The Weather Outside was Frightful, but the Rumble of Vintage Racers as they Roared Around Daytona at the Classic 24 was oh, so Delightful!
When one thinks of Florida, images of welcoming beaches and gently swaying palm trees, all under a warm tropical sun come to mind. Yeah, well, that wasn’t quite the picture at this year’s HSR Classic 24 at Daytona. Imagine, instead, if you will, one of those damp and dreary autumn New England days – the sort of weather that chills you right to the bone and causes you to wonder if the sun still exists – and that’s what we had pretty much all week down in Daytona. But despite the downright combative weather, this year’s Classic 24 was the best one yet, with a giant uptick in entrants, a busier than usual infield complete with campers and the addition of the eclectic and nostalgic VW bus Bulli Brigade. Add to that hours and hours of great vintage racing and more than your fair share of flame-spitting vintage racers, and its no wonder we all turned out despite the weather.
Before I go too much further, I want to invite you to visit our full Classic 24 Gallery with nearly 500 images from the race weekend. Over the last week, we’ve been down at Daytona every chance we could get, with our first visit to the Classic 24 during the practice sessions on Wednesday. As I arrived outside the track to gather our credentials for the weekend, I was greeted by the sweet sound of Group B, C and D cars running through the gears as they accelerated along the high banking of NASCAR turn 1 – a hint of the treat that awaited me on the other side of the fence. We spent much of Wednesday scouting out some fresh spots for photos, capturing cars on the track and visiting with friends in the paddock. Oh, and I took some pictures too…
On Friday, I had the opportunity to visit the Classic 24 again for a few hours before having to depart for another shoot back up in Jacksonville. I arrived early in the morning, just after a substantial rain had moved out of the area, leaving the track quite damp and puddly. But that didn’t stop many fearless competitors from getting in a few more laps, rooster-tails and all. As the morning progressed, the racing surface mostly dried out and BRM’s H/P GTM Enduro cars took to the track for some spirited racing. In between track time, I spent a few moments in the garage, photographing much of the behind the scenes work that goes into preparing a vintage car for the strenuous demands of the speedway.
Saturday arrived with more dreary and overcast weather, yet there was an unmistakable excitement in the air as fans gather for the 2:00PM start of the Classic 24. The modern race cars of Group E were the first on the track, offering a display of blistering-fast machines familiar to those who have followed IMSA over the past decade. Just an hour later, the oldest of the endurance cars, Group A, took to the track. Despite the fact that the majority of these cars are older than yours truly, I can’t deny this is my favorite group, with the variety of designs and classic lines from the beginnings of endurance racing at Daytona. What can I say, I’m a history nut!
And then night fell… As the wind picked up and the sky turned gunmetal grey over the Classic 24, wave after wave of competitors took to the dimly-lit track to race into the cool embrace of the damp night. Apart from the magic light of sunset (if we had gotten one this year…) night is my favorite time at the track. Even with some spots where on-track lighting illuminates the cars, this can prove an especially tricky time to get good photos – but with enough patience, the right equipment and the willingness to sort through a few million blurry images in search of that long exposure shot that tracked just right – you can get some really nice images.
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