Daytona 24 Hours preview

LARGE, INTERNATIONAL FIELD SET TO COMPETE IN ROLEX 24 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- More than 75 entries, the most in seven years, including an International Motor Sports Association record of no less than 20 World Sports Cars, are set to compete in...

LARGE, INTERNATIONAL FIELD SET TO COMPETE IN ROLEX 24

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- More than 75 entries, the most in seven years, including an International Motor Sports Association record of no less than 20 World Sports Cars, are set to compete in the 33rd Rolex 24 At Daytona on Feb. 4-5 at Daytona International Speedway.

The field for the opening event of IMSA's Exxon World Sports Car Championship and Supreme GT Series is the largest since 75 cars started the 1988 event. The multi-national group of competitors includes 10 former Rolex 24 winners; the sons of two of the race's most celebrated champions; some of the world's best professional drivers; celebrities; and "weekend warriors," for whom the Rolex 24 is an annual test of man and machine against the clock and the demanding 3.56-mile Daytona road course.

Drivers from 27 foreign countries and no less than 32 United States will be at the aptly-titled "World Center of Racing" for the Rolex 24. The manufacturers' struggle will involve Ferrari, Porsche, Oldsmobile, Ford, Chevrolet, BMW, Buick, Mazda and Nissan.

Among the former winners of the event who will compete are five-time titlist Hurley Haywood of Jacksonville, Fla.; three-time champion Derek Bell of England, whose son Justin will drive in his second Rolex 24; two-time winner Brian Redman of England, who currently makes his home in Jacksonville; defending champions Paul Gentilozzi of Lansing, Mich., Butch Leitzinger of State College, Pa. and New Zealand native Steve Millen; and Dutchman Jan Lammers, Andy Wallace of England, Mark Dismore of Greenfield, Ind. and John Paul Jr. of West Palm Beach, Fla.

In addition Simon Gregg of Jacksonville, son of the late Peter Gregg, will make his Daytona debut in a Porsche Carrera 993. The elder Gregg won the Rolex 24 four times in his illustrious, five- championship IMSA career; and he also won four other major IMSA events at Daytona.

IMSA's WSC category will see a real dogfight that should result in the first Daytona overall victory for a World Sports Car. The Brix Racing Oldsmobile Spice BDG 02 has been extensively re- worked. Its main challengers should be the four Ferrari 333 SPs that will be making their Daytona debut; the Toy Store Racing Chevrolet Spice that will include the elder Bell, Wallace and Lammers among its drivers; and the debuting Ford R&S Mk. 3, which will have former winners Paul Jr. and Leitzinger in its seat.

The Rolex 24 always attracts celebrity participants. In 1995, actor Paul Newman will celebrate his 70th year by driving a Roush Racing Ford Mustang, as the factory-supported team tries to regain the form that saw it win nine straight GT class victories from 1985-93. Actor Craig T. Nelson, TV's "Coach," will make his Daytona debut in his Screaming Eagles Racing Lexus Spice WSC.

PORSCHE, HURLEY HAYWOOD READY TO MAKE HISTORY IN THE FEB. 4 -5 RUNNING OF THE 33rd ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Feb. 4-5 running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona is barely one week away. The twice-around-the-clock contest of endurance at Daytona International Speedway boasts the largest field in recent memory. Porsche, with nearly one third of the current 74-car entry, has the potential to take the overall victory plus the hotly-contested GTS-1 and GTS-2 class wins, as well.

The loss of the German factory team from the Exxon World Sports Car division for purpose-built race cars only diminishes Porsche's presence by two entries. There are still at least 26 cars now entered in the two divisions for specially-modified, production based sports cars, plus the Le Mans WSC class. It is in the GT categories that their strength lies.

Porsche driver Hurley Haywood is already in the Rolex 24 At Daytona record books. The native of Jacksonville, Fla., is regarded world-wide as the leading driver in long distance endurance road racing. He will be after a record-breaking sixth overall victory in the Rolex 24. The record Haywood is vying to break is his own. It shows victories in 1973, '75, '77, '79 and '91. Haywood also has three 24 Hours of Le Mans wins, including the 1994 race and is a two-time winner in the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Victory celebrations, Haywood notes, make up for what may seem a romantic challenge to the average fan, but is hard work for those involved.

"I don't particularly like long distance racing, yet I've been very successful at it," he said. "I credit that to three things: I've always been able to drive a Porsche and, to be successful in long distance racing you have to drive a Porsche. I've always been associated with teams which were well organized and well funded. I've always been able to drive with people who are very experienced.

"There are a lot of drivers who are very fast, but there aren't a lot who are fast AND gentle with the car at the same time. You have to have drivers who are very even tempered and have the goal of winning the race in mind rather than just to be the fastest driver on the team."

Haywood will drive a Porsche 911 GT2 and compete in the GTS-1 division. The American Signature/Rohr Corporation-backed entry will also include veterans John O'Steen, team owner Jochen Rohr and Dave Murry. Haywood feels that the team has a strong chance of taking the overall victory.

"When you look over the field, it's true the World Sports Cars have gotten faster," noted Haywood. "We all know in racing that when you go faster you also have a greater chance of mechanical failure. This year the GT cars have as good a shot at winning as anything.

"This is a brand new car and our January 27th test at the Speedway will be the first time to shake down the car. I've driven many cars which have arrived from Stuttgart just before the race. I'm not worried. We should have good speed. With a little bit of luck, you can never tell what might happen."

For information on the Rolex 24 At Daytona call the Speedway Ticket Office at 904/253-RACE (7223)

ROUSH RACING MAKES RETURN TO DAYTONA IN ROLEX 24

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Roush Racing, which won the top GT class in IMSA's season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona for nine straight years -- from 1985 to '93 -- will return for the '95 event on Feb. 4-5 with a Ford Mustang Cobra similar to the car that won in Roush's last appearance at the race.

The driving lineup for the team will include 1993 IMSA GTS driving champion Tommy Kendall; Roush's NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver, Mark Martin, who has driven on three Rolex 24 class-winning teams; actor Paul Newman, who last raced at Daytona in 1979; and racer/journalist Mike Brockman.

Kendall drove for Roush's last team that won the GTS category, when it scored a second overall in the 1993 Rolex 24. He won the '93 GTS title for Roush and was third in the '94 SCCA Trans-Am Series driving Roush Mustangs. Martin drove on the winning GT class teams in 1989, '91 and '93. His Roush Mustang was fourth in '91.

Newman, a two-time SCCA amateur national champion, finished 26th overall in the 1979 Rolex 24, driving a Dick Barbour Racing Porsche Turbo. Through the late 1980's he was a regular competitor in the SCCA Trans-Am Series. Brockman is a long-time associate of Newman's, having worked with him on several film projects. The Motor Trend Magazine road test editor's best Rolex 24 finish was eighth, in 1988, in a Pontiac Spice GTP car.

Ironically, Roush's lead car will be numbered "70," in honor of Newman's participation, and his age. The actor, who began sports car racing in the mid-70's, initiated the Rolex program with Roush.

Roush will also field a "customer car" for a team of South American drivers.

Roush won the top GT category in nine straight Rolex 24s, either with his own cars or in a support role. He used Ford Mustangs in 1985-87 and '91-93; a Lincoln-Mercury XR4ti in '88; and Mercury Cougar XR-7s in '89-90.

Practice and front row qualifying for the 33rd Rolex 24 begins on Thursday, Feb. 2. Final practice and qualifying will be Friday, Feb. 3. The race will begin at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4.

For Ticket information, call the Speedway Ticket Office at 904-253-7223.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IMSA Others
Drivers Andy Wallace , Jan Lammers , Butch Leitzinger , Mark Dismore , Paul Gentilozzi , Hurley Haywood , Dick Barbour , Paul Newman , Simon Gregg , Brian Redman , John Paul , Peter Gregg , Tommy Kendall