By Gustav Van Niekerk, Membership Chair, PCA BCIR.
Quick facts: event occurs late January every year at the Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida.
Official sites: www.grand-am.com/, watch it on www.grand-am.com/GRANDAMTV.aspx and www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.
Despite the claws of Winter, this year’s motoring fun kicked off well for two local BCIR members. Our region’s new President, Duane Bentley, and I had the opportunity to go to sunny Daytona Beach, Florida, to attend the “Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona” at Daytona International Speedway. It was the last week of January, and the 51st running of the epic 24 hour race. The Daytona 24 is America’s version of Le Mans, which makes Daytona the second most prestigious endurance race in the world.
We spent three full days at the track, equipped with sunscreen, charged cameras and earplugs. I had a fantastic time among the sea of motorsport enthusiasts – many of them devoted Porsche fans, which is not surprising, as the event has been dominated by the brand for decades.
As the new Membership Chair for BCIR, I’ve been thinking about different ways to encourage and remind prospective and existing members of the benefits of joining the largest single-marque car club in the world. The experience surrounding the Rolex 24 is a good place to start.
Buntings of Porsche flags strung out on spectators’ cars and RVs’. TRG, Flying Lizard, Brumos – even Bullet Racing from Vancouver, BC – t-shirts were everywhere. Even some spectators’ personal vehicles were decorated in traditional Porsche team colours.
Makes you feel like you’re in the right company. Everybody’s there to support their own teams – but if their team drives a Porsche, a victory for them is a victory us fans.
At every year’s Rolex 24, a handful of PCA clubs (the regions in Zone 12) surrounding Daytona Beach sets up a special camp in the infield of the speedway. It’s called the PCA Corral – or the more exotic sounding Porscheplatz. PCA members are encouraged to drive their Porsches into the infield for the weekend and park in an area right beside the track. The location is superb, between the exciting turns 4 and 5, with good view of turns 1 through 6… and where there are turns there is great racing action!
Race cars fly by just meters away. Members travel from all over the continent to join the PCA family and armada of Porsches. At the heart of the PCA Corral is a tent equipped with a big screen to watch the race and rest your legs.
It gives members a chance to hang-out with each other while offering a nice oasis protected from the elements. Local members served up complimentary beverages and snacks all weekend. A nice perk for PCA members so far from home!
From the Corral base, members had the opportunity to go on complimentary guided paddock tours where they got close and personal with the race cars, crews and drivers. It was on one such tour that we got to see the inside workings of a race team trailer and meet one of the drivers of the Audi R8 that eventually won the GT class.
Over the course of the weekend well known Porsche racing drivers (such as Patrick Long, link to Porsche's bio) came to visit the tent to sign autographs and Q&A sessions.
The most notable was legendary Porsche driver Hurley Haywood who stopped by on Sunday morning for a coffee and a chat. His five Rolex 24 hour victories, the first in 1973 and his history at the track earned him this year’s title as Grand Marshall.
Outside of the racing itself it is a fun event. While a few fans watch from the giant grandstands – the real party is in the infield. And the Americans know how to have tail-gate parties… it’s solid RVs and campers with bonfires, BBQs going all the time it seems. Also, there are numerous motorsports related stores with everything for the car or motorsport enthusiast: clothes, die-cast models, flags, patches, prints, books painting, etc. There is also a Fan Zone with giant screens, historic Daytona winning cars on display, food etc. It’s a carnival atmosphere – we even ended up doing a midnight ride on a large ferris-wheel some Porsche Racing staff from Germany – who knew that Porsche employs masseuses for the drivers? Yep, with cigars, ample beverages, and a surprisingly good “Chilli Cook-off” it was a superb adventure.
There was also a Porsche Pit Stop special hospitality zone (restricted access) with top food, drinks, air conditioning, private toilets, big screens and comfy seats – put on by Porsche Cars North America and Porsche Motorsports. This is typically invitation only – though extra tickets may be available, space permitting, for about $200. Which includes access to the pit stop and two days worth of delicious breakfast, lunch, dinner – and unlimited beer, wine and tea/coffee/juice. Oh, and snacks and all drinks are available throughout the day and late into the night. Considering the variety of carnival food available outside – the Porsche Pit Stop was top quality and a real treat.
The Rolex 24 may not be on all BCIR members’ radar, but the PCA Corral and its crew enhanced the overall experience considerably. For Duane and I, our combined enthusiasm for Porsches, racing and PCA membership paid off in spades.
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