Contenders and challengers in the HSR Classic Daytona presented by IMSA powered strongly through the midnight hour Saturday and on to the halfway point of the Classic 24-hour race being run for the seventh time this weekend at Daytona International Speedway).
Strong protagonists have emerged in all the Run Groups, though more than one top competitor was sidelined or knocked well down the order with problems in the grueling endurance event’s first half.
The HSR Classic Daytona began at 1:00 p.m. EDT Saturday with the oldest cars in the race – Run Group A – having the honor of kicking off this year’s edition of the twice-around-the-clock historic and vintage race.
The Group A leader at the halfway point was John Delane in the GMT Racing 1972 No. 8 Chevron B21. Delane won the HSR Classic Sebring 12 Hour last December in the same machine and is looking for his second “HSR Classics” win in a row Sunday at Daytona.
The last time Alain Ruede raced in this event back in 2019, he stepped up to take the overall Group B victory in his 1982 No. 21 Chevrolet Camaro GTO car. This year, he is halfway home to a repeat Group B win in the Camaro, leading the second-place 1976 No. 119 Chevron B36 of Josh Boller by just over 17 seconds.
Groups C and D are running together for the third time in this year’s event Classic Daytona, and the mixed grouping is once again providing some of the best competition. The Group D and overall leader is the 2003 No. 54 Doran JE4 Daytona Prototype of Forest Barber and Terry Borcheller, which took the group victory in its most recent appearance in the 2019 Classic Daytona.
Close behind the Doran in second place overall is the HSR Classics-debuting 1991 No. 3 Jaguar XJR-16 of owner/driver Malcolm Ross and teammate Corey Fergus.
Ross, Fergus and the Jaguar led Group C in the darkness, but not far behind was defending Group C Winner Angus Russell in his ex-Kremer Racing/Leyton House 1985 Porsche 962C prepared by Amalfi Racing.
The top-three overall in Group C and D are all on the same lap.
In Group E, a familiar and former HSR Classics-winning car and driver duo have returned to the top of the standings for the first time in several years. Juan Gonzalez purchased the ex-Rollcentre Racing 2007 No. 18 Pescarolo Judd in 2017 and won the HSR Classic Sebring 12 Hour with co-driver Butch Leitzinger in his first race in the car.
Gonzalez has been looking for a Classic Daytona win to go with his Sebring triumph ever since, and was halfway to reaching that goal in Sunday’s early hours. Gonzalez and Leitzinger had a one-lap lead over a stout field of Group E competitors at the mid-race mark.
The Group F halfway leader was William Hubbell (Hudson Historics 2012 No. 230 Corvette Daytona Prototype) while Scott Kee and Ron Zitza (Zotz Racing 2016 No. 351 Porsche Cayman GT4) paced a tight Group G field.
Notable Classic Daytona competitors knocked from winning contention or retired from the race include the GMT Racing 2007 No. 7 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP of David Porter and Joao Barbosa, which overcame a pre-race hydraulics system issue to take the green flag and battle for the lead in both of Saturday’s race opening rounds.
Barbosa was at the wheel of the 908 late in the second Group E race when the hydraulics issue returned just before the checkered flag. The Peugeot was retired, ending a four-race HSR Classics win streak for the car, team and drivers at Sebring and Daytona dating back to Porter’s 2019 debut.
Meanwhile, a rear suspension issue struck down the Robillard Racing ex-Wynn’s/Hotchkis Racing 1986 No. 10 Porsche 962 of Joe Robillard just a couple of laps into the first Group C race of the day. It was repaired in time for Race 2, but was 20 laps behind the group leader at half distance.