The Daytona myth

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With an exhibition at the Museo Ferrari in Maranello, Ferrari celebrates the Daytona circuit, whose name is closely linked to the extraordinary Prancing Horse race and road models. The queen of the exhibition is the legendary P4, winner of the 1967 24 Hours of Daytona Race

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

There are not that many motor races truly regarded as being international household names. Those mythical circuits that are blessed with their own atmosphere and that offer a unique set of challenges for the driver add up to a very select handful.
In the single-seater category, there is Monaco, Silverstone, Spa, Monza and the Indianapolis 500. The others are endurance races: the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 24 Hours of Daytona and Le Mans 24 Hours. Of all these, the Daytona race is the youngest, celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2012. Daytona quickly established a reputation as one of the great classic endurance races.

The story of Daytona didn’t, however, begin in 1962. The really tough sand of the beaches there had long been a favourite location for sporting activities. The circuit we know, the one of the 24-hour race, is the one that is to be celebrated with an exhibition at the Museo Ferrari, which runs from mid-September to mid-November. Not to be missed, among others, is the presence of the most symbolic car from the 24 Hours: the 330 P4.
Daytona has a racing tradition dating back to the early part of the 20th Century, when speed trials took place from 1903 on Ormond Beach, just to the north, before then moving south to the harder packed sand of Daytona Beach. It was even used for land speed record attempts, with Malcolm Campbell in Bluebird, setting a new land speed record of 528km/h there in 1935.
As America opened up, the chosen venue for land speed records became the more stable Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, leaving Daytona Beach out on a limb. However, as motorsport attracted crowds to the area, the city council wanted to maintain the tradition as it brought in valuable revenue, and instituted stock car and motorcycle races on the beach.
One of the main protagonists in the promotion and running of these races was Bill France, who founded NASCAR in 1948, still one of the most popular forms of motorsport in the United States.
In the early 1950s, beachside development was increasing and it was becoming more difficult to organise races on the beach and adjacent roads. Bill France looked further afield, and persuaded the city council to ratify the construction of a speedway to host NASCAR races. He then managed to integrate an infield section of the course as part of the overall design, with a view to hosting major international events.
The Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, but two years prior to that France had organised a sports car racing event at New Smyrna Beach Airport, just south of Daytona, as the finale to the Daytona Beach Speed Week, which is where the Ferrari connection with Daytona really started.

The picture of the pair of works 330 P4s and the 412 P, sweeping around the banking in formation to take the chequered flag, in a onetwo-three finish, made headlines around the world

The event attracted many of the country’s top sports car drivers, including John Edgar from California, who had a number of Ferraris in his stable through the mid-1950s. For this meeting, he entered Carroll Shelby in his Ferrari 410 Sport, who won both his preliminary race on the Saturday, as well as the main race on the Sunday.
Endurance racing, which marked a new beginning with a specially constructed track at the Daytona Speedway, started with a three-hour race in 1962. This was followed by another in 1963, before going to a 2,000-kilometre format (just over 12 hours) in 1964 and 1965, with the first 24-hour race held in 1966. It has retained the 24-hour format ever since, apart from a reduced duration running of six hours in 1972, and the cancellation in 1974 due to the energy crisis.
The inaugural endurance race in 1962, named the Daytona Continental, was won by Dan Gurney in a Lotus Climax, which he amously parked just before the finish line in the final stages, and then coaxed over the line, using the starter motor and slope of the banking, as the clock signalled that the time was up, to take victory. Following this event, the practice was banned, and rules introduced stating that a car must cross the finish line under its own power.
The Ferrari Dino 246 S, driven by then World Champion Phil Hill, finished second, and the 250 GT SWB “Sperimentale”, driven by Stirling Moss, finished fourth and won the 3.0-litre GT Class. The entry list also included Jo Bonnier, Jim Clark, Innes Ireland and the Rodriguez brothers, Pedro and Ricardo. The second running of the Daytona Continental in 1963 saw Ferrari post its first victory, when Pedro Rodriguez won in a 250 GTO entered by Luigi Chinetti Sr, with Roger Penske finishing second in a similar car.
The first of the 2,000-kilometre events in 1964 once again saw a Ferrari cross the finish line in first place, but with two drivers ecause of the longer duration; the previous year’s winner Pedro Rodriguez was teamed with Phil Hill, once more in a Luigi Chinetti Sr 250 GTO, this time a 1964 model. Not only did a Ferrari 250 GTO win, but they filled the podium, with David Piper/ Lucien Bianchi finishing second, and Walt Hangsen/Bob Grossman/John Fulp finishing third.
The last of the 2,000-kilometre races and the first of the 24-hour duration events, in 1965 and 1966 respectively, were Ford benefits. This was the era of Ford versus Ferrari on the endurance race tracks of the world, each battling for supremacy during a golden age for sports and GT car racing.

In 2012, Ferrari returned to the GT class of the Rolex 24 at Daytona with a Grand-Am version of the 458 Italia GT3

In 1966, Ford had taken the proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut to win what was (and still is), undoubtedly the greatest prize of all, Le Mans 24 Hours, in which seven Ford Mk IIs, plus a number of privateer GT40s, took part. They succeeded in filling the podium, leaving Ferrari licking its wounds as the pair of works entered 330 P3s retired. One consolation for Ferrari was a class
victory for the Maranello Concessionaires entered 275 GTB/C in the over 3.0-litre GT class. Not only did Ford win Daytona and Le Mans in 1966, but it took what might be termed the “Triple Crown” with further victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring.
The first round of the 1967 season was the 24 Hours of Daytona, where the Ferrari–Ford rivalry was renewed. Ferrari entered two of its new 330 P4 models, which were backed up by a pair of 412 Ps from Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team (NART) and Jacques Swaters’ Ecurie Francorchamps, while Ford entered six Mk IIs. This race would prove to be sweet revenge for Ferrari
over the ignominy of defeat by Ford in the 1966 Championship, and produced one of the most widely reported sports racing victories ever.
The picture of the pair of works 330 P4s and the NART entered 412 P, sweeping around the banking in formation to take the chequered flag, in a onetwo-three finish, made headlines around the world. It was regarded as a David against Goliath slaying of Ford on home soil and has become one of motorsports’ most iconic images.
Also deserving of great fame was the decision, taken by the then Ferrari Sporting Director Franco Lini, to ask the drivers to cross the finishing line in side-by-side formation, to send out a message of superiority to the rest of the motorsports world. Indeed, such was the impact of this victory, that the 365 GTB/4 road car announced in 1968 was dubbed the Daytona by the motoring press in
recognition of the win the previous year.
The model went on to race in the 24 Hours of Daytona between 1972 and 1981, dominating during a period when the pace of change in racing was rapid. The model won second overall driven by a François Migault/Milt Minter in 1973.
Four years later, the film actor Paul Newman teamed up with Minter and Elliott Forbes- Robinson to finish fifth overall in the 1977 race. This was surprisingly surpassed in 1979, when John Morton/Tony Adamowicz gave the model another second place overall, a very respectable result for what by then was an outdated racing car.
After the 1967 win, Ferrari didn’t return to Daytona as a works team until 1970. By this time Ford had pulled out of endurance racing, and the new rival was Porsche, with their 917 going head to head with Ferrari’s 512 S model. Porsche took the two top spots, with the 512 S of Mario Andretti/Arturo Merzario/Jacky Ickx salvaging Ferrari’s reputation with third position.
In 1971 Ferrari decided to leave large engine capacity sports car racing in the hands of private teams with the upgraded 512 M model, while it concentrated on the Formula One-based, 3.0-litre flat 12 312 P model.
At Daytona that year it was once again a Porsche 917 victory, but a pair of Ferraris joined it on the podium. The 512 S driven by a partnership of Ronnie Bucknum/Adamowicz/Alain De Cadenet finished second, and the 512 M of Mark Donohue/David Hobbs third.
The latter, the famous blue Sunoco model, was a certain contender for victory, but an accident with an errant GT Porsche caused considerable damage, which the team gallantly repaired. The car missed 53 laps as a result, but eventually finished just 14 laps behind the winner.
The final Ferrari works entry at Daytona came in 1972, with the 312 P model, and it was victorious in the hands of Mario Andretti and Jacky Ickx, followed home by the sister car of Tim Schenken and Ronnie Peterson. The third works entry of Clay Regazzoni and Brian Redman finished fourth.
Over the ensuing 40 years the sports racing and GT categories at Daytona have varied and Ferrari appearances have been less than in the first decade. However with the emergence of the 333 SP in 1994, once again there was a sports racing Ferrari available to privateer clients, and it wasn’t long before the model raced at Daytona.
Its first taste of success came in 1996, when Gianpiero Moretti/Bob Wollek/Didier Theys/Max Papis finished second overall, with another second overall in 1997 courtesy of Andy Evans/Fermin Velez/Charles Morgan/Rob Morgan. Victory for the model came in 1998 with the driving team of Moretti/Arie Luyendyk/Mauro Baldi/Theys, victory coming close again in 1999, finishing in second,
third and fourth positions.
Since then, occasional Ferrari participation at the Florida circuit has been in the hands of privateers with varying degrees of success. One of the most recent was in 2003, when the Ferrari of Washington entered 360 GT driven by Cort Wagner and Brent Martini won the GT class in the Grand-Am Series finale at Daytona, which gave the team the Grand-Am GT Championship, with the
drivers tying for the GT Driver’s Championship, plus it gave Ferrari its first ever GT Manufacturer’s Championship in the United States.
In 2012, Ferrari returned to the GT class of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, (as it is now officially known) with a Grand-Am version of the 458 Italia GT3 and, although it wasn’t an auspicious debut, the development bodes well for the future, with the AIM Autosport Team FXDD Racing With Ferrari entry performing very competitively in subsequent Grand-Am races.
This detailed chronicle shows us how, in various ways and with various cars and drivers, Ferrari has tied its name to the celebrated bowl circuit and the extremely demanding 24-hour race.
However, the reputation of an event and of a brand is built up through persistence and commitment, two things that are never in short supply in either Maranello or Florida.

Published on The Official Ferrari Magazine issue 18, September 2012

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  • Carlos Jalife

    Guys in 1962 it was Ricardo Rodríguez at the wheel of the second place Ferrari, crossing the line a few seconds after Dan Gurney’s Lotus.