Rolex 50th Daytona 24H: T-minus 1 month

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Rolex press release

T-MINUS 1 MONTH: OVERALL CHAMPIONS DISPLAY GROWS; DIS DEBUT FOR FELIPE NASR, CORVETTE, FERRARI AND AUDI

Rolex 24 Heritage Exhibition
Rolex 24 Heritage Exhibition

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Eagerly anticipated by drivers, auto manufacturers and race fans everywhere, the Rolex 24 At Daytona is the first major race of the international 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.

Building anticipation for the 50th Anniversary 2012

2012 will mark the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Leading up to this unique milestone, we have presented a once-a-month look back through the history, people and events that have made this famous race what it is today. There is now just one month to go before the start, on 28 January 2012, of the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Updates: A Gathering of 50

In an effort to make the impossible possible, the people at Daytona International Speedway (DIS), Rolex and GRAND-AM have combined forces to gather all Rolex 24 At Daytona race winners, and their cars, for a reunion celebrating the race’s 50th anniversary.

The latest four additions to the 50 Years of Champions Display span from 1978 to 1995, the oldest of which is the 1978 Rolex 24 At Daytona Overall Champion: the No. 99 Brumos Porsche twin-turbo 935. Driven by Rolf Stommelen (DEU), Antoine Hezemans (NED) and Peter Gregg (USA), the No. 99 took the point on Lap 14 and never relinquished the lead, giving the team the checkered flag with a 30-lap margin of victory and an average speed of 108.743 mph (175.004 km/h).

Although on pace to set a new race record, the team paused in the final half of hour of the race to clean the car and apply new decals for the staged all-Porsche group photo on the final lap. In all, Porsche swept the top seven positions in the race and 14 of the top 15 spots. For Gregg, one of the most successful racers in the Rolex 24, the 1978 victory marked his fourth and final triumph in the gruelling endurance race. It also marked Stommelen’s second of four overall victories, making him, along with Scott Pruett (USA), one the only drivers to have won the Rolex 24 At Daytona in three different decades.

Also joining the display is the 1984 Rolex 24 Overall Champion: No. 00 Kreepy Krauly Porsche-March. Owned by Kreepy Krauly, a South African manufacturer of swimming pool-cleaning equipment, and driven by a trio of South African drivers with no previous racing experience at DIS (Sarel van der Merwe, Tony Martin and Graham Duxbury), the Kreepy Krauly Porsche-March took the lead for the final time on Lap 254 and scored a nine-lap margin of victory. With the exception of running out of fuel and a broken gearshift knob, the team had not experienced much drama for their first Rolex 24, and they completed 640 laps, for 2,476.8 miles (3,986 km) at an average of 103.119 mph (165.954 km/h).

The No. 76 Nissan 300ZX-Turbo, the 1994 Rolex 24 At Daytona overall winner, is yet another new addition to the Overall Champions display. Driven by Americans Paul Gentilozzi, Scott Pruett, Butch Leitzinger and New Zealander Steve Millen, the No. 76 Nissan 300ZX-Turbo was steady throughout the 1994 race covering 707 laps and averaging 104.80 mph (168.66 km/h). Entered as a partnership between Gentilozzi and Clayton Cunningham, the Nissan 300ZX-Turbo scored the first overall win in the Rolex 24 for a GT car since 1983, and the first win for a front-engine car since 1976. “The biggest thing for me was the fact that we ran that race virtually problem free,” Pruett said of the 1994 victory, the first of his four – to date – in the prestigious 24-hour race. “That was probably the first time I ran the race when something didn’t happen to the car that we had to take care of.”

Also joining the display is the next overall winner in the chronology of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the 1995 Rolex 24 Overall Champion: the No. 10 Kremer Porsche K8 Spyder. In1995, with the turbocharged Le Mans World Sports Cars eligible to compete in the twice-around-the-clock challenge, the factory Kremer team made its return to Daytona, for the first time since 1978, with a pair of Porsche K8s. The No. 10 Porsche covered 680 laps and averaged 102.289 mph (164.62 km/h) in the hands of Germans Jürgen Lässig and Marco Werner, Christophe Bouchut (FRA) and Giovanni Lavaggi (ITA). Bouchut, who had won the 1993 24 Hours of Le Mans, thus became the first driver ever to win both 24-hour races on his first attempt.

Additional cars may still be announced as part of this one-of-a-kind display. For a visual list of confirmed champion cars, please click here.

Rolex 50 Years of Champions Gala

In addition to the display during the Rolex 24 At Daytona weekend, DIS has partnered with the Halifax Health Foundation to host the Rolex 50 Years of Champions, a charity gala on the evening of Thursday, 26 January at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach. All the secured overall Rolex 24 At Daytona championship cars will be on display at this special event to raise funds for this important organization, which includes the area’s only Level II Trauma Center. Tickets are available for purchase by calling the Halifax Health Foundation office: +1 (386) 254 4111.

Where in the world are the 1972, 1979 and 1998 Rolex 24 At Daytona Overall Champion Cars?

With the whereabouts of three legendary cars still unknown, officials at DIS, are asking for help in locating these past champions:

- The 1972-winning Ferrari 312PB, driven by Mario Andretti (ITA-USA) and Jacky Ickx (BEL)

- The 1979 Interscope Porsche driven by Americans Hurley Haywood, Danny Ongais and Ted Field

- The 1998-winning Ferrari 333SP, driven by Gianpiero Moretti (ITA), Arie Luyendyk (NED), Mauro Baldi (ITA) and Didier Theys (BEL)

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the speedway:

Testing at DIS sees Nasr set top speeds; debuts for Corvette, Ferrari and Audi

The two-day Rolex 24 At Daytona test in early December featured more than 25 cars and several new debuts, including three new Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Protoypes, three new Ferrari F458 Italia Grand Ams and the American test debut of the Audi R8 GRAND-AM.

The Corvette Daytona Prototype is among the cars that will make their competitive debut in the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. “Bringing the Corvette Daytona Prototype to GRAND-AM is a tremendous opportunity,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “Sports car and endurance racing is an outstanding platform for manufacturers like us to test and learn. We are excited to see the Corvette DP compete in the legendary Rolex 24 at Daytona next January.” Four teams will campaign the Corvette Daytona Prototype in 2012: No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing; No. 10 SunTrust Racing; No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing; and the No.’s 5 and 9 Action Express Racing teams.

Another of the most eagerly anticipated debuts at the test was the new Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am. Risi Competizione (with drivers Raphael Matos (BRA) and Toni Vilander (FIN)) and Extreme Speed Motorsports (Americans Scott Sharp, Ed Brown, Guy Cosmo and Johannes van Overbeek) ran their first Rolex Series test with the new car. Americans Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato, the 2009 Rolex Series GT co-champions, will share a Ferrari 458 Italia for the entire 2012 season with AIM Autosport. “This is Ferrari from the factory making a statement, saying, ‘We care about the Rolex 24. We want to win this race. We’ve designed a car for this series. Let’s go do it,’” said Segal. “You’re only going to see four teams here at the Rolex 24 representing Ferrari. To be driving one of those four cars is amazing. It’s the experience of a lifetime.” In collaboration with Italy’s AF Corse team, AF Waltrip has also entered a Ferrari F458 Italia Grand Am in the Rolex 24 with two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip at the wheel.

Also turning heads during the December test session was the Audi R8 GRAND-AM. Wearing a stars-and-stripes design and based on the successful Audi R8 LMS, which has scored more than 110 victories and 13 titles, the Audi R8 GRAND-AM was developed specifically for the GT class of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. APR Motorsport (Alabama, USA) will be the first team to field the new Audi at the 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Negotiations with three more teams are currently ongoing, although a maximum of four Audi R8 GRAND-AM cars will be delivered for the 2012.

Looking beyond the vehicles, 19-year-old Felipe Nasr (BRA), the 2012 Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge winner and British Formula 3 champion, proved he is a quick learner when he took his first laps at Daytona during a test with Action Express Racing, overall champions from the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Nasr’s Sunoco Challenge prize entitles him to a fully funded seat with a to-be-determined team in the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Nasr stole the spotlight in the DP session and topped the unofficial time sheets at 1:41.286. Wednesday he continued to impress, turning in the fastest unofficial lap of the test, over a second quicker than his closest competitor, Darren Law (CAN). “When I first saw the track I was amazed by how nice it is; it’s such an historical place and to be part of it is amazing,” said Nasr. “I was expecting the DP to be quite lazy and heavy and not as quick as my F3 car but I was impressed as it was completely different to what I thought! The first time I came out of the pits and put my foot down I thought, wow this thing can really move! I was laughing to myself at how fun the track was to drive when I first hit the track – I couldn’t quite believe it.”

Teams who did not already test will have a second opportunity to shake down their new cars at DIS mid-December, prior to the Roar Before The Rolex 24 on 6-8 January 2012.

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.

About the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

The Rolex 24 At Daytona, America’s most prestigious sports car race, is one of two 24-hour sports car events. 2012 will mark the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The famous twice-around-the-clock challenge annually kicks off the international motorsports calendar, as well as the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, and features a star-studded line-up of drivers from around the world battling on Daytona’s demanding 3.56-mile high-banked road course.

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