Grand-Am Cars Fire Up
Twenty-four cars that were entered for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 December Test Days – a two-day Pirelli tire test at Daytona International Speedway – participated Tuesday in preparation for next month’s Rolex 24.
Some teams – including Action Express Racing (Daytona Prototype) and ZMG, Magnus Racing and Turner Motorsport (GT) – were on track with cars for the first time.
While Rolex Series veterans and former Daytona race winners like Scott Pruett, Max Angelelli, Buddy Rice, Sylvain Tremblay and Bill Auberlen returned, drivers like Jade Buford, Bob Doyle, Paul Dalla Lana and Derek Johnston made their first on-track appearances in Rolex Series cars.
Other drivers, such as Ryan Dalziel, Jean-Francois Dumoulin, Josh Hurley, Johnny Mowlem and Dominic Cicero were roaming the garage area and pit lane talking to teams about the potential of running the 48th annual Rolex 24.
No major incidents occurred during the seven-hour session, which was split up into a three-hour morning practice and four-hour afternoon session. Times were not released, and drivers and teams return Wednesday to the track for a similar schedule.
Defending 24 winners running one car
After running a pair of Daytona Prototypes since the class began competition in the 2003 Rolex 24, Brumos Racing will have one for 2010. Defending Rolex 24 winners David Donohue and Darren Law will co-drive with five-time Rolex 24 winner Hurley Haywood in the No. 59 Porsche Riley, powered by a Porsche flat-six engine. They are running the same car that won the 2009 season-ending Grand Prix of Miami and parked the No. 58 machine.
With Brumos consolidating to one car, Bob Johnson created Action Express Racing and formed a technical alliance with Brumos. He leased a Riley Daytona Prototype – a car last raced by Pacific Coast Motorsports – and paired it with a Cayenne-based Porsche V-8 powerplant. He hired 2009 Homestead-Miami Speedway winner Joao Barbosa and 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller, along with most of the former crew from the No. 59 team.
“We’re two separate teams, with two different cars, two different engines and two different setups – sharing the same shop,” Donohue said. “You know how racing is; it’s one big family.”
Donohue said the No. 59 team’s main goal is to learn about the new tire.
“It’s a matter of learning more about it,” Donohue said. “It seems alright, but Daytona in general changes so quickly with the weather, it’s hard to keep track of both the tire and the race track.”
For Barbosa, the test is mainly to learn about the car and the Lozano-built V-8 engine.
“It’s a big difference going from six to five speeds,” said Barbosa, who finished third in the 2009 Rolex 24 with Borcheller, Haywood and JC France. “The car is quieter and heavier. Because we make fewer shifts, there’s less work and it’s more comfortable to drive. We’re not that fast yet, but it will be. There’s a lot of work needed on the car yet. We’ll be competitive again.”
Pruett Makesr Appearance
TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates had a three-year winning streak in the Rolex 24 snapped in January when Donohue edged Juan Pablo Montoya’s No. 01 Lexus Riley by .167 seconds. Scott Pruett had a personal two-year winning streak broken as well in that event, and then finished second in the battle for the Daytona Prototype championship.
After missing the December test for several years, the team was at Daytona Tuesday, evaluating a new BMW engine.
“Typically, we don’t do this test,” Pruett said. “But there’s been a lot of work getting the new powerplant fitted in the car, and we’re getting a jump on things. When you make changes, you want to be ready. When you come here in January, you don’t get a lot of time because you’re running all of your drivers through the cars, getting them acclimated, and then it’s on to the race. We haven’t had any hiccups yet – everything has gone real smooth – but we’ve got a lot to learn. The center of gravity and other things are different from what we’re used to, so we’re out of our window right now. But we’ll get there and we’ll be good for the race.”
Pruett said the team plans to announce its driver lineup and choice of engine at the Jan. 8-10 Roar Before the Rolex 24.
“There are still a few things up in the air, so we’ll wait and see,” Pruett said.
SunTrust Racing Returns
Team owner Wayne Taylor said the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara will return with the same driver lineup for the Rolex 24 in 2010, with Taylor joining Max Angelelli, Brian Frisselle and Pedro Lamy.
“This test is primarily to learn the new tire,” Taylor said. “We’ve had a few fairly long runs and it’s stayed consistent. Also, we want to get more and more miles on our Dallara.”
Doran Testing Five Drivers
Kevin Doran had five drivers in the cockpit of the No. 77 Doran Racing Ford Dallara, but he is still seeking additional sponsorship to firm up plans for the 2010 Rolex 24. Brad Jaeger and Memo Gidley – the team’s regulars last season – were joined at the test by Dion von Moltke, Michel Jourdain and Mike Forest.
Bobby Labonte Testing With TRG
One of the benefits of racing for TRG in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is also getting to drive for the team in the Rolex 24. Former Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte will join the defending GT winning No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3 at the Rolex 24, co-driving with Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly and Tim George Jr.
“Kevin really didn’t have to talk me into it,” Labonte said. “I’ve always been a big fan of the Rolex 24 since I started racing, and I raced a go-kart on the same track back when I was 15. He didn’t have to twist my arm. It was just a case of ’show up Tuesday and we’ll go race.’ I’ve watched the TRG Porsches in GRAND-AM races while sitting on pit road as a fan when the Rolex Series runs with NASCAR Sprint Cup, watching to see how the team did things.”
This will be Labonte’s fourth Rolex 24 but first in the GT class. He doesn’t think the change will make that much difference.
“It’s just like driving the Daytona Prototype the three years that I raced it here,” Labonte said. “It’s road course racing, which we don’t get to do a lot of in NASCAR, and the cars are getting stiffer and have less movement under braking and acceleration. These cars don’t move around as much as our NASCAR cars do.”
Turner Brings ‘Dream Team’
Turner Motorsport has won driver and team championships in both the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) class, and the team’s newest effort will be running in the 2010 Rolex Series GT class. Team principal Will Turner has assembled what he calls his ‘dream team’ for the Rolex 24, pairing longtime drivers Bill Auberlen, Joey Hand and Boris Said with rookie Paul Dalla Lana.
The team brought its BMW M6 to Daytona this week as it prepares for its first-ever Rolex Series race. A BMW M6 last competed in the Rolex 24 in 2007.
“I’m really pleased how things went today,” Turner said. “Our expectations were to get some track time and see what we needed to work on. Not only has it gone good for us – we’ve run a lot of laps – but we’ve also picked up some speed, too. All of our drivers cycled through, they all love the car, and are all excited to be here.”
Stevenson Stays Busy
Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis continued to work together Tuesday, driving Stevenson Motorsports’ newest car, the No. 57 Camaro GT.R. The Camaro takes the place of the Pontiac GXP.R, which the duo took to six victories over the last two seasons.
Essentially the same car under the bodywork, Liddell said it was important to note the car did drive and handle a little differently. However, the changes and Camaro legacy will make the car a fun challenge, said Liddell, who has stayed busy racing in both a Mini Cooper race in his home country of Scotland, and building and racing a rally car which competed during a nine-hour night race in England.
Also running were Mike Borkowski and Gunter Schaldach. Borkowski, who co-drove with Donohue in the No. 58 Red Bull Brumos Porsche Fabcar in 2003 and has competed in the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Challenge, may be returning to the Rolex Series in 2010. Schaldach made his Rolex Series debut.
“I’m a true rookie,” said Schaldach, a resident of Aspen, Colo. “I’ve run a few years in the (SPEED) World Challenge, but this will be my first time in the Rolex Series.”
Schaldach raced in the Ford Racing Mustang Challenge in 2008, and ran in the Continental Tire Challenge at Miller Motorsports Park. He was running second at the end of his shift in September, but the car was involved in an accident on the penultimate lap and he finished seventh. This is also his first visit to Daytona.
Leighton Reese Plans Two-Corvette Effort
Leighton Reese, the 2008 Rolex Series GT champion team owner with Banner Racing, was cruising the pits Tuesday. He had no car and no crew at the test, but said he expects to reveal his plans for the 2010 soon.
“The only equipment I brought was my cell phone and my sunglasses,” Reese said. “But I’m planning to run next year. We’ve got a Prep 1 and Prep 2 Corvette in our holster this year. We’ll probably run the Prep 2 for the Rolex 24, because it’s more heavy duty. We’ve got a good driver lineup, and we hope to announce it in a few days.”
Racers Edge Motorsports Tests Three
Three drivers, including two relatively new to the Rolex Series, tested for Racers Edge Motorsports, based in nearby DeLand, Fla. Jade Buford and Jordan Taylor, both of whom have competed for Racers Edge in the past, were joined by Glenn Bocchino the 2008 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Challenge ST co-winner at Daytona.
Bocchino and Buford will drive for Racers Edge in the Continental Tire Challenge GS class next season, and both became more familiar with each other and their Mazda RX-8 on Tuesday.
“It was a lot of fun, and it was a lot faster than I thought it was going to be,” Bocchino said. “I loved the braking, and the RX-8 handles so well. It’s fun to drive. The only thing that got me was the heat – I’m not used to how hot it was in the car. I was dying in there, but I had a great time.”
Guardian Angel Returns
Guardian Angel Motorsports, which debuted in the Rolex Series last season in the Rolex 24, returns for the 2010 event, with drivers Bruce Ledoux, David Quinlan, Tim Evans and Bob Doyle. Ledoux and Quinlan participated last season, while Evans and Doyle are first-timers. In fact, Doyle – who raced in motorcycles for about 30 years – made his on-track debut only a few weeks ago, in a Ferrari Challenge race.
“We’re really excited to be back in 2010,” said Ledoux, who helped raise $75,000 for Children’s Hospital Boston. “We learned a lot last season, and we’re hoping for a top-10 finish in our next Rolex 24.”2 Comments