"Before the pedants flood my email about the redundancy of the title you should know it is done with malice of forethought. You see, the HSR Classic 24 at Daytona presented by IMSA is all about the memories. In fact you are awash in them from the minute you arrive at Daytona International Speedway.
"The Rolex 24 at Daytona as it is called today has become one of racing legendary events. The HSR Classic 24 is an homage to the history of the race’s half a century of twice ‘round the clock competition. The entries for the classic include vehicles that raced at Daytona’s earliest sports car races, all the way to cars that thrilled fans as recently as two seasons ago, and everything in between. Sprinkled in are machines that because of rules or politics never were able to race at the great speed bowl in period and you have an enticing stew.
"It is a rare thing, but I feel it is safe to say; the Classic 24 has something for everyone. Of course your HistoricRacingNews.com team of Paul Tarsey and yours truly had our favorites from the sublime to the ridiculous! Each one of those 165 entries invoked their own memory.
"The sublime included McLaren’s first sports car the M1B driven to second place in group A (1960-1972 cars) by Andrew Beaumont and Nigel Greensall. Numerous Lola T70 MK IIIb entries fronted by Gerard Lopez who along with co-driver Frantz Wallenborn dominated the group. The aptly named Group C boasted two Porsche 962s and two Group 44 Jaguar XJRs.
"The quality of the GT cars did not take a back seat to the prototypes. Porsche fans spent four days in sensory overload. 911s ranged from RSRs and IROC models to newer vintage Porsche Cup cars. The 911s that were sprinkled through all of the groups were supported by a couple of 935s, (my personal favorite), and even one of Dave Klym’s Fabcar prototypes that claimed third in Group C in the hands of John Higgins and Charlie Monk.
"Lovers of American iron had plenty of eye candy as well. Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs abounded through the classes. The 1965 to ‘70 era pony cars always move me. Those cars take me back to that time when I was just discovering cars as a youngster.
"So you see we really did get to marinate in memories during four days of action. Oh yea, that’s right ACTION! All those great cars were on hand to do some racing and that is just what they did in a big way! Two days of WeatherTech HSR Sprint races and BRM Watches Enduros had us all warmed up for 24-hour classic.
"Drivers and cars of a certain vintage (commentators as well) are hard pressed to go 24 hours non-stop like they did in period. So the HSR separates the field into six Groups (A thru F) each getting four racing sessions lasting roughly 45 minutes. That means 24 hours of action from the 1pm green flag on Saturday until Sunday at 1pm.
"All six groups provided great racing with more than one car on the lead lap in all the races at the finish. But the stars of the show for this reporter were Groups D, E, and F.
"Group D - 1994-2002: Florent Moulin led every session in his Oreca-Dallara SP1 but had to race his way to the finish with all three podium teams on the lead lap at the checkered flag. Mark Brannon and Nigel Greensall chased hard and made late challenge in their Riley & Scott MKIIIc falling short to take the runner-up spot.
The final session saw Didier Theys and Fredy Leinhard Jr. put on a show for the ages. They storming to the segment lead in their iconic Lista liveried Dallara-Judd before tire trouble ended the charge. The duo ended up fourth and the first car not on the lead lap after the four segments finished.
"Group E - 2003-2015: Group E features the newest of the machines to compete in the Classic 24. It also provided the closest finish of the event. Four segments of racing saw David Porter and Joao Barbosa in their Pescarolo 01-Judd go head to head with Dean Baker and Eric van de Poele in their Courage-Oreca LC70E. In the final segment van de Poele and Barbosa swapped the lead twice before the blue Pescarolo took the checkered flag by just over 18 seconds in the days best finish.
"Group F - HSRCars: This group featured a GT field of many cars that never got to race in the 24-hours in period but were significant to their period. The oldest was the 1964/07 904 GTS driven by Randy Beck, the newest, two 2016 Porsche Cayman GT4s. The final session of the 24 that made up the classic, this class had everyone’s mouth watering with anticipation. 8 cars were set to take the green flag on the lead lap and still in the hunt for the overall victory. They were all chasing Mike Gaulke and Thomas Merrill in their Porsche that was a bit of a Frankenstein. On the entry list it was shown as a 1974/88 Porsche 911/993… interesting… and fast!
"The fans and railbirds were not the only ones ready for excitement. Seems the drivers were too. Two aborted starts, and a red flag for clean up after the second try left many in the field dazed and confused! Gaulke and Merrill were unfazed and sprinted to nearly a three-minute victory over the 1973 Porsche RSR of Richard Stuart Milne and Pablo Peon. The Porsche Cayman GT4 of Charlie Craig and Cory Friedman who started just seconds behind the Gaulke and Merrill on aggregate rounded out the podium after two sluggish starts left the team amid both turn one melees.
"Three times David Hinton and the outstanding staff at HSR have brought the sportscar world together to celebrate the memories of Classic Daytona 24 hour races gone by. The first one will always hold a special place in our hearts but after the third bite of the apple it is clear this recipe tastes very good and we will defiantly return to the buffet time and again."