Hessert's team up for Daytona 24

Young Jersey driver in 24 Hours of Daytona with his dad, Tom Hessert Jr. Hessert III will be youngest driver in history to race in classic. CHERRY HILL, NJ/DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA, January 26, 2003 . . . Racing with his son in the Rolex 24 Hours...

Young Jersey driver in 24 Hours of Daytona with his dad, Tom Hessert Jr.
Hessert III will be youngest driver in history to race in classic.

CHERRY HILL, NJ/DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA, January 26, 2003 . . . Racing with his son in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona will be a dream come true for Tom Hessert Jr. The former IMSA champion and three time class winner (last time was in 1997) will team up with his 16-year-old son Tom Hessert III. The young Cherry Hill, NJ racer will be the youngest driver ever to compete in the 24 Hours of Daytona.

The father and son will team up with R.J. Valentine, a former Trans-Am standout, and Jim Michlaelian ( President and CEO of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach) to race a Porsche 993GT provided by the Racer's Group of Sonoma, California. The Cherry Hill Classic Cars sponsored entry will be run in the GT class.

"It was 1997 that I last raced competitively. In fact one of my last wins came in the GT Class during the 1997 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. I have been away from the sport, driving competitively, for a number of years.

It was great to get back in a race car and I was surprised that within just seven or eight laps I was feeling comfortable and running race pace speeds. I had to get my shift patterns down and get timing in place. I had to get the hands, feet and brain all working as one. It is sort of like riding a bicycle, you just don't forget how it should be done," said Hessert Jr.

"The real reason I am running at Daytona is to do it with my son. This will be a very proud moment for me. It is something he and I have talked about for years. He is my best friend. I have always wanted to expose him (my son) to all forms of motorsports and then he can make a decision on what he wants to pursue. I myself loved all racing and I picked road racing. Tom grew up coming to and dreaming of racing at the speedway. This will be a great thrill for me."

Both Hesserts are excited about the opportunity especially since they will be in quality equipment. The Racer's Group has had their teams in victory lane at Daytona in the past.

Young Hessert, just 16 years old and a junior at Cherry Hill, NJ East high school, has been racing Mopar powered midgets on the United States Auto Club National Championship circuit. The talented young racer, a winner in karts, micro sprints and quarter midgets during his career, will again race Mopar powered midgets maintained by Keith Kunz and Pete Willoughby (Keith Kunz Motorsports) at their Indiana shops.

In fact Hessert will spend his summer months living in Indiana and learning all that he can about driving and preparing race cars. He will be working in the Keith Kunz Motorsports shop.

"There is a lot to learn. Of course the rear engined car and the fact that there is so much more power than in a midget created a challenge. A six speed transmission is a learning experience. I am pretty happy with the practice session we had at Daytona a few weeks back. I got to drive about 25-30 laps and had the Porsche running at about 170 mph. It was great. The really great part of it though is the opportunity to race with my dad. This will be such an exciting time and such a great experience. Looking ahead I can't wait to race the full two and one-half mile super speedway, flat out," said the young Hessert.

The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona takes place at Daytona International Speedway (Daytona Beach, Florida) Saturday, February 1 thru Sunday, February 2. The 41st annual race will start at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Sixteen hours of race coverage will be seen on the Speed Channel Network. The race is sanctioned by the Grand American Road Racing Association and is part of the Rolex Sports Car Series.

-hm/es-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am , IMSA Others , USAC
Drivers Tom Hessert , R.J. Valentine