IMSA Wire: Decades at Daytona: Looking Back at 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010

Tim Disspain | Pit Stop Radio News

The Rolex 24 At Daytona has a rich history of sports car racing at Daytona International Speedway dating back to the first three-hour Daytona Continental in 1962 and the first 24-hour race in 1966.


As we head into this weekend’s 58th Rolex 24 At Daytona, which takes the green flag on Saturday with live NBC network television coverage at 1:30 p.m. ET, let’s look back on what happened in this race 50, 40, 30, 20 and 10 years ago:

1970 – Rodriguez and Kinnunen Dominate in Gulf Porsche 917A longstanding tradition of the Rolex 24 is the array of superstar drivers the event has attracted over the years. That certainly was the case in 1970, with a field that included racing luminaries like Mario Andretti, Jacky Ickx, Jo Siffert, Brian Redman, Jack Brabham, Dan Gurney, Mark Donohue, Vic Elford and many others.
But on this day, one star shone above the rest and his name was Pedro Rodriguez. The Mexican superstar already had a pair of Daytona victories under his belt – winning the three-hour Continental races in both 1963 and 1964. In 1970, Rodriguez was paired with Finnish racer Leo Kinnunen and Redman in the No. 2 Gulf Porsche 917K fielded by John Wyer.
The star-studded field turned out to be no match for the pair of Wyer Porsches, and most notably the No. 2 machine. Rodriguez took the lead two hours and 35 minutes into the race and disappeared off into the distance. At the checkered flag, the No. 2 was 45 laps ahead of its team car, the No. 1 Porsche 917 shared by Redman and Siffert.
Finishing third, three laps behind the No. 1 Porsche, was the No. 28 Ferrari shared by Andretti, Ickx and Arturo Mezzario.
Sam Posey and Mike Parkes co-drove the No. 24 Ferrari 312P to the P-class victory, while Jerry Thompson and John Mahler combined to win the GT+2000 class in the No. 7 Corvette. Bob Mitchell and Charlie Kemp won the T+2000 class in the No. 12 Camaro, with the T2000 class win going to Ralph Meaney, Gary Wright and Bill Bean in the No. 74 Porsche 911S.
And in GT2000, the win went to John Belperche, Tony Lilly and Don Pickett in the No. 78 MG B.


1980 – Joest Porsche Wins as IMSA GTP Era ApproachesWith the dawn of the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) area rapidly approaching, the 1980 Rolex 24 still came down to a battle among teams with the dominant Porsche 935. The field included no less than 16 935s alongside a handful of new GTP cars – including three BMW M1s – all competing in the GTX class.
The race came down to a battle between the No. 2 Joest Porsche 935 co-driven by team owner Reinhold Joest, Rolf Stommelen and Volkert Merl, the No. 93 Whittington Brothers 935, the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche and the No. 6 Dick Barbour Racing Porsche. While the Joest Porsche led the early running, Manfred Schurti in the Barbour Porsche battled Stommelen in the Joest machine in the overnight hours, trading the lead several times.
The No. 6 machine ultimately fell out of the battle when Schurti tangled with a lapped car. But the race wasn’t over yet, as the Whittington Brothers Porsche – which had fallen down the order early on with a penalty for passing under caution – found its way back onto the lead lap with under seven hours to go.
Shortly after that, however, the No. 93 stopped with a broken distributor shaft. That enabled the Joest team to pull away to win by 33 laps over the No. 09 Preston Henn-fielded Porsche 935K3 shared by John Paul Sr. and Al Holbert. Ted Field, Danny Ongais and Milt Minter finished third in the No. 0 Porsche entered by Field.
The IMSA GTU class win went to William Koll, Jim Cook and Greg La Cava in the No. 62 Porsche 914/6, with Tony Garcia, Alberto Vadia Jr. and Terry Herman winning the IMSA GTO class in the No. 54 Montura Racing Porsche 911 Carrera RSR. In the Group 5 category for under-two-liter cars, Carlo Facetti and Martino Finotto won in the No. 4 Jolly Club Lancia Beta Monte Carlo.


1990 – TWR Jaguars Go 1-2 at Zenith of GTP ClassThe first race of the 1990s was a continuation of the GTP class salad days from the late 1980s, with highly competitive prototype race cars from Nissan, Jaguar, Toyota and Porsche set to battle for the win.
The Nissan cars ranked among the favorites coming into the event on the strength of back-to-back IMSA GTP titles led by driver Geoff Brabham. However, victory in the Rolex 24 proved elusive for the blue, red and white machines, and it eluded them yet again in 1990 when mechanical issues ended their bid early.
Overheating problems also brought an early end to the race for the Toyota Eagle GTP machine entered by Dan Gurney’s All American Racers for co-drivers Juan Manuel Fangio II, Rocky Moran and Drake Olson. On the heels of a victory the year prior and four victories in the previous five years, there were plenty of Porsche 962s in the field from teams based in the U.S. and Europe.
But this event would belong to the pair of Tom Walkinshaw Racing Jaguar XJR-12s, which had switch from a turbocharged engine the year prior to using normally aspirated V12 engines. By daybreak, the battle was between the Jaguar teammates, with co-drivers Davy Jones, Jan Lammers and Andy Wallace in the No. 60 and Price Cobb, John Nielsen and Martin Brundle in the No. 61.
The outcome was in doubt into the final hour of the race when the No. 61 – which had battled overheating issues earlier – spent an extended amount of time on pit lane. That gave the victory to the No. 60 teammates by four laps over the No. 61 entry.
In the GTO class, Roush Racing picked up its sixth consecutive victory with co-drivers Robby Gordon, Lyn St. James and Calvin Fish taking the victory. The Camel Lights class saw John Grooms, Michael Greenfield and Frank Jellinek Jr. taking the win in the No. 36 Argo-Mazda, while Peter Uria, Bob Dotson, Jim Pace and Rusty Scott won the GTU class in the No. 71 Team Highball Mazda RX-7.


2000 – ORECA Viper Wins Then-Closest Rolex 24 Over Corvette in GRAND-AM DebutThe 2000 Rolex 24 At Daytona marked the beginning of the new GRAND-AM Road Racing Association and featured a wide variety of prototype and GT race cars.
This overall race victory would come down to GT machines, namely the No. 91 ORECA Dodge Viper GTS-R shared by Olivier Beretta, Karl Wendlinger and Dominique Dupuy and the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5.R co-driven by Ron Fellows, Justin Bell and Chris Kneifel.
Those two cars became combatants for the overall victory after heavy attrition befell cars in the fastest SportsRacer Prototype (SRP) class. The last of which to encounter issues was the No. 20 Dyson Racing Riley & Scott/Ford shared by James Weaver, Rob Dyson, Max Papis and Elliott Forbes-Robinson.
The Dyson team was looking for its second straight victory after taking the overall win in 1999, but a bent exhaust valve limited the car’s power just past halfway. With two hours remaining, the battle for the overall win officially became one of GT machines.
Wendlinger ultimately delivered the win for the French Viper team in what was then the closest finish in Rolex 24 history. The No. 91 crossed the stripe just 30.878 seconds ahead of the No. 3 Corvette. Third place went to another ORECA Viper, the No. 93 shared by David Donohue, Ni Amorim, Jean-Philippe Belloc and Tommy Archer.
The No. 20 Dyson entry salvaged a fourth-place overall result and claimed the SRP class victory, with Luca Drudi, Fabio Rosa, Fabio Babini and Garbrio Rosa claiming the GTU class win in the No. 56 Porsche 996 GT3R. In the AGT class, John Finger, Doug Mills, Richard Maugeri, Andy McNeil and Ron Zitza took the win in the No. 84 Camaro.


2010 – Action Express Wins Debut Race with Porsche-powered RileyIMSA fans today widely recognize Action Express Racing as one of the top teams in the sport, with multiple championships and important race victories.
But coming into the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the team owned by Daytona Beach-businessman Bob Johnson and managed by storied NASCAR crew chief Gary Nelson was brand new. The team had a stellar driver lineup – Joao Barbosa, Terry Borcheller, Ryan Dalziel and Mike Rockenfeller – for its No. 9 Riley Daytona Prototype powered by a Porsche Cayenne-based V8 engine.
But there were other stellar driver lineups in the field, including the pair of Chip Ganassi Racing BMW/Riley DPs, the Ford-powered Rileys from Michael Shank Racing, the Dallara/Ford from Wayne Taylor Racing and the Pontiac/Riley from GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing that included multi-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.
All of those aforementioned teams ran among the top contenders at one point or another in the race – especially the Ganassi machines that led throughout Saturday’s action. But an uncharacteristic mechanical problem removed the No. 02 Ganassi car shared by Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Jamie McMurray just past midnight.
That misfortune handed the lead to Barbosa in the No. 9 Action Express machine, which battled the No. 01 Ganassi BMW/Riley of Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Max Papis and Justin Wilson for the victory. An unscheduled pit stop by Wilson late in the race gave the No. 9 team its big break, and the new team headed to victory lane.
Finishing second, 52.303 seconds behind the Action Express quartet was the No. 01 Ganassi squad, with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Richard Westbrook, Lucas Luhr and Scott Tucker placing third in the No. 95 Level 5 Motorsports BMW/Riley.
The GT class saw the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 pick up its second victory in three years with Sylvain Tremblay, Nick Ham, David Haskell and Jonathan Bomarito sharing the car.


1990 – TWR Jaguars Go 1-2 at Zenith of GTP ClassThe first race of the 1990s was a continuation of the GTP class salad days from the late 1980s, with highly competitive prototype race cars from Nissan, Jaguar, Toyota and Porsche set to battle for the win.
The Nissan cars ranked among the favorites coming into the event on the strength of back-to-back IMSA GTP titles led by driver Geoff Brabham. However, victory in the Rolex 24 proved elusive for the blue, red and white machines, and it eluded them yet again in 1990 when mechanical issues ended their bid early.
Overheating problems also brought an early end to the race for the Toyota Eagle GTP machine entered by Dan Gurney’s All American Racers for co-drivers Juan Manuel Fangio II, Rocky Moran and Drake Olson. On the heels of a victory the year prior and four wins in the previous five years, there were plenty of Porsche 962s in the field from teams based in the U.S. and Europe.
But this event would belong to the pair of Tom Walkinshaw Racing Jaguar XJR-12s, which had switch from a turbocharged engine the year prior to using normally aspirated V12 engines. By daybreak, the battle was between the Jaguar teammates, with co-drivers Davy Jones, Jan Lammers and Andy Wallace in the No. 60 and Price Cobb, John Nielsen and Martin Brundle in the No. 61.
The outcome was in doubt into the final hour of the race when the No. 61 – which had battled overheating issues earlier – spent an extended amount of time on pit lane. That gave the victory to the No. 60 teammates by four laps over the No. 61 entry.
In the GTO class, Roush Racing picked up its sixth consecutive victory with co-drivers Robby Gordon, Lyn St. James and Calvin Fish taking the victory. The Camel Lights class saw John Grooms, Michael Greenfield and Frank Jellinek Jr. taking the win in the No. 36 Argo-Mazda, while Peter Uria, Bob Dotson, Jim Pace and Rusty Scott won the GTU class in the No. 71 Team Highball Mazda RX-7.


2000 – ORECA Viper Wins Then-Closest Rolex 24 Over Corvette in GRAND-AM DebutThe 2000 Rolex 24 At Daytona marked the beginning of the new GRAND-AM Road Racing Association and featured a wide variety of prototype and GT race cars.
This overall race victory would come down to GT machines, namely the No. 91 ORECA Dodge Viper GTS-R shared by Olivier Beretta, Karl Wendlinger and Dominique Dupuy and the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5.R co-driven by Ron Fellows, Justin Bell and Chris Kneifel.
Those two cars became combatants for the overall victory after heavy attrition befell cars in the fastest SportsRacer Prototype (SRP) class. The last of which to encounter issues was the No. 20 Dyson Racing Riley & Scott/Ford shared by James Weaver, Rob Dyson, Max Papis and Elliott Forbes-Robinson.
The Dyson team was looking for its second straight victory after taking the overall win in 1999, but a bent exhaust valve limited the car’s power just past halfway. With two hours remaining, the battle for the overall win officially became one of GT machines.
Wendlinger ultimately delivered the win for the French Viper team in what was then the closest finish in Rolex 24 history. The No. 91 crossed the stripe just 30.878 seconds ahead of the No. 3 Corvette. Third place went to another ORECA Viper, the No. 93 shared by David Donohue, Ni Amorim, Jean-Philippe Belloc and Tommy Archer.
The No. 20 Dyson entry salvaged a fourth-place overall result and claimed the SRP class victory, with Luca Drudi, Fabio Rosa, Fabio Babini and Garbrio Rosa claiming the GTU class win in the No. 56 Porsche 996 GT3R. In the AGT class, John Finger, Doug Mills, Richard Maugeri, Andy McNeil and Ron Zitza took the win in the No. 84 Camaro.


2010 – Action Express Wins Debut Race with Porsche-powered RileyIMSA fans today widely recognize Action Express Racing as one of the top teams in the sport, with multiple championships and important race victories.
But coming into the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the team owned by Daytona Beach-businessman Bob Johnson and managed by storied NASCAR crew chief Gary Nelson was brand new. The team had a stellar driver lineup – Joao Barbosa, Terry Borcheller, Ryan Dalziel and Mike Rockenfeller – for its No. 9 Riley Daytona Prototype powered by a Porsche Cayenne-based V8 engine.
But there were other stellar driver lineups in the field, including the pair of Chip Ganassi Racing BMW/Riley DPs, the Ford-powered Rileys from Michael Shank Racing, the Dallara/Ford from Wayne Taylor Racing and the Pontiac/Riley from GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing that included multi-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.
All of those aforementioned teams ran among the top contenders at one point or another in the race – especially the Ganassi machines that led throughout Saturday’s action. But an uncharacteristic mechanical problem removed the No. 02 Ganassi car shared by Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Jamie McMurray just past midnight.
That misfortune handed the lead to Barbosa in the No. 9 Action Express machine, which battled the No. 01 Ganassi BMW/Riley of Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Max Papis and Justin Wilson for the victory. An unscheduled pit stop by Wilson late in the race gave the No. 9 team its big break, and the new team headed to victory lane.
Finishing second, 52.303 seconds behind the Action Express quartet was the No. 01 Ganassi squad, with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Richard Westbrook, Lucas Luhr and Scott Tucker placing third in the No. 95 Level 5 Motorsports BMW/Riley.
The GT class saw the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 pick up its second victory in three years with Sylvain Tremblay, Nick Ham, David Haskell and Jonathan Bomarito sharing the car.


The 58th rendition of the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona gets under way next week on the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway. Practice and qualifying starts Thursday, Jan. 23, with the green flag flying on the twice-around-the-clock battle just past 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 25. NBC will have live network coverage of the start of the race beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 25, and also will televise the race finish beginning at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, Jan. 26 as part of NBC Sports’ complete coverage of the event that includes windows on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App and TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. IMSA Radio also will have live coverage throughout race weekend on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com, with complete race coverage also airing on SiriusXM Radio. Tickets for the 58th Rolex 24 At Daytona are available on DaytonaInternationalSpeedway.com

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