Track Record: What to Expect at the 60th staging of Rolex 24 at Daytona - Play

This year’s edition will have a field of 61 cars competing at the end of the month.

The 2022 Rolex 24 At Daytona marks the diamond jubilee of one of motor sport’s most fabled races.

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From January 29 to 30, , a field of 61 cars will compete in this annual race against the clock. In a year of milestones, North America’s endurance epic celebrates 60 years of exhilarating action at the Daytona International Speedway, while Rolex observes its 30th anniversary as title sponsor.

This relationship between Rolex and Daytona dates back even further to when Sir Malcolm Campbell, the so-called King of Speed, set five World Land Speed Records here. His fastest was in 1935 behind the wheel of Bluebird with a Rolex Oyster on his wrist.

Back to the start

From the mid-1930s to the 1950s, the oval Daytona Beach-Road Course captured the hearts and minds of spectators and competitors. Then, in 1959, the ambitious plan of William France Sr. to build a new 2.5-mile permanent racetrack became a reality and racing moved to Daytona International Speedway.

The inaugural edition of the race took place in 1962 and what was initially a three-hour contest soon became the 24-hour race of today. Rolex has supported the event since the early 1960s and went on to name one of its most iconic watches after this temple of motor sport.

Daytona Beach in 1965 / Photo by ©ISC Archives via Getty Images, courtesy of Rolex

As part of the forthcoming 60th anniversary celebrations, the speedway will honor previous champions, including Mario Andretti, Hurley Haywood and Scott Pruett, as well as the machines which carried them to victory.

“The testament of time is present in various aspects of the Rolex 24. For me personally, having raced there on 24 occasions, and having won it many times, the excitement never grows old,” says Pruett, who has been an overall winner five times.

As the 60th staging nears, the former champion relives the legacies that looped in this grack. “I keep coming back to the Champion’s Creed: ‘It’s all about the watch.’ Rolex and the 24 hours at Daytona are synonymous, as they continuously stand the test of time, showcase perseverance and hold fast to tradition,” he says.

From left: Sir Malcolm Campbell / Photo courtesy of Rolex; Campbell riding his car Bluebird on Daytona Beach in 1935 / Photo by Bettmann Corbis, courtesy of Rolex

Lineup look

An exciting combination of rookies and decorated champions from across motor sport will contest this year’s race.

At the front of the five-class field, the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class will increase to seven entries for its final season, before it makes way for the Le Mans Daytona h (LMDh) category.

Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson returns to the all-star #48 Ally Cadillac Dpi- V.R., alongside reigning FIA World Endurance Champion Kamui Kobayashi and 24 Hours of Le Mans winners Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Rockenfeller.

The US national anthem plays before the start of last year’s Rolex 24 / Photo by Jensen Larson, courtesy of Rolex

Meanwhile, Chip Ganassi Racing recently confirmed their pair of Cadillacs, with the #01 car featuring multiple race winners Renger van der Zande, Sébastien Bourdais, and Scott Dixon. Current IndyCar champion Alex Palou completes the lineup.

The Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class will see IndyCar’s young frontrunners Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta join last year’s podium drivers Devlin DeFrancesco and Eric Lux aboard the #81 DragonSpeed ORECA 07-Gibson.

Both GT classes will run identical specifications, with the new Fédération de l’Automobile (FIA) GT3-based GT Daytona PRO (GTD PRO) class replacing the GT Le Mans (GTLM) category for this year’s championship. TR3 Racing and Lamborghini are teaming up with entries in the GTD PRO class and the GT Daytona (GTD) class, with both cars featuring previous Rolex 24 winners.

This exacting test of skill and endurance pushes drivers and their cars to the limit, requiring teams to pull together through a possible 800 laps, or more, during the twice-around-the-clock marathon.

It is not so much a race against the ticking hours, but rather a movement through which driver and machine seek to embrace the flow of seconds, to push ever further, and capture that elusive moment when they are perfectly in tune.

Along with the prestige of winning the race, the drivers who complete the greatest number of laps in 24 hours will receive an engraved Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona.

From left: Scott Ruett / Photo by Stephan Cooper, courtesy of Rolex; Tom Kristensen / Photo by Alexandre de Brabant, courtesy of Rolex

“In design and presence, the watch is more than just a name; it’s an identity that reflects a successful race and a successful time in a driver’s life,” says nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen.

“When you get to the top step of a podium, you see your teammates for the first time in the 24 hours and, together, you are full of the happiness, joy and relief,” he continues. “It’s a really important moment and the watch means a lot to the winners of these races.”

Global appeal

Rolex’s close ties with motor sport date back to Sir Malcolm Campbell’s World Land Speed Record successes in the 1930s, when he became the first driver to break the 300 mph barrier (483 km/h) at the wheel of his car, Bluebird.

Since then, Rolex’s presence in motor racing has grown steadily, its support extending to revered endurance events such as the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship.

In 2013, the watchmaker became associated with Formula 1, having supported Rolex Testimonee Sir Jackie Stewart since 1968.

The three-time FIA Formula 1 Drivers’ World Champion has been joined by fellow high achievers from the world of motor sport: Kristensen and Mark Webber, the multiple Formula 1 race winner and 2015 FIA World Endurance Champion.

The 2021 field racing through the international horseshoe / Photo by Stephan Cooper, courtesy of Rolex

The brand also has a global appreciation for classic automotive events steeped in elegance, beauty and tradition, including the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, and the Goodwood Revival.

Banner: Action at Daytona International Speedway in 2021 / Photo by Stephan Cooper courtesy of Rolex

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