The Daytona 24 Hours is an anomaly in modern motor sport. In such a specialised era, seeing NASCAR giants mixing it up with Le Mans winners harks back to a different time.
Being the first major circuit race of the year, the whole event takes on a back-to-school atmosphere, but Olly Gavin made it clear how difficult it can be:
“This race is exceptionally tough because, for most teams and drivers, it’s the first race of the year and it can catch people out. Most 24-hour races take place later in the season. Nürburgring, Le Mans or Spa are between May and July, so there’s a long lead time for people to get to know their cars and get plenty of hours behind the wheel. At Daytona, if you come out with a new car, you inevitably will only have had it a month or so before the biggest race of the US season.”
One of the great tests of endurance racing is dealing with backmarkers; just ask Anthony Davidson. Daytona is no exception, with a tight infield section and the banking of the NASCAR oval providing two distinctly different challenges.
In this video, we join British IndyCar driver and 2012 winner Justin Wilson. The featured lap is from 2008, when co-driver Oswaldo Negri put their Riley on pole. During the race – won by a veritable all-star team of Dario Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas – they dropped back to sixth with mechanical problems, but the video gives an excellent illustration of just how busy the drivers are for 24 hours and just how frustrating the slower cars can be.
This year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona will run over the weekend of January 26 and 27.