Negri rides Rolex rollercoaster to 9th
Ups and downs all weekend after setting unofficial track record at Daytona
(Miami, FL) 6 February 07--Oswaldo Negri has experienced his share of ups and downs throughout his career, and the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona weekend was no different as the affable Brazilian experienced the full spectrum of emotions on the way to a ninth-place finish overall with Michael Shank Racing.
In the final practice session before qualifying, Negri set a lap time that was quicker than the Daytona Prototype track record as he streaked to a 1:43.309-second-lap in the Fresh From Florida Lexus/Riley. But Negri's rollercoaster weekend took a downturn as he was caught out by standing water on the track in the opening qualifying session.
"We knew we had a great car and I just wanted to get a strong spot on the grid for Lexus and for the all the hard work the guys did all off-season, but it just wasn't meant to be," said Negri. "I was looking into the corner long before I got there, and I saw that the guys in front of me were having a problem. I'd already backed off before I got to the corner but when I tried to go outside, the conditions there were even worse than inside and we ended up spinning off."
The Michael Shank Racing squad made quick work to repair the Riley despite the extensive damage as Negri qualified the MSR entry in the final qualifying session. Starting from twenty-second on the grid, Negri knew he had to avoid trouble while working his way forward in the frantic opening laps of the 24. He did just that, as the rollercoaster went back skyward, turning the car over to Helio Castroneves in 4th position.
Things were running according to plan, but after a blown tire forced Mark Patterson into the dirt at the bus stop and Sam Hornish was later left stranded on course after losing drive, Negri's rollercoaster was once again heading down. Undeterred by the setbacks, the MSR crew made repairs and kept the machine going as the team fell to 40th in the overall order some ten hours into the race. Despite facing even more challenges, including being hit from behind and losing a key aerodynamic element (the engine cover), Negri and MSR rallied to score ninth place overall.
Negri is now looking forward to the next round of Rolex racing in Mexico City. Judging by lap times, the track is one of Negri's favorites. The 2006 Rolex visit to Mexico City was not a good one for Negri, as he rode another roller coaster, setting fastest time in practice before a freak accident caused by a loose piece of equipment on the track sent him into the barriers at nearly 140 MPH.
With a history of speed and success at the track, and a solid finish to the 24, Negri is anxiously counting down the days to head South of the Border.
"Despite everything we went through, we still got finished the race and got some points to start the season off," said Negri. "We were really fast in Mexico City last year, so I can't wait to get down there and keep picking up momentum for the season."