A Look Back at Daytona Endurance Racing 2005 - 2008

Car Number: 01 Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Car: BMW / Riley Drivers: Scott Pruett (Auburn, CA) Memo Rojas (Mexico City, Mexico) Justin Wilson (Dacono, CO) Max Papis (Mooresville, NC) Class: Daytona Prototype (DP) Car Number: 69 Team: SpeedSource Car: Mazda RX-8 Drivers: Emil Assentato (Locust Valley, NY) Jeff Segal (Miami, FL) Nick Longhi (Nyack, NY) Anthony Lazzaro (Canton, GA) Class: Grand Touring (GT)

Eagerly anticipated by drivers, auto manufacturers and race fans everywhere, the Rolex 24 At Daytona is the first major race of the world’s motor sport season. Every January, the Daytona International Speedway (Daytona Beach, Florida, USA) comes to life in celebration of this incredible endurance race, recognized by leading drivers as one of the most difficult in the world to win.

On January 29 - 30 2011, the Rolex 24 At Daytona will be the first race run on the newly repaved Daytona International Speedway. The ultra-smooth new surface is likely to result in even faster times from all entries on the high-banked racetrack.

Building anticipation for the 50th Running 2012

2012 will mark the 50th running of sports car racing at the famous Speedway, home of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Leading up to this unique anniversary, we present a once-a-month look back through the history, people and events that have made this famous race what it is today. Last month, we looked at Daytona endurance racing from 2000 - 2005. Now we look at 2006, 2007 and 2008, a period when interest in the Daytona Prototype continued to grow. But let’s start in…

Danica Patrick (USA) topped the list of big names in American motorsports going into 2006. She entered the Rolex 24 At Daytona for the first time joining Rusty Wallace (USA) and sports car veterans Allan McNish (GBR) and Jan Lammers (NED) in the Howard-Boss Motorsports Callaway Golf Pontiac Crawford, which, despite the media attention and a strong start, would pull out of the race by the midway point with mechanical problems. New to the Daytona Prototype Class was Alex Job Racing, partnering with Emory Motorsports, with a new Porsche-powered Crawford for German drivers Lucas Luhr and Mike Rockenfeller, and American Patrick Long. Traditional teams returned including SunTrust Racing and their 2005-winning line-up of defending DP champions Wayne Taylor (RSA) and Max Angelelli (ITA), joined by Emmanuel Collard (FRA) and Australian newcomer Ryan Briscoe. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates fielded two Lexus-powered Rileys: 01, driven by Rolex Series drivers Scott Pruett (USA), Luis Diaz (MEX) and Max Papis (ITA), and 02, driven by defending Indianapolis 500 winner and IRL champion Dan Wheldon (GBR), Scott Dixon (NZL) and NASCAR driver Casey Mears (USA). Brumos Racing also returned with a pair of Porsche Fabcars for Sascha Maassen (GER), João Barbosa (POR) and NASCAR star Ted Christopher (USA), joining regulars Darren Law (CAN) and Americans David Donohue, Hurley Haywood and J.C. France.

Grand Marshal Benny Parsons (USA) gave the “start your engines” command to a record 30 Daytona Prototypes and 36 GT cars. Luhr was on pole following a tough qualifying session that had seen 13 cars clock in within one second of each other. Unfortunately, the SunTrust Team was out of the race early following a crash on Saturday evening, and finished 57th. It is often said that races are won or lost in the pits, but this edition may have been won in the garage. The Ganassi team went straight to the garage on two occasions – once to switch the gearbox, alternator, battery and four brake assemblies – and only lost two laps each time. Job’s Porsche-powered Crawford was in the lead by midnight, but at 6:29 am it returned to the garage with a failed axle boot, for the second time during the race. The team lost five laps, giving the lead to Mears in Ganassi’s Lexus Riley. This represented the 39th and final lead change among 13 highly competitive cars and Ganassi’s winning trio went on to complete 734 laps, 2,613 miles at an average of 108.826 mph. This also made Casey Mears the first NASCAR Cup Series competitor to win the Rolex 24 overall.

The list of championship drivers competing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona continued to grow, with 78 who had captured major championships competing in the 69-car field. High-profile names included four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon (USA) and former Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya (COL). The race began in bright sunshine, but conditions deteriorated throughout the night with several brief rainstorms which led to several cautions and a red flag just after 1am, when the Porsche 997 of Chris Pallas tore out a section of guardrail in Turn 1.

Driver Patrick Dempsey Car Number: 40 Team: Dempsey Racing Car: Mazda RX-8

The previous year’s winning car, driven by Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon and Memo Rojas (MEX), went out mid-morning when Rojas crashed after running in the top five for most of the race. After 21 hours of racing, a sprint race broke out among three teams, with lots of nose-to-tail and side-by-side action, leading to the third closest finish in the history of the event. Defending race winner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates was up against 2005 winner Wayne Taylor SunTrust Racing, along with the upstart SAMAX Team also battling for the victory. With two hours and 45-minutes remaining, Scottish driver Ryan Dalziel led Angelelli and Montoya as the top three cars were separated by less than a second. Dalziel then pitted, giving the lead to Angelelli, who was passed by Montoya on the following lap. After building the lead to 4.5 seconds prior to the next round of pit stops, Montoya turned the Ganassi car over to Pruett with one hour, 36-minutes remaining. Pruett retained the lead after exiting the pits. As the race neared the final hour, Patrick Carpentier (CAN) maintained contact with Pruett before struggling in the chicane trying to lap a Corvette. The slight gap gained by Pruett was all that the veteran needed to beat Carpentier by 1:14.749. It was Ganassi’s second consecutive victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and a second overall triumph for Pruett, who also won in 1994. “This was huge,” Ganassi said. “Huge. To a lot of people, if you just finish a 24-hour race, it’s like winning. To actually win one – let alone two – is incredibly gratifying.”

To mark the sixth year of the Daytona Prototype class, Grand-Am allowed constructors to update or transfer their licences. Riley Manufacturing updated its bodywork, with some teams running the new style and others sticking with proven equipment. Fabcar sold its licence to Cheever Racing, which partnered with original Daytona Prototype builder Picchio to produce a new car: the Coyote. Notable participants included Penske Racing, who partnered with Wayne Taylor Racing, to return after a 35-year absence, and TV-star Patrick Dempsey. It was Demsey’s first time racing at the Rolex 24, and he drove a rainy nighttime stint for the Hyper Sport Mazda RX-8 team, finishing 25th in the GT class. 2008 also marked the debut of Pirelli tires in Rolex Series competition. Damp, cool conditions made it challenging to get proper grip in the turns and resulted in a number of spins. Grand Marshal Dan Gurney gave the command to start the engines for the event, record-braking in several categories including the number of cars leading the race (15), drivers leading the race (35) and lead changes (64). In GT, 10 cars and 26 drivers led, with 55 lead changes.

Many believe the key to winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona is making it through the 13 hours of night racing without suffering major damage. For this edition, seven teams were still running on the lead lap at the stroke of midnight. Despite horrendous conditions throughout the early-morning hours, the only one of that group to fall back was the No. 58 Brumos Porsche Riley of David Donohue, Darren Law and Buddy Rice (USA), which was leading near 11pm, but which went several laps down after suffering electrical problems. At dawn, the No. 99 Lowe’s GAINSCO Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley went into the garage for a gearbox change, costing the team six laps and dropping them to sixth position. In order to win, they would need the five cars in front of them to experience problems. Incredibly, four of the five did.

Hurley Haywood Car Number: 59 Team: Brumos Racing Car: Porsche Riley

Race-leading No. 59 Brumos Porsche Riley of João Barbosa broke a suspension part, spun and hit the wall in NASCAR turn 4. The resulting bodywork damage cost the team two hours in repairs, with less than five hours remaining, denying Haywood a chance to win the Rolex 24 for a sixth time. Then the Ruby Tuesday Alex Job Porsche Crawford suddenly began smoking and dropped out after the 20-hour mark. Another lead-lap car, the Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley, dropped out following problems resulting from several spins. The last team standing in Ganassi’s way was the race-leading Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley, which cut a tire and damaged bell housing resulting in a long and disappointing stop. At 9:50 a.m., Montoya found himself with a five-lap advantage when Frisselle went to the pits. Montoya turned the car over to Pruett with 1:55 remaining and the veteran took the car to the finish, winning by two laps. The winning team led 252 of the 695 laps of the race and completed 2,460.3 miles. It was Ganassi’s third consecutive victory and the third overall Rolex 24 victory for Pruett. With a total of five class wins as well, Pruett holds a record of eight total victories at the event.

More to come next month, but if you just can’t wait, be sure to pick up a copy of J.J. O’Malley’s great book, Daytona 24 Hours: The Definitive History of America’s Great Endurance Race. A “must read” for any fan and a great source of information on the history of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona: Tribute to the birthplace of speed
The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is a world-class race, rewarding all its deserving winners with a place in motor sports history and a steel Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, named “the world’s rarest watch” by WatchTime magazine.

It was in 1959 that Rolex first began its long association with the Daytona International Speedway. In 1963, Rolex launched their new “Cosmograph” line, but it was not until 1965 that the name “Daytona” would be added to the dial as a tribute to the great Florida race. Designed for lovers of speed, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona allows its wearer to clock elapsed times and calculate average speeds.

In 1992 Rolex became the Title Sponsor of the 24-hour race at Daytona, which had since become one of the world’s most prestigious endurance competitions along with the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

For more information about the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, please visit www.rolex.com.