Bell, Holbert and Al Unser Jr. win the 1986 Daytona 24H, the 10th consecutive victory for a Porsche.

The finish of the 1986 Daytona 24H was not what one would expect after 24Hours of racing. One could say the race finished as a sprint. This resulted in the closest finish in the history of the Daytona 24H. The 2 first cars finished on the same lap for the first time. The runner-up team of the 1985 Daytona 24H had more success in the 1986 edition. Derek Bell, Al Holbert and Al Unser Jr won the race.

It turned out to become the fastest Daytona 24H yet, covering 712 laps, 2,534 miles and averaging 105 mph. The Löwenbrau Porsche 962 #14 got company from 2 more Porsche 962s on the podium.  Danny Sullivan, Arie Luyendyck and A.J. Foyt took 2nd place, finishing just 49 seconds behind the winner. Jim Busby finished 3rd, one lap down and only 10 seconds after the runner-up.

10th consecutive Porsche victory at Daytona 24H

1986 Datyona 24H
Warwick ready to take over the wheel of a BF Goodrich Porsche 962

Even though the 1986 victory at the Daytona 24H was the 10th consecutive victory for a Porsche at the Daytona endurance race, this wasn’t the easiest. IMSA showed up with one of their attempts to equalize performance levels between makes. And that meant all the Porsche 962s had to carry some additional ballast in the race. And it turned out that this ballast caused some serious havoc during the race in the Porsche armada.

On the other hand, the works-backed Hendrick Motorsports Corvette GTP, put on pole by Sarel van der Merwe, withdrew from the race due to incurable engine vibrations. The March-built BMW 86Gs,to be driven by some big names like David Hobbs and Bobby Rahal, caught fire during one of the private practive sessions. The team was still investigating the problem, and sat out the race.

1986 Daytona 24H
Hans-Joachim Stuck before he crashed the Porsche 962

During the race, many of the Porsche’s in the race retired. Many drivers complained the previously mentioned additional ballast had an adverse effect on the car’s handling. Many of the cars coped with brake problems. Within the first few laps, Hans-Joachim Stuck smacked Bob Akin’s car in the wall, after he ran out of brakes. Bob Wollek smashed BruceLeven’s car into the back of a March. 

Broken throttle cable

Early Sunday morning, the #14 Löwenbrau Porsche was stuck out of the race with a broken throttle cable. It took 35 laps to get the car repaired. At a certain point in the race, the team was more than 20 laps down on the lead. The other teams had their problems too however. Many of them had to be repaired.

Jan Lammers – Jochen Mass

The Dyson car go out with engine failure. Jan Lammers had one of the biggest crashes of his career.  The brakes of his BF Goodrich Porsche 962 failed. Lammers had to be extracted through the windscreen as the car had folded up around him. Fortunately he only suffered a few minor sprains. Combine  all this that with the #14 Löwenbrau Porsche driving at insane speed, the team was back in the hunt with another 4 hours of racing to go.

A final spin

The last hours of the race, Al Holbert was doing a double stint as his team mates suffered leg cramps preventing them to handle the car properly. Within 90 minutes of the end of the race, Holbert takes over the lead from A.J. Foyt. Just minutes before taking over the lead, Holbert’s enthusiasm almost costed him the race. He spun the car, fortunately without hitting anything and continued the race. To prevent further mistakes, Holbert continued the race more carefully, but still fast enough to gradually build up a lap lead. A.J. Foyt didn’t like the humiliation of being lapped, and unlapped himself in the dying minutes. 

1986 Daytona 24H
Holbert , Bell and Unser with the trophy

Al Holbert took the chequered flag, in what was the closest Daytona 24H finish by then. The first time in history the margins of victory was under one lap. The winning team traveled a record 2,534.72 miles in a record average speed of 105.484 mph.

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Pictures courtesy John Brooks and Dan Boyd