HSR Classic 24 At Daytona

Porsche Fabcar crosses the finish line. [Robert Madara photo]

Porsche Fabcar crosses the finish line. [Robert Madara photo]

By Eddie LePine

The ninth running of the HSR Classic 24 at Daytona presented by IMSA recently concluded and it was everything I expected it would be – a gathering of great cars and good friends to celebrate motorsports.

The unique format, which featured 6 different race groups running 4 race sessions each, formed the basis for the name “Classic 24”. Obviously, most of these priceless machines are no longer meant to run 24 straight hours in anger, hence the sensible HSR Classic 24 format. However, that’s not to say drivers were just tooling around – these races were flat out, with cars and drivers pushing to the limit, and sometimes beyond.

Classic 24 veteran Gérard Lopez and Classic 24 rookie Marcel Fassler (he of Audi Sport and Corvette Racing fame) won both Group A and Group F with Iconic Racing as the first Classic 24 overall double group race winners since the inaugural event in 2014 – a fine job by both of them. Marcel told me that he really enjoys doing vintage racing because of the comradery of the drivers and the relaxed atmosphere at the track. Plus, he loves getting to see and drive some of these classic racing machines.

Other drivers of note who participated in the Classic 24 were old friends Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger and it was good to touch base with these legendary drivers, who we all remember from their days driving in the American Le Mans series for Rob Dyson (among other teams).

Also on hand was the President of Ford Motor Company, Jim Farley, a true motorsports enthusiast, who co-drove Jim’s 1965 Ford GT40 Mk1 with none other than Adrian Newey of Red Bull Formula One fame. Newey certainly enjoyed his trip to Daytona, a brief respite from the high-pressure world of Formula One, for some old-fashioned sports car racing. He told me that the schedule for Formula One has become overwhelming and that he was glad to make the trip to Daytona for some much-needed down time – and to get back to racing’s roots. He and Jim Farley are true motorsport Renaissance men, who represent the spirit of the Classic 24 at Daytona.

Also of note, John Higgins was on hand, driving the original chassis #001 Porsche Fabcar, which finished second in class at the 1987 Sun Bank Daytona 24 Hours and then went on to win the Camel Lights class at the Sebring 12 Hours the same year. Now in the White Allen Motorsports collection and superbly prepared by Dale Oakes and his crew at Euro Classics in Dayton, Ohio, the Fabcar ran perfectly and John (driving solo), finished first in class and 2nd overall in the Group C race. It was an excellent conclusion to an storied driving career, as before the race John announced that he would be retiring from competition after this race. Reached in Victory Lane right after his podium finish, however, John admitted that his statement about giving up driving might be a little premature. The car is still strong and the competitive fire still burns in his veins.

Such is the lesson of the Classic 24 at Daytona – keeping history alive and the competitive juices flowing. That’s what it is all about.

In anyone’s book, it was a Classic event.

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