers compete, with occasional "taxi" rides for less lucky team mates adding to the total. The winning entry in 1997 featured as many as seven drivers taking a turn in the cockpit.

Grand American & Daytona Prototypes

After ownership problems with IMSA in the 1990s, the Daytona event aligned with the Grand-Am series, a competitor of the American Le Mans Series, which, as its name implies, uses the same regulations as the Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, though Le Mans 24H itself is not on the ALMS calendar. The Grand Am series, though, is instead closely linked to NASCAR and its focus is on controlled costs and close competition.

In order to make sports car racing less expensive than elsewhere, new rules were introduced in 2002. The dedicated Daytona Prototypes use less expensive materials and technologies and the car's simple aerodynamics reduce the development and testing costs.

Specialist chassis makers like Riley, Dallara, Lola and Crawford provide the DP cars for the teams and the engines are branded under the names of major car companies like Pontiac, Lexus, Ford, BMW, and Porsche. Unlike elsewhere, the vehicles are designated Engine-Chassis at Daytona (e.g. "Lexus-Riley"), as the chassis makers are relatively unknown and do not sell road cars, similar to many specialised race car manufacturers.

Daytona GTs

The Gran Turismo class cars at Daytona are closer to the road versions, similar to the GT3 class elsewhere. For example, the more standard Cup version of the Porsche 996 is used, instead of the usual RS/RSR racing versions. Recent Daytona entries also include BMW M3s and M6s, Porsche 911s, Chevy Camaros and Corvettes, Mazda RX-8s and Pontiac GTO.Rs.

In an effort for teams to save money, GT rules have now changed to permit spaceframe cars clad in lookalike body panels to compete in GT (the new Mazda for example, and the forthcoming Infiniti G35). These rules are somewhat similar to the old GTO specification, but with rather more restrictions.

The intent of spaceframe-clad cars is to allow teams to save money -- especially after crashes, where teams can rebuild the cars for the next race at a much lower cost, or even redevelop cars, instead of having to write off an entire car after a crash or at the end of a year.

2006 race

In the 2006 event, teams which are traditionally linked to Porsche made an effort to "reconquer" Daytona, like Brumos Racing, which has fielded Porsches traditionally numbered as #58 and #59 since the 1970s. Porsche factory drivers were also scattered around the teams running Porsche engines in their DPs, and it was German Lucas Luhr who set the pole position time with the #23 Crawford-Porsche of Alex Job Racing. In the race, the car that was also driven by Mike Rockenfeller and Patrick Long led for some time, but lost time during a repair of a driveshaft, and finished only 3rd ahead of the #58 Red Bull Brumos Fabcar-Porsche with fellow Porsche works driver Sascha Maassen. Two Riley-Lexus finished 1-2, with Target Chip Ganassi's all-star line-up of Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears taking the overall win.

The GT class saw, as usual, virtually dozens of Porsches, and their faster drivers like Wolf Henzler. The Pontiac GTO.R of experienced team The Racer's Group not only set the GT pole, but also lead much of the early part of the race, battling with the best 911s of the new 997 series, finishing 10th overall ahead of 21 prototypes. The #36 TPC Racing Porsche, driven by Randy Pobst, Driver/Owner Michael Levitas, Ian Baas and Spencer Pumpelly, did three laps more, taking the GT class win plus ninth overall, though.[2] The second best non-Porsche 996 GT was the other TRG GTO.R at 26th overall, 13th in GT.[3]

Star drivers appearances

As the Rolex 24 has a winter date during off-season for other racing series, many top class drivers are able and willing to take part in the Rolex if sponsorship commitments allow this. The track's marketing machine has aggressively sold the roll call of champions, with track officials focusing on the presence of professional-level racing champions and superstars in the race.

Recently retired NASCAR star Rusty Wallace joined IRL star Danica Patrick in the 2006 race, while Tony Stewart has gained a reputation of "checkers or wreckers" after his gallant 2004 drive with a badly stricken car in the lead, while attempting to nurse it to victory with less than 20 minutes remaining, the rear suspension collapsed and Stewart crashed. Indy 500 champions Buddy Rice and Dan Wheldon have also made appearances in the race, with Wheldon's 2006 victory in the Rolex the first time a reigning Indy champion had won the classic. Previous Rolex 24 races have featured Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (the two were paired in the 2001 race, a memorable moment in the history of sportscar racing, and it is said they began this revival of the all-star format), Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Paul Tracy, Sébastien Bourdais, Kurt Busch, Kyle Petty, and stars who have raced in every major form of motorsport.

The drivers seem to enjoy the all-star showdown, although the presence of these "ringers" has, along with the formula governing the cars, drawn the ire of sportscar-racing purists, who tend to view the series as a dumbed-down version of "real" sportscar racing. Many observers, on the other hand, believe the presence of these visiting stars is beneficial. They argue the racing only intensifies when a handful of top-flight drivers from other forms of motorsport decide to take on the road racing aces. For example, the star power added to the field created some passionate driving in the 2006 race.

The 2007 Rolex field featured Jeff Gordon in the Wayne Taylor Racing #10 SunTrust Pontiac, Indianapolis 500 champions Hélio Castroneves and then-reigning IRL and Indianapolis 500 champion Sam Hornish, Jr. in a Michael Shank Racing Lexus, with Bobby Labonte, Jimmie Johnson, 1996 CART Champ Car champion Jimmy Vasser, Juan Pablo Montoya, and Kyle Petty in the race.

Jimmie Johnson was a member the 2008 Rolex 24 field, in the reigning Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing #99, which featured Lowe's colors along with its traditional red for the race. Former winner John Andretti was also in the field, along with former Formula 1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya, who took first place in the 01 Chip Ganassi Target car. The Chip Ganassi team became the first team in the history of the race to win three consecutive years.

Statistics

Porsche has the most overall victories of any manufacturer with 22, scored by various models, including the road based 911, 935 and 996. Porsche also won a record 11 consecutive races from 1977-1987 and won 18 out of 23 races from 1968-1991. Manufacturer's win totals:

Drivers with the most overall wins

Overall winners

Year Date Drivers Team Car Car # Distance Championship
3 Hour distance
1962 February 11 United States Dan Gurney United States Frank Arciero Lotus 19B-Coventry Climax 96 502.791 km World Sportscar Championship
1963 February 17 Mexico Pedro Rodríguez United States North American Racing Team Ferrari 250 GTO 18 494.551 km World Sportscar Championship
2000 km distance
1964 February 16 Mexico Pedro Rodríguez
United States Phil Hill
United States North American Racing Team Ferrari 250 GTO 30 - World Sportscar Championship
1965 February 28 United Kingdom Ken Miles
United States Lloyd Ruby
United States Shelby-American Inc. Ford GT40 Mk.II 73 - World Sportscar Championship
24 Hour distance
1966 February 5
February 6
United Kingdom Ken Miles
United States Lloyd Ruby
United States Shelby-American Inc. Ford GT40 Mk. II 98 4157.222 km World Sportscar Championship
1967 February 4
February 5
Italy Lorenzo Bandini
New Zealand Chris Amon
Italy SpA Ferrari SEFAC Ferrari 330 P4 23 4083.646 km World Sportscar Championship
1968 February 3
February 4
United Kingdom Vic Elford
Germany Jochen Neerpasch
Germany Rolf Stommelen
Switzerland Jo Siffert
Germany Hans Herrmann
Germany Porsche System Engineering Porsche 907LH 54 4126.567 km World Sportscar Championship
1969 February 1
February 2
United States Mark Donohue
United States Chuck Parsons
United States Roger Penske Sunoco Racing Lola T70 Mk.3B-Chevrolet 6 3838.382 km World Sportscar Championship
1970 January 31
February 1
Mexico Pedro Rodríguez
Finland Leo Kinnunen
United Kingdom Brian Redman
United States J.W. Engineering Porsche 917K 2 4439.279 km World Sportscar Championship
1971 January 30
January 31
Mexico Pedro Rodríguez
United Kingdom Jackie Oliver
United States J.W. Automotive Engineering Porsche 917K 2 4218.542 km World Sportscar Championship
6 Hour distance
1972 February 5
February 6
United States Mario Andretti
Belgium Jacky Ickx
Italy SpA Ferrari SEFAC Ferrari 312PB 2 1189.531 km World Sportscar Championship
24 Hour distance
1973 February 3
February 4
United States Peter Gregg
United States Hurley Haywood
United States Brumos Porsche Porsche Carrera RSR 59 759| 4108.172 km World Sportscar Championship
1974 No race due to an energy crisis
1975 February 1
February 2
United States Peter Gregg
United States Hurley Haywood
United States Brumos Porsche Porsche Carrera RSR 59 4194.015 km World Sportscar Championship
IMSA GT Championship
1976 January 31
February 1
United States Peter Gregg
United Kingdom Brian Redman
United Kingdom John Fitzpatrick
United States BMW of North America BMW 3.0 CSL 59 3368.035 km IMSA GT Championship
1977 February 5
February 6
United States Hurley Haywood
United States John Graves
United States Dave Helmick
United States Ecurie Escargot Porsche Carrera RSR 43 4208.499 km World Championship of Makes
IMSA GT Championship
1978 February 4
February 5
United States Peter Gregg
Germany Rolf Stommelen
Netherlands Toine Hezemans
United States Brumos Porsche Porsche 935/77 99 4202.319 km World Championship of Makes
IMSA GT Championship
1979 February 3
February 4
United States Hurley Haywood
United States Ted Field
United States Danny Ongais
United States Interscope Racing Porsche 935/79 0 4227.039 km World Sportscar Championship
IMSA GT Championship
1980 February 2
February 3
Germany Rolf Stommelen
Germany Volkert Merl
Germany Reinhold Joest
Germany L&M Joest Racing Porsche 935J 2 4418.615 km World Sportscar Championship
IMSA GT Championship
1981 January 31
February 1
United States Bobby Rahal
United Kingdom Brian Redman
United States Bob Garretson
United States Garretson Racing/Style Auto Porsche 935 K3 9 4375.355 km World Sportscar Championship
IMSA GT Championship
1982 January 30
January 31
United States John Paul Sr.
United States John Paul Jr.
Germany Rolf Stommelen
United States JLP Racing Porsche 935 JLP-3 18 4443.334 km‡ IMSA GT Championship
1983 February 5
February 6
United States A.J. Foyt
United States Preston Henn
France Bob Wollek
France Claude Ballot-Lena
United States Henn's Swap Shop Racing Porsche 935L 6 3819.167 km IMSA GT Championship
1984 February 4
February 5
South Africa Sarel van der Merwe
South Africa Tony Martin
South Africa Graham Duxbury
South Africa Kreepy Krauly Racing March 83G-Porsche 00 3986.023 km IMSA GT Championship
1985 February 2
February 3
United States A.J. Foyt
France Bob Wollek
United States Al Unser Sr.
Belgium Thierry Boutsen
United States Henn's Swap Shop Racing Porsche 962 8 4027.673 km IMSA GT Championship
1986 February 1
February 2
United States Al Holbert
United Kingdom Derek Bell
United States Al Unser Jr.
United States Löwenbräu Holbert Racing Porsche 962 14 4079.236 km IMSA GT Championship
1987 January 31
February 1
United States Al Holbert
United Kingdom Derek Bell
United States Chip Robinson
United States Al Unser Jr.
United States Löwenbräu Holbert Racing Porsche 962 14 4314.136 km IMSA GT Championship
1988 January 30
January 31
Brazil Raul Boesel
United Kingdom Martin Brundle
Denmark John Nielsen
Netherlands Jan Lammers
United Kingdom Castrol Jaguar Racing (TWR) Jaguar XJR-9 60 4170.905 km IMSA GT Championship
1989 February 4
February 5
United States John Andretti
United Kingdom Derek Bell
France Bob Wollek
United States Miller/BFGoodrich Busby Racing Porsche 962 67 3557.873 km IMSA GT Championship
1990 February 3
February 4
United States Davy Jones
Netherlands Jan Lammers
United Kingdom Andy Wallace
United Kingdom Castrol Jaguar Racing (TWR) Jaguar XJR-12D 61 4359.970 km IMSA GT Championship
1991 February 2
February 3
United States Hurley Haywood
Germany "John Winter"
Germany Frank Jelinski
France Henri Pescarolo
France Bob Wollek
Germany Joest Racing Porsche 962C 7 4119.341 km IMSA GT Championship
1992 February 1
February 2
Japan Masahiro Hasemi
Japan Kazuyoshi Hoshino
Japan Toshio Suzuki
Japan Nissan Motorsports Intl. Nissan R91CP 23 4365.700 km IMSA GT Championship
1993 January 30
January 31
United States P. J. Jones
United States Mark Dismore
United States Rocky Moran
United States All American Racers Toyota Eagle MkIII-Toyota 99 3999.027 km IMSA GT Championship
1994 February 5
February 6
United States Paul Gentilozzi
United States Scott Pruett
United States Butch Leitzinger
New Zealand Steve Millen
United States Cunningham Racing Nissan 300ZX 76 4050.090 km IMSA GT Championship
1995 February 4
February 5
Germany Jürgen Lässig
France Christophe Bouchut
Italy Giovanni Lavaggi
Germany Marco Werner
Germany Kremer Racing Kremer K8 Spyder-Porsche 10 3953.192 km IMSA GT Championship
1996 February 3
February 4
South Africa Wayne Taylor
United States Scott Sharp
United States Jim Pace
United States Doyle Racing Riley & Scott Mk III-Oldsmobile 4 3993.298 km IMSA GT Championship
1997 February 1
February 2
United States Rob Dyson
United Kingdom James Weaver
United States Butch Leitzinger
United Kingdom Andy Wallace
United States John Paul Jr.
United States Elliott Forbes-Robinson
United States John Schneider
United States Dyson Racing Riley & Scott Mk III-Ford 16 3953.192 km IMSA GT Championship
1998 January 31
February 1
Italy Mauro Baldi
Netherlands Arie Luyendyk
Italy Gianpiero Moretti
Belgium Didier Theys
United States Doran-Moretti Racing Ferrari 333 SP 30 4073.507 km U.S. Road Racing Championship
1999 January 30
January 31
United States Elliott Forbes-Robinson
United States Butch Leitzinger
United Kingdom Andy Wallace
United States Dyson Racing Team Inc. Riley & Scott Mk III-Ford 20 4056.319 km U.S. Road Racing Championship
2000 February 5
February 6
Monaco Olivier Beretta
France Dominique Dupuy
Austria Karl Wendlinger
France Viper Team Oreca Dodge Viper GTS-R 91 4142.258 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2001 February 3
February 4
Canada Ron Fellows
United States Chris Kneifel
France Franck Fréon
United States Johnny O'Connell
United States Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R 2 3758.398 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2002 February 2
February 3
Belgium Didier Theys
Switzerland Fredy Lienhard
Italy Max Papis
Italy Mauro Baldi
United States Doran Lista Racing Dallara SP1-Judd 27 4102.153 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2003 February 1
February 2
United States Kevin Buckler
United States Michael Schrom
Germany Timo Bernhard
Germany Jörg Bergmeister
United States The Racer's Group Porsche 911 GT3-RS 66 3981.839 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2004 January 31
February 1
Brazil Christian Fittipaldi
United States Terry Borcheller
United States Forest Barber
United Kingdom Andy Pilgrim
United States Bell Motorsports Doran JE4-Pontiac 54 3013.98 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2005 February 5
February 6
Italy Max Angelelli
South Africa Wayne Taylor
France Emmanuel Collard
United States SunTrust Racing Riley MkXI-Pontiac 10 4068.300 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2006 January 28
January 29
New Zealand Scott Dixon
United Kingdom Dan Wheldon
United States Casey Mears
United States Target Ganassi Racing Riley MkXI-Lexus 02 4205.82 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2007 January 27
January 28
Colombia Juan Pablo Montoya
Mexico Salvador Durán
United States Scott Pruett
United States Telmex Ganassi Racing Riley MkXI-Lexus 01 3826.972 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2008 January 26
January 27
Colombia Juan Pablo Montoya
United Kingdom Dario Franchitti
United States Scott Pruett
Mexico Memo Rojas
United States Telmex Ganassi Racing Riley MkXI-Lexus 01 3981.839 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2009 January 24
January 25
United States David Donohue
Spain Antonio García
United States Darren Law
United States Buddy Rice
United States Brumos Racing Riley MkXI-Porsche 58 4211.009 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2010 January 30
January 31
Portugal João Barbosa
United States Terry Borcheller
United Kingdom Ryan Dalziel
Germany Mike Rockenfeller
United States Action Express Racing Riley MkXI-Porsche 9 4326.15 km Rolex Sports Car Series

† - Races were red flagged during the event due to weather or fog. The official timing of 24 hours did not stop during these periods.

‡ - Race record for most distance covered

References

  1. ^ "Focus on 365 GTB4". Official Ferrari website. Ferrari. http://www.ferrari.com/English/GT_Sport%20Cars/Classiche/All_Models/Pages/Article_365_GTB4.aspx. Retrieved 21 February 2010. 
  2. ^ TPC Racing - Porsche Supercharger and Turbo Specialist - Rolex 24 Champion - Home
  3. ^ http://www.grand-am.com/Events/SessionResults.asp?SessionID=625

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