The anticipation not only for Marino, but his co-drivers, James Hinchcliffe, Jonathan Bomarito, Tom Long and SpeedSource team owner and driver, Sylvain Tremblay, could not have been more intense here at the Daytona International Raceway this weekend for the 51st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona..
SpeedSource had performed a mammoth task in a very short space of time preparing the #70 car along with two other customer cars at their race shop in Coral Springs, Florida, but in terms of on-track running the cars had only completed a handful of laps in a recent shakedown at the Homestead circuit before making their journey north to Daytona for race week.
"I wish there were still three months to go to the race, but we're here and dealing with it", said SpeedSource team owner, Sylvain Tremblay. "We've only had minutes with this car - literally - and we still have a lot of learning to do".
Each practice session the team and drivers learned a little more about the car, but each session brought it's own set of unique circumstances the first of which resulted in an engine change only minutes into the first practice.
In total Marino had only driven 3 laps in the car before the race began yesterday afternoon at 3.30pm local time. "Of course we'd all loved to have done more laps", said Marino "but all the drivers are in the same boat and this weekend is really like an extended test for the team. We are starting a completely new development program with cutting edge technology so there was always going to be some teething problems, but hopefully we can get some more laps in during the race".
It was Tom Long who took the start and the #70 car ran solidly for the first 55-minute stint. Sylvain was the next driver to climb aboard, but before he could complete his stint he noticed some smoke coming into the car and brought it directly to the pits. The team were on top of it immediately, but were unable to diagnose the problem accurately so rather than risk further damage to the car, it was retired from the race.
A huge disappointment for Marino, James and Jonathan none of whom were able to even take a turn at the wheel, but all were extremely complimentary about the team and the huge effort it had taken just to prepare the cars for the track as Marino explained after the retirement. "The team have put blood, sweat and tears into even getting the three cars ready in time so a huge thanks to Mazda and SpeedSource for their incredible efforts. I've no doubt with some proper testing the the team will be back in their normal place battling for wins soon, it was a huge amount of fun as always working with all my team mates in the #70 car, and I look forward to being able to be back racing with them all again in the future".