Run Group front-runners emerged while some favorites and early contenders encountered setbacks as the HSR Classic Daytona presented by IMSA raced through the midnight hour and hit the halfway mark early Sunday morning at Daytona International Speedway.
The fifth running of the Classic 24-Hour race at the “World Center of Racing” began at 2 p.m. EST Saturday afternoon and five of the race’s seven Run Groups completed the first two of their four segments before the clock struck midnight.
A pair of Lola T70 MkIII teams that have each scored HSR Classic Daytona victories in the past split the first two Group A segment wins. Last year’s group winners James Cullen and Frank Beck moved their title defense off to a good start with a victory in the first Group A segment in the Olthoff Racing 1970 No. 101 Lola T70 MkIII, but another Lola entry took the class lead with a second segment win Saturday night.
Gerard Lopez and Frantz Wallenborn – who co-drive this year with Eric Helary – scored the Group A victory in 2017 in the Iconic Racing 1969 No. 1 Lola T70 MkIII. The European team is halfway home to a second title after taking runner-up honors in Saturday’s first segment and the victory in the second.
The Iconic No. 1 team’s move to the front came a multi-car accident on the opening lap of the second Group A segment sidelined the Beck and Cullen entry. Beck was uninjured in the four-car melee that also saw John Morton walk away unscathed after the 1970 BRE Datsun 240Z the Nissan/Datsun racing legend was driving ended up on its roof.
In Group B, HSR Classic Daytona debuting driver Matteo Ferrer won the first segment in the Amalfi Racing 1976 No. 5 Porsche 935/K, but it was Alain Rüede who emerged to take the group lead at the halfway point. Rüede finished first in segment two in his 1982 No. 21 Chevrolet Camaro IROC to take the overall group lead over not only his GT competition but a stout field of sports racers as well.
The combined Group C and D format has produced some of the best and most dramatic racing so far in the first half of the HSR Classic Daytona. John McKenna and Ross Thompson co-drove the ex-SunTrust 2006 No. 10 Riley MkII Daytona Prototype to the overall and Group D victory in the first segment only to be knocked out the race with a broken axle on the opening lap of the second race.
That opened the door for the 2003 No. 54 Doran JE4 Daytona Prototype of Forest Barber and Terry Borcheller to not only take Group D honors in segment two but also give a stout challenge to the Group C leading and legendary Holbert Racing No. 14 Lowenbrau Special Porsche 962 HR1 prepared by Gunnar Racing.
With Borcheller at the wheel of the Doran and Gunnar Jeannette driving the HR1, the No. 54 and No. 14 battled for the overall segment two lead while taking respective wins in Group D and Group C in the combined class race.
Group E started the HSR Classic Daytona presented by IMSA on Saturday afternoon and then brought the race to within minutes of Midnight late Saturday night. Reigning and three-time Group E winners Andy Wallace and Doug Smith move their title defense off to a fast start with Wallace taking the first segment win in the Rogers Motorsports 2005 No. 38 Audi R8 LMP.
With a heavy mist and slight rain fall leading into the second segment, two-time Daytona and Sebring “HSR Classics” winner David Porter called on champion driver Joao Barbosa to drive his Daytona debuting 2007 No. 7 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP prepared by GMT Racing.
Barbosa took the segment two win but a close second-place finish by Smith was enough to keep the No. 38 Audi in the overall Group E lead by 14 seconds at half distance.
The HSR Classic Daytona 24-hour race will run straight through to the checkered flag Sunday at 2 p.m. EST. Spectator tickets can still be purchased at HSR Registration at DIS Gate 40 off Williamson Boulevard from now through 11 a.m. EST Sunday.
- The No. 54 Kevin Doran-prepared Doran JE4 Barber and Borcheller race this weekend is the same car the duo, joined by Christian Fittipaldi and Andy Pilgrim, drove to victory in the 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona 15 years ago. Barber, who has been the sole owner of the car since 2003, joined Borcheller in entering the Classic Daytona in 2017 only to be sidelined with a mechanical issue before the start. This year’s competitive start comes in the first race Borcheller – a seven-time sports car racing champion in his prime – has started in two years. He won a second Rolex 24 At Daytona overall in 2010.
- Another notable early retirement was the Sundry Racing 1992 No. 5 Oldsmobile Aurora GTS of Steve Cohen and Ray Snowdon. The team topped their GT rivals and several prototype competitors for the overall Group D victory last year but weren’t as fortunate today. Cohen was at the wheel in segment one when a rock or other piece of debris dislodged the serpentine belt on the Aurora’s engine. The water pump and other key components stopped after the failure, but Cohen carefully brought the car back to the garage at idle speed. Having completed only two laps today, and entered for next month’s HSR Classic Sebring, the Sundry team elected to retire the No. 5 from the Classic Daytona and prepare for the Classic 12-Hour race.
- The HSR Daytona Historics for the season-long HSR championships came to a successful, safe and competitive conclusion Saturday morning prior to the start of the HSR Classic Daytona. The event saw the major race debut of Ashley Helenbrook, who is well known in the HSR paddock as a founding co-owner of clothing supplier RacerInk, at the wheel of her 1996 No. 131 BMW 328i. With business partner and fiancé Cody Ellsworth – a former HSR champion and HSR Classic Daytona race winner – serving as driving coach, Helenbook finished all three of her Daytona Historics races. The results included third and fourth place SSC-class finishes in the Friday/Saturday WeatherTech sprint races and a solid 17th overall showing in Friday’s hour-long Enduro.