Sunday at Daytona International Speedway
- Ninth Running of America’s Premier 24-Hour Historic Race Crowns Competitive Group of Repeat and First-Time Race Winners at the "World Center of Racing"
- Gérard Lopez and Debuting HSR Classic 24 Driver Marcel Fassler Win Both Group A and Group F with Iconic Racing as First Classic 24 Overall Double Run Group Race Winners Since Inaugural Event in 2014
Dominating victories, the usual dose of late-race drama and a rare double Run Group winning duo were among the highlights of a competitive ninth running of the Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) Classic Daytona presented by IMSA 24 Hour race Saturday and Sunday at Daytona International Raceway.
The HSR Classic Daytona features seven different Run Groups - A through G - competing in succession for a full 24 hours on the legendary Daytona 3.56-mile road course. Each Run Group - with C and D sharing the track while competing for respective group honors - ran four times Saturday and Sunday and it all added up to 24 straight hours of historic and vintage sports car competition with the winners of each Run Group presented with HSR Classic 24 edition B.R.M. Chronographes luxury watches.
This year's big winners were Iconic Racing and team co-drivers Gérard Lopez and former professional sports car racing World Endurance Champion Marcel Fassler who secured the overall victories in both Run Group A and Run Group F. Lopez and Fassler, making his HSR debut, put in a pair of competitive and controlled runs, leading all four race segments in both Run Groups to give Lopez his first HSR Classic Daytona Group A triumph since 2017.
Lopez co-drove to a Run Group D victory in last year's Classic 24 but was thwarted by mechanical issues in return visits in Group A in 2019 and 2022. Both victories this weekend, however, appeared to be trouble free. He and Fassler crossed the line in the Iconic Racing 1969 No. 60 Lola T70 Mk III with a comfortable Group A margin of victory despite a competitive group of challengers that included former "HSR Classics" winner Toni Seiler in the 1969 No. 17 Lola T165 and the power duo of Adrian Newey and Jim Farley in Newey's 1965 No. 5 Ford GT40 Mk I. Seiler crossed the finish line in second while Newey, the Chief Technical Officer of Red Bull Racing Formula 1, and Farley, the CEO of Ford Motor Company, co-drove to a third-place Group A showing.
Mirroring Run Group A's winning drive, Lopez and Fassler turned in an equally stellar performance in the team's debut in Run Group F, which is home to modern Prototype machines retired from active competition. Iconic ran a former JDC Motorsports 2019 No. 5 Cadillac DPi that Lopez and Fassler wheeled to another clean and controlled win, finishing on the same lap but securely ahead of the similar Matador Motorsports 2017 No. 02 Cadillac DPi of Pierce Marshall and Eric Foss.
Lopez, Fassler and Iconic are the first team to score a Classic 24 Run Group overall double victory since Paul Reisman and his son John Reisman accomplished the feat with Hudson Historics in the inaugural Classic Daytona race in 2014. The Reismans drove a Lola B2K/40 to the first Run Group D win and backed it up with a 2014 Run Group F win - which is now Run Group G - in a quick Porsche Boxster.
John Reisman and Hudson are still active competitors in HSR competition today but, unfortunately, fell victim for the second-straight year to some of the late drama that always seems to appear in the closing stages of every Classic 24.
Co-driving with two-time IMSA Prototype Champion Eric Curran, Reisman swept the first three segments in Run Group E in his 2014 No. 33 Corvette Daytona Prototype only to have the car retire halfway through the finale with gearbox failure. The 2010 No. 95 BMW Z4/GTD of Robby Foley and Vin Barletta stepped up for the win just as the co-drivers and the Turner Motorsports team did in last year's Classic 24 when the No. 33 suffered an overheating engine and dropped from winning contention in the race's closing stages.
A dominating drive similar to Reisman's and Curran's was turned in by Run Group C winner Lars Erik Nielsen who avoided near disaster in his race's final segment after leading from Saturday's first green flag in his immaculate 1990 No. 90 Porsche 962C. Nielsen was well in control halfway through the last round when he felt the right rear tire on the 962 start to go down exiting the high-banked NASCAR Turn 2. Nielsen slowly nursed the stricken Porsche back to the pits, minus some right-rear bodywork, and returned to the race with a fresh tire and the determination to get back to first overall by the finish. Nielsen retook the lead in the segment's final minutes to claim his first HSR Classics victory.
Sharing the track with Run Group D, Nielsen's delay in the final segment let D-division front runners Mike Jordan and his son Andrew Jordan remarkably move into the overall combined group lead for a spell. Nielsen retook the top overall spot and the Run Group C crown, but the Jordans capped a great race with second overall and a strong Run Group D victory in their JRT Racing 2003 No. 177 Porsche 996 GT3 Supercup car driven in its prime by Wolf Henzler.
The Group D triumph by the Jordans and JRT continued a recent trend of production-based GT cars stepping up to win overall honors in the division in recent years, and this weekend's race saw the same thing happen in Run Group B.
In another one of the race's strong performances, the 1979 No. 35 De Tomaso Pantera, piloted by veteran top-tier sports car driver and Le Man class winner Ralf Kelleners, took control of the class from the very first green flag for a decisive victory that supported the winged, wide-bodied and flame- throwing GT machine's instant status as a fan and paddock favorite.
Kelleners and company proved they meant business by finishing ahead of all-time HSR Classics race winners Gray Gregory and his 1974 No. 26 Chevron B26 teammates in Saturday's opening race, setting the stage for a Run Group B battle royale for the next 24 hours.
Car owner Gregory and his co-drivers Randy Buck and Ethan Shippert have combined for a record seven HSR Classics victories over the years and came into this weekend's 24 hour riding a three-race win streak dating back to last year's Classic Daytona.
The bid for another race win and a battle with the Pantera was cut short, however, when a rear suspension component on the Chevron failed in the second Group B race Saturday night with Shippert at the wheel. At full speed on NASCAR Turn 4, the Chevron was sent into the wall and then flipped and skidded on its roll bar before coming to a stop. Shippert escaped the incident and the heavily damaged Chevron with only a broken wrist.
Run Group G was typically competitive throughout the Classic 24 but the family team of Louis-Phillipe Montour and Olivier Montour set the leader's pace throughout the race to seal the victory in their GT Racing No. 45 Volkswagen GTI/TCR. The results show the Montours winning only two of Group G's four segments, but they tactfully trailed the fourth and final race winner to the line closely in second to seal the victory without any undue risk.
Next up on the HSR calendar is the season-ending HSR Classic Sebring 12 Hour, Pistons and Props, and the HSR Sebring Historics at Sebring International Raceway, November 29 - December 3.