A double dose of late drama, an upset finish and two repeat winners brought the 2020 Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) Classic Daytona presented by IMSA to a safe and successful conclusion Sunday at Daytona International Speedway (DIS) after a marathon 26 hours.
It was the sixth running of the Classic 24 Hour HSR race, but this was the first time it took just over a day to complete. A two-hour power failure following an early Sunday morning rain storm made this year’s race the “Classic 26” but did little to dampen some of the most competitive racing in the history of the event.
Each Run Group winner was presented with a custom HSR Classic Daytona 24 Hour B.R.M. Chronographes watch for their day-long achievements on the 3.56-mile DIS road course at the “World Center of Racing.”
Group B was the first of Sunday’s drama-filled finishes with the 1973 No. 26 Chevron B26 of Gray Gregory and Ethan Shippert coming through for the victory. Cal Meeker set the Group B pace in the first three races in the 1973 No. 115 Lola T294 but couldn’t quite shake Gregory and his No. 26 teammates.
Meeker took the green flag Sunday morning for the fourth and final Group B race more than two minutes ahead of the No. 26 only to slow with mechanical issues. The No. 26 pounced on the opportunity and secured the team’s second-straight HSR Classics victory. Gregory and the No. 26 Phil Reilly and Co. Chevron team closed out 2019 last December with their second-straight HSR Classic Sebring 12 Hour victory in Group B.
Group B’s dramatic finish carried straight into the Group C and D finale that saw the ex-Wynn’s/Hotchkis Racing 1986 No. 10 Porsche 962 of Joe Robillard take the green with a one lap overall and Group C lead. A victory was not in the cards, however, as the popular purple Porsche slowed halfway through the fourth and final race with mechanical issues.
That opened the door for Daytona Beach-area driver Angus Russell to break through for his first HSR Classic Daytona victory. Driving solo, Russell grabbed the lead and overall and Group C win in his immaculate Kremer Racing/Leyton House 1985 Porsche 962C prepared by Amalfi Racing.
The victory completed a steady run of Classic Daytona progress for Russell, a native of the United Kingdom who is now a U.S. citizen living in nearby Ormond Beach, Florida. Co-driving with Jim Pace each time, Russell finished third in Group C in 2018 and second last year.
Group C shared the track with Group D that had the biggest upset of the 2020 HSR Classic Daytona. The 2001 No. 77 Riley & Scott Mk III of Mark Brannon and Ray Snowdon took the overall and Group D wins in each of the first two races Saturday only to retire with mechanical issues in round three early Sunday morning.
The No. 77’s retirement paved the way for Alegra Motorsports driver Scooter Gabel to score the Group D win in his 1997 No. 1 BMW M3.R. Gabel pulled off not only a rare overall Run Group victory in a production-based GT car but also an impressive second overall behind Russell in the combined Group C and D field.
Jim Cullen and Frank Beck took the lead in the second of four Group A rounds and never looked back to secure their second HSR Classic Daytona victory in three years in Cullen’s Olthoff Racing-prepared 1970 No. 01 Lola T70. The No. 01 team and drivers scored their first victory in the Classic 24-Hour race at Daytona in 2018 and backed it up with a convincing and trouble-free run to another win this weekend.
Group E produced the first of this year’s repeat winners with David Porter driving his GMT Racing 2010 No. 7 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP to his second-straight Classic Daytona victory and third HRS Classics win in a row.
Porter withstood a race-long battle with the Matador Motorsports ex-ESM Tequila Patron 2014 No. 31 Ligier JSP2 of Pierce Marshall and Eric Foss. Porter swept the first three Group E rounds, but Marshall and Foss kept the pressure on to the end with a win in Sunday afternoon’s final final race.
In the end, Porter took the Group E win with just under an 80-second margin of victory over the No. 31. After last year’s winning debut at Daytona, Porter and the Peugeot remain undefeated in the Classic 24 Hour HSR race, in addition to splitting the DIS wins with a victory in last December’s HSR Classic Sebring 12 Hour.
Group F also ended with a repeat victory following a strong run from the pole for 2019 winners JC France, Joao Barbosa and Tim Jernum, who went two-for-two in the team’s 2015 No. 45 Corvette Daytona Prototype. France, Barbosa and Jernum won three of the four F rounds and took the Group victory by just over one minutes and 45 seconds ahead of the second-place Hudson Historics 2014 No. 33 Corvette Daytona Prototype of John Reisman.
Orlando-based Automatic Racing has participated in the HSR Classic Daytona since 2014’s inaugural event and finally scored a Run Group victory this weekend. Brandon Kidd co-drove with Automatic team owner and driver David Russell for a well-executed win in the Stoner Car Care 2011 No. 99 Aston Martin Vantage.
Kidd and Russell won only Saturday’s opening Group G round, but built a nearly 54-second cushion on the field the team and drivers tactfully increased for the rest of the 24-hour race.
Next up for HSR competitors and fans is the HSR Classic Sebring 12 Hour, December 3 – 6, at Sebring International Raceway. Learn more at the official event page by clicking here.