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Kauffman Proudly Blood-Redded

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 28 2012

Rob Kauffman will help launch the Ferrari 458 Italia at Daytona this weekend. (Photos courtesy of Michael Waltrip Racing)

Rob Kauffman’s romance with Ferrari began the same way a lot of romances with the carmaker’s products began: as a youngster tacking up a poster of one of the iconic Italian beauties on his bedroom wall. Amore.

This weekend, Kauffman will take his relationship with Ferrari to a new, historic height as he will help usher in the marque’s Michelotto-based return to a place which played a big part in its legendary past – Daytona International Speedway.

Kauffman – along with AF Waltrip teammates Michael Waltrip, Travis Pastrana and Rui Aguas – will debut a blood-red factory-backed Ferrari 458 Italia in the Rolex 24. The field of the 458s – by the Waltrip team and four others – is being hailed as an official return to Daytona by the marque.

Kauffman, who drove one of the cars at Le Mans last year, said, “Absolutely,” when asked during a telephone converstation this week if driving a 458 in conjunction with AF Corse at Daytona is a dream come true.

“In fact, one of the challenges is you’ve got to focus. Yes, it’s fun, but you’ve got to drive and focus,” he said. “You’re racing with professionals at a very high level and you can’t go out of focus. You’ve got to shake off (the dream come true aspect) and you’ve got to go and drive. There’s definitely an aspect to that.”

Ferrari’s presence at Daytona dates back to the 1960s when cars like the 365 GTB/4 , driven by legends

The blood- red AF Waltrip Ferrari.

like Phil Hill and Sterling Moss, drove their way into history at the road course.

Over the years, Ferraris like the  330s and 333s, have worked their way into Daytona lore. In recent years, 360s and 430s have made their way into GT fields, but not with the type of factory presence which will be in the DIS paddocks this year.

“We have strong support from Ferrari,” Kauffman said. “They’re very supportive, the guys are at the track and helping the other (Ferrari) teams as well. They’re excited about expanding here in the United States.”

The 458s the Ferrari teams will be using will be modified GT3 cars which debuted last year in circuit racing around the world.

So far, the cars have done well. They have been fast in practice and on Thursday, a Ferrari driven by Jeff Segal of AIM Autosport Team FXDD was second fastest in qualifying and will start from the outside of the front row on Saturday.

Kauffman and his team will start further back in the field, but will do so with smiles in place.

First, because of the race itself.

“There are a handful of races around the globe that people instantly recognize and the Rolex 24 at Daytona is one of them,” Kauffman said. “To be able to participate in the race’s 50th running is an honor and really steps up our sports car program profile here in the USA. We are also excited to kick off our new road racing joint venture with AF Corse. For the race itself, the competition level is as tough as any sports car race in the world, but we are hoping for a solid result.”

But also because of marque they will be representing.

“Travis had the best quote,” Kauffman said. ” ‘Why are we racing a Ferrari? Because we can.’ It’s awesome. It’s an awesome car. It’s reputation is excellent for a reason.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 28 2012
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