GALLERY: Kickass Vintage Race Cars Make Up Daytona’s Endurance Racing History
Photography by Alex Sobran
Daytona International Speedway has been hosting 24-hour races since 1966, and the years between then and now have seen more than a few notable machines up on the banking and scattered among the infield horseshoe.
I was at the 2018 running of the Rolex 24 to see the latest crop of cars going at it—an unforgettable experience—but I’d also been looking forward to the historic display to provide some provenance and act as a supplement to all the cutting edge go-fast gear around me. Spanning the lightweight aluminum and fiberglass bodies from the ‘60s and ‘70s to the early days of the carbon fiber era, the assemblage of vintage cars with Daytona racing history ranged from Group C prototypes to privateer Porsches and all manner of modified sports cars in between, like Preston Henn’s wild 1983-winning Andial-built Moby-Dicked 935L to the tamer but still aggressively wide-bodied PTG BMW M3, Hot-rodded 914GTs to the grotesquely cool Corvettes of John Greenwood, Lancia Beta Montecarlos sent in from Italy and 911s built a few towns away.
Hurley Haywood and Peter Gregg’s 1973-winning RSR joined the 935L as another 24-hour champion Porsche, and to make this one even more special, it’s apparently the first to ever wear the distinctive red and blue stripes of the Brumos racing team. Like any other endurance race, the log of winners is going to be rife with Porsches, and Daytona is no different than any other in this regard, with the marque winning the thing overall more than anybody else: 18 times.
Some of these automotive attendees saw great success at this track in their heyday—for instance, the rotary-powered Mazda RX-7 is said to be the most successful car at this race ever, with five class wins earned in six appearances at the 24 (a career that spanned two different generations of bodywork around the same winning chassis)—while others were less memorable, like the gorgeous example of a Ferrari 365 GTB Daytona set up for competition at this track but in reality never saw a lap of actual racing at the Florida stadium, seeing as it crashed while practicing. Each car has its own compelling story that deserves more than a passing sentence, but for the sake of practicality I hope these photos will do in place of a series of full articles on each machine. If there’s something you see that you’d like to know more about, leave a comment and I’ll see what I can dig up!