The 24 Hours of Daytona sports car endurance race is held annually at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, on a 5.73-kilometer combined road course.
The race bears the name of its sponsor, Rolex, and is currently known as the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The American automobile racing event has grown to become one of the top racing events in the US, being the United States’ first primary automobile race of the year and the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season’s first race.
Nevertheless, the 24 Hours of Daytona is one of the world’s most prominent endurance racing events amongst the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 12 Hours of Sebring, considered the legs of the “Triple Crown of Endurance Racing.”
Since its inception in 1962, the event has continued to thrive despite suffering isolation from increasing international sports car racing regulations.
This article briefly covers the 24 Hours of Daytona history, beginnings, its exciting facts, and other peripheral information.
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24 Hours of Daytona History: Rolex 24 At Daytona
The inaugural race in 1962 was held as a three-hour sports car race to commemorate the Daytona International Speedway’s opening as an International Championship for GT Manufacturers.
Dan Gurney became the inaugural winner with a 2.7L Coventry Climax-powered Lotus 19 but was replaced the following year by Pedro Rodríguez, who drove a Ferrari 250 GTO 1-2.
In 1964, the circuit was replaced by a 2,000-kilometer lap-length, prompting its name from Daytona 3-Hour Continental to Daytona 2000.
Initially, cars still had to cross the finish line after 24 hours to be classified.
The winner was to be determined after crossing the finishing line regardless of his lead in lap-counting; else, he’ll be dismissed with “Did Not Finish;” a car would also cross the line under its power’s influence to be classified.
In 1964, cars would be ranked after the 24-hour mark, following incidences where cars broke down with the finish line in sight.
Major automobile brands from Italy and Germany dominated the race during its early years.
Specifically, German Brand Porsche and Italian Brand Ferrari dominated Daytona.
Porsche recorded 18 victories from 23 contests between 1968-1991.
However, Daytona was about the commercials; it was planned for stock cars, and it was ruthless.
Daytona and Le Mans winner Derek Bell affirmed Daytona’s difficulty over Le Mans.
The 24-hour racing event became an important one on the international racing calendar despite facing some problem regarding the number of spectators available in the event during its early years.
In 1964, Pedro Rodríguez and Phil Hill led the North American Racing Team to a second consecutive victory at the inaugural Daytona 2000.
It was then held the following year before the 24 Hours of Daytona’s birth in 1966.
The 24 Hours of Daytona’s account was opened by Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby’s victory, driving a Ford Mk.
The following year, the Ferrari brand led the tracks as Lorenzo Bandini, and Chris Amon steered a works-entered 330 P4 to victory.
In 1971, the rolling starts procedure began.
The race duration was reduced to 6 hours in 1972 because of the prolonged oil crises in the 1970s; the only 6 Hours of Daytona event held since Daytona’s inception was crowned by Mario Andretti and Jacky Ickx, driving a Ferrari 312PB.
The 24 Hours of Daytona was reinstated in 1973, with the Brumos Porsche Team claiming the first-place victory in a Porsche Carrera RSR.
However, the crisis saw the event canceled in 1974.
The 1970s also saw the number of drivers per team extended from two-three.
Under the International Motor Sports Association Sanctioning Body in 1975, the World Sportscar Championship dropped the race to reduce cost in 1982.
In 1978, the event’s name was changed to 24 Hour Pepsi Challenge based on a sponsorship basis but was renamed, SunBank 24 At Daytona in 1984 and Rolex 24 At Daytona in 1992 its official naming sponsor, Rolex.
In 2003, the Daytona Prototype was introduced.
The Daytona Prototype came with rigid rules but allowed for a wider variety of engine brands, including Chevrolet, Pontiac, Lexus, BMW, and Porsche.
In 2012, a new Daytona Prototype, the DPG3, was introduced, allowing brands to feature brand characters.
Drivers can have body renderings that suggest the engine manufacturers.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona’s last edition winners were Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe, Renger van der Zande, Kamui Kobayashi, who featured for the Konica Minolta Cadillac Team of the DPi class.
24 Hours of Daytona Facts & Information
The Rolex 24 At Daytona is usually scheduled to hold between the last week of January or the first week of February.
At this time, the weather is often cold, and the nights are long, leading to Daytona’s nights being the longest and coldest amongst 24-hour endurance racing events.
The cold weather experienced at Daytona’s nights has necessitated that plastic curtains be built to block the wind.
The plastic curtains offer more than functionality, offering beauty, especially at night when the translucent materials begin to glow in the dark.
American Teams have recorded the most victories from the number of events held.
About 80% of the overall winning teams have been American, picking up 45 wins from 56 Rolex 24 At Daytona events.
Porsche 935/79 drivers Danny Ongais, Ted Field, and Hurley Haywood led the runner-up with 49 laps in 1979, recording the largest victory margin.
In 2009, the Brumos Racing Team, featuring Darren Law, David Donohue, Buddy Rice, and Antonio Garcia, recorded the smallest victory margin with 0.167s.
Exactly three decades are between the most extensive and most diminutive victory margin records.
Porsche boasts the highest Rolex 24 At Daytona overall wins, recording 18 wins as a constructor and 22 wins as an engine supplier.
The No. 2 is the most successful race number at the 24 Hours of Daytona, winning the event on eight occasions, surpassing any other race number.
The victory for the No. 2 race number was first recorded in 1970 and last recorded in 1976, following a consecutive three-time success from 1973-1976, excluding the 1974 hiatus year.
American drivers Hurley Haywood and Scott Pruett boast the Rolex 24 At Daytona highest number of wins, five.
The 24 Hours of Daytona event has changed its name six times.
It was first called Daytona 3-Hour Continental for a year following its inception in 1962.
From 1964-65, it was called Daytona 2000 before earning its name, 24 Hours of Daytona for ten years, discounting 1972 and ’74.
In 1972, the event was temporarily named 6 Hours of Daytona due to the oil crisis that affected its duration.
It was later called the 24 Hour Pepsi Challenge and SunBank 24 At Daytona.
In 1992, Rolex became the official naming partner, influencing the name Rolex 24 At Daytona.
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