All the way back in 1983 a very strange-looking Porsche took to the high banks of Daytona International Speedway and stomped its way to pole position for the season-opening 24 Hour race. The ANDIAL Racing tube framed 935 chassis had been fitted with a cobbled together version of Porsche’s famed “Moby Dick” long tail bodywork for the season, and boy howdy was it fast. But more importantly for that year, it was reliable. As Interscope’s Lola’s DNFd, so did the Nimrod Astons and Group 44’s Jag. In fact, only 31 of the 92-car field actually finished the race that year.
The T-Bird Swap Shop 935 was still in the lead around the half way point, with Frenchmen Bob Wolleck and Claude Ballot-Lena doing the lion’s share of the hard work, while entrepreneur and car owner Preston Henn (then 52 years old) did his level best to keep up. Once A.J. Foyt’s Nimrod dropped out of the race, seeing an opportunity to have one of the most famous racers drive his car, Henn asked Foyt if he wanted a second shot at the victory and offered him a seat in his car mid-race. Despite having never raced the Porsche before, or turned a lap at Daytona in the rain, he went out and set fast lap of the race in a downpour. Ultimately Foyt didn’t disappoint, keeping the car’s nose clean and bringing home a victory for ANDIAL, Gunnar Racing, and Preston Henn.
While Preston Henn is long gone, and his legacy has been auctioned off to the highest bidder, there are some who carry the torch. Forty years after that iconic victory, GTD entry AO Racing showed off their tribute livery on its 2023 Daytona 24 entry 992-generation Porsche 911 GT3 R. While this car won’t be in contention for the overall victory, it has a solid potential to win the GTD category. The team, co-owned by racer Gunnar Jeannette and tech mogul PJ Hyett, will be joined by Harry Tincknell and Seb Priaulx for the 24 hour. Not only is this car a tribute to the 935’s victory forty years ago, but Jeannette is the Gunnar after which Gunnar Racing was named. Gunnar’s father Kevin Jeannette worked on the Swap Shop 935 team as crew chief. The famed Alwin Springer (the AL in ANDIAL) is still a consultant with Porsche Motorsport North America, and has known Gunnar since he was a small child.
“I’ve literally grown up around the Swap Shop 935, Preston Henn and Alwin Springer,” said Jeanette. “To have PJ acquire the car from the Henn Family and for us to be able to do this tribute at our first 24 Hours with AO Racing and Porsche is very special. I hope all the fans can enjoy the livery and get to know the special story which this car helped create in 1983.”
I was already pretty excited at the prospect of AO Racing and their GTD entry, but this throwback to history only makes the whole thing cooler. I really hope they win now.