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The Rolex 24 at Daytona (frequently referred to by its historical title, the 24 Hours of Daytona) is a 24-hour sports car endurance race held annually at Daytona International Speedwaymarker in Daytona Beach, Floridamarker. It is held on a   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.

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, dubbed the Monte Carlo after Stirling Moss bringing Lotus their first Formula One win at Monaco in 1960 despite being a factory driver for Porsche at that time. Many Porsche 718s were driven by privateer, but these 1600 cc cars were considered rather underpowered for a relatively short and fast race despite having won the twisty Targa Floriomarker and the tough 12 Hours of Sebring.

In 1964, the event was expanded to 2000 km (1220 miles), doubling the classic 1000 km distance of races at Nürburgringmarker, Spamarker and Monzamarker. The distance amounted to roughly the half of the distance the 24 Hours of Le Mansmarker 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 Mansmarker 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. To celebrate the victory over the rival at his home race, Ferrarimarker named its V12-powered road car Ferrari Daytona after the race.

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, 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, Corvettes, Mazda RX-8s and Pontiac GTO.R.

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. The second best non-Porsche 996 GT was the other TRG GTO.R at 26th overall, 13th in GT.

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.

2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona



Statistics

Porsche has the most overall victories of any manufacturer with 21, 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. Other 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 Dan Gurney Frank Arciero Lotus 19B-Coventry Climax 96 502.791 km World Sportscar Championship
1963 February 17 Pedro Rodríguez North American Racing Team Ferrari 250 GTO 18 494.551 km World Sportscar Championship
2000 km distance
1964 February 16 Pedro Rodríguez
Phil Hill
North American Racing Team Ferrari 250 GTO 30 - World Sportscar Championship
1965 February 28 Ken Miles
Lloyd Ruby
Shelby-American Inc. Ford GT40 Mk.II 73 - World Sportscar Championship
24 Hour distance
1966 February 5
February 6
Ken Miles
Lloyd Ruby
Shelby-American Inc. Ford GT40 Mk. II 98 4157.222 km World Sportscar Championship
1967 February 4
February 5
Lorenzo Bandini
Chris Amon
SpA Ferrari SEFAC Ferrari 330 P4 23 4083.646 km World Sportscar Championship
1968 February 3
February 4
Vic Elford
Jochen Neerpasch
Rolf Stommelen
Jo Siffert
Hans Herrmann



Porsche System Engineering Porsche 907LH 54 4126.567 km World Sportscar Championship
1969 February 1
February 2
Mark Donohue
Chuck Parsons
Roger Penske Sunoco Racing Lola T70 Mk.3B-Chevrolet 6 3838.382 km World Sportscar Championship
1970 January 31
February 1
Pedro Rodríguez
Leo Kinnunen
Brian Redman

J.W. Engineering Porsche 917K 2 4439.279 km‡ World Sportscar Championship
1971 January 30
January 31
Pedro Rodríguez
Jackie Oliver
J.W. Automotive Engineering Porsche 917K 2 4218.542 km World Sportscar Championship
6 Hour distance
1972 February 5
February 6
Mario Andretti
Jacky Ickx
SpA Ferrari SEFAC Ferrari 312PB 2 1189.531 km World Sportscar Championship
24 Hour distance
1973 February 3
February 4
Peter Gregg
Hurley Haywood
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
Peter Gregg
Hurley Haywood
Brumos Porsche Porsche Carrera RSR 59 4194.015 km World Sportscar Championship
IMSA GT Championship
1976 January 31
February 1
Peter Gregg
Brian Redman
John Fitzpatrick

BMW of North America BMW 3.0 CSL 59 3368.035 km IMSA GT Championship
1977 February 5
February 6
Hurley Haywood
John Graves
Dave Helmick

Ecurie Escargot Porsche Carrera RSR 43 4208.499 km World Championship of Makes
IMSA GT Championship
1978 February 4
February 5
Peter Gregg
Rolf Stommelen
Toine Hezemans

Brumos Porsche Porsche 935/77 99 4202.319 km World Championship of Makes
IMSA GT Championship
1979 February 3
February 4
Hurley Haywood
Ted Field
Danny Ongais

Interscope Racing Porsche 935/79 0 4227.039 km World Sportscar Championship
IMSA GT Championship
1980 February 2
February 3
Rolf Stommelen
Volkert Merl
Reinhold Joest

L&M Joest Racing Porsche 935J 2 4418.615 km World Sportscar Championship
IMSA GT Championship
1981 January 31
February 1
Bobby Rahal
Brian Redman
Bob Garretson

Garretson Racing/Style Auto Porsche 935 K3 9 4375.355 km World Sportscar Championship
IMSA GT Championship
1982 January 30
January 31
John Paul Sr.
John Paul Jr.
Rolf Stommelen

JLP Racing Porsche 935 JLP-3 18 4443.334 km IMSA GT Championship
1983 February 5
February 6
A.J. Foyt
Preston Henn
Bob Wollek
Claude Ballot-Lena


Henn's Swap Shop Racing Porsche 935L 6 3819.167 km IMSA GT Championship
1984 February 4
February 5
Sarel van der Merwe
Tony Martin
Graham Duxbury

Kreepy Krauly Racing March 83G-Porsche 00 3986.023 km IMSA GT Championship
1985 February 2
February 3
A.J. Foyt
Bob Wollek
Al Unser Sr.
Thierry Boutsen


Henn's Swap Shop Racing Porsche 962 8 4027.673 km IMSA GT Championship
1986 February 1
February 2
Al Holbert
Derek Bell
Al Unser Jr.

Löwenbräu Holbert Racing Porsche 962 14 4079.236 km IMSA GT Championship
1987 January 31
February 1
Al Holbert
Derek Bell
Chip Robinson
Al Unser Jr.


Löwenbräu Holbert Racing Porsche 962 14 4314.136 km IMSA GT Championship
1988 January 30
January 31
Raul Boesel
Martin Brundle
John Nielsen
Jan Lammers


Castrol Jaguar Racing (TWR) Jaguar XJR-9 60 4170.905 km IMSA GT Championship
1989 February 4
February 5
John Andretti
Derek Bell
Bob Wollek

Miller/BFGoodrich Busby Racing Porsche 962 67 3557.873 km IMSA GT Championship
1990 February 3
February 4
Davy Jones
Jan Lammers
Andy Wallace

Castrol Jaguar Racing (TWR) Jaguar XJR-12D 61 4359.970 km IMSA GT Championship
1991 February 2
February 3
Hurley Haywood
"John Winter"
Frank Jelinski
Henri Pescarolo
Bob Wollek



Joest Racing Porsche 962C 7 4119.341 km IMSA GT Championship
1992 February 1
February 2
Masahiro Hasemi
Kazuyoshi Hoshino
Toshio Suzuki

Nissan Motorsports Intl. Nissan R91CP 23 4365.700 km IMSA GT Championship
1993 January 30
January 31
P. J. Jones
Mark Dismore
Rocky Moran

All American Racers Toyota Eagle MkIII-Toyota 99 3999.027 km IMSA GT Championship
1994 February 5
February 6
Paul Gentilozzi
Scott Pruett
Butch Leitzinger
Steve Millen


Cunningham Racing Nissan 300ZX 76 4050.090 km IMSA GT Championship
1995 February 4
February 5
Jürgen Lässig
Christophe Bouchut
Giovanni Lavaggi
Marco Werner


Kremer Racing Kremer K8 Spyder-Porsche 10 3953.192 km IMSA GT Championship
1996 February 3
February 4
Wayne Taylor
Scott Sharp
Jim Pace

Doyle Racing Riley & Scott Mk III-Oldsmobile 4 3993.298 km IMSA GT Championship
1997 February 1
February 2
Rob Dyson
James Weaver
Butch Leitzinger
Andy Wallace
John Paul Jr.
Elliott Forbes-Robinson
John Schneider





Dyson Racing Riley & Scott Mk III-Ford 16 3953.192 km IMSA GT Championship
1998 January 31
February 1
Mauro Baldi
Arie Luyendyk
Gianpiero Moretti
Didier Theys


Doran-Moretti Racing Ferrari 333 SP 30 4073.507 km U.S. Road Racing Championship
1999 January 30
January 31
Elliott Forbes-Robinson
Butch Leitzinger
Andy Wallace

Dyson Racing Team Inc. Riley & Scott Mk III-Ford 20 4056.319 km U.S. Road Racing Championship
2000 February 5
February 6
Olivier Beretta
Dominique Dupuy
Karl Wendlinger

Viper Team Oreca Dodge Viper GTS-R 91 4142.258 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2001 February 3
February 4
Ron Fellows
Chris Kneifel
Franck Fréon
Johnny O'Connell


Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R 2 3758.398 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2002 February 2
February 3
Didier Theys
Fredy Lienhard
Max Papis
Mauro Baldi


Doran Lista Racing Dallara SP1-Judd 27 4102.153 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2003 February 1
February 2
Kevin Buckler
Michael Schrom
Timo Bernhard
Jörg Bergmeister


The Racer's Group Porsche 911 GT3-RS 66 3981.839 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2004 January 31
February 1
Christian Fittipaldi
Terry Borcheller
Forest Barber
Andy Pilgrim


Bell Motorsports Doran JE4-Pontiac 54 3013.98 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2005 February 5
February 6
Max Angelelli
Wayne Taylor
Emmanuel Collard

SunTrust Racing Riley MkXI-Pontiac 10 4068.300 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2006 January 28
January 29
Scott Dixon
Dan Wheldon
Casey Mears

Target Ganassi Racing Riley MkXI-Lexus 02 4205.82 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2007 January 27
January 28
Juan Pablo Montoya
Salvador Durán
Scott Pruett

Telmex Ganassi Racing Riley MkXI-Lexus 01 3826.972 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2008 January 26
January 27
Juan Pablo Montoya
Dario Franchitti
Scott Pruett
Memo Rojas


Telmex Ganassi Racing Riley MkXI-Lexus 01 3981.839 km Rolex Sports Car Series
2009 January 24
January 25
David Donohue
Antonio García
Darren Law
Buddy Rice


Brumos Racing Riley MkXI-Porsche 58 4211.009 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



External links




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