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Tudor Sports Cars Roar To Life In Daytona

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, January 9 2015

The Daytona Prototypes of Chip Ganassi Racing got off to a roaring start to 2015 sports car season. (Photo courtesy of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Big-time racing got off to a roaring start as testing for the 2015 Rolex 24 sports car race at Daytona International Speedway began on Friday, and it was one of motosports’ biggest teams that had the biggest day.

Chip Ganassi Racing had the fastest and second-fastest cars during the first of two sessions at the traditional Roar Before the 24 three-day test, and the fastest car in the second practice Friday.

That’s great news for the Ganassi teams as doing well at the Roar has meant doing well during the twice-around-the-clock season-opening race.

One year ago, two of the four eventual winners in the Rolex 24 topped the charts in the final test of the offseason. All four of the fastest teams in the Roar Before The Rolex 24 finished the race in the top five.

“The key to a successful race is successful testing,” said CORE autosport owner/driver Jon Bennett, who finished second in last year’s Roar before winning the race in the PC class. “Successful testing is not as straightforward as it seems. We will come to the Roar with a plan to gather the most useful experience possible.”

The Roar Before the Rolex 24 takes on added importance in 2015 with the test moved back one week from previous years. With one less week between the test and the Rolex 24, teams will have to plan for the limited time to make adjustments before race day. While any number of variables can change the outcome of a 24-hour race, one thing will be a certain: fast cars at the Roar will equal fast cars in the Rolex 24.

In the morning session, the No. 02 Ford EcoBoost-powered Riley Prototype – co-driven by IndyCar veterans Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan and Sprint Cup teammates Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson – had the quickest lap, which was at 128.926 mph on DIS’s infield road course.

Second in the morning session was the No. 01 Ganassi Ford/Riley driven by Tudor United SportsCar Championship series regular Scott Pruett and new teammate Joey Hand, who is taking over the seat for Memo Rojas this year. Co-driving with Pruett and Hand in the 24 will be IndyCar stars Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam.

CGR has a Daytona history highlighted by five wins and two second-place finishes from 2006-2013. The team also has seven championships (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) and 44 race wins to their credit since their introduction to sports car racing in 2004. Chip Ganassi and co-owner Felix Sabates are the only team owners in history to win three-straight Rolex 24 At Daytona events (2006-2008).

“It’s exciting for me to be involved with Ford,” Pruett said, “period, no matter what we do. Putting them back in victory lane at Sebring overall was magical. If we could get to victory lane here with Ford, it would, again, recreate that magic that’s there.”

Third fastest in the first session Friday was the No. 5 Corvette Daytona Prototype of Action Express, which is being driven by open-wheel ace Sebastien Bourdais, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi, and which won last year’s 24.

The fastest non-Prototype in the session was the RSR Racing No. 11 Prototype Challenge spec Oreca FLM09 driven by Chris Cumming, Bruno Junqueira and Jack Hawksworth.

In the afternoon practice, the No. 01 Ganassi car had the fastest lap.

Second in the afternoon was the Michael Shank Racing Legier JS LMP2 car – making its Daytona debut – with Matt McMurry, A.J. Allmendinger, John Pew and Oswaldo Negri driving.

Third in the afternoon session was the DeltaWing driven by Katherine Legge, Gabby Chaves, Rojas and Andy Meyrick.

“This is my first day in the DeltaWing,” Rojas said. “It’s a very unique feeling, because I’m driving one of the most revolutionary cars in the history of motor racing. But as unique as it looks, it drives really well. Most drivers, including myself before I drove it, think ‘how does it turn?’ I can tell you – it turns very well. We were third quickest and I had a quick lap. But this is just the first test. There’s a lot of work to do. I’m really happy working with all the crew, with Tim Keene, who I know very well, and with (race engineer) Alan Mugglestone.”

In PC in the afternoon testing, the Starworks No. 8 Oreca driven by Alex Popow, Mirco Schutis, Renger  van der Zande and Mike Hedlund led the way in class.

“We’re still sorting out some problems with the car, so there’s more to come,” van der Zande said. “Last year, we had 27 fastest laps (in the Rolex 24), so our speed here is very good – which we showed again today.”

Aston Martin got the Roar off to a big start by posting the fastest lap in the GT Le Mans class. Co-driving that No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage are Paul Della Lana, Pedro Lamy, Darren Turner and Mathias Lauda.

Second fastest in GTLM in the first session was the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Marc Lieb. Third was sister car No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Jorg Burgmeister, Earl Bamber and Frederick Makowiecki.

In the second session, the No. 911 car ran the fastest lap while the No. 62 Ferrari F458 driven by Pierre Kaffer and Davide Rigon was second fastest.

In GT Daytona, the Wright Motorspors Porsche 911 GT America driven by Patrick Dempsey, Madison Snow, Jan Heylen led the way in the early session.

In the afternoon in GTD, the No. 33 Viper SRT driven by Marc Goosens, Jeoren Bleekemolen and and Al Carter led the way.

“The team did a lot of development work last year with the car which is carrying over into this year,” Goosens said. “We tested here in November, showed some good pace here, and we are just working on a comfortable car, which we have right now. That consistency in the car is really the only thing we need to be working on. That’s what you need here, on the long runs, the double stints; you need to have a comfortable car that is easy to manage through traffic.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, January 9 2015
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