In a story spanning more than 50+ years, motorsports photographer Hal Crocker compares and contrasts Mark Donohue’s experiences at the 24 Hours of Daytona, including his unlikely victory in 1969, with David’s Donohue’s epic win at the 2009 Daytona 24 Hours. Crocker was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time for both races and we’re sure you will enjoy his tales from Daytona.
Rear View Mirror – A glance back in time as we move forward.
By Hal Crocker
Welcome to the first of a series of stories titled Rear View Mirror. Quite a few of you know me from the races and some of you know me from reading my articles. For those of you that do not know me let me do an introduction and tell you a little about myself.
My name is Hal Crocker. I was born in 1944 and I have natural curly hair. Now that we have that out of the way lets get to the fun.
My objective in creating this series is to entertain and enlighten you. For some of you old-timers, I will cause brain cells to fire across synapses long dormant and take you back in time to memories long forgotten. For my younger readers, I will keep you in mind and try not to lose you as we make this trip. In this joint adventure, I anticipate that we will have fun and laugh a lot. I must warn you, I expect we will also encounter all the emotions of life including sadness and anger along the way. At the end, I hope that we are friends and we look back with fondness on this journey. …
Pass the Merlot please…
Fifty + years has a way of giving one a unique perspective. Yes, I have been involved in professional motorsports for more than 5+ decades. Up until theses last few years it was mostly as a photographer though I did dabble at a few other things along the way. Now in my old age I have taken up writing to help regain my vocabulary after suffering a mild stroke. It also serves to keep me out of the bars and away from my many associates of questionable character, all of whom I love dearly, well most all.
With the 2009 24 Hours of Daytona the Gods have both smiled on me and cursed me at the same time. What a race to kick this column off with. There is such an abundance of good material that I am going to have to triage…so much so little space. If this was a fiction piece I would be hard pressed to come up with a better script.
Forty years ago Mark Donohue the father of the 2009 pole setter and winner David Donohue – who I will focus on for this article – won this race with co-driver Chuck Parsons. The senior Donohue started on the outside pole in his Penske Chevy powered Lola T70 Mk IIIB. Next to him on the pole was Jo Siffert in one of five factory Porsche 908Ls (long-tail). With their invading Teutonic army of personnel and machines, Porsche was without a doubt the odds on favorite for that year’s win, especially since they dominated this race the year before in 1968 with a one-two-three finish with their triad of factory 907s. Also in the field of 63 starters were five other Lola T70s and a brace of Ford GT40s entered by John Wyer. Since a Chevy engine had never won a major 24-hour race, the Penske Lola was what the odds makers call a long shot.
The long shot hit. This was the first time for Mark Donohue, Roger Penske and Chevrolet to win a major international 24 Hour race. This was quite a big deal for General Motors at the time for Ford had already won the 1965 Daytona 12 Hour Continental followed by winning the first Daytona 24 Hour in 1966. If this was not bad enough for GM, Ford had also taken on Ferrari at Le Mans and had won Le Mans three times. They would also go on and win again in 1969 thus making for four Le Mans wins with their GT40 program.
Stay tuned . . . there is more to come!