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A brief history of the 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race

When watching the Olympics, there are certain events on the track that capture the imagination more than others. One such event is the 100m sprint, where famous athletes such as Usain Bolt and Florence Griffith-Joyner have set incredible records, proving that they are (currently) the fastest man and women to have ever walked, or ran, the earth. The 100m sprint is the event that even people who don’t really enjoy athletics will tune in for, because of its prestige.

Another vastly popular event is the marathon, which is an incredible endurance event. It requires a very different set of skills, as runners have to be able to pace themselves over the course of several hours, going fast, but not so fast that they tire themselves out completely.

Both sprint and endurance races are very popular in the world of motorsport too. Some of the most popular examples of endurance races would be the 24 Hours of Le Mans or the 24 Hours of Daytona. Daytona Speedway in Florida is a very famous racetrack, that holds a number of popular races, for a number of different types of vehicle classes. Whenever there is a race held there, fans of auto racing will use sports betting apps such as Fanduel sportsbook to find the latest odds on who might win the race.

As the history of the 24 Hours of Daytona is so interesting, let’s look into the origins, some of the most famous teams who have competed, and which drivers have had particular successes there.

When did it all begin?

The Daytona track was built in 1959, by the founder of NASCAR William France Snr. The same year, a stand-alone 1000km race was organized by the USAC, to celebrate the opening of the speedway. From there, another longer race was introduced in 1962, which saw cars driving 2000km or just over 1240 miles. Then, four years on from this, the first 24-hour event was held, in 1966. This first race was won by British driver Ken Miles (Miles appeared in the film Ford vs Mustang, where he was played by Christian Bale) and the American racer Lloyd Ruby, driving a Ford M. II.

It was reported at the time by Motor Sport magazine that “For their first 24-hour race the basic organization was good, but the various officials in many cases were out of touch, childish, and leaked the professional touch.” So while the first event was not deemed to have been a particular success by some involved/watching, it soon began to become a more prestigious event.

The following year, the race was dominated by the Italian racing giants Ferrari, and their car the P series prototypes. They finished in first, second and third, showing just how good a car they had. This same 1-2-3 finish was then repeated the following year, though this time it was the German manufacturers Porsche who had the superior car. In 1969, it was the turn of British company Lola to win the race, as their car the Penske Lola T-70 Chevrolet, driven by Manck Donohue and Chuck Parsons, finished in the first place.

Which team has won the most?

Given the race is hosted in the United States, you’d be forgiven for thinking that an American team would be the most successful. In fact, it is the German team Porsche who has more wins than anyone else. They have a total of 18 wins as a Constructor, and also 22 wins as an engine supplier. That means that they are ahead of the American team Riley by 8 wins. They also managed to win the event 9 years in a row, between 1978 and 1983.

It is not only in Daytona they have been so strong, as they’ve also won 19 times at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and 12 victories at the Nurburgring 24 Hours race too, so clearly they are far above everyone else in these types of endurance race.

Which drivers have done the best?

It is quite commonplace for former Formula 1 drivers to appear at the 24 Hours of Daytona event. Notable examples include Juan Pablo Montoya, Christian Fittipaldi and Fernando Alonso.

There clearly is some correlation between being an F1 driver and having success at the 24 Hours of Daytona event, even if they would appear to be quite different principles. Montoya and Fiitpaldi have both won the event three times each; Montoya’s successes came in 2007, 2008 and 2013, while Fiitpaldi won the race in 2004, 2014 and 2018.

Alonso has also crossed the finishing line in first place, doing so for Wayne Taylor Racing in 2019. Not only that, he has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice, and the FIA World Endurance Championship, as well as the Formula One Championship. While back in F1 this season with the Alpine team, it will be interesting to see if Alonso turns up in Florida in the future to race in the famous 24 Hour Daytona race.

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