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Ferrari and Audi enter Rolex 24
Joie Chitwood, President of Daytona International Speedway, reveals the logo for the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona
2012 will mark the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Leading up to this unique anniversary, we present a once-a-month look back through the history, people and events that have made this famous race what it is today. This month, we look at the latest additions to the 50th Anniversary Overall Champions display along with the Daytona 2012 dreams of two competing automakers: Audi and Ferrari.

A Gathering of Fifty
In an effort to make the impossible possible, the people at Daytona International Speedway, Rolex and GRAND-AM are combining forces to gather all Rolex 24 At Daytona race winners, and their cars, for a reunion celebrating the race’s 50th anniversary. The mission was announced this past January to mark the start of a year-long process in contacting winning drivers and tracing the triumphant vehicles to commemorate the Rolex 24 At Daytona’s 50 years of history and prestige.

This highly-anticipated Overall Champions display has some new participants confirmed on the roster, including the No. 6 Lola T70 Chevrolet fielded by legendary car owner Roger Penske, and driven to victory in the 1969 Rolex 24 At Daytona by Americans Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons. The victory was the first for Penske at Daytona International Speedway and the first for Chevrolet in an international endurance race.

Race strategy was essential to Donohue and Parsons’s 1969 victory. Penske believed attrition would prove key to victory and directed his drivers to run a conservative pace. Despite the No. 6 Lola T70 experiencing a wide-range of problems, Penske’s drivers were the last men standing when accidents and mechanical failures took out the pre-race favorites. Even after spending more than two hours in the pits over 31 stops, the No. 6 Lola T70 won by a margin of 30 laps, covering a grand total of 626 laps, 2,382.63 miles (3,834.47 km).

Also confirmed for the 50th Anniversary Overall Champions display is the first Porsche to ever take the checkered flag in the Rolex 24 At Daytona: the No. 54 Porsche 907. Driven by Vic Elford (GBR), Hans Hermann (GER), Jochen Neerpasch (GER), Rolf Stommelen (GER) and Jo Siffert (CHE), the No. 54 Porsche 907 captured the 1968 Rolex 24 victory – the first of Porsche’s record 22 overall wins in this prestigious twice-around-the-clock challenge.

At the time, Porsche was still seeking its first win in the Rolex 24 and fielded five white, long-tailed Porsche 907s. The lead Porsche 907 driven by Siffert and Hermann was poised for victory, but as the race neared its conclusion the car lost 22 minutes in the pits to repair a broken throttle linkage, costing the team any chance for victory. The sister Porsche 907, No. 54, with Elford, Neerpasch and Stommelen (who was added to the driver line-up during the race when Neerpasch fell ill), was, however, running flawlessly. Given the circumstances, Porsche racing director Huschke von Hanstein asked Elford to let Siffert and Hermann drive a few laps in the car so they could be associated with the victory and Elford obliged, making Porsche’s first victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona a true team effort with five drivers on the official winner’s list for the No. 54 car.

The Arciero Racing No. 96 Lotus-Climax 19B that captured the inaugural Rolex 24 in 1962, and the No. 98 Toyota Eagle fielded by Dan Gurney’s All American Racers Toyota team and winner of the 1993 Rolex 24 At Daytona, will also be part of the historic display.

Gurney captured the inaugural running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 1962, which was then a three-hour race known as the Daytona Continental. Gurney had a seemingly insurmountable lead, but with one minute and 40 seconds remaining before the time limit elapsed, the engine blew and Gurney coasted up onto the banking. Gurney knew that he had to wait for race time to expire in order to win; if he crossed the line before the three hours were up, there was no way he could run another full lap. Waiting on the high groove of the banked tri-oval, Gurney hoped gravity would propel him to victory and when the watch struck three hours, he turned left and coasted the final five feet to take the checkered flag and the win. It was the fastest sports car race ever run in the United States – despite having one of the slowest finishes – with Gurney completing 82 laps with an average of 104.101 mph (167.534 km/h) in the Lotus 19B.

More than 30 years later, Gurney won the Rolex 24 At Daytona again with his All American Racers Toyota team and the No. 98 Toyota Eagle Mk III, driven by Americans P.J. Jones, Rocky Moran and Mark Dismore. The team regained the lead in the 1993 race with 96 minutes left and took victory, completing 698 laps and averaging 103.503 mph (166.57 km/h). In addition to the victory, the No. 98 Toyota assured its place in history with Jones’ record-breaking pole-winning lap of 136.520 mph (219.71 km/h), the all-time fastest lap by a sports car at Daytona.

These cars all join the previously announced Preston Henn Porsches, linked to Rolex 24 victories in the 1983 and 1985, in the display. Additional cars will be announced in the coming months as the landmark 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona approaches.

Ferrari To Continue Heritage In 50th Anniversary
Ferrari is returning to Daytona International Speedway (DIS) for the 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona, site of many historical glories for the famed manufacturer. Several of the new Ferrari F458 Italias, built specifically for Rolex Sports Car Series competition, are expected to compete in the 50th anniversary race in January after having successfully completed two days of testing at DIS this past July.

Ferrari’s presence at Daytona dates back to the inaugural Daytona Continental in 1962, which had nine Ferraris among the 50 starters. Ferraris have raced 47 of the 49 editions of the Daytona endurance classic, winning overall five times among 15 class victories.

Ferrari of Fort Lauderdale team principal Ronnie Vogel said, “We’ve got good feelings about the car, and the drivers were very comfortable. Now we’re really looking forward to the 50th Rolex 24 At Daytona where we’re planning to run two cars.” Steve Hallam, Michael Waltrip Racing’s executive Vice President for Competition, said the NASCAR team is also seriously considering running two of the new Ferraris in the 2012 Rolex Sports Car Series. The return of Ferrari is one of many intriguing storylines for next season’s 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Four to six of the F458 Italias are expected to participate, looking to add a new chapter to Ferrari’s extensive legacy at Daytona.

Audi To Build R8 LMS Race Car For GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series GT Class

Audi’s successful GT3 sports car has celebrated more than 100 victories in Europe, Asia, Australia and South America and as of 2012, the Audi R8 LMS will also be available on the North American market. In light of this, Audi has announced its commitment to build a version of its R8 LMS race car for the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.

GRAND-AM has worked with Audi on the project since August 2009, and the car is expected to have its competition debut at the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. "The anniversary event of the Daytona 24 Hours is a perfect occasion for the debut of the U.S. version of the new Audi R8 LMS," said Romolo Liebchen, head of Customer Racing at quattro GmbH.

“This is another important step forward for the Rolex Sports Car Series and the GT class,” said GRAND-AM Vice President of Competition Dave Spitzer. “We know there is incredible support for Audi among our race fans, and we look forward to hearing and seeing the beautiful R8 racing with the rest of our GT class.” The Rolex Sports Car ? Series Audi R8 will use the 5.0-liter V10 engine and Audi’s production-based aluminum chassis. Engine power and aerodynamic performance will be modified slightly to match current Rolex Series GT performance levels.

Teams will have the opportunity to test the new Audi during open tests at Daytona International Speedway in November and December. The 2012 Rolex Sports Car Series season opens with the annual “Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona” test in early January, leading into the 50th Rolex 24 on 28-29 January.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona: Tribute to the birthplace of speed

The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is a world-class race, rewarding all its deserving winners with a place in motor sports history and a steel Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, named “the world’s rarest watch” by WatchTime magazine.

It was in 1959 that Rolex first began its long association with the Daytona International Speedway. In 1963, Rolex launched their new “Cosmograph” line, but it was not until 1965 that the name “Daytona” would be added to the dial as a tribute to the great Florida race. Designed for lovers of speed, the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona allows its wearer to clock elapsed times and calculate average speeds.

In 1992 Rolex became the Title Sponsor of the 24-hour race at Daytona, which had since become one of the world’s most prestigious endurance competitions along with the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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