Photography by Nico Stapel and Esteban Larranaga.
It's an early, cold (for Florida), and beautiful morning on January 25th. The sky is clear, track temperatures are phenomenal, infield is packed with campers and RV's waiting for the longest endurance race in the US; the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is about to begin as we arrive (fashionably) late.
The national anthem begins to play as racers and fans from all around the world stand in unison for the love of racing and pay respect to the flag, then the iconic words come out on the speakers.
"Racers, start your engines."
The roar of the 24 begins as Porsche, BMW, Lamborghini, GM, Ferrari, Mazda, and many more icons in the history of motorsports awaken their masterpieces.
After the formation laps are completed, the time starts, the green flag waves, and they're off. Some of the most ear piercing sounds you'll ever hear with pops and crackles as the cars all dive down the bank into turn one. Shortly after, the first lap of the Daytona 24 hours has been completed, one of more than 800 to be completed during this year's race.
If you've never been to the 24 Hours of Daytona, the following set of pictures should convince you that you shouldn't try to go next year...it should ENGRAVE in you that you NEED TO GO.
In one of the most brutal races of the world, drivers go head to head as millions of dollars are on the line for the biggest names in manufacturing vehicles. This all doesn't just boil down to who has the quickest car and most aggressive driver though...it's much more than that.
This race is won by strategy and teamwork. It is a sleepless 24 hours for some of the crew members as crashes, mechanical failures, or sudden tire ruptures can cause a car to zoom into the pits at any moment. Everyone on the team is on edge and performing at 120% at all times during the 24 hour endurance race that pushes the engineering of these cars to the absolute limit.
Manufacturers spend years prepping for this moment with eons worth of data recordings, tremendous pressure from financial backing of sponsors, and trust in their teams to make sure these cars don't just get a good lap time, but last all 24 hours.
With a race of this stature, racing a car at ten 10ths throughout the entire 24 hours can cost a whole engine, an entire car, or worse...a life. These cars finishing the 24 hour race is an achievement in itself as every bushing, nut, bolt, injector, hose, wire, and sensor are being abused non stop with no room for errors.
Some teams come in to just be able to say they did it. Others are in it to defend the glory that puts their production cars at such high pedestals.
With this year's race came a lot of triumph for the team of BMW since this is the second year they come in the top of their GTLM class completing 786 laps. An achievement worth mentioning since they came ahead of the greats like Ferrari and Porsche.
With Porsche finishing in the GTLM class in second and third, it leaves Ferrari in 6th with Corvette Racing and their new mid-engined cars in 4th and last place (growing pains).
In DPi, Cadillac brought home the trophy for the second year in a row completing a record setting 833 laps. Mazda came in a respectful second with the same number of laps.
LMP2 results showed the DragonSpeed USA team in first of their class of Oreca cars.
GTD contained a one-two finish by the superb Huracan GT3 cars and Audi closely in third with their R8.
Upsets this year would be Aston Martin's Vantage GT3 cars getting last in GTD and in the overall results of the race thanks to an incident in the early night of Saturday.
It all boiled down to the final hour where all drivers in the back are in full attack and all those in the lead are in full defense.
In a beautiful, almost choreographed manner, the Porsches 911 and 912 RSR's drafted one another helping keep their momentum while holding their positions and covering ground efficiently to try and pass the BMW M8 GTE. At this moment, passing for the win is something crucial, but more so would be making sure the car finishes the race. In preference for the latter, Porsche stayed conservative and brought home both cars together.
The end of this race is just the first of many to come this season with the 12 Hours of Sebring next. One of the longest standing endurance races in the US on the most unforgiving track in the season...
Until then, enjoy the gallery.