Higgins scores at Classic 24 at Daytona

John Higgins gets settled into his 1985 Porsche Fabcar before the start of the Classic 24 at Daytona. Photo by Dale Oakes
John Higgins gets settled into his 1985 Porsche Fabcar before the start of the Classic 24 at Daytona. Photo by Dale Oakes

Most guys at age 72 are thinking about slowing down. For John Higgins, nothing could be further from his mind.

On the first weekend of November Higgins was wheeling a 1985 Porsche Fabcar around Daytona International Speedway on his way to achieving victory in his class at the Classic 24 at Daytona.

“I’ve been doing this so damn long, but it’s still fun, and I’m still fast so why stop?” the former owner of Lexus of Dayton said during a phone interview. “Thirty-three years ago I finished second in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the Fabcar. We were leading by 14 laps with just three hours to go and broke an axle. We fixed it and still finished second, then went to the 12 Hours of Sebring and won.

“This year, I was turning laps seven-tenths of a second quicker than 33 years ago. The guys at EuroClassics and Grant Motorsports who prepare this car do a great job,” he added.

The Classic 24 at Daytona is a vintage racing event sanctioned by Historic Sportscar Racing. It features everything from 1960 Corvairs, Datsun 240Zs, Jaguar XKEs to prototype sports cars from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

There are six groups of cars, organized by relative speed, which race in one-hour segments for a total of four hours on track. You get to do both day and night racing, and Daytona is well lit. Higgins took the Fabcar to race in Group C and also a Porsche GT3 Cup car to race in Group E with co-driver Tom Hessert.

“During the night Hessert was running the GT3 Cup car and it was dry on the front stretch and literally pouring on the back stretch. He hit water and the car just turned right. We banged it up so that ended our fun there,” Higgins said.

They completed on 31 total laps.

“The GT3 Cup car is pretty easy to drive,” Higgins said. “It’s got ABS brakes, a paddle shift transmission and a computer that not only prevents you from missing a shift but also keeps you from over-revving the engine. A few years back in the older GT3 car, I missed a shift and went from sixth gear to second and that didn’t end well at all. The water on the track, however, they haven’t invented a computer for that.”

The Fabcar debuted in 1985 and raced with IMSA in the Camel Lights series where Higgins had great success. Today, sporting the same livery from many years ago it sees track time about four to five times a year. The mid ’80s technology doesn’t feature any of the computers or shifters that the newer GT3 car has.

“You’re driving it all the time, no power steering, no ABS, banging the clutch and shifter, it’s a handful,” Higgins explained.

“Daytona is just magic to me. I’ve had some success and I’ll bet I’ve logged 3,000 miles there. It’s just mystical at night inside that car, totally focused on just driving. Everything else leaves your mind,” Higgins said. “I really can’t explain it, but think about this: when I slide into that race car and put the belts on, to me, it’s like sliding into a warm bath.

“I’m totally relaxed, just thinking about making that car sing. Why would I stop doing that?”

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