This weekend, motorsport fans are enjoying their first big dose of entertainment of 2023 with the Rolex 24 taking place at Daytona.
The 61st running of the endurance classic will see a 61-car field take to the track with defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing leading from pole, with Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Tom Blomqvist and Colin Braun sharing the workload behind the wheel.
Acura, Cadillac, Porsche and BMW will all be fighting for top honours in the top GTP class, but overall, 200 drivers covering four categories will be in action over the course of the 24-hour event.
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No less than 10 ex-F1 drivers, or drivers that competed at least once in F1, will are entered in the race: Felipe Nasr, Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Bourdais, Jack Aitken, Giedo van der Garde, Esteban Gutierrez, Pietro Fittipaldi, Romain Grosjean, Jan Magnussen and Gianmaria Bruni.
Back in the 70s, it was customary for a top F1 to compete at Daytona. The famous duels between Porsche and Ferrari pitted the likes of Jo Siffert and Pedro Rodriguez against fellow F1 aces like Jacky Ickx or Mario Andretti.
But who was the last active driver active in F1 to actually win the classic 24-hour race?
Fernando Alonso in 2019 you say? Think again, because the Spaniard had already left the F1 grid– albeit temporarily – F1 when he triumphed four years ago with Cadillac.
Looking at the history books, we have to go all the way back to 1985, when Arrows’ Thierry Boutsen won the event paired with Bob Wollek, Al Unser and AJ Foyt onboard Preston Henn’s Porsche 962.
Actually, Boutsen was a late addition to the crew, initially starting the race alongside Henri Pescarolo and Bruce Leven in the latter’s own 962.
However, an early retirement saw the F1 driver switch to Henn’s entry, a move Wollek himself had recommended.
Unsurprisingly, the Frenchman and Boutsen handled the bulk of the work from there on, winning comfortably from the Porsche 962 of Al Holbert, Al Unser Jr. and Derek Bell.
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