DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., - You can chalk up many things in life to luck, but multiple victories in the Rolex 24 At Daytona is not one of them. There is an art to endurance racing, where a driver needs a feel for when to push the machine and when to hold back. It's an inexact science.
Hurley Haywood has won a record five Rolex 24 At Daytona titles and is still competing with the zeal to extend his mark to six. He's a veteran of a record 27 campaigns since 1971.
"Every time I've won here, it has been with a well organized, well run and financed team," Haywood said. "I've also driven with really great drivers over the years. So when you put all those things together, you've got a hard combination to beat."
The Rolex 24's first superstar was undoubtably Mexico's Pedro Rodriguez. Of those racers with four victories, Rodriguez is the one best remembered for his mastery of cars, the course and the conditions in which he competed.
When the race was known as the Daytona Continental between 1962-65, Rodriguez dominated on Daytona's original 3.81-mile monster road course. Rodriquez was the first driver at Daytona to successfully defend as champion in any race, doing so in Ferrari's legendary GTO in 1963 and 1964.
Rodriguez would repeat this feat in the John Wyer Gulf Porsche 917 of 1970 and 1971 vintage. Other four-time Rolex winners are American Peter Gregg, France's Bob Wollek and Rolf Stommelen of Germany.
Derek Bell's great run of excellence at Daytona came within a four-year period, notching wins in 1986, 1987 and 1989. Bell's successes gained him almost instant legend status at the "World Center Of Racing." Bell, of England, heads up the small but stellar cast of three-time winners that include possible future four-time champions American Butch Leitzinger and fellow Brit Andy Wallace.
The Rolex's two-time winner list is also an exclusive club, including Americans John Paul Jr., Rob Dyson and Elliott Forbes-Robinson, all of whom are hoping to step up to three-time winner status in 2001. They share the plateau occupied by Englishmen Brian Redman and Ken Miles, Americans A.J. Foyt, Lloyd Ruby, Al Unser Jr. and Al Holbert.
For the drivers yet to accomplish it, the challenge of winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona remains an arduous task.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona challenge beckons the world's best sporstcar drivers to go where few have gone in the sport - to capture the glory and satisfaction of again being a champion at Daytona.
Purchase tickets for the Feb 3-4 Rolex 24 At Daytona online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at (904) 253-7223.