Southern California Drivers, Teams Eager to Break In California Speedway's New Road Course FONTANA, Calif. (March 13, 2002) -- Several Rolex Sports Car Series drivers and teams from Southern California are eagerly awaiting their chance to break...
Southern California Drivers, Teams Eager to Break In California Speedway's New Road Course
FONTANA, Calif. (March 13, 2002) -- Several Rolex Sports Car Series drivers and teams from Southern California are eagerly awaiting their chance to break in the new road course at California Speedway during the Grand American 400, March 23. The race will mark the first time the Rolex Series has traveled to the Golden State, and drivers are enthusiastic about being the first to take laps on the Speedway's new 2.8-mile, 21-turn road course.
One of the few drivers who has been fortunate enough to previously run a few laps on the road course is Los Angeles' Cort Wagner, who was one of the drivers asked for input during the layout and design of the course. "I was lucky to be one of the drivers they asked to come down last year and test the new course," he said. "We made some suggestions for changes to make it the best it could be."
Because of the changes and improvements made to the road course since its preliminary testing, even Wagner will face a learning curve when he takes to the track in the #33 Scuderia Ferrari of Washington Ferrari 360GT. He will share driving duties in the Ferrari with another Southern California driver, Bill Auberlen of Hermosa Beach.
The Southern California pair scored their first podium finish together earlier this month in the Nextel 250 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. After an exciting battle for the lead in the closing laps of the race, the Ferrari finished second in the GT class. Now they are hoping for a victory in front of the hometown crowd.
"Finally I have a race in my backyard that I can bring all my friends out and they can see what we do. It will be great to have everyone come out and see me in the new Ferrari of Washington Ferrari," Auberlen said. "We are looking even better for California than we did in Homestead because it's a longer race. We have great fuel mileage and we will be able to last longer than any of our competitors."
Another local team eager to break in the new road course is K&N Filter Racing, especially since the track is located only 12 miles away from their Riverside offices. K&N Engineering President and CEO Rodney Mall will lead the team's driver lineup, joined in the #12 K&N Performance Filters Ulitma GTR by Bob "RK" Smith of Rancho Santa Fe. Competing against turbocharged Porsches and Saleen S7Rs, the Ultima sports a Chevy small-block engine with more than 600 horsepower.
"We got a lot of valuable experience and information from our first Rolex Series GTS race at Daytona," said Mall, whose team finished 12th in the class at its series debut in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. "Since then, we've totally reengineered some of the suspension and corrected the problems we found with the car. Though we could have made it to the Homestead (Fla.) race, we opted to spend extra time on our car to make sure it was competitive for our home track and the rest of the season. We've been testing and we're confident the K&N team is ready to tear up the new road course at California Speedway."
Anaheim's AASCO/Boduck Racing is also excited about the return of road racing to Southern California. "In the '50s and '60s, this is where a lot of the great road races took place. We weren't faced with 3,000-mile trips across the country all the time, because we had great racetracks like Riverside right here," team co-owner Dennis Aase said. "California Speedway is one of the most fabulous venues in racing, and I am really hoping that this race can bring back some of the excitement of road racing to the car enthusiasts in Southern California."
Aase's team will field the #50 EMC/Giant Loop BMW M3 in the GT class, with Long Beach's Craig Stanton and co-owner Andrew Hajducky, of Carlisle, Mass., taking turns in the driver's seat during the 400-mile race.
Other Southern California drivers slated to take some turns around the new California Speedway road course include Aliso Viejo's Niclas Jonsson in the #7 Rand Racing Nissan-powered Lola and Laguna Niguel's Andrew Richards in the #46 Computer Associates Corvette of Morgan Dollar Motorsports. Orange County-native Darren Law will return to the area for the Grand American 400, racing in the #07 Momentum Motorcars/USI BMW-engined Picchio of G&W Motorsports. The 2001 GT driver champion, who currently resides in Phoenix, began his racing career at the local go-kart tracks around Southern California.
The racing excitement will kickoff at California Speedway on Thursday, March 21 with practice sessions for the Rolex Sports Car Series, Grand-Am Cup Street Stock Series and Ferrari Challenge. Friday, March 22 will see plenty of action on track, with a 30-minute Ferrari Challenge race and Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup qualifying, as well as Indy Racing League practice. Ferrari Challenge will run a second 30-mintue race on Saturday, March 23, before Indy Racing League qualifying and the start of the Rolex Series' inaugural Grand American 400 at 12:30 p.m. Grand-Am Cup will kickoff the racing on Sunday, March 24 with its 250-mile race at 8 a.m., followed by the Indy Racing League 400 at 12:30 p.m.
Tickets are currently available online at www.californiaspeedway.com or by calling the Speedway ticket office at 800-944-RACE (7223). Additional information about the Rolex Sports Car Series is available online at www.grand-am.com.