The races on the beach were extremely spectacular and were followed by hundreds of spectators.
The Kings of Speed
1903 - 1935
From 1903 to 1935, the hard-packed sand beach in Daytona, Florida became famous worldwide as the perfect place to beat speed records. No fewer than 80 official records were set there, 14 of which were for the fastest speed in the world. Piquing interest around the world, such motor sport exploits soon led to Daytona being known as the world capital of speed. The tightly run races culminated in March 1935 with a world land speed record of 276 mph (445 km/h) set by British driver Malcolm Campbell in his famous Bluebird. He went on to break the 300 mph (482 km/h) barrier a few months later, but on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Since the early 1930s, the man who would go down in history as the king of speed had been wearing a Rolex Oyster. Thus, the first Rolex Testimonee in motor sport was already closely tied to Daytona.
Record-setting cars at Daytona: Ray Keech’s green Triplex (1928), Henry Segrave’s red Sunbeam Mystery S (1927) and golden arrow (1929), as well as Malcolm Campbell’s 1932 and 1935 Bluebird models, in which he set a number of speed records. Malcolm Campbell in his 1935 Bluebird.
A sand track unique in the world
1936 - 1959
The beach in Daytona did not end its romance with motor sport after the attempts to set land speed records moved to Utah. As of 1936, races that were unique in the world were held there, allowing Daytona to maintain its status in automobile racing. Soon came the golden age of stock car races on an oval track. Half of it was on the beach and half on a narrow road parallel to the ocean. From 1937, this unlikely race track also attracted the 200-mile American motorcycle championship, which became a classic under the name Daytona 200. The races on the beach were extremely spectacular and followed by hundreds of spectators. Soon wooden grandstands were erected alongside the turns on the sand where some competitors became bogged down, when they did not end up in the ocean.
The mid-1950s saw the launch of an ambitious construction project for a permanent, hard-surface race track for the speed races: the Daytona International Speedway.
A temple of motor racing
1959 - 2013
When it was inaugurated in 1959, the Daytona International Speedway was the fastest racing circuit in the United States, and one of the first Super Speedways in the world. Its unusual design is all about speed with 31‑degree banking in the turns, more than 10 metres high at its tallest point. The high banking allows cars to approach the turns at great speed without skidding off the track due to centrifugal force, and offers spectators a good view of the race from any seat in the grandstands.
It includes a road racing course on the in-field of the giant speedway to host sports car races, combining a classic track and a unique oval with banked turns.
This innovative approach brought about the race that would become the Rolex 24 At Daytona, one of the most prestigious endurance races in the world. The first edition took place in 1962, just one year before the launch of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona. Rolex became Official Timepiece of the Daytona International Speedway, and, to emphasize the brand’s connection to the American race track, Rolex gave its new model the name Cosmograph Daytona.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona, commonly known as “The Rolex”, marks the opening of the international motor sport season. The race tests the ultimate limits of man and machine for a complete 24-hour cycle.