Lowenbrau Special Porsche 962 of Al Holbert at the 1985 24 Hours of Daytona

Celebration of the 24 Hours of Daytona – Photo Gallery

By Bob Harmeyer

Daytona International Speedway in 2012 is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the track’s first road race, a three hour event won by Dan Gurney when he coasted across the finish line with a blown engine.

The first two road races were three hour events, the third and fourth were expanded to 2000 kilometer contests, and the now-traditional 24-hour race distance was first run in 1966. It was shortened to six hours in 1972, and cancelled completely in 1974 due to an oil embargo and the resulting fuel shortage. Consequently, this year marks the 44th time the circuit has hosted a 24 Hours race, and I believe I’ve photographed at least half of them.

Working for manufacturers, sponsors, agencies and a handful of editorial clients, I’ve photographed most of the major racing series – and tracks – in the world since the early ’70s. My photo archive contains images of the Indy 500 from the years AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears became four-time winners; the Daytona 500 when Richard Petty won his seventh 500, and Dale Earnhardt won for the only time in his career; Formula One in Sweden, when Jody Scheckter won the only race for the Tyrrell six-wheeler; and World of Outlaws races at Eldora Speedway when Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell were beginning their careers.

But the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance races are my three favorite events for photography. Without a doubt.

The sheer lengths of those three events offer a multiplicity of light that constantly changes in quality, color and intensity, and the variety of machinery on-track together is absolutely unmatched in other forms of racing. For pure, raw visual appeal, no other event offers the magnitude, range and diversity of jaw-dropping, emotional images that are routinely available at these three races.

Daytona’s uncertain winter weather adds to its visual diversity. Frequently, it’s pleasant, sunny and warm, and the photographs are of brightly-lit machines and beautiful sunsets. But on occasion, it can be cold, overcast and wet, with cars splashing through standing water or trailing rooster tails on the banking.

And there always are the night hours, splashed with streaks of light and glowing brake disks, mesmerizing and nearly hypnotic when watched from the vast grandstands that wrap around the Daytona tri-oval.

The combination of all these factors makes the 24 Hours of Daytona an experience that should be on the “bucket list” for all race fans.

To see more of Bob Harmeyer’s images, visit bobh.photoshelter.com.

Celebration of the 24 Hours of Daytona – Photo Gallery

Interscope Racing Porsche 935, Danny Ongais, 1978 Daytona 24 Hours race
The crew of Interscope Racing Porsche 935 works on a mid-race engine change in the pit lane during the 1978 event. Starting from pole position, Danny Ongais led early in the race, but engine dramas relegated the team to a 56th place finish.
Al Holbert, 1978 24 Hours of Daytona
Al Holbert was one of IMSA's most noteworthy entrants / drivers through the 1970s and 1980s. Driving for Belcher Racing in the 1978 event, Holbert was teamed with Gary Belcher and Doc Bundy and finished 6th.
Bobby Rahal, Porsche 935K3, 1980 24 Hours of Daytona
Bobby Rahal at the wheel of the Porsche 935 K3 he shared with Bob Akin and Roy Woods in the 1980 race. Engine issues led to an early retirement and 54th classification in the final results.
Dale, Don and Bill Whittington, Porsche 935 K3, Whittington Brothers
A Goodyear tire engineer checks tread depth during a pit stop for the Porsche 935 K3 driven by Dale, Don and Bill Whittington in the 1980 race. The trio finished 16th.
Reinhold Joest, Rolf Stommelen, Volkert Merl, 1980 24 Hours of Daytona, Porsche 935
Legendary team, legendary drivers, legendary event -- Driving a Porsche 935, Joest Racing drivers Reinhold Joest, Rolf Stommelen and Volkert Merl took the checkered flag with a 33 lap margin of victory in the 1980 24 Hours of Daytona.
Bobby Rahal, 1981 24 Hours of Daytona, Bob Garretson Porsche 935
Bobby Rahal at the wheel of Bob Garretson's Porsche 935, exiting Daytona's "bus stop" chicane on the way to overall victory in 1981. Teamed with Garretson and Brian Redman, this was the first major victory of Rahal's developing career.
Bobby Rahal, Bob Garretson, Brian Redman, 1981 24 Hours of Daytona
Bobby Rahal, Bob Garretson and Brian Redman celebrate in victory lane after winning the 1981 24 Hours of Daytona by a margin of 13 laps.
Bob Wollek, Jim Busby, John Fitzpatrick, Kremer Racing Porsche 935, 1981 24 Hours of Daytona
Bob Wollek, Jim Busby and John Fitzpatrick started the Kremer Racing Porsche 935 from the front row in 1981, but engine problems saw them complete just 167 laps, finishing 46th.
1981 24 Hours of Daytona, Bruce Leven, Porsche 935, Al Holbert, Hurley Haywood
The business end of Bruce Leven's Porsche 935, on the jacks during a pre-race practice session in 1982. Leven was joined in the car by Al Holbert and Hurley Haywood, qualifying 4th and finishing 15th.
Danny Ongais, Ted Field, Porsche 935, 1982 24 Hours of Daytona
Danny Ongais and Ted Field suffered an engine failure in the team's Porsche 935 just 55 laps into the 1982 24 Hours of Daytona.
Porsche 935, John Paul Junior, Rolf Stommelen, 1982 24 Hours of Daytona
One of the most spectacular drivers ever to wheel a Porsche 935, John Paul, Jr., along with his father and Rolf Stommelen, turned a third-row starting position into a Daytona victory in 1982.
March 82G GTP, designer Adrian Newey, Bobby Rahal, Bruce Canepa, Jim Trueman, 24 Hours of Daytona 1982
The March 82G, the first March GTP machine and the first car designed by current Red Bull F1 designer Adrian Newey. Distinctive with it's "lobster-claw" design, the car was driven by Bobby Rahal, Bruce Canepa and Jim Trueman at Daytona in 1982. Rahal qualified the car on pole, but gearbox problems sidelined the team and they finished 24th.

Celebration of the 24 Hours of Daytona – Photo Gallery Continued

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  1. I was a bit surprised looking at all these great pictures. It appears that Daytona is just about an all Porsche field. I thought that there were many more vehicle makes involved in that race than that ???

    Art G

  2. These pictures warm the heart on a cold winter’s day in Ohio. They seem to focus on the GTP era and that’s not a bad thing.

  3. I drove a Cobra in the 1966 Daytona 24 Hour race, but I hadn’t realized that 1966 was the first year it was run.
    I remember it was very cold at night and in an open car.

  4. Great pics it’s a blast to be able to see all the cars from the past in one place I’am glad to be able to say its off of my bucket list of races to see

  5. Bob, I remember those years before digital, waiting to develop and send photographs of the winning teams for race/win ads. Your photographs are a beautiful archive of racing history.