GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing on the pace at Daytona Rolex 24 Testing with Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Memo Gidley
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 7, 2011) — GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing set the top time in one Saturday afternoon practice run – and has clocked in sixth or better during the weekend’s four other timed sessions so far – in the Roar Before the Rolex 24 Test at Daytona International Speedway (DIS), where team drivers Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Memo Gidley have all taken laps in the debuting No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette Daytona Prototype.
“It’s definitely encouraging,” Gurney said. “It kind of feels like the best start we have had in a long time. There is a lot of ground to cover with this car. We are throwing the old book out, six years of stuff with the old Riley, and trying to relearn everything in a really short period of time is pretty tough. We are going through all kinds of changes, through all different ride heights and things like that, to try and find the sweet spot. We are getting there.”
Gurney was at the wheel of the No. 99 GAINSCO “Red Dragon” when the team topped Saturday’s first afternoon practice with a lap time of 1:41.909 (125.759 mph), but all-out speed runs have not been a primary objective at the Rolex Roar. GAINSCO is using every session to learn all it can about its brand new Corvette Daytona Prototype.
“We’re definitely still exploring, seeing what we can get away with on the car that will allow us to run quickly and safely,” Fogarty said. “There’s a lot going on and these three days at Daytona are going to be helpful, but I don’t expect to have the package sorted out anytime soon. I think everybody with a new car is in the same boat, but we are doing a good job. The team is doing a great job sorting through all these nuances. We’ve managed to create a more stable platform that gives us a more consistent aero balance around the entirety of the race track. I’m confident that we’re going to keep improving on it, and I’m really happy with the progress we’ve made so far.”
Gurney and Fogarty are in their sixth full season together, and seventh year in total, as lead drivers at GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing. They will be joined in the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona, January 26 – 29, by new teammate and co-driver Memo Gidley, who drove first in Saturday morning’s opening practice session.
“I think that right now, we have a pretty drivable race car, for sure for the race,” Gidley said. “It actually seems reasonably fast also, but I think finding the aero balance of this new package is still a bit of a challenge. I think we still haven’t quite gotten to that happy spot there in that area, but we are working at it every session.”
While the Corvette Daytona Prototype is new to everybody at GAINSCO, the No. 99 team itself is also new to Gidley. He likes what he sees so far.
“For sure, the biggest difference is that with this car and this team, which is a big part of it, is that the lap times are faster than I’ve ever gone,” Gidley said. “I’m the same driver and I’m the same guy. I have seen it throughout my career, you are pounding around struggling at the mid or back part of the grid and you just get into a team with the exactly the same car or similar car and all of a sudden, you are at the front. For me, that’s been the most eye-opening part of this experience and also the most gratifying.”
The Corvette Daytona Prototype is new to GAINSCO, but the heavy race traffic that is always part of the Rolex 24 At Daytona will be well familiar.
“There are more GT cars,” Gurney said. “When there is more Daytona Prototypes, it is not that big of a problem because the closing rate isn’t very big on another DP. It is different with the GTs, and that will be a big part of the equation in the 24-hour race, so it is good to get some practice out here with them.”
Saturday’s schedule at the Rolex Roar wraps up with night practice that is slated to end at 8 p.m. ET. Sunday’s final day of practice runs from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. ET.
Noteworthy GAINSCO’s new Corvette Daytona Prototype is entirely different from the Riley XX the team raced the last few seasons. “The new car makes downforce in a fundamentally different manner than the Riley,” Fogarty said. “It’s a total different animal. The setups and tuning tools that we had in the past are no longer applicable. The GAINSCO guys are sharp, and Alex, myself and our engineer Kyle Brannan, all have experience with a multitude of different cars. Open wheel cars all make downforce differently, so we just need to figure out the most efficient way to get around here. We’re putting our heads together and had some good ideas. In addition to that, it is keeping the car off the ground and reducing the amount of abuse the car is going through, which is pretty critical considering we have to race the thing for 24 hours. Part of the balance we’re trying to achieve is a balance of performance and durability. They’re pretty closely tied together and we got to balance the two and work through those issues, and I think we have a good handle on that.”… Gurney was also quick to notice the aero differences. “It’s a totally different aero configuration, and that takes time in testing and experimenting to get right, especially on a high speed circuit like Daytona where you have some pretty tricky sections that you want to run in low downforce trim,” Gurney said. “We’re honing in on getting the right balance.”