Richard from Guatemala first went to the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2015 and hasn’t missed a race since. Here’s his report and tips for fellow fans considering making the trip to Florida’s legendary speedway.
All images supplied by Richard, pictured above with Rubens Barichello.
I’m a big motorsport fan, so I decided to go to the Daytona 24 hours race for the first time in 2015. It’s easy to get there from my home in Guatemala and it’s now become a family tradition. I’ve attended three years in a row now and we are already planning our ‘family reunion’ there in 2018.
The best way to get to Daytona is to take a flight to Orlando, rent a car and drive (it's a 2.5 hour journey). The track is close to the main beach boulevard in Daytona, you can’t miss it. Seeing it for the first time was awesome and it’s even better at night with all the lights on! The first time I went we bought tickets online ahead of time, because we thought they might sell out. But I now know that you can get tickets on the same day, and there’s no chance you will miss out. We bought General Admission tickets for $95 each, which are valid from Thursday to Sunday; I was really surprised with how much access you get.
I really like Daytona Beach, but there’s not much going on away from the track at this time of year. It’s a beach destination, but the water is too cold for swimming in January and lots of beachfront places are not open. At least it has everything you need, like supermarkets, chain restaurants and some bars nearby.
For me, Daytona International Speedway is an epic stadium! General Admission tickets give you access to the grandstands and you can sit anywhere you want. Not bad for $95, but I know that’s because the 24 hours race is less popular than Nascar. The speedway was renovated at a cost of $400m USD just a few years ago, so it’s really well set up for fans with food and restrooms everywhere. I liked sitting most in Section 390 of the grandstand on the first corner, where there is lots of passing and good views of the rest of the track.
There is also an infield viewing area with bleachers. You can take a small tram from the Main grandstand that works all night long. I loved sitting on the infield, as you can get much closer to the cars and really feel their sound and speed. You also get pitlane access with General Admission tickets and can enter all day long. Imagine getting this kind of access in F1 for $95! Getting this close to the cars and drivers for the whole weekend was the best part for me. I was able to take a look inside Rubens Barichello’s car and meet lots of drivers (many ex-F1), including Giancarlo Fisichella, Sebastian Buemi and Bruno Senna.
Trackside, there’s plenty to see and do. All the big automotive brands have displays of their newest and best machinery, plus simulators and lounges to hang out in. Don’t miss the fireworks at 11pm. It’s a great opportunity to get some dramatic photos with the cars on the track and the fireworks lighting up the sky.
- Pack warm clothes! It’s pretty cold in Daytona in late January when the race is on, especially at night
- Book your flights early, as Orlando is a popular destination (Disney World, anyone?)
- Make sure you plan a day or two to enjoy Orlando and/or Miami.
- The big hotels in Daytona are expensive and get booked out by the race teams, whilst most other hotels in Daytona are old and not great value for money. There are some good hotels at Ormond Beach, but we always rent an apartment. It works out cheaper for a bigger group.
- Make sure your rental car has a GPS or take your own, it will make your life much easier!
- Check the race schedule and make sure you go for the Driver’s Parade; it’s the best experience! You can get on the track and see the cars and drivers up close; great photo opportunity!
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