Notable race entries from around the world and two days of productive testing this week by several top competitors on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway (DIS) road course point to a competitive and star-studded third edition of the Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) Classic 24 Hour at Daytona presented by IMSA, November 8th-12th.
The official entry list for next month's Classic 24 Hour at Daytona presented by IMSA is scheduled to be unveiled early next week, but HSR can already confirm several notable racing machines and legendary drivers recently signed up for the day-long race for vintage and historic race cars from the last half century.
One recent entry of note is the 2000 Doran/Lista Racing Dallara Judd LMP that will be co-driven by Fredy Lienhard and Didier Theys in the Classic 24 Hour at Daytona. The Dallara was the sister entry to the similar race car that Lienhard, Theys, Mauro Baldi and Max Papis drove to the overall victory in the 2002 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Doran Racing owner Kevin Doran and his team brought the Dallara to Daytona earlier this week where Theys took the car through two days of testing.
"It's always good to come back to Daytona after many years of good memories here," Theys said. "The last time I drove here was in 2005, and the car we will race this year in the Classic 24 is a 2000 chassis LMP Dallara Judd that we raced in 2002. We won the Daytona 24 Hour that year but this is the car that at mid-season at Watkins Glen we started to race with a bigger five-liter Judd. We finished the season that year with this car and won the championship."
While the 2002 Daytona winner is on display in Lienhard's museum in Switzerland, the Dallara that will be in the spotlight in the Classic 24 Hour never left the U.S.
"This car has actually been sitting in my shop since it last raced in mid-2003," Doran said. "We did a full restoration after that season, with the intention of running it, but Fredy was racing in Europe and doing different things, and we never got around to running it. Now it's going to run in the Classic 24 Hour this year and we will see what we can do with it."
The Dallara will be raced for the first time in more than 14 years at the Classic 24 Hour at Daytona.
"The leased engine went back to Judd at the end of the season and then the car sat at Kevin Doran's shop for 13 years without an engine," Theys said. "About a year-and-a-half ago, Kevin put a five-liter Judd back in it and here we go! This is the first time the car has run again!"
Legendary BMW racing icon Dieter Quester has unveiled pictures of his race car of choice for his return to the Classic 24 Hour at Daytona. After running a BMW-based Alpina B6 GT3 in 2015's most recent running of the Classic 24 Hour, Quester's ride for next month's race is a BMW M1 "Procar" adorned in Red Bull colors in a livery similar to the one that the Alpina carried.
Quester raced M1 BMWs in the prime of his career in Group 4 and Group 5 competition, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and in the original BMW M1 Procar Championship from 1979 - 1982. He was also instrumental in the test program to develop the car, which gives the M1 a special place among the generations of high-performance BMW machines Quester has had the privilege to drive and race.
Luca Riccitelli co-drives the M1 with Quester at the Classic 24 Hour. They previously drove together in the 2000 Rolex 24 At Daytona where they joined three other drivers in giving Red Bull a second-place GTU-class finish. Riccitelli also co-drove to a GT class victory in the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In addition to Red Bull and Fritz Wagner, who is preparing and running the BMW through Wagner M1, Quester's Classic 24 Hour effort is being supported by Drexler Automotive, Goodyear Germany and TIBOR.
Run Group E is home to the fastest race cars entered in the Classic 24 Hour and perhaps one of the race's most competitive rivalries. Two-time and undefeated Classic 24 Hour Group E winners Rogers Motorsports return to Daytona looking for their third-straight victory in the team's 2005 Audi R8 LMP. Doug Smith and Andy Wallace, the team's winning pairing at Daytona in 2014, co-drive again this year. Both drivers tested at DIS earlier this week.
"It's a brilliant event," said Smith, who co-drove with Butch Leitzinger to the 2015 Classic 24 Hour Group E win. "It's a celebration of the cars, first and foremost, and I think we are all pretty fortunate - I know Andy and I feel that way - to be able to be around this stuff and drive these great race cars. As far as the competition, everybody has definitely stepped their game up. It wasn't a walk-away the last two times and we are going to earn it again, we will keep them honest but have a good time and be safe."
The Rogers team will face stiff competition from at least the similar GMT Racing-prepared 2005 No. 2 Audi R8 LMP of Travis Engen, Steve Scullen and Gunnar Jeannette in Scullen's 2007 Lola B07/18 LMP1 and the 2007 Pescarolo Judd LMP of David Porter and Joao Barbosa, which is prepared by GMT Racing.
Barbosa is reuniting with the Pescarolo 10 years after he co-drove the race car to a fourth-place overall finish with Rollcentre Racing in the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans. No stranger to DIS, Barbosa co-drove to overall Rolex 24 At Daytona victories in 2010 and 2014 and was on the pole for this year's Rolex 24 last January.
"Yes, we will have our work cut out for us, but guess what, we have made some improvements too," said Wallace, who co-drove to Rolex 24 wins in 1990, 1997 and 1999. "It really is cool to be here. The Audi is a car I raced in period, so it is a lot of fond memories from then, working with all of the guys. Every time you sit back in that car you realize why it was one of the greatest racing cars ever.
“Just standing here in the garage near us we have a GTP Jaguar and a couple of Audis, a Pescarolo and Lola LMP cars. These are wonderful cars, and it is nice that they are not hidden away somewhere, they are actually being used. It's a privilege to be here, it's great that HSR puts this race on and that it has turned into such a great success."
Wallace and Smith also tested a Roger Motorsports Group 44 Jaguar XJR-7 at Daytona, with the team looking like they will campaign both that GTP entry in Run Group C, as well as the Audi in Group E.
Riley Technologies and Riley Motorsports principal Bill Riley flew straight to Daytona from Atlanta for Classic 24 Hour testing after Monday night's IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Night of Champions celebration near Road Atlanta. Mercedes-AMG Team Riley swept the GT Daytona (GTD) class titles in the IMSA North American Endurance Championship in last weekend's season-ending Petit Le Mans, but Riley quickly shifted his focus to Daytona. He spent both days assisting Craig Bennett and RM Motorsports in preparing a 2005 Riley MK Xi Daytona Prototype for the Classic 24.
"This is chassis No. 11, which was the 2005 winner at Watkins Glen, so it has quite a bit of history," Riley said. "They wanted to get tuned up a bit in preparation for the Classic 24 Hour so I came down to help them out, it was a good two days, very relaxed and we had a good test."
Bennett and RM are running the Riley Daytona Prototype in addition to Keith Freiser and his 2009 Oreca FLM09 in the Classic 24 Hour.
"The Daytona Prototype is owned and driven by John McKenna," Bennett said. "He has had the car for about two years now but just hasn't had the chance to get it out on the track much, so testing at Daytona for two days has really got him excited to come back here in a few weeks with Ross Thompson as his co-driver. The Classic 24 Hour is a very cool event for drivers that have never experienced night racing. This race gives you just enough of that to make you want to come back and do it some more."
Riley will return to Daytona for the Classic 24 Hour with his own Riley Motorsports team that will field a Riley Technologies-built Viper GT3-R in the race.
"I will be running a Viper for Chris Mealey, he is the owner and the driver, and I am really looking forward to having a big Viper back here at Daytona," Riley said. "This is chassis No. 1, the very first GT3-R that has several wins, and the bodywork it is wearing is the 'Miss Texas' livery that made it to third on the Rolex 24 At Daytona GTD podium here in 2016."
The HSR Classic 24 Hour at Daytona debuted in 2014 as a tribute race to the internationally famous Rolex 24 At Daytona, which has been run on the 3.56-mile road course at the World Center of Racing for more than half-a-century.
The HSR Classic 24 Hour gives the magnificent racing machines that were driven to glory at Daytona in the last few decades another chance to shine on the high banks. At the same time, HSR's competition class structure also gives some race cars that never had a chance to race at Daytona in their prime a chance to make their own history in the Classic 24 Hour.
A true endurance race in its own right, the Classic 24 Hour features six period-correct Run Groups racing in succession for a full day and night. Each Group takes to the track four times in total in a non-stop, 24-hour spectacle that is as close to the real thing as you can get.