Tracy to Join Kodak EasyShare Team for Rolex 24 at Daytona
FORT WORTH, Dec. 8 - After inviting 2003 Champ Car World Series champion Paul Tracy to participate in a tire test at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. last week, Bell Motorsports and car owner Forest Barber went a step further and invited Tracy to be part of their driver lineup for the prestigious Rolex 24 endurance sports car race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Feb. 3-6.
Barber said the defending Rolex 24-winning team anticipates a five-driver roster for its Kodak EasyShare DORAN JE4 Pontiac No. 54. Tracy will join Terry Borcheller, the 2003 Daytona Prototype driver champion, and Barber in the prestigious twice-around-the-clock enduro, with two other drivers to be named later.
One of those is expected to be Christian Fittipaldi, who was part of the winning squad in 2004 and also drove for the team in the last four Rolex Sports Car Series races of 2004.
Both Barber and team owner Jim Bell were very impressed with Tracy's professionalism and performance behind the wheel at the Homestead test.
"He was very respectful of the equipment, and did everything we asked him to do," Barber said. "I was watching him carefully, and without even pushing it he was running competitive laps by his second lap in the car. He was comfortable in the car, he got along well with the team members, and he really wants to drive in the Rolex with us. We're pleased to be able to have a driver with his credentials join us as we try to defend our 2004 victory for Kodak."
Tracy, who will turn 36 on Dec. 17, finished fourth in the Champ Car World Series this year, winning at Long Beach, Calif. and Vancouver, B.C. in his native Canada. He leads all active champ car drivers in victories (28), poles (22) and laps led (3,672).
"I'm very excited to be part of the team that's coming back to defend its victory in the Rolex 24," Tracy said. "Just watching what went on at the test, Jim Bell runs a very organized, very motivated team. I'm not sure what the complete driver lineup will be yet, but I'm looking forward to getting to know everybody, getting more laps in the car at the Rolex test at Daytona in January, and getting ready for the start of the 24-Hour.
"My goal is to just do a good job for the team and hopefully to help it repeat as the Rolex 24 winners," Tracy continued. "I hadn't met Terry [Borcheller] before the Homestead test, but I know he has a lot of experience in the car and is very quick. My position on the team is a secondary role to help Terry win the 24-Hour again."
Tracy's first taste of driving a Daytona Prototype occurred at the Homestead test. He'll get his first laps around Daytona International Speedway when testing is held on DIS's 3.56-mile infield road course Jan. 7-9.
"I've been to Daytona before, but I've never been around the track," Tracy noted. "It'll be my first time in January, and I'm really looking forward to it.
"The DORAN JE4 is a lot different than what I currently drive," he added, referring to his Indeck/Forsythe Lola B2/00 Ford Cosworth champ car. "My first t ime in the car was really the first time I've driven a full-bodied race car with a roof and fenders."
Tracy actually has one endurance sports car victory to his credit, however. He won the Budweiser 650 at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario in 1986.
"It was the last Can Am race they ever held at Mosport, but that was almost 20 years ago now, when I was 17," he said. "It was just a sprint race; there weren't any co-drivers. I was in a Frisbee. It had fenders and a big engine, but it was an open-cockpit car.
"It was very different than the DORAN JE4," he continued. "I didn't get a lot of time in the car at Homestead because we had to share, so I just tried to maximize the time I had. I'm looking forward to the next test at Daytona to get more seat time."
Tracy's participation with the Bell Motorsports/Feeds the Need Racing team actually came about through friendships formed through a different form of motorsports -- powerboat racing.
Tracy spends some of his leisure time on his new 46-foot Skater in Miami and a 40-foot Skater on Lake Mead near Las Vegas, and one of his friends is 10-time world powerboat champion John Tomlinson.
Barber is a world-class boat racer too, and his championships in off-shore racing were won with Tomlinson as throttleman in the Drambuie on Ice 46-foot Skater catamaran. Together Tomlinson and Barber set several national and Union Internationale Motonautique (U.I.M.) speed records in that boat.
Tomlinson also co-owns TNT Custom Marine, an elite rigging and repair shop in Miami near Bell Motorsports' headquarters.
"John Tomlinson is a good friend of mine, and I mentioned to John that I'd like to do the Rolex 24," Tracy said. "He said, 'Well, Forest has a team,' and he got us together by phone. Forest suggested I do the Homestead test, everything went well, and away we go!"
Barber and Tomlinson are very close friends through powerboat racing.
"We've held each other's lives in our hands a number of times," Barber explained. "Off-shore racing is a uniquely 'bonding' experience in that it takes two people in harmony to operate the boat to its fullest potential. It is also very dangerous, and a mistake by either team member could be tragic.
"Johnny is the most capable and trustworthy person I have ever met," Barber continued. "His character is beyond reproach. He is a very strong Christian. Terry [Borcheller] reminds me of Johnny in several ways, and I count myself as very lucky to be friends with both of them. Paul has shared that bond of trust with Johnny through Johnny's maintenance and tuning, and throttling at 160 mph-plus, of Paul's 46-foot pleasure boat. I feel a link/kinship with Paul because of that."
The Rolex 24 will be televised live on the SPEED cable TV channel.
For more information see www.feedstheneedracing.com, www.Kodak.com/US/en/consumer/garr/, www.tborcheller.com, www.paultracy.com, www.grandamerican.com, www.speedtv.com and www.restartcommunications.com.