At 4:30AM I departed for the 49th 24 Hours of Daytona in sunny Daytona Beach, Florida - mercifully less than 2 hours South of my place. I piled into a tastefully modified E46 330i with heavy Dinan upgrades and was blasted down to Bill France Boulevard and by 8:30AM on race day I was putzing around the paddock.
I ran into a friend, Steve Maguire of United BMW of Roswell, and a handful of instructors from the BMW M School who I'd had the pleasure of learning from previously. After very little coercing on their part, I was seated in the passenger seat of a 2011 E90 M3 Competition Package and off for a hot lap around the freshly paved Daytona circuit. More on that lap is here on BMWBlog - who was nice enough to get me down to Daytona in the first place!
After the lap, we got out and tried to sneak into the Brumos Porsche Panamera S that was pounding around the circuit courtesy of the legend Hurley Haywood. However, after digging for well-fitted helmets in the Brumos bin they shut down the VIP sessions for the historic racers to take some laps.
After the historics the big dogs rolled out and kicked off the 49th 24 Hours of Daytona. I was really happy to see the Brumos Porsche team back in 911's to compete with - theirs was a 997 GT3 Cup Car. I spoke with the team principal(who also owns the team) and their philosophy changed to one that they should only compete in vehicles which they sell on the showroom floor. I especially loved their tribute to former co-owner Bob Snodgrass with the name "Bob" in place of the typical "GT3" badging. I inquired about Hurley Haywood's retirement after last year and apparently as soon as he saw the car for the 2011 season the retirement was off!
As the racing kicked off I found my way into the pits for a while to observe each team's pits - I saw Joey Hand, the soon-to-be-winner in the Chip Ganassi Racing pits and fellow BMW GT driver Bill Auberlen in the Turner Motorsport pits ready to drive the M3 in GT class. Unfortunately, both the the Brumos GT3 and Turner M3 ran into problems throughout the night and spent extended amounts of time in the pits for repairs. Shame to see two great teams sidelined by mechanical issues.
By morning, the BMW-Dinan-powered Daytona Prototypes were on the move and trying to find a gap between the Porsche Action Express Racing DP cars. Joey Hand drove an incredible triple stint and came out complaining of a numb right foot - rightfully so! However, Joey's driving is probably the reason the Chip Ganassi car ultimately won the race.
Even more unbelievable was that after the last caution lap, the final 2 minutes of the race still came down to a sprint race for the BMW's to hold off the Porsche's and taking the 1-2 finish. Ironically, it was the 01 car in first and the 02 car in second! Great to see the youngest Rahal win his first 24 Hours of Daytona and Joey Hand win as well in his first attempt!
I put together a few of my favorite photos below. The full Flickr gallery is here.