From last to first – 24h of Daytona winner Dr. Dave Helmick

From last to first – 24h of Daytona winner Dr. Dave Helmick

January 17, 2020 / From Richard Lindhorst

For the Elferspot Magazine, we’re always looking out for your most exciting Porsche related stories. Recently, Erich Helmick got in touch with us and asked for help. He wants to get in contact with the owner of a very special Porsche 911 S race car. Originally, this car belonged to his dad, Dr. Dave Helmick. He is a 24h of Daytona and 12h of Sebring winner and shared his car with racing legend Hurley Haywood on some occasions.

Erich, very nice to meet you! Would you please introduce yourself to our users?

Hey Richard, it’s my pleasure! I am 37 years old and have a younger and three older brothers. For a living, I’m running a workshop, specifically for European and preferably German cars. I am now living in Pennsylvania and my dad is a guy called Dr. Dave Helmick. He was a race doctor for several big teams and a race driver for many decades. Sadly, he passed away in May 2019.

Our very sincere condolences for that tragic loss, Erich! How was he as a dad? What was your relationship like?

I would say, he was a regular dad, but on the racetrack. More or less, I grew up in the pit lane, to be honest. Nearly every weekend, we spent time at the track. At that time, my dad mostly drove in a Porsche 356 Speedster in an SCCA organized racing series. Due to the car’s looks, with this tiny windscreen, we called that very car “the bathtub”. I can hardly remember anything but shared experiences with my dad from the racetrack. Unfortunately, my parents broke up when I was 13 years old. My dad then moved to Florida and afterwards we haven’t seen each other all that often, because of the very long distance between us.

SCCA Porsche 356 bathtub 24h of Daytona winner Dr. Dave Helmick

What kind of a guy was your dad? He raced at the 24h of Daytona as well, right?

He was a military doctor at first, later he became a race doctor, among other things for Ford’s sports car racing team in Europe. In 1966 he even was the race doctor for their Le Mans winning team. At that time, he already participated in a few European races as a driver. Apparently, he was a doctor and a racing driver at the same time. His next milestone were the 12h of Sebring 1973. There, he entered a Porsche 911 Carrera RSR with his very own team.

It was the first year of the IMSA organized Sebring races. That meant, sports cars or prototypes were no longer allowed in the race, so it was GT cars only. That led to a huge drop in spectator figures and with an attendance of just 30,000 it probably was the least noticed 12h of Sebring race of all time. Despite that, or maybe because of that, my dad managed to “sign” Peter Gregg and  Hurley Haywood to drive for his team. Team Dr. Dave Helmick, went on to claim the victory, lapping every single car.

My dad then went on to secure another podium finish at the 12h of Sebring in 1975, finishing in third position. At the 24h of Daytona 1976 he became 8th overall. In 1977 he was joined by Hurley Haywood and John Graves again to start at the 24h of Daytona. And guess what happend – they won, despite the mighty competition of the seemingly overpowered Porsche 935s. They’ve beaten the likes of Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass as well as the Kremer Porsche team.

Wow, Dr. Dave Helmick seems to have been a jack-of-all-trades! What’s the story behind the 24h of Daytona win? Besides Le Mans, it’s one of the most prestigious races in the world. So how did a private team with an outdated car managed to beat the competition?

Actually, Hurley Haywood had offers to drive in a works supported Porsche 935 at the 24h of Daytona 1977. But Haywood knew for sure, that the turbocharged engines weren’t perfectly reliable, as they were completely new tech for everyone. So he decided to join my dad’s team “Ecurie Escargot” and pilot their Porsche 911 Carrera RSR with a naturally aspirated engine. He knew my dad and with the win at the 12h of Sebring in 1973 in mind, he knew, that he was a reliable driver. They qualified in 43rd position, which meant, they were last. But the snail creeped up the list and ended up front. The rest of it is history.

Were you scared, when you watched him racing?

Not at all! As a child, you don’t think about the consequences, I suppose. I thought, it was fantastic. There was only one thought in my head: I’ve gotta do this one day! But the most present memory is the smell of petrol and rubber. Anyone who ever attended a race, would confirm, that you won’t forget that smell, ever. But it somehow reminds you how dangerous these machines could be. These things can rip your head off…

To be honest, I don’t think you need anyone to get you into the Porsche brand at all. The Porsche 911 and particularly the Turbos are so unique, that their sheer presence exudes a certain fascination – Erich Helmick

During his military service, my dad once caused a pretty special deployment of a helicopter at a race track. He came to help after an accident and noticed, that the driver was hurt and needed further medical treatment at a hospital. Nearby, there was a military base and he called a med-evac helicopter of that base. As far as I know, that’s the only time a crashed race driver was brought to hospital within a military helicopter in the USA.

So your dad used to race Porsches. Is that the reason, you became a Porsche fan as well?

To be honest, I don’t think you need anyone to get you into the Porsche brand at all. The Porsche 911 and particularly the Turbos are so unique, that their sheer presence exudes a certain fascination. However, in December 1972 my dad bought a Porsche 911 S race car with the VIN 9112300921 in signal yellow at a Porsche dealership in Miami. I have never seen this car in person, but still have the original receipt for the car. With this Porsche 911 S, my dad drove the 24h of Daytona in 1973 and managed to finish in 11th position overall. So, VIN 9112300921 had a pretty eventful history.

That’s a pretty cool story. Maybe we can reach the current owner with this article?

That would be fantastic! But I don’t know if the car had an accident or if it even still exists. It may not seem likely, that this Porsche 911 S with the VIN 9112300921 is still in one piece, but if yes, I would love to send the original receipt to the current owner. Whoever owns this car today, would be happy to get this historic document, fore sure. I think that this kind of story makes the cars we’re loving and spending so much time on, so interesting.

I absolutely agree with you! Do you own a Porsche as well? And is there a specific model, that would be you dream car?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford a Porsche 911 until now, but an early Porsche 911 Turbo 3.0 very much appeals to me. In general, I would love any of the turbocharged Porsche 911s. If money would be no object, I would look for a RUF CTR Yellowbird. That legendary video of Stephan Rozer going completely sideways on the Nürburgring Nordschleife is one of my favorites!

Erich, thank you very much for the insights to your fantastic family history! It was a pleasure.

You’re welcome, so it was for me!

© Images: Erich Helmick

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