Daytona 24: GM Racing Thursday report

Riley-Matthews Pontiac Qualifies Third For Rolex 24 At Daytona; Connolly Motorsports GTO.R to start Fifth in GT Daytona Beach, Fla., January 24, 2008 -- The Pontiac powered Daytona Prototype (DP) of Riley-Matthew qualified third today for the...

Riley-Matthews Pontiac Qualifies Third For Rolex 24 At Daytona; Connolly Motorsports GTO.R to start Fifth in GT

Daytona Beach, Fla., January 24, 2008 -- The Pontiac powered Daytona Prototype (DP) of Riley-Matthew qualified third today for the 46th running of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona. In GT the Connolly Motorsports GTO.R driven by Diego Alessi will start from the fifth position.

Marc Goosens put in a time of 1:41.041 with an average speed of 127 mph to be the top qualifying Pontiac powered DP car for this weekend's race. Goosens will be joined by Jim Matthews, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Johnny O'Connell behind the wheel of No. 91 Pontiac Riley.

"Qualifying was pretty good," Goosens said. "The car was good, but we still have a couple of small handling issues to work on. The handling was a big improvement over the morning and the car is getting better every time we go out. The car will be durable. The combination of the Riley chassis and Pontiac motor will be there come Sunday."

SunTrust Racing regular Max Angelelli qualified the No. 10 Pontiac Riley fourth. Angelelli had a time of 1:41.161 that will see the bankers start from the second row. Angelelli will hand over to co-drivers Wayne Taylor, Michael Valiante and Ricky Taylor.

"I'm very happy, no regrets," Angelelli said. "This is the maximum I could do -- maybe one more tenth, but no more than that. It's a good starting position. We are on the outside. I've always been on the outside. I've been the bridesmaid here every year. That's fine. We're looking good for the race. The car is perfect. I wouldn't have changed anything we've done in our preparation. This is our race car. It's a 24-hour race. We will start racing in the second half, and in the last quarter we're going to push it."

Defending series champions Bob Stallings Racing, with driver Alex Gurney, posted a qualifying time of 1:42.160, good for an 11th place start on Saturday. Gurney will be sharing the No. 99 Riley Pontiac with Jon Fogarty, open wheel star Jimmie Vasser and NASCAR reigning champion Jimmie Johnson. The champions from '07 are looking to get off to a strong start in their title defense season after finishing 22nd in last year's Rolex.

"We have been chasing what we think are brake problems since the November test," Gurney said. b^0x001cIt could be a combination of still just not quite getting used to the new Pirelli tires, but we haven't got to the bottom of it. I had a few clear laps, but that was all I could manage. We still have a mountain to climb speed wise, but that may play into our hands with this race."

"Dancing With The Stars" champion and IRL driver Helio Castroneves qualified the No. 9 Penske-Taylor Racing Pontiac Riley in 13th position. Castroneves put in a time of 1:42.257. He is joined by NASCAR's Kurt Busch and the IRL's Ryan Briscoe.

"The car just did not respond like it did in the practice session," Castroneves said. "The conditions seemed to be much better this morning. It was just too loose during the qualifying session, especially while negotiating the apexes (of the turns). Maybe I was just trying to push it a little too hard out there. With about five minutes remaining in the session, we started coming up on the slower cars and the traffic was such that getting in a clean lap was near impossible. The 24 hours will make for a long race. There's no doubt that where you start here on Saturday makes very little difference. That's why they call it endurance racing."

Ryan Dalziel drove the No. 11 SAMAX Pontiac to an eighth place starting position based on his time of 1:41.878. Dalziel is teamed with Harold Primat, Tomas Enge and the only female in the field Milka Duno.

"Qualifying was pretty good," Dalziel said. "We really didn't make any special adjustments for qualifying. We are focusing our efforts on building toward a good race car. In the infield we are good. We sacrificed a little in qualifying, but the car is really good to drive. We will be alright for the race."

Eddie Cheever and his new Coyote DP cars are still getting valuable miles under their belts. Matteo Bobbi qualified the No. 16 Crown Royal Cask No. 16 car in the 21st position with a time of 1:43.618. Bobbi will drive with Stephane Ortelli, Fabio Babini and Antonio Garcia.

"Qualifying was terrible for us," Bobbi said. "It was really just a test session for us. We are looking for a good balance on these new cars. We just need some more miles. There is still a lot of work for us to do, so we will use every practice lap up to the race to get it right."

In GT, the Pontiac GTO.R of Connolly Motorsports led the way like they did at the early January test. Diego Alessi put in a time of 1:51.450 that will see him start from the fifth position in GT. Alesi is joined by Vic Rice, Carl Reindler, Hal Prewitt and Spence Trenary.

"I had some adjusting to do on the car at the beginning," Alesi said. "My fastest lap I lost three-tenths going into turn one when I had to over slow the car for traffic. I think I had maybe a low 51 possible. The infield section is very good as well as going into the Bus Stop turn. We give up some on the bank. The tires go off pretty good after four laps and then the rear of the car starts to move around, but it is still very drivable."

The Pontiac GXP.R GT contingent was headed by the No. 57 Stevenson Auto GXP.R with Robin Liddell putting in a time of 1:51.171, good for a ninth place starting position. Liddell is partnered with Andrew Davis, Randy Pobst and Gunner Jeanette.

"The car feels really good," Liddell said. "After the early January test we felt a top 10 qualifying position would be good. We achieved that. Earlier today we ran quicker, I was able to get a big tow around the bank from a Porsche and had no other traffic to put in a great lap. I didn't get that in qualifying. The car is comfortable to drive and we get faster every time we go out in this new car."

In the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac Paul Edwards drove to a time of 1:52.061, putting them 17th on the GT grid. Edwards is joined by Kelly Collins and Jan Magnussen for the race.

"We didn't hit the setup," Edwards said. "We need to get the setup right on the money. I was locking the rear brakes and it was making it hard to enter the turn. We went slower than we practiced. The good thing is we get to try again tomorrow."

The top 30 positions, 24 DP cars and six GT cars, are locked into the field today. The GXP.R racers will have another opportunity tomorrow to improve their starting position for the race.

Andy Pilgrim had the task of qualifying the No. 06 Banner Pontiac GXP.R. Pilgrim posted a time of 1:52.486, which puts him 24th on the starting grid. Pilgrim will share driving duties with Marc Bunting, Robert Nearn and team owner Leighton Reese,

"We had some power down oversteer," Pilgrim said. "The car was pretty good in the infield, but it was a little too tail happy. We went the fastest we had gone all weekend as well as in the test a few weeks back, but everyone else went faster as well."

In the No. 72 Autohaus GXP.R Lawson Aschenbach put in a time of 1:52.552, placing him 26th on the GT grid. Aschenbach is joined by Max Papis, Tim Lewis Jr. and Craig Stanton for the 24.

"The car was really bottoming out," Aschenbach said. "I am not sure if we had a shock go down or what was going on. It was really hard into turn one and that made the entry tough. We hadn't had the problem all weekend. The Autohaus guys will get it fixed and we will try to move-up tomorrow."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Milka Duno , Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Paul Edwards , Tomas Enge , Antonio Garcia , Jan Magnussen , Kurt Busch , Eddie Cheever , Max Papis , Johnny O'Connell , Andy Pilgrim , Jimmie Johnson , Robin Liddell , Michael Valiante , Stéphane Ortelli , Leighton Reese , Lawson Aschenbach , Matteo Bobbi , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Max Angelelli , Ryan Briscoe , Jim Matthews , Andrew Davis , Alessi Diego , Craig Stanton , Marc Bunting , Vic Rice , Robert Nearn , Fabio Babini , Bob Stallings , Ricky Taylor , Hal Prewitt