Bill Oursler's Daytona Notebook - Sunday

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Bill Oursler's Daytona Notebook - Sunday

After three days of testing, about the only thing proved was that the outcome of next month's Grand American Rolex Series season opening Daytona Rolex 24 will be a crap shoot. In fact, so tight were the times that the top 14 Daytona Prototypes -...

After three days of testing, about the only thing proved was that the outcome of next month's Grand American Rolex Series season opening Daytona Rolex 24 will be a crap shoot. In fact, so tight were the times that the top 14 Daytona Prototypes - of the 31 present - were within two seconds of each other. The leading GT Porsche production car entries were equally close.

#10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley: Wayne Taylor, Max Angelelli, Emmanuel Collard.
Photo by Bob Harmeyer.
Quickest of the prototypes was the SunTrust Pontiac-powered Riley of Wayne Taylor, Max Angelelli and Emmanuel Collard, whose Friday evening time on soft compound tires of 1:46.728 remained at the top of the charts through Sunday afternoon. Even so, with the exception of that single lap, no one else, including the SunTrust Riley, could get out of the 1:47's.

Still, those in that bracket and those in the 1:48 bracket included almost all of the pre-race Rolex favorites, with everyone taking turns at outrunning everyone else by a hundredth or two. Ultimately, the first after Taylor and company was the Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley of Max Papis, Jorg Bergmeister and Oliver Gavin at 1:47.182, followed by the CITGO- Howard Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford of Andy Wallace, Jan Lammers and Tony Stewart.

Rounding out the top five were two of Chip Ganassi's Lexus powered Rileys: the Target-sponsored example of Casey Mears, Scott Dixon and Darren Manning fourth with the CompUSA entry of Scott Pruett, Luis Diaz and Ryan Briscoe fifth. The former trio turned in a lap at 1:47.654, while the latter three tripped the clocks at 1:48.038.

#59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar: Hurley Haywood, J.C. France.
Photo by Bob Harmeyer.
Interestingly, the Brumos Porsche Fabcar entries whose driver line up includes multi-time 24-Hour winner Hurley Haywood and his partner J.C. France along with David Donohue and Daren Law, remained nearly two seconds off the pace throughout the weekend. Despite extensive development work on the cars by Porsche engineers at the German manufacturer's Weissach test center last fall, the performance of the small 3.6-liter Porsche flat six appeared to be the culprit according to sources. Although no one would comment for the record, there are indications that the company is currently working on an enlarged 3.9-liter version, producing similar horsepower but with a dramatic improvement in torque.

While there were no serious incidents throughout the weekend, the most spectacular unplanned exit was that of 79-year-old Paul Newman whose Crawford caught fire when he attempted to restart after spinning in the infield. Newman escaped unhurt, but the rear section of the car was severely damaged. Even so, team members said the Crawford, which will be co- driven by Mike Brockman, should be ready in time for next month's event.

#37 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup: Spencer Pumpelly, Manuel Matos, Mike Fitzgerald, Randy Pobst, John Littlechild.
Photo by John Thawley.
As for the newly revamped GT production category, it was a Porsche contest with the 2004 SGS class TPC Racing folks leading the way with their GT3 Cup 911 over the similar Flying Lizard entry. Taking the honor for the fastest of the assembly line set were John Littlechild, Spencer Pumpelly, Manuel Matos, Randy Pobst and Mike Fitzgerald at 1:56.604 to the 1:56.920 of Johannes van Overbeek, Lennie Pechnik, Seth Neiman, Jon Fogarty and Patrick Long.

In all, 58 cars of the 70 expected for the race itself turned out over the weekend. The driver line-up includes Nextel Cup titleists Stewart, Bobby and Terry Labonte as well as IRL champion Scott Dixon and his Champ Car counterpart Paul Tracy. Add in former F1 shoe Jan Magnussen and the reigning Grand-Am kings Pruett and Papis - now racing against each other - and the scope of what has been achieved by the Grand-Am since the format revamping at in 2003 becomes apparent.

Whatever happens during the first week in February, one thing is clear, this year's Rolex 24 should be anything but dull. - Bill Oursler

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Series GRANDAM