Christian Traber’s race report from the 24h Daytona Classic
What began as a nightmare finished as a fantastic Victory:
Historic Sportscar Racing’s Classic 24 at Daytona welcomed a nearly 150-car field of great racing machines under sunny skies last weekend as it took over the combined 3.56-mile (5.7 Km) infield/oval course of Daytona International Speedway for its inaugural celebration of vintage racecars and the history of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Central to the festivities was the presence of well-known driving stars, such as Brian Redman, Hurley Haywood, Jochen Mass, Andy Wallace, Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Arturo Merzario, Dieter Quester, Jürgen Barth to name a few.
The way the novel weekend worked was that the six race groups (A to F) would alternate running one-hour stints and at the end of the 24 hours (similar to the Le Mans Classic) – run from 1 p.m. on Saturday to 1 p.m. on Sunday – the times for each competitor would be totaled up and the winners of each group determined.
I took part in Plateau A (the oldest one with cars from 1962 to 1972) with a Lola T70 MK-1 together with my Belgium friend Marc Devis. The car was race supported by Sasco Motorsports of Alon/Virginia. The event already started on Tuesday afternoon with a briefing for drivers who drove for the first time in Daytona, followed by a track walking and usefull advises from professional Daytona instructors.
On Wednesday morning I started the first practice at 10.30 am, but after less then 30 sec., a 500m drive, arriving on the banking, the the front left suspension suddenly broke and I lost a wheel. What a desaster for a first outing !! Hopefully I was in my slow warm-up lap and the car had not got a big damage. But imagine this would have happen at 285 Km/h on the banking…… (yes this was our max. speed) – An absolut nightmare. Black Flag – The practice had to be stopped and the car was loaded on a breakdown lorry and brought back to the Paddock. The mechanics from Sasco did a great job, dismantled everything, organised spare parts from a workshop in Jacksonville/Florida (just 1 hour away from Daytona) and replaced + repaired the car just in time for the second practice at 4pm. From then on all went well with the suspensions.
On Thursday afternoon was the qualifiying practice for the grid of qualifiyng race on Friday. With a super time of 1.56 I managed to put the car in pole position, a second ahead of another Lola T70 MK-3B (closed Coupé). On Thursday evening we where able to test drive the car in the dark night of the Daytona Speedway.
On Friday Marc Devis finished 2nd in the qualifiyng race and so we would start on the first row on Saturday at 1pm., the begining oft he 24h Classic Race.
After a great start, under beautifull, sunny hot weather in the first race, we took the lead in the second lap and managed to keep our 1st position to the end of this 1st race.
The car was then prepared for the second race, which started at 7pm already in the dark of Florida’s winter. I started from pole, but somehow had big brake problems already after the third corner, missed my braking twice at the chicane, got a Stop an Go penalty and therefore finished third with almost no more brakes.
From a comfortable lead of 1min 54 sec in the first race, we suddenly had a 43 sec backlog after the 2nd race !!. Nothing to lay back until the End of the event. So it was then up to me to make the time in the 3rd race at 1am in the morning.
The mechanics revised the brakes during the 2 races and I could really drive the car again as it was running in the first race. I won this 3rd race and we where back in the overall lead with a 32 sec advance after 3 races.
But again the brakes made problems and the end of the race (they had now to be overhauled between each race), Marc Devis carefully drove the car in the 4th and last race at 7 am in order to keep our overall lead and not taking any unnecessary risks.
I must admit – It was a fantastic feeling and lots of deep emotions to win this first ever
24h Daytona Classic in Florida. The whole Team was very tired after having got almost no sleep during the event, but it was worthwhile it and the satisfaction of a deserved Victory made everything else look like peanuts………..
Check out all the photos from the event on our gallery.