Daytona Beach, FL — Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) drivers weren’t on track at Daytona International Speedway last weekend, but they still showcased their classic cars as part of the Rolex 24 at Daytona Heritage Exhibition held in conjunction with the 59th running of the iconic race.
Everything from a pristine Porsche 935 to a Ford Pinto racer with quite a competition pedigree was on display in the UNOH Fanzone in the speedway’s infield. More than half of 16 display participants have longstanding and race-winning ties to HSR.
Among them was the 1977 Martini-themed Porsche 935 of Dr. Mike Smith that made its HSR debut just last month in the season-ending HSR Classic Sebring 12 Hour presented by the Alan Jay Automotive Network at Sebring International Raceway.
Smith has wowed HSR fans and competitors alike for years with his Jägermeister and Blue Coral 935 K3 Porsches, but his latest 935 represents the earlier factory years of Porsche’s Group 5 dominator. Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (MSHFA) 2020 inductee Jacky Ickx, and longtime HSR friend and competitor Jochen Mass, co-drove the first 935 in the 1977 24 Hours of Daytona but didn’t make it to the finish of the grueling race after putting the car on the pole.
Another car on display was the 1973 1973 BMW CSL brought to this year’s Rolex Exhibition by Heritage Motorsports. After success in Europe, including a class win in the 1973 24 Hours of Le Mans, the CSL was a cornerstone of the 1975 establishment of BMW Motorsports North America in the USA. An overall victory by Brian Redman (MSHFA Class of 2002), Peter Gregg (MSHFA Class of 2000) and John Fitzpatrick in a BMW CSL in 1976 broke up what would have been a run of 13-straight 24-hour race wins at Daytona by Porsche. This CSL was raced at the Daytona 24 Hours in the 1970s by Purple Onion Racing and today regularly competes in the HSR Classic Daytona and other HSR events.
The Ford Pinto likely won’t come up in a discussion about successful cars in sports car racing, but the 1971 Ford Pinto on display last weekend by Brian Walsh could very well be the most successful Pinto “sports car” in existence. Currently a regular fixture at HSR events, including the HSR Classic Daytona, the “Racer Walsh” Pinto was built in 1971 by Jerry Walsh, Lee Wiese and John Poulos to race that season.
It recorded the first professional race win for a Ford Pinto in its second race, the IMSA Bridgehampton Baby Grand, finishing second overall and first in class. The car’s first race at Daytona was the 1971 IMSA season finale, where it finished sixth in the TU class and 21st overall. The Pinto was raced twice at Daytona in 1972, in the GT 3 Hour and the Baby Grand race in April. An unsuccessful attempt was made to qualify the car for the 1977 Daytona 24 Hour, though it would race in the IMSA RS race at Daytona that year and in 1978.