Audi drivers join SAMAX for Daytona 24

SAMAX Motorsport returns to the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona with one goal in mind: to win. The Peter Baron-led team announced Wednesday that it has signed Audi factory drivers Allan McNish, Lucas Luhr and Mike Rockenfeller to partner Henri Zogaib...

SAMAX Motorsport returns to the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona with one goal in mind: to win. The Peter Baron-led team announced Wednesday that it has signed Audi factory drivers Allan McNish, Lucas Luhr and Mike Rockenfeller to partner Henri Zogaib in one of its Pontiac Riley Daytona Prototypes.

In 2007, the team's No. 11 entry of Patrick Carpentier, Milka Duno, Darren Manning and Ryan Dalziel finished less than two minutes behind the race-winning Chip Gansssi Racing machine. The SAMAX entry was in the midst of a three-car battle for the win during the closing hours but ended up settling for second place. This year, Baron is pulling out all the stops, aiming to achieve ultimate Daytona glory.

"I am sill amazed we have this lineup of drivers for the 24," said Baron. "We led a sizeable amount of last year's race and were happy to finish 2nd without any mechanical issues. This year we are doing everything possible to finish one position higher and get these drivers the Overall Victory Rolex Daytona watches they all deserve!"

Three of road racing's most accomplished stars lead Baron's efforts for 2008. McNish returns to the seat of a DP for the second time, after taking part in the 2006 edition with Rusty Wallace, Danica Patrick and Jan Lammers in a Howard Motorsports Pontiac Crawford. He has since picked up back-to- back Driver's Championships in the American Le Mans Series, piloting an Audi R10 TDI with co-driver Rinaldo Capello.

"I am pleased to join SAMAX Motorsport for the Daytona 24 Hours," stated McNish. "The team has proved their worth in Grand-Am and especially at the 24 with a great 2nd overall last year. This year we have a strong driver lineup with my Audi team mates Lucas, Mike and myself joining Henri. [With] the Pontiac Riley combination and strong technical staff, we all hope to be challenging for victory."

McNish is no stranger to success at Daytona, having captured a class victory in 1998 and backing it up with another second place overall finish the following year. He also earned the overall victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1998. The former Formula One racer will be aiming to start his 2008 season with a win.

"Personally, I have always enjoyed this race," McNish said. "I have had some great runs there and finished 2nd overall on two occasions. It is a great warm-up to the season, and most teams have a strong car and driver lineups. But most importantly, it has a Rolex Daytona watch at the end for the winner."

Two of McNish's Audi Sport teammates, Luhr and Rockenfeller, also bring a vast amount of endurance racing experience to the team. Luhr, a longtime Porsche factory driver, claimed the GT class win at the Rolex 24 in 2001. The 28-year-old German became an Audi factory driver in 2007 after winning the LMP2 Driver's Championship with Sascha Maassen in 2006. He spent much of last season competing in the German DTM Series, but also made two starts in Audi's R10 TDI prototype. Luhr has become one of the team's primary drivers for Audi's sports car in 2008.

Rockenfeller, like Luhr, spent 2007 primarily racing in the DTM. Before signing with Audi, the 24-year-old German was a frequent competitor in the Rolex Series, co-driving Alex Job Racing's Porsche Crawford. However, "Rocky" made a cameo appearance in last year's season-ending Sunchaser 1000k, finishing fifth. He closed out 2007 in the ALMS, filling in for Emanuele Pirro in the No. 2 Audi R10 TDI at Laguna Seca. Rockenfeller will return for another season of DTM for 2008 but will also play a role in Audi's sports car program.

Zogaib, an Orlando-based businessman, made four starts in the Rolex Series in 2007, co-driving the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Riley that he owned. He now pairs up with Baron's team for the Rolex 24. With two of his three co-drivers having earned wins in this race before, expectations are high heading into the twice-around-the-clock classic.

"I feel like I am part of a dream team with Allan, Mike, and Lucas joining this effort," said Zogaib. "Peter has assembled a fantastic group of talent on both sides of the pit wall to support this car and I am very excited to have drivers of this caliber join me in this effort. We have a proven technical package in the Pontiac Riley, great drivers, and a strong team behind us so we know we have the opportunity to do really well."

SAMAX will also field at least one other car in the 24-hour classic. Stefan Mucke announced on his website that he will be testing one of the team's cars at the upcoming Daytona Test Days on Jan. 4-6. It has been discovered that both Tomas Enge and Jan Charouz will also be testing with Mucke. It's expected that the full lineup for second car will be revealed soon.

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