2005 Rolex Series Champions Honored at Rolex Champions Banquet in Orlando DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (December 1, 2005) -- With more than 300 people in attendance at Orlando's World Center Marriott on Wednesday evening, the 2005 Grand American Rolex...
2005 Rolex Series Champions Honored at Rolex Champions Banquet in Orlando
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (December 1, 2005) -- With more than 300 people in attendance at Orlando's World Center Marriott on Wednesday evening, the 2005 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series champions were honored for their outstanding performances in the Rolex Champions Banquet.
The night's biggest presentation came at the end of the three-hour program, when Daytona Prototype co-champions Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli, as well as GT champion Craig Stanton were presented with specially-engraved Rolex Daytona Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph watches. The evening also served as the official unveiling of the impressive new "Championship of the Americas" trophy, which will be on perpetual display at DAYTONA USA and will be engraved with the names of Taylor and Angelelli, as well as future Daytona Prototype champions.
Taylor and Angelelli were honored for an impressive season in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley, in which the duo earned a series-leading five victories, including a triumph in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. For both drivers, it was their first Rolex Series championship. As car owner of the No. 10 SunTrust machine, Taylor and Riley Motorsports president Bill Riley were also presented with a $100,000 bonus check for their performance through the Hoosier PaceSetters program, and were honored as the 2005 Daytona Prototype team champions.
In making the presentation, Grand American Road Racing Association President Roger Edmondson also announced that the 16 Daytona Prototype teams and four GT teams that competed in every 2005 Rolex Series event will be part of the Hoosier PaceSetters program in 2006. Those teams will be eligible for substantial bonuses through professionalism and performance on and off the race track.
Taylor and Angelelli stole the show with an entertaining acceptance speech. Both drivers thanked their families, team members and sponsors for the support they have received over the years before sharing a few anecdotes on each other and their impressions of the Rolex Series and the Daytona Prototype category.
"I've been doing this for 32 years, and I am happy to have this championship with a guy who's on a different level," Taylor said. "Two years ago, when SunTrust and I got together, I was totally stressed at the Daytona test. There were so many cars lined up to go through tech, and my co-driver said, 'this car is ugly.' I said to him, 'Max, this is the best deal we've ever had.' The end result was that he brought us the championship. Max and (Rolex 24 co-driver) Emmanuel Collard are the two best sports car drivers that exist. Grand American Road Racing is so great. You talk to people in other forms of racing and all they want to talk about is what we're doing here. So many young guys have come into the series and there really is a future here."
"I wasn't really captured by these strange-looking cars at first, but Wayne was right," Angelelli added. "This is great racing, and I want to come back and do it again next year and every year for a long time."
For his part, Stanton was thrilled to pick up the 2005 Rolex Series GT title, co-driving the No. 80 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 Cup for most of the season with long-time friend, David Murry. It was his second Grand American championship in two years, as he also earned the Grand-Am Cup Series Grand Sport (GS) title in 2004. Stanton is looking forward to many more years of Rolex Series competition.
"What an exciting time for road racing in America," Stanton said. "The Rolex Series is fast, exciting and easy to follow. I'm here to stay. David is an amazing guy, aggressive, competitive, he is a warrior. We just know each other. Each and every person I worked with did a great job this year. To win a championship is pretty darn awesome and I'm very proud."
The evening also featured the inaugural presentation of the Jim Trueman and Bob Akin Awards, honoring the achievements of the top sportsman drivers in the Rolex Series. No. 3 PAP-Parts/OZEXE BMW Riley driver Darius Grala earned the Jim Trueman Award in Daytona Prototypes, while Will Nonnamaker took home the Bob Akin Award for his performance in the GT class. The Trueman and Akin Award trophies--which are busts of both men--were also unveiled, and will also be on perpetual display in DAYTONA USA like the new Championship of the Americas trophy.
"I am loving this concept of sportsman awards," Grala said. "It's given guys like me something to shoot for and to live up to what these gentlemen stood for."
"When I found out that I won the Bob Akin Award, I thought about the Porsche 962 that Bob Akin won the 12 Hours of Sebring in, and I read that they won that race with no tire on the last lap which is just amazing," Nonnamaker said. "It's a very special honor to be the 2005 recipient, not only because it's the inaugural award, but because I did it in a similar red Porsche."
Also among the honorees were No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz for their second-place performance in the Daytona Prototype driver's championship, and Butch Leitzinger and Elliott Forbes-Robinson, who finished third in the Daytona Prototype title chase in their No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford. Chip Ganassi accepted the second-place team owner's trophy in Daytona Prototypes, while team co-owner Rick Howard accepted the third-place team trophy on behalf of the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports team. For the second year in-a-row, No. 2 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford co-drivers Milka Duno and Andy Wallace earned the season-ending "SunTrust Improve Your Position Award" and a $6,000 prize.
No. 65 TRG Pontiac GTO.R co-drivers Marc Bunting and Andy Lally were honored for the second-place performance in the GT championship, finishing just one point behind Stanton. Likewise, Murry was honored for his third-place performance among GT drivers.
While Bunting and Lally narrowly missed the GT driver's championship, the No. 65 TRG team earned the GT team championship, which was accepted by team owner Kevin Buckler. Picking up second place in the GT team championship was the No. 80 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 Cup team, while the No. 14 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup team--with co-drivers Leh Keen and Cory Friedman--earned third place honors.
The Daytona Prototype engine manufacturer's title went to Pontiac for the second-consecutive season. Likewise, Riley Technologies earned its second-straight Daytona Prototype constructor's championship, and Porsche picked up its first Rolex Series GT manufacturer's title and its second Rolex Series title overall. Porsche also earned the 2003 Daytona Prototype engine manufacturer's crown.
The evening began with the official announcement that Crown Royal Special Reserve has become the presenting sponsor of the Rolex Sports Car Series.
The Grand American Road Racing Association, which operates and sanctions the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Grand-Am Cup Series, is the premier road racing organization in North America. The 14-race 2006 Rolex Series schedule and the 10-race Grand-Am Cup calendar deliver professional sports car racing to key markets throughout North America in addition to being televised in the United States and Canada on SPEED Channel and distributed globally through ESPN International. With title sponsorship support from Rolex Watch USA, the Rolex Sports Car Series showcases emerging and legendary drivers from around the globe and thoroughbred racing machines from the industry's leading constructors and the world's top automobile manufacturers. Learn more about Grand American at www.grandamerican.com.