JANUARY 19, 2015

The 53rd edition of the Rolex 24 At Daytona next weekend (24 – 25 January) marks the start of the 2015 endurance motorsport season.

The Race

With its unique combination of a banked speedway, road course and over 12 hours of night driving, the Rolex 24 At Daytona® is regarded by many as the toughest endurance race to win.

The Origins of Speed

Daytona Beach was destined for speed. The beach itself is long, flat and very firm. A veritable mecca for speed demons. It is the location where 14 land speed records were set; five of these records by Rolex wearer Sir Malcolm Campbell while driving his mighty Bluebird. In 1935 Campbell set an official record of 276mph (some 445km/h) on the beach of Daytona, the highest achieved there.

Unique sound track

In 1936 the interest and action turned to stock car racing with the introduction of the Daytona Beach Road Course. It ran half on the beach and half on a narrow-track road along the ocean.

The temple of speed

In the 1950s plans were laid for a permanent track. A superspeedway featuring giant bankings in the turns for maximum velocity. When it was inaugurated in 1959, the Daytona International Speedway was the fastest racing circuit in the United States, and one of the first superspeedways in the world. The tri-oval shape and dimensions of this 2.5-mile (4 km) circuit still impress anyone who enters the grounds. Its unusual design is all about speed with a 31-degree banking in the turns, more than 10 metres high at the tallest point.

Daytona International Speedway

The design of the Daytona International Speedway is unique in other ways: from the beginning, its founder, William France Sr, wanted to make the new track a reference internationally. In order to attract the best racing drivers in the world to Daytona, races were organized in the category then considered as the elite of motor sport: sports cars. France’s revolutionary and ultimately successful concept was to build a road-racing course on the infield of the speedway, combining a classic track and a unique oval with banked turns. 

Longstanding partnership

A partner of track racing at Daytona from its beginnings in the late 1950s, in 1992 Rolex became Title Sponsor of the 24 hour classic formalizing the legendary association between the Cosmograph Daytona and the event. Today, in a nod to history, everyone calls the race simply “The Rolex”.

Dark nights

At the Rolex 24 At Daytona drivers battle a compact 5.73-km (3.56-mile) circuit that combines a tight, twisting infield track with a high-banked tri-oval superspeedway. Taking place at a time of year when the nights are the long, drivers are in the dark for over 12 hours.

In a 24 hour race, every second counts

“Every lap, every second, every hundredth of a second counts”. “If you have one ounce of energy left then you haven’t done your job properly.” Two quotes, equally perceptive and respectively attributable to Tom Kristensen the nine-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and six-time winner of the 12 Hours of Sebring, and, to Hurley Haywood who won Le Mans three times, the Rolex 24 At Daytona five times and Sebring twice. Kristensen, a Rolex Testimonee, and Haywood are the two most successful endurance drivers of all time.

The racing drivers’ watch

Today, winning a Cosmograph Daytona at the Rolex 24 At Daytona constitutes the ultimate award, a coveted trophy that confers a particular aura. “It’s all about the watch,” said Scott Pruett on the eve of the 2013 race that he and his team would win – Pruett’s record-equalling fifth victory at Daytona. 

Created by Rolex in 1963, this legendary model has established an extraordinary track record in the world of motor racing thanks to its reliability and performance. Known simply as the “Daytona”, the watch has risen to the rank of an icon as the most famous and most coveted chronograph in the world.

The saga of the Daytona would not be complete without mentioning the role played by Paul Newman in the 1970s. For decades, the legendary Hollywood star and passionate racing driver wore a Cosmograph Daytona in town as well as on the circuits, especially a model with a particular dial which collectors would associate with his name – and his aura.

Four races in one

 

The race starts at 14.30 EST on Saturday, 24 January and the overall winning car will travel some 2,500 miles (4,000 km) in the ensuing 24 hours – similar to crossing the United States coast to coast. The provisional entry list of 53 cars is split into four categories: Prototype (16 cars), including the Action Express Racing 2014 race-winning line-up of Christian Fittipaldi from Brazil, Frenchman Sébastien Bourdais and Portuguese native João Barbosa; Prototype Challenge (8); GT Le Mans (10) and GT Daytona (19). 

 

 

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