It was the time Porsche dominted the IMSA Championship. In 1986, Al Holbert was crowned with his Holbert Racing Porsche 962. For 1987, you could expect a Porsche 962 to win again the Championship, but which one? The season seemed to start with trouble in mind for the IMSA board, as soon as they got to know that neither BMW, Ford, Nissan or Jaguar would go for a full season. Porsche would dominate, but who knows? Daytona was the first race of the season, and it was a tradition that was to last for many decades. As per usual, it drew a relatively consistent field of more than seventy cars. The rules had evolved during mid-season and restrictors had been applied to every turbocharged car, reducing speed by two seconds. Consequently, some Porsche teams had switched to 2,8L engines. They would be proved right after the race. In fact, nine Porsche 962s would make for the start. They faced one single Ford Maxxum and Probe, the usual Chevrolet Corvette GTP, a March 85G Chevrolet and the Jaguar XJR7.
The new Ford Maxxum entered by Roush Racing was not able to fight for the win
Copyright Michael Crews
As you can see, the Porsches were clearly dominating the field, if not in speed, by outnumbering the opposition. The usual top teams were there, and Bayside Disposal had Jochen Mass, Klaus Ludwig and Bruce Leven driving. BF Goodrich entered Bob Wollek and Darin Brassfield on their usual car. Dyson Racing fielded its car for Rob Dyson himself, Price Cobb and Vern Schuppan. Bob Akin had his usual Coke machine for James Weaver, Hans Stuck and himself. From Europe came Brun Motorsport, which had brought a 962 for Oscar Larrauri, Massimo Sigala and Gianfranco Brancatelli. Holbert Racing entered the usual Löwenbrau backed car for Al Holbert, Derek Bell, Al Unser Jr and Chip Robinson. The team was looking for a new victory. The other teams were Hotschkis Racing, Primus Motorsport and Foyt Racing. Facing this plethora of Porsches, the Corvette GTP could only count on its speed, if not on reliability. Sarel van der Merwe and Doc Bundy knew that. The Ford Probe driven by David Hobbs, Whitney Ganz and Gianpiero Moretti was entered by Zakspeed USA. Powered by a V8 6,0L, the car could theoretically have its chances against the Porsches. The other car was quite different. Dubbed Maxxum, it could virtually host any kind of engine. For this race, a V8 6,5L fuel injected was fitted in the car entered by Jack Roush whose team was apparently not cooperating with Erich Zakowski's. The March 85G powered by a Chevrolet engine was the car which nearly won Miami in 1985. Driven by John Bauer, Tony Brassfield, Michael Roe and Norton Gaston. The car was now outdated and had very little hopes for victory. The lonely Jaguar could rely on its good drivers. Bob Tullius, Hurley Haywood and John Morton had experience and rules had been on their side. The last GTP car was a Tiga GC286 Ford powered. It was a 3,3L engine with a DFX cylinder head. Roy Baker Racing was here to learn the track apparently.
The Lights category seemed to offer a big fight between two Argo JM19s and two Spice Fieros. Don Bell entered one of them and he would prove the fastest in this class, bettering the GTO cars in practice. Two Mazda powered Tiga GT285s, one Royale, a Badger, and a single entry from Gebhardt, two Albas and two Fabcars. That made for a fair thirty car prototype entry.
Copyright Michael Crews
However, the next category had to offer a real dream entry field. The GTO class was the home of silhouette tubeframe cars that were supposed to look like your everyday car. But they were true prototypes under their apparent look. This class featured a very big quarrel between Ford and Chevrolet. In 1986, Toyota, who had successfully made it in GTU, had moved up to the GTO and seemed willing to fight for the crown. A real fantastic field showed up at Daytona. Five Ford Mustangs were facing as much Chevrolet Camaros and two Toyota Celicas plus one tri-rotor Mazda RX7. Protofab had two Camaros for Terry Labonte, Darrell Waltrip and Greg Pickett and Wally Dallenbach, Tommy Riggins and John Jones.
Copyright Michael Crews
These two cars were state-of-the-art tubeframe cars. They were facing the Brooks Racing car driven by Robert Lappalainen, Bobby and Tommy Archer. Jack Baldwin had the Peerless Racing car he shared with John Lloyd and Eppie Wietzes while Buzz McCall entered his Skoal Bandit backed car. He was co-driven by Walt Bohren and Tom Sheehy. Roush Racing had four cars which were driven by Lyn St James, Tom Gloy, Bill Elliott and Bruce Jenner on the #11, Todd Morici, Bruce Jenner and Gary Baker on the #33, Lanny Hester, Maurice Hassey and Ken Johnson on the #64, and Bobby Akin, Deborah Gregg and Scott Pruett on the #22. The two All American Racers Toyota Celicas were driven by Jerrill Rice, Juan Fangio and Ricky Rudd on the #99, Chris Cord and Steve Millen on the #98. A bunch of private cars was to be seen, amongst which you could see one Oldsmobile Toronado entered by Rocketsports. They could play their part in the race and was driven by Paul Gentilozzi, Irv Hoerr and Ted Boody. The tri-rotor Mazda RX7 was entered by Mandeville Auto Tech and driven by Roger Mandeville, Kelly Marsh and Danny Smith. Two Pontiac Firebirds and some Chevrolet Corvettes and a Buick Somerset and an Oldsmobile Calais made for a very interesting field. The GTU class was less exciting with a more classical Mazda-Porsche duel. In fact, it looked like it would be all Mazda as the top teams were there and the Porsche 911s were less efficient cars. Not any Pontiac Fiero nor Datsun show up at Daytona. Tom Kendall was driving the CCR car, along with Max Jones and brother Bart. Al Bacon was partnered by Bob Reed and Rod Millen while Amos Johnson drove the Team Highball car. The best driven Porsche 911 was the SP Racing car for Gary Auberlen, Peter Jauker and Dieter Oest.
The practice would materialize the fact that times were slower than the previous year. The Bayside Disposal car proved the most efficient with a 1m41s005 at the end. Second was the BF Goodrich car, driven by Bob Wollek and Darin Brassfield, then it was the Chevrolet Corvette GTP that Sarel van der Merwe drove with Doc Bundy.The Holbert Racing car was farther on the grid. In fact, the Hendrick car would break an engine during the second session, losing any chance to fight for the pole. The Group 44 Jaguar was the best non turbo car with a seventh place overall. The Fords were lower on the grid. The best Lights car was the Spice Fiero driven by Don Bell, Jeff Kline and Bob Earl. Second was the similar car driven by Steve Durst, Michael Brockman and Tony Belcher. This car was two seconds slower than the leading car. The GTO category was set by the Protofab Chevrolet Camaro driven by Terry Labonte, Darrell Waltrip and Greg Pickett. The NASCAR men used their talent to beat the first Ford Mustang driven Lyn St James, Tom Gloy and Bill Elliott. The show was set with the Toyota Celicas not far behind. Tom Kendall was the fastest GTU qualifier, just ahead of Al Bacon, also driving a Mazda RX7.
The warm-up session in the morning saw Oscar Larrauri doing an off-course and the Chevrolet Corvette GTP again struck with engine problems. The team would fix them and the car showed up on the starting grid.
Under a sunny weather, the green flag was set at 3:34PM. Klaus Ludwig jumped on the lead, ahead of Bob Wollek and Sarel van der Merwe. The three of them were quickly forgetting the rest of the field. Behind them, AJ Foyt, Price Cobb, Brian Redman, Jim Adams, Chip Robinson and Bob Tullius were fighting hard for position. The only car that was out of the action was the Bob Akin entered Porsche 962, losing eight laps with brakes troubles. At the end of the first hour, it was the Bayside Racing car that was on the lead, while the Chevrolet Corvette GTP stayed in its trail, and had taken the lead twice. The GTO battle was dominated by the Chevrolet Camaro driven by the NASCAR men, Darrell Waltrip, Terry Labonte and Greg Pickett. They had a terrific start and were tenth overall, which was a stunning performance for such a car. The Ford Mustangs were behind, and it was the Toyota Celica that placed second. The Lights category was led by the Gebhardt driven by Frank Jelinski, who pushed the BMW very hard. The two leading Porsche 962s were running strong, but they both would experience fatal troubles. Bob Wollek would pit with a valve failure, leading to his retirement, and Klaus Ludwig was hit by a backmarker while overtaking him on the banking. Exit from the race with a broken suspension. Many top contenders were sidelined with problems, as the Ford Probe, which retired with an engine failure. Now fighting for the lead, the two Porsche 962s entered by Holbert Racing and Foyt Racing. They would fight it off during the most part of the race. The Chevrolet Corvette GTP was third after a slight incident. After six grueling hours, the two cars were still ahead, preceding the Jaguar XJR7 driven by Bob Tullius-John Morton and Hurley Haywood. Still running strong, the two Protofab Chevrolet Camaros were leading the class.
Copyright Michael Crews
The remainder of the race was to be a Porsche domination. With a 3,0L engine, the Foyt team was fast on the banking, while the 2,8L Holbert car was dominant in the infield. The next cars would then drop from the race, as the Jaguar XJR7, which had a blown head gasket. The Chevrolet Corvette GTP soon retired too, with a broken engine. The leading order was : Bell, Foyt, Dyson, Redman, Adams and Sigala. It was six Porsche ahead of everybody. Next came the first GTO cars! The Protofab Camaro driven by the same leading trio was just ahead of the two Toyota Celicas. The Porsche 962 driven by Brian Redman, Chris Kneifel, Kees Nierop and Elliott Forbes Robinson would then retire with a broken turbo, leading to an oil leak which made the rear end of the car catch fire. The Holbert car was still leading with four laps over the Foyt Racing Porsche at mid point. One could think that the race would turn into a boring procession, but at four o'clock AM, the leading car had a tyre burst. Losing their advantage, the race suddenly regained its interest. The leading GTO car had retired at mid race when Terry Labonte lost a wheel after the wheel nut worked loose, and it was Toyota which took the command of the class. Another major change was to happen within the race with a new leading car in the Lights class : the Spice Fiero driven by Don Bell, which dominated the class after a brief stint by the Gebhardt, pitted with an oil leak. Curiously, it was the Badger, a three year old car, which took the lead in this class. The end of the race would be difficult for many entrants. Early in the morning, the leading car was running without the driver's side window. This led to hot air flowing into the car. From this moment, driving the car proved too exhausting for the drivers who could not bear such heat. Every driver began to have trouble driving properly, and the situation became serious. Behind them, the Foyt Racing car began to gain ground on them. In fact, they had to take a crucial decision, if they wanted to have a chance for victory. The only one available to them was that Al Holbert, who was here as a Team Manager, and not supposed to drive, take on the wheel, to relieve his drivers. Chip Robinson was being taken care of by the medics and Derek Bell was stuck with cramps and Al Unser Jr was quite exhausted, so here it went. Behind them, the Foyt Racing car could keep up with them, but then they lost a cylinder, and they began to slow down steadily. They would retire after twenty three hours and forty minutes. Attrition was strong in GTO when the leading Toyota had trouble with a broken suspension. They held a ten lap advantage over the Ford Mustang driven by Lyn St James, Tom Gloy and Bill Elliott which came down to a second place finish, four laps down. A cruel deception for the All American Racers team. Al Holbert handed the car to Derek Bell who crossed the finish line as a winner. Second overall was the Brun Motorsport car who had a very difficult start but a strong finish. They were eight laps down but had gained seven laps on the leaders within twenty hours. Third was the Dyson Racing car driven by Rob Dyson, Price Cobb and Vern Schuppan. The unfortunate Foyt Racing car took fourth. The GTO class was a new Roush victory, the third in a row at Daytona. The Lights class finally came back to the fastest car, the Spice Fiero driven by Don Bell, Bob Earl and Jeff Kline. They finished behind the leading GTU car, the Team Highball Mazda RX7 driven by Amos Johnson, Dennis Shaw and Bob Lazier. It was their third GTU victory in a row.
Copyright Michael Crews
For the Holbert Team, this victory had a special appeal, as they did set a new distance record with 753 laps and 4314,136 km.