Rolex 24 Retro: The 1984 ‘upset’ that really wasn’t

Image by F. Peirce Williams/LAT

Rolex 24 Retro: The 1984 ‘upset’ that really wasn’t


Rolex 24 Retro: The 1984 ‘upset’ that really wasn’t


This weekend marks the 35th anniversary of one of the biggest upsets in the history of Daytona’s 24 hour race, when the Porsche-powered Kreepy Krauly March 83G won the 1984 SunBank 24 At Daytona. Along with the surprise of the result was the manner in which it was achieved, as drivers Graham Duxbury, Sarel van der Merwe and Tony Martin made it look easy. The team took the lead with 14 hours remaining, cruising to a nine-lap triumph over Preston Henn’s Porsche 935 of A.J. Foyt, Derek Bell and Bob Wollek. Bob Tullius’ Group 44 Jaguar was third, 28 laps back.

“It was a surprise to us — as well as the entire IMSA fraternity,” recalled Duxbury, who is attending this weekend’s race as a guest of fellow South African Wayne Taylor. “When we won the race and were standing in victory circle, we had to introduce ourselves, because no one knew who we were. For me, that was one of the funniest parts of the entire weekend.”

In fact, though, the winning result shouldn’t have been that great a shock. While the blue and white Kreepy Krauly colors were brand-new, the team was campaigning a very familiar car.

“What we got right was we bought the championship-winning car of Al Holbert, and he won the last race at Daytona the previous November,” noted Duxbury.

Holbert won seven races en route to the IMSA Camel GTP title in 1983, including the season-ending Three Hours of Daytona, when he was joined by Jim Trueman in the No. 14 Red Roofs Inns Porsche March.

“We took the car and did nothing more than clean it, change the oil and put new tires on it,” Duxbury said. “That was really the trick. The car was already sorted by somebody who understood banking, who understood this racetrack far more than any of us would ever know.”

Kreepy Krauly, a South African manufacturer of pool cleaning equipment, bought the car and painted it in its colors. There is a March-Porsche in Kreepy Krauly livery that is taking part in the Daytona Heritage Exhibition this weekend, but that isn’t the winning No. 00 from 1984.

“The actual Daytona winner got burnt, then got rebuilt, and now it’s in upstate New York,” Duxbury said. “I saw it here for the 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 in 2012. Today is the other Kreepy Krauly car, the No. 0. Actually I raced that particular chassis at Le Mans in 1985 with Christian Danner and Almo Coppelli.”

The original No. 00 Kreepy Krauly car also ran in the 2004 Daytona Heritage Exhibition where it sustained crash damage (pictured). The car came through the 1984 race with nary a scratch — although it left many bruised egos.

Today, Duxbury runs at IT company in South Africa. While he’s known Wayne Taylor for many years, they’ve only recently become friends.

“We used to race together, when he was 18 and I was 19,” Duxbury said. “We go back a long way, but we were competitors and our two team managers were very competitive. We knew each other, but we weren’t really friends. More recently, I was at a business meeting in Florida and said let’s get together. We had an extremely nice dinner with lots of good red wine. That was two or three years ago, and we’ve continued to connect. We’ve now picked up a friendship that should have been there 20 years ago.”