Rookies No More: AIM Autosport Announces 2008 Driver Line-Up; Ford power for experienced roster of youthful racers Daytona Beach, FL- 4 January 08- After making an impressive debut at the Rolex 24 At Daytona last year with a fifth place finish,...
Rookies No More: AIM Autosport Announces 2008 Driver Line-Up; Ford power for experienced roster of youthful racers
Daytona Beach, FL- 4 January 08- After making an impressive debut at the Rolex 24 At Daytona last year with a fifth place finish, AIM Autosport has set the bar even higher for their sophomore season of Rolex Sports Car Series competition, signing the youngest full time driver pairing for the full Rolex Sports Car Series season and tabbing two experienced, but still very young, drivers for the Rolex 24. And with a move to Ford power for the 2008 season, the team is anxious to get a strong start to the 2008 Rolex season.
Mark Wilkins and Brian Frisselle, who teamed for four top-tens from nine starts together in 2007, will co-drive the No. 61 Exchange Traded Gold Ford-powered Riley for the full 2008 Rolex Sports Car Series season. Joining the two young chargers for the Rolex 24 will be Colin Braun and Andrew Ranger.
"We're really excited about this season and look forward to getting things off to a good start in the 24," said Ian Willis, AIM Autosport team principal. "Our move to Ford power is one we are really happy about because they offered us a package that wasn't just motors. There are a lot of engineering resources they are making available to us, and for a small team like ours, that's really important so we can take the fight to the big guys."
Willis, who has an impressive resume of drivers he has worked with in his career as an engineer, is particularly excited to be working with so many familiar faces for the 24.
"It's amazing how much experience these young drivers already have and we are really optimistic about the kind of results we can achieve not just in the 24, but all season long," said Willis. "The whole team is already really comfortable working with Mark and Brian and Andrew, and we know Colin will fit right in as well."
The 2008 Rolex campaign will be the seventh season of racing with AIM Autosport for Wilkins, who has proven adept in every category he has raced in. Though only 24-years-old, Wilkins will be making his fifth Rolex 24 appearance this year. In 2004, he finished on the SGS class podium with a third-place finish and backed that up with another run to the GT class podium in the 2005 Rolex event. The move to Daytona Prototype competition was one that Wilkins relished, and the young Toronto native is anxious to get back to work in 2008.
"I am really happy to be a part of this driver line up and feel really confident about our Ford-Riley combination," said Wilkins, who is putting his recently acquired degree in automotive management to work as part of the AIM Autosport effort. "This team is like an extension of my family and I am happy to be back for another season. We learned a lot last year and had a solid year, but solid results are not what this team is after. We want to win, and really feel like we have the pieces in place to do that."
Frisselle, also 24, will be making his fourth start in the Rolex 24, and will be looking to improve on his career-best finish from last year. Frisselle shared the co-driving duties with his brother Burt during the 2007 season, but has been signed by AIM to run the full slate of Rolex events in 2008.
"I was really impressed with this team last year, and I think we are in a good position to be very competitive all season long," said Brian. "It was great to be teamed up with my brother last year, but now I am looking forward to the consistency of being in the car all season long with Mark. He is a strong driver and also a great guy, so we work really well together and I think we can get the most out of this Ford-Riley. Andrew and Colin are great picks for the team and hopefully they can help us set some records this year!"
Braun raced in his first Rolex 24 at all of 16 years old in 2005, and went on to set a record at Daytona when he won the Brumos 250 at Daytona before even turning 18. Braun helped co-driver Jorg Bergmeister claim the 2006 Daytona Prototype championship, and is making his fourth Rolex 24 start, having made a debut run in 2005 at all of 16 years old. The first two months of 2008 will be busy for Braun, who will be spending a lot of time in Daytona Beach as he moves from sports cars to stock cars following the Rolex 24. The teenager was recently named to the Roush Fenway stable, and will compete in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
"I knew that I wanted to be in this race again so when Ford asked if I could run for Ian, I jumped at the chance," said Braun. "I saw how this team worked last season and I think Ian (Willis) has put a great group together. I think the move to Ford power is really going to raise what this team is capable of doing and this driver line up is a strong one that I'm really happy to be a part of."
Ranger, 21, is no stranger to AIM. The recently crowned 2007 NASCAR Canadian Tire Champion will enjoy his AIM Autosport reunion, having raced to the 2003 Fran-Am championship with the team in his first year racing cars before becoming the youngest podium finisher in Champ Car history with his 2005 second-place finish in Monterrey, Mexico. After his record-setting run in open wheel competition, the Quebec-native moved to the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, where he claimed the 2007 crown.
"I've been following this category for several years and I think it is a really exciting series," said Ranger. "I'm glad to be getting the chance to run with AIM again and to be working with Ian (Willis) because we have worked well together before. I have never driven this track or even been in a Daytona Prototype before, but I know we'll be able to pick this up quickly."
The theme of youthful experience even extends to the team's equipment, as the Toronto-based squad will utilize the Riley Tech Mk XI chassis #001, which was originally campaigned to a Rolex Championship in 2004 with Ganassi Racing. However, the car is far from long in the tooth, as the team has moved to Ford power, and will employ the latest upgrades from Riley commencing with the Test Days at Daytona.