When the green flag is dropped at 14:35 on Saturday 26 January, the 57th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA will get underway, signalling the start of Rolex’s 2019 motor sport season. The Swiss watchmaker’s support for the twice-around-the-clock challenge in Florida (USA) dates back to 1992 when the brand became Title Sponsor.
Scott Pruett, a five-time winner and friend of Rolex, has been named Grand Marshal for this year’s race and will give the famous command: Drivers, start your engines. “It is a great honour to be Grand Marshal at this legendary race,” said Pruett, who retired from racing after the 2018 edition. “I enjoyed many special moments at this track during my career. I know how hard the drivers and teams will be working during these final weeks of preparation, and I will know exactly how they will be feeling when they line up for the start on the Saturday afternoon. The race demands absolute determination and durability, which is why the partnership with Rolex resonates with all those involved.”
The Rolex 24 At DAYTONA is North America’s most pre-eminent endurance race and launches the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, contested over 12 rounds across the continent. Revised International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) regulations mean the field at Daytona will again consist of four classes – Daytona Prototype international (DPi), Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD). Fernando Alonso, the recently retired two-time FIA Formula 1® Drivers’ World Champion, will drive the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. aiming for his maiden win at Daytona. The Spaniard will face defending champion and three-time winner Christian Fittipaldi, who will retire from competitive driving after the race. Double leg amputee and former Formula 1® driver Alex Zanardi will drive a modified BMW M8 GTE in his first outing at this celebrated race.
Staged in the depths of the northern winter, competitors race in darkness for 13 hours and limited track lighting means they must rely heavily on their headlights. Renowned for its extremely steep banking, the 5.73-kilometre (3.56-mile) combined road course at Daytona International Speedway® presents a true test of dedication and precision driving for all the teams. Skilled traffic management and pace control, masterful pit strategy and smooth driver changeovers are crucial to success. Teams could complete over 800 laps – a record set just 12 months prior, during the 2018 running of the race.
The victorious drivers receive a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona as a testament to their exceptional accomplishment. Reflecting on what it means to be rewarded a Rolex in Victory Lane, Pruett said: “Rolex and Daytona are inextricably linked. To be presented a watch engraved with the word ‘Winner’ after 24 hours of intense racing is a moment that lives with you forever. Your Rolex is a constant reminder of the perseverance and hard work that goes into succeeding at the highest level. Every driver who competes at Daytona is racing for the ultimate reward – a Rolex watch.”
Photo credit: Rolex