Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Burns Stainless At The Daytona 24

Daytona Beach, FL – Ford wins it 1-2-3 at the 50th Daytona 24 hour! In an amazing 24 hour race, The Ford/Rileys powered by Burns Stainless customer Roush-Yates Engines finished 1, 2 and 3 ending a winless streak for Ford. This was also the first win by the Michael Shank Racing team. There were high hopes for the Daytona Prototype Corvettes that debuted at the race, but gremlins began appearing early in the race resulting in the Sun Trust Corvette retiring within the first few laps of the race.

There was also much speculation that Gainsco DP Corvette with Alex Gurney at the wheel might win the race. His father Dan won the inaugural race 50 years ago in a Type-19 Lotus, crossing the finishline powered only by his starter motor. It would have been a fitting tribute to his father. Alex led the race briefly after the first hour. Shortly after the 6-hour mark, there was a tough battle between Gurney and the DP Corvette dubbed “The Spirit of Daytona,” driven by Oliver Gavin. For several laps, Gurney gave chase to Gavin but a coolant system failure required Gurney to pit resulting in a short stint in the garage and a loss of 4-laps. A short time later, AJ Allmendinger mounted a more successful assault on the first place Corvette. Pressure by Allmendinger resulted in a mistake by Gavin allowing the Ford/Riley around.

The GT-class also resulted in a 1-2-3 sweep for the mighty GT3R Porsches. The #44 Magnus Racing GT3 piloted by Lally/Lietz/Potter/Rast claimed first place followed by the #67 TRG Porsche. Third place was had by the #59 Brumos Porsche with none other than Hurley Haywood at the wheel. The highest place non-Porsche in GT-class was the Stevenson Camaro GTR powered by a Katech-built LS-engine equipped with Burns-designed Tri-Y headers and collectors.

The Daytona 24 Hour race is quite a spectacle. When I first arrived at the track, I was overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the place. Though not my first visit to a super-speedway, I was still overwhelmed. Not only was I taken by the immensity of the place, the infield was like a circus – ferris-wheel and all. There were car corrals for Corvettes, Porsches, Minis, Mercedes. There were vendors selling everything from cigars to racing paraphenelia to funnel cakes and tequila. Nissan, Porsche and Chevrolet were there with big car displays. In the Fan Zone there was a large stage with a rock band playing to a large crowd. There were pretty girls all over. Some were giving out NOS drinks and the girls at the Continental Tire display were there to take a picture with you.

I finally made my way to the holy-of-holies, the garages. I first came upon the Daytona Prototype garages with the teams scrambling all over the cars getting them ready for the race. The Gainsco Corvette in its bright red paint scheme was quite stunning. You could tell that all things were not well at the Sun Trust Corvette garage as the engine was being removed and replaced and I could over-hear team members recounting the various issues with the car. The Roush Yates Engine technicians were putting the final touches on the Ford/Rileys of the Michael Shank Racing team.

Moving past the DP garages were the GT-class BMWs of Turner Racing. The bright yellow and blue paint schemes were quite noticeable. Then there was a sea of Porsches as far as the eye could see. The German marquee was well represented with 24 entered in the Rolex and 5 in the Continental Tire 200. Moving further through the garages I came upon the beautiful 458 Italias. Though they did not place well in the race (13th in the Rolex), there is something moving about the sumptuous low-slung Italian bodywork.

Daytona was also the North American debut of the Audi R8 race cars. The Audis looked very purposeful. The simple yet elegant racecars looked like they were there to conquer. The #51 APR entry was only able to complete 447 laps but you can bet that the company that campaigned the mighty TDIs and built a temporary 100-room hotel to house their team at Le Mans will be back in strength.

The first race of the weekend was the GRAND-AM Continental Tire 200. The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge features sports cars manufactured from around the world, brought straight from the showroom floor, that race side by side with only minor modifications in the area of safety. Like the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge races two classes at the same time: Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST). The overall winner of the race was the Roush Performance Mustang Boss 302R GT co-driven by none other than Jack Roush Jr. The ST-class was won by the iMoto Racing MazdaSpeed 3 driven by Clunie / Kleinubing and equipped with a Burns Stainless sourced exhaust including Ultralight Racing mufflers.

After the sun goes down, the infield circus transforms into Las Vegas. People dancing, drinking and watching the cars. Patron Tequila has a large bar setup in the infield serving drinks up until 25-laps from the finish. There are campfires all over. It is interesting to note that with the efficiency of the modern race cars the smell of unburned fuel in the exhaust is overcome by the smoky campfire smoke. There is really just too much to write about concerning this race. It is certainly one of the most important races in the world, and is a very unique experience. If you haven’t been, you need to go!

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