This weekend sees the 51st edition of the Daytona 24 Hours, which dates back to 1966, although as far back as 1962, it ran as the Daytona Continental, the first three hour endurance race. It is a legendary event, run over a 5.73 km track using part of the high speed Nascar tri-oval, that features banked curves and a very twisty in-field street section.
This American weekend is significant for Ferrari which has always had close ties to Daytona: the Maranello marquee has taken overall victory twice, three over the shorter distance and eight class wins, the most famous coming in 1967, when it took a clean sweep of the podium, with a car that that one year later gave birth to the Ferrari 365 GT4, or as it is better known, “the Daytona.” It is the ancestor to the current 458 Grand AM which was a winner in last year’s American series, in which Ferrari took the Constructors’ title in the car’s debut season.
There are six Ferraris entered in the GT category in this race, which as usual is also the opening round of the Grand AM series, including two AIM Autosport cars, the Number 61 machine run in collaboration with the Canadian dealer, Remo Ferro, in the hands of the trio made up of Giancarlo Fisichella – Max Papis – Toni Vilander – Jeff Segal. Also at the wheel of a Ferrari is one of the stars of Nascar, Clint Bowyer, crewed with Rui Auguas – Robert Kauffman – Michael Waltrip, flying the flag for AF Corse, the only Italian team running in the GT class, while Ed Brown – Mike Hedlund – Scott Sharp - Johannes Van Overbeek will be driving the Extreme Speed Motorsport car. The second car is in the hands of Emil Assentato – Guy Cosmo – Anthony Lazzaro – Nick Longhi – Craig Wilkins from AIM Autosport, previous winners in this marathon event. There are two more cars entered by Scuderia Corse, who first raced in Grand AM last year and these are crewed by Olivier Beretta – Alessandro Balzan – Marco Frezza – Alessandro Pieguidi and Chico Longo – Rafa Matos – Xandinho Negrao – Daniel Serra.
The race gets underway on 26 January and is a major challenge for the Prancing Horse, especially in light of new technical regulations which in the GT class impact on the power output, the tank capacity and the time taken at pit stops. The first 15 minute sprint qualifying session starts on Thursday 24 January at 16.55, then comes a further hour of practice on Friday 25th at 10.30, the final session before the race which starts at 15.30 on Saturday 26. Providing a high class start to the weekend’s activities, the Stars and Stripes Ferrari Challenge is a curtain raiser, giving competitors their now traditional opportunity to race their cars on a historic and thrilling tracks.