Formula Vee will celebrate a big birthday at Daytona International Speedway this weekend. 50 years after its first official race, Volkswagen's former open-wheel series returns to its birthplace at Daytona with a “Lap of Honor” in the vintage racing machines around the 3.56-mile road course. The “Lap of Honor” is scheduled for 11:25 a.m.
Among those present will be a number of ex-Formula Vee racers, who went on to become international motorsport stars: Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, Michael Andretti, Didier Theys, Hurley Haywood, former DTM stars Hans-Joachim Stuck, Prince Leopold of Bavaria, Klaus Niedzwiedz and Dieter Quester, as well as 1976 Formula Super V European Champion Mika Arpiainen. Rally icon Markku Alén, the unofficial World Rally Champion from 1978, will also be on hand.
"Volkswagen can look back on major success on the motorsport scene. However, the continuous promotion of juniors has been even more successful,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “50 years ago, Formula Vee was pioneering in this regard. It accompanied many eventual motorsport legends as they took their first steps towards a career in motor racing. Many of these legends will be brought together for the revival in Daytona, where it all began with the first ever Formula Vee race. I am really looking forward to this reunion.”
The first Formula Vee race was held at Daytona in August 1963. Armed with the 40hp, 1.2-liter engine and the chassis from the Volkswagen Beetle, motorsport enthusiasts put together extremely economic open-wheel racing cars and launched a boom that was soon to spill over to Europe. In July 1965, Formula Vee made its official European debut in front of 50,000 spectators at the Norisring in Germany. This proved to be the start of a success story, to which a new chapter was added from 1971 onward with the Formula Super Vee series – a second class of Volkswagen racing cars, which ran parallel to the established Formula Vee 1300 (TOP). The Volkswagen engines had a capacity of 1.6 liters and initially generated 120hp. Within a few years, this figure had risen to almost 200hp.
Formula 1 World Champions Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jochen Rindt and Keke Rosberg all began their careers in the various Formula Vee championships, while Super Vee also served as a primary training ground for future Indy car racers in the 1970s and '80s.
The Rolex 24 At Daytona opens with practice and qualifying on Thursday. Friday features a one-hour final practice session ahead of Saturday's green flag which is set to drop on the 51st Rolex 24 at Daytona at 3:30 p.m. SPEED will carry live coverage of the race beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET.
For tickets to the Rolex 24, CLICK HERE.