Vintage race cars shine bright in the Daytona night

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Daytona vintage race cars shine bright in the dark of night | ClassicCars
The scoring pylon and garages at night represent thousands of man-hours of hard work at the races | Jim McCraw photos

There are only three race tracks in the world where you can race your vintage sports car after dark. There’s the Classic 24 Hours of Le Mans, in France, which is expensive and difficult to get to. And there are two in the United States, the Classic 12 Hours of Sebring, and a little farther north, the Classic 24 Hour At Daytona, both of which are sanctioned and operated by Historic Sportscar Racing.

The third annual Daytona event, staged last weekend, was absolutely packed with historic cars and legendary drivers, coming to race from 18 countries.

These are mainly vintage race cars, so they don’t really race twice around the clock. Modern racing sports cars are expensive, but some of these cars are simply irreplaceable, so touching is frowned upon.

Daytona vintage race cars shine bright in the dark of night | ClassicCars
Lyn St. James and Kathy Blaha shared this wonderful Porsche Carrera

Instead, every car in each of the six race groups gets to race a one-hour session in daylight and one during the night, from 1 o’clock on Saturday afternoon until 1 o’clock on Sunday. Cumulative times from both sessions determine the teams that take home the trophies and the memories.

In addition to the 24-hour event, HSR puts on some other events while in Daytona, like the BRM Chronographes Enduro Challenges and the final event in the season-long Trans Am points chase, featuring late-model Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes and Porsches running under SCCA Trans Am sanction and rules.

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The Trans Am garage was absolutely packed with machinery. Top qualifier Ernie Francis won the round in his No. 98 Mustang against 31 other cars.

The BRM Enduro one-hour race, packed with vintage Porsches, a Sunbeam Tiger, a Mazda Miata and a Jaguar XKE, was won by Californian Michael Gaulke in his 1974 Porsche 911. He beat rock’n’roll star Brian Johnson and legend Jochen Mass in the process. The second enduro was won by Travis Engen in the No. 2 Audi R8 LMP car, besting 20 other cars.

Daytona vintage race cars shine bright in the dark of night | ClassicCars
Without a doubt the oldest and slowest car at the event was this Volvo PV 544 entered by James Rogerson and James Smith, patina and all

In another special event, the Bob Woodman Tire International American Challenge, 26 cars, mostly from the 1960s and ‘70s, went out for an eight-lap sprint, won by Oliver Bryant, who brought his ’65 Shelby GT 350 from England and won it by about two seconds.

The Group C race that everyone was on the fences to watch was won by Tommy Dreelan and Aaron Scott from Ireland in the beautiful Leyton House Porsche 962 (what else?).

Group E was won by California’s Dean Baker and veteran driver Eric Van de Poele in their No. 12 Courage/Oreca. Other recognizable names in that group included Joao Barbosa, JC France, Travis Engen, Bruno Junqueira, Lyn St. James, Gunnar Jeannette, and Corvette racer Ron Fellows.

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The cars in Group E, representative of the quality of the entire field, included Pescarolos, ex-factory Audis, ex-factory Aston Martins, other Orecas, Rileys, Ferraris, Corvettes and Porsches.

Who wouldn’t want to watch these wonderful old cars and their veteran drivers dicing all through the night?

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Jim McCraw has been writing about cars, motorcycles, design, technology, car people and racing for 50 years, in such publications as Hot Rod Deluxe, Super Chevy, Muscle Mustangs, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Penthouse, Winding Road, The Mercedes-Benz Star, AutoWeek, The New York Times, and a number of European publications. He was executive editor of Motor Trend, editor of Hot Rod and Super Stock. He co-holds the record for the drive from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, 96:22, and has run in major events such as the Mille Miglia Storica in Italy, Goodwood, the California Mille, the Colorado Grand, the New England 1000, Forza Mille, and four One Lap Of America competitions He owns a pristine Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan.

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