Daytona 24: AIM Autosports preview

Rolex's youngest line-up packs an experienced punch for AIM Autosport DAYTONA BEACH, Fla (January 23, 2008) -- The oldest driver on AIM Autosport's four-man crew wasn't even born when Ronald Reagan took residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. In...

Rolex's youngest line-up packs an experienced punch for AIM Autosport

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla (January 23, 2008) -- The oldest driver on AIM Autosport's four-man crew wasn't even born when Ronald Reagan took residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. In fact when he was born, U2 had only just recorded the breakout American performance of Sunday Bloody Sunday at Red Rocks. And guys like Rick Mears, Darrel Waltrip and Hurley Haywood were at the beginning of their triumphant careers.

While that might not seem like that long ago, it's remarkable what AIM Autosport's young driving quartet have been able to do with the time. From distinguished careers in karts, open-wheel single seaters, and then on to impressive exploits at the top of their respective categories, AIM Autosport's four young racers have taken nearly every corner flat out to be ready for this weekend's Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The AIM Autosport Rolex 24 At Daytona driver line up, led by full 2008 Rolex Sports Car season drivers Mark Wilkins of Toronto and Brian Frisselle of Aspen, who at 24 serve as the 'elders' of this group, is the youngest line up in the race. Bringing that average down even further is the Rolex 24 addition of 21 year old Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, Quebec and Ovalo Texas' Colin Braun, who is yet two years away from turning 21.

What is remarkable is not that this line up of drivers is so young, but rather that, with record-setting Daytona Prototype victories, Rolex 24 At Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans podiums, top-five Rolex finishes and a NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Championship under their collective belts, it's a highly experienced and accomplished group.

Coming off a successful January test where AIM Autosport was firmly and frequently in the top five, the team is ready to go for a sophomore Rolex season. Using Ford power for the first time as well as running the Riley MK XX bodywork and Pirelli tires, team principal Ian Wills feels that his organization and drivers will line-up for the 24 ahead of the curve.

"It's amazing the scope of preparation that a race like the 24 requires, but obviously we are putting every single minute of experience we got last year on the way to fifth place to work here as we get ready for the weekend," said Willis. "We know that we are up against some big teams with some famous names, but we really think we have as much of a shot at a win as anyone. With the changes we've made, getting this driver line-up in place, and things going as smoothly as they did in testing, this entire organization is optimistic about the weekend as well as the rest of the season."

Regular season drivers Frisselle and Wilkins have their sights set on improving on their fifth-placed finish from a year ago. With a complete Daytona Prototype season under his belt, Wilkins will look to make a third career Rolex 24 podium appearance this year, and with 34 starts in the category including three Rolex 24 starts, Frisselle is also well-situated to play a key role behind the wheel once again.

"Ready to go, absolutely," Wilkins offered. "Just knowing what we already do at this point puts us so far ahead of where we were last year and I think that our race package is going to pay big dividends for us over the course of the race. Having Colin and Andrew join us has been seamless, and I know everyone thinks we are so young but they forget that there are some smart guys in this car, so we'll see how we are looking Sunday morning."

"This team was really impressive in this race last season-just came in, kept their heads down and got the job done to get the car to the finish for a competitive result," said Frisselle. "And that's I think going to be key to our success in this race and through the season, just knowing what tools we have at our disposal, making the most of them, and focusing on our results. It's a huge effort to do this race properly, but AIM has shown they have the people in place from top to bottom to get the job done."

Youngest member Braun comes with a resume that might make a more seasoned driver jealous. Last year he scored six Rolex podiums and a class podium at Le Mans in addition to making his ARCA series debut. His pace at the January test only confirmed that despite sampling a variety of new race cars, and trucks, he hasn't lost a thing on his DP skills. For Braun, who will nearly qualify as a resident of Daytona Beach as he spends time at the worlds Center of Speed preparing for his NASCAR Craftsman Truck rookie season with Roush Fenway Racing, he's happy to be where he knows he has a shot at success.

"It's great to be back in a Ford powered Daytona Prototype and I have to say that AIM made the right decision there," said Braun. "The Rolex 24 is a great event and an awesome race. For me as a driver knowing we have a fast car, a good driver line up and a strong team, it means everything because none of us are here just to be a part of the race. We all want to open this year with a win, and it's great to be in an environment where everyone is focused on exactly that. I just can't wait to get going."

Ranger may be a NASCAR Canadian Series Champion, but he is no stranger to road courses despite this being his Rolex 24 and DP Class debut. Ranger has proved his versatility having succeeded in various open-wheel categories prior to his impressive move to stock cars. Moreover, this represents a homecoming of sorts for Ranger who was an AIM Motorsport driver in 2003 while on route to a Fran-Am series title. Adapting to the closed cockpit DP isn't presenting a problem to Ranger either as it blends some of the characteristics of both the open-wheel and stock cars that he has raced over the past three years.

"It's a lot of fun," smiled Ranger after his first few laps in a Daytona Prototype. "It's a bit of a combination of a lot of the cars I've driven, and I feel like the driver makes such a difference in this car. I will have to learn what I can from my co-drivers as far as how to deal with the traffic and how this race plays out, but I am of course really happy to be invited back to race with this team. It's like being back at home and I think this race is a special experience and I'ts going to be good to do it with Ian (Willis) and all the guys. And of course another good thing is that my co-drivers are fast, too! So I think if we stay away from any trouble, we will be quite strong."

-credit: aim autosport

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Colin Braun , Rick Mears , Hurley Haywood , Andrew Ranger , Mark Wilkins
Teams Roush Fenway Racing