MIAMI, Fla. -- If, as the old saying goes, opposites attract, then Hurley Haywood and J.C. France were made for each other. On one hand, Haywood, a sports car veteran whose resume includes three wins in the prestigious 24 of Le Mans, five wins...
MIAMI, Fla. -- If, as the old saying goes, opposites attract, then Hurley Haywood and J.C. France were made for each other.
On one hand, Haywood, a sports car veteran whose resume includes three wins in the prestigious 24 of Le Mans, five wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona, and two wins in the 12 Hours of Sebring, is one of the sport's most respected elder statesmen. On the other, France, the grandson of the late Bill France Sr., the legendary founder of NASCAR, is an untested newcomer who competed in his first professional race just four weeks ago.
"This formula [Daytona Prototypes] was announced down at Daytona last November and we had Dave Klym build us two cars," Haywood explained. "We are a traditional Porsche dealer, so the engine power was going to be Porsche. The whole thing has come together remarkably well.
"I'm in the learning process of this whole thing. It's really nice for me. I was kinda winding down my career and I got the call to come back and I was really excited to do it. J.C. is a really perfect teammate and he's got me as his mentor, as his teacher."
Haywood, who started fourth, fell back in the early going as many of the front-runners opted to push the pace in the opening laps. Indeed, the lead changed hands five times among three cars in the first 20 laps.
Before electrical problems forced him to make several lengthy stops, pole sitter David Donohue, in the second Brumos entry which he shared with Mike Borkowski, took three turns at the head of the 16-car field, but was never able to completely escape the clutches of the Heritage Motorsports Ford Mustang of Tommy Riggins or the Diman Racing Corvette of Wally Castro.
"We had the pole here and such high hopes, but a switch fell out of the dash and was flopping around and ultimately shorted out and blew a big fuse," Donohue said.
Donohue's subsequent demise enabled Haywood, who had patiently worked his way back up to the front, to assume command of the race on lap 41. Haywood's lead was short lived, however, because he had to make his own stop two laps later, handing the lead to Cort Wagner's Ferrari 360GT.
But once the Ferrari had made its one and only stop of the race, France, who had taken over for Haywood during the preceding pit stop, found himself in the catbird's seat.
And with 23 laps remaining, the race's only caution allowed France to make his final stop under yellow, negating any advantage the Ferrari may have gained by trying to make it a one-stop race. With Haywood now at the wheel and the Ferrari desperately seeking to save fuel, the race was all but over.
"I kind of wore myself out in the beginning, but once we got up there a couple pitted and we had a pretty good lead so I was able to back it down a little and try to run the endurance race like Hurley was doing and to try to save myself, the tires, and the car," France said.
In the end, the Ferrari had to settle for second overall and first in the GT class, one lap behind Haywood and France.
"It really feels good to get the Daytona monkey off our back," Wagner said, referring to the team's heartbreaking loss one month ago in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The Murray's Speed & Custom Chevrolet Camaro of Kenny Bupp and Jon Levy finished third overall and first in GTS, followed by the Diman Racing Corvette and the Racer's Group Porsche GT3 RS.