Day to night in Daytona

Oggi abbiamo l’onore di ospitare il nostro amico, collezionista, gentlemen driver Wolfgang Kurth, che ci racconta….(l’articolo sul nostrio sito è disponibile in Italiano, Francese, Tedesco e Giapponese…)

“Relax on the banks…”

„Yes of course Bre-an…..but I sink zat I fly to ze moon“!

The two drivers were standing next to the light blue and orange Ford GT40. Brian Redman has just climbed out of the car. The engine was still crackling and the exhaust manifold blistering when the mechanics got access to the engine bay.

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“You are going flat into NASCAR 3”? Brian Redman has just asked his team mate Jacky Ickx back in 1968 when the two world class racers shared a Ford GT40, #8, entered by John Wyer for the 24 Hours of Daytona.

At that time NASCAR 3, the entrance to the 31° banked turn was entered right from the long Back Straight at about 200MPH!

Today, almost 50 years later Brian Redman is back racing a 1972 BMW 3500 CSL in the “Classic 24hr Daytona” – not a great lot has changed! He is still picking the highest track in the banks.

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Since 2014 vintage race car drivers can take their cars to a track which has seen so many tough battles between the top drivers of their days and almost all sport car manufacturer of the world. For Porsche, Ford, Ferrari or Jaguar winning the 24 hrs of Daytona was always as prestigious as winning the 24 hrs of Le Mans.

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The Historic Sportscar Racing organisation (HSR) has revived this legendary endurance race offering a race format which suits the race cars which have been raced in period: 6 grids race 4 times each for 45 minutes – day and night. Several sessions for test and installation, day and night practise and qualifying sessions provide ample seat time and offer plenty of time to familiarize with this unique track layout.

There is no other endurance race in the world which forces the drivers and their cars twice a lap into a 900m long highly banked curve at almost top speed.

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Right from the very beginning the Daytona Speedway has a dual layout, a tri-oval for sprint races and one for endurance sports car races. By adding a left – right, right – left combination to the tri-oval right after the starting line the layout has been “continentalized”. Since 1973 no race car driver will be “rocketed” to the moon anymore when entering NASCAR 3 – a sharp chicane called “Bus Stop” has been inserted between the long Back Straight and the 31° East Turn of the track to reduce the speed at turn entrance.

In 2015 more that 170 race cars and 300 drivers coming from 15 different nations raced that challenging circuit at the “Classic 24 Hour at Daytona”, Brian Redman and Bobby Rahal have been among the numerous racing legends who have raced the “Daytona 24 Hours” in the 70’s and 80’s: Jochen Mass, Jürgen Barth, Derek Bell and Gijs van Lennep came all the way from Europe, still enjoying an enormous popularity at track side.

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While leaving the pit lane I still remember the well-meant words of some Daytona “veterans”: “Relax on the banks”! The pit lane follows the tight Turn 1 leaving the 18° banked Front Straight right after the Start / Finish line entering the track at East Horseshoe, acceleration into 3rd gear on an almost straight (but beware of the left hand kink!), downshift before entering the right – left combination of West Horseshoe, up shift into 3rd, downshift to 2nd, up to 3rd, down to 2nd and transiting onto the banks between NASCAR 1 and 2. The infield flips to the left. It seems there is only a wall and chicken wire above me. Up in 3rd and 4th gear – a couple of laps later I should even go up in 5th!

The Bus Stop chicane reduces the speed but gives quite a good shake and now when entering the banks between NASCAR 3 and 4 I didn’t “fly to ze moon“. But it was a feeling you don’t encounter too often in a race car!

For the first time I feel some easing – no relaxing yet!

At the end of Front Straight, at top speed, the track is narrowing into a funnel leading after hard braking into Turn1 and East Horseshoe again.

Wonderful! Thrilling! During this long weekend there will be many more laps to enjoy!

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Very few race tracks provide such excellent visibility for visitors to follow the race as Daytona Speedway. Visitors in the infield are very close to the Horseshow turns and can easily follow the cars on the high banks of the east and west ovals of the circuit. “Classic 24 hour of Daytona” attracts thousands of spectators, many of them taking their cars (several classic cars!) right to trackside entertaining their club meetings. Others put their own little grandstand on the rooftop of their SUV, barbeque and cans of Budweiser shared among the neighbours. Only few leave the infield at night time – there is great fun at any time of day! And “Classic 24 Hour of Daytona” guarantees exciting entertainment – cars of all periods racing each other day and night, for 24 hours!

This atmosphere is like a flashback from the “good old days” of motorsport at the US East Coast.

Drivers, mechanics, stewards and supporters they all feel very much in the same mood. Everyone is relaxed and enjoys being part of a great motorsport revival. Although racers fight tough battles at high speed for each position (the fastest cars get well above 300km/h at the end of the Front Straight!) they are still racing very much in gentleman style!

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The perfect organization of HSR is a major success factor: no team is unhappy, no race is delayed, the race car selection on this legendary track is amazing and the fireworks during the first night session are very emotional.

Racer what the hell do you want?

“Go West, Man!”

Wolfgang Kurth

ADRENALINE24H

 

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