Happy Birthday Daytona: The sports car classic in Florida celebrates its 50th anniversary. Traditionally, the 24 hour race on the Daytona International Speedway is the first highlight of the motorsport season and year after year attracts the best pilots from all kinds of race series worldwide to the ‘Sunshine State’ of the USA. Spearheaded by title defender Wolf Henzler (Germany), seven Porsche works drivers contest the strongly supported GT class. With 22 overall wins, Porsche is the most successful manufacturer in the history of the race.
The endurance classic, which kicks off the Grand-Am Series season, started out in 1962 as a three hour race. At 1,250 miles in 1964, the race grew to double the distance of the classic 1,000 kilometre races of Spa, Monza and the Nürburgring. The maiden 24 hour event in Daytona took place in 1966. Due to the oil crisis in 1974 the race was not run. Taking their places on the winner’s list are Formula 1 champions like Phil Hill and Mario Andretti as well as legendary Porsche pilots like Hans Herrmann, Rolf Stommelen, Hurley Haywood and Bob Wollek.
The Daytona International Speedway is one of the world’s most famous race tracks. The 24 hour race is contested on the 5.729 kilometre track combination of oval with banked corner and the infield. The circuit is also the venue for the famed NASCAR Daytona 500 race with over 250,000 spectators annually.
The Porsche drivers
In the traditionally very competitive GT class, seven Porsche works drivers have victory in sight with the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup: Title defender Wolf Henzler competes for TRG Racing, Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) line up for Flying Lizard Motorsports, their winning team from the American Le Mans Series. Alex Job Racing has Marco Holzer (Germany) onboard, with Patrick Pilet (Franc) taking the wheel of the second TRG-Porsche. Magnus Racing competes with Richard Lietz (Austria), whilst his teammate in the new World Endurance Championship, Marc Lieb (Germany), lines up for Brumos Racing. One of the partners of the Porsche works driver is the US racing legend Hurley Haywood (USA). With five overall and six class victories, Haywood is the most successful pilot ever in Daytona. On 4 May he celebrates his 64th birthday. Also taking up the race with the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup is Audi factory pilot Mike Rockenfeller (Switzerland). In recognition of their brilliant performances in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, Porsche AG gave the two-time champion René Rast (Germany) as well as “Rookie of the Year” Kévin Estre (France) the chance to compete at Daytona.
What they said before the race
Hartmut Kristen, Head of Porsche Motorsport: “Daytona is always a very special race for Porsche. Our Porsche teams have already yielded many great results here with the Porsche 911. And with 21 vehicles we are very well represented again this year. For teams like Brumos who compete in 2012 as title defenders of the Grand-Am Series, it is particularly exciting that the most important race of the year is also the start of the season. And it will be particularly interesting to see the new competitors who compete with modified and, in fact, more powerful GT3 vehicles.”
Jörg Bergmeister: “After the long break over winter, this race is a great way to get ready for the new season. Porsche was always very strong in Daytona. I last won the race here in 2009 and I’m feeling quite confident that we’ll be good for a win again this year. The competition was never this strong. It’ll be a tough fight from start to finish.”
Patrick Long: “Our excursion into the prototype class last year was an interesting experience. But now I’m looking forward to racing a 911 again in Daytona. The fact that our GT-class rivals are not only much stronger in sheer numbers makes the task for us and our team even more interesting.”
Marc Lieb: “Our tests ran well in Daytona and I’m sure that we’ll be competitive in the race. The 24 Hours of Daytona is always a cool event, and added to this is the unbelievably big grid for the 50th anniversary. I’m looking forward to driving for such a well established and successful team like Brumos Racing with the legendary starting number 59.”
Wolf Henzler: “When we tested I was really impressed by the strength of our competition. With 42 GT cars on the grid, it’ll certainly not be an easy race. I imagine things will get really tough right from the start flag. I’m driving again for TRG, the team with which I won last year. My teammates are very strong and of course I’ll do my best to repeat my victory from last year.”
Marco Holzer: “It’s a fantastic challenge to start the season with a 24 hour race, and a classic like Daytona at that. I very much like this circuit. It’s demanding but real fun. We did a great deal of work on the car with my team Alex Job Racing. I’m quite optimistic for the race.”
Richard Lietz: “Great that the season finally gets underway. The GT class booms, the competition is stronger this year than ever before. That will surely be an interesting race. We always had a good car in the last years and we are keen to continue the success streak of Porsche in Daytona.”
Patrick Pilet: “Driving in Daytona is something very special for us all. This race is a legend and a great challenge, particularly in its anniversary year. Manufacturers send the best GT teams with very strong driver contingents to Daytona. The fight for victory is open like never before.”
With 22 overall and 72 class victories, Porsche is by far the most successful manufacturer in the history of the Daytona 24 hour race. The first overall win for Porsche was in 1968 with Vic Elford, Jochen Neerpasch, Rolf Stommelen, Jo Siffert and Hans Herrmann with the Porsche 907. The latest win in 2010 went to Joao Barbosa, Terry Borcheller, Ryan Dalziel and Mike Rockenfeller with the Porsche-Riley. In 2003, Joerg Bergmeister, Timo Bernhard, Kevin Buckler and Michael Schrom clinched a sensational overall win with the near-standard Porsche 911 GT3 RS against more powerful Daytona prototypes. In the previous year, Porsche works driver Wolf Henzler secured the GT class victory at the wheel of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
The 24 hour race in Daytona starts on Saturday, 28 January, at 15.30 hrs local time (21.30 hrs CET).
Other interesting facts
- Marking the longest winning streak in the history of the race, Porsche notched up a total of eleven overall victories between 1977 and 1987. Add the class victories to this and Porsche has 21 wins in succession between 1966 and 1987 (in 1974 the race was not contested due to the oil crisis).
- According to statistics, Porsche veteran Hurley Haywood has turned more than 18,800 laps from his 37 Daytona starts to date and with this has completed almost 110,000 kilometres – that’s far more than two and a half times the circumference of the earth. For this, the Porsche dealer from Jacksonville/Florida has spent 476 hours behind the wheel and used around 1,100 sets of tyres.
- Right behind front-runner Hurley Haywood with five overall wins (1973, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1991) in the all-time list of winners at Daytona are two further Porsche pilots: Rolf Stommelen (1968, 1978, 1980, 1982) and Bob Wollek (1983, 1985, 1989, 1991) each with four overall victories.
Thirteen races in the USA and Canada make up the calendar of the Grand-Am Series for 2012:
28/29.01. 24 Hours Daytona/Florida
13.05. Millville/New Jersey
24.06. Elkhart Lake/Wisconsin
01.07 6 Hours Watkins Glen/New York
12.08. Watkins Glen/New York
09.09. Laguna Seca/California
28.09. Lime Rock, Connecticut