Daytona 24: Spirit of Daytona Racing preview

Spirit of Daytona Racing ready to open 2008 Rolex Series campaign on home turf DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 22,2007) -- Based within shouting distance of the World Center of Speed, Spirit of Daytona Racing knows better than anyone that the...

Spirit of Daytona Racing ready to open 2008 Rolex Series campaign on home turf

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 22,2007) -- Based within shouting distance of the World Center of Speed, Spirit of Daytona Racing knows better than anyone that the road to the track is not long. The road to winner's circle, however, is longer than it may appear. As the team prepares for this weekend's Rolex 24 At Daytona, Spirit of Daytona Racing is looking to take the No. 09 Porsche-powered Fabcar combination to the top of the podium, with a talented trio of drivers teaming with the singular goal of success in the twice around the clock classic.

Piloting the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona entry will be a mix of experience and familiarity among drivers Marc-Antoine Camirand, Guy Cosmo and Michael McDowell. With more than 50 Rolex Sports Car Series starts between them, it's an experienced group. And in a race where chemistry is important, this group has a lot of racing miles between them, as Cosmo and Camirand were old adversaries in their early karting days while Cosmo and McDowell were Rolex Series teammates in 2006.

The Spirit of Daytona entry, which combines a Lozano Brothers-prepared Porsche V8 fitted to the Fabcar chassis, made a promising race-debut at the season ending Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series event at Miller Motorsports Park in 2007, taking the finish after nine hours of high-altitude endurance racing. With the combination now having taken to the high banks of Daytona in several successful Daytona tests, the Spirit of Daytona crew is confident that the 24 will be a new chapter of progress for the Daytona Prototype combination, one that the team is hoping will continue all the way to the top of the podium.

Team co-owner Troy Flis is also pleased with the abundant progress the organization has made over the early winter following the Miller race. He too is eager to get the racing underway, believing the epic 24-hour event is the best for developing a racecar and the organization that supports it.

"Every time we've put this car on the track, we've kept getting faster and for us that's been tremendously satisfying," said Flis. "But it's not good enough to just be improving, especially in the Rolex Series. So we know that we have a great opportunity to put this car to the test the best possible way we can, by seeing where we stack up in 24 hours of racing. Having Michael (McDowell) join Guy and Marc is a big boost for this effort and the three have done a great job to keep this development moving forward quickly. The competition in this race is amazing, but we are just focused on being smart, setting a good pace, and going the distance."

McDowell returns for the 24 hard on the heels of winning ARCA Series Rookie of the Year honors on his way to runner-up in the 2007 championship. This weekend's Rolex 24 will mark his fourth attempt in the great endurance race at Daytona. With two seasons of Rolex Sports Car Series racing and one victory to his credit, McDowell is well-stocked with experience as he returns to the Rolex Series to open the season before returning his focus to quickly ascending NASCAR career.

"I'm just really excited to be back in a car that's purebred for this kind of racing," said McDowell. "This is a great event, with some just phenomenal drivers and teams that we are up against. After being away all last year, it's like coming home for me to be in this paddock again. We made solid progress during the test and I think we'll be even better for the race. The biggest thing is just staying out of trouble, from start to finish. Even if you are seconds faster than everyone else, if you make even one trip to the garage because you weren't patient enough in traffic, you lose that advantage completely. It's a 24 hour sprint race, so pace is of course important, but really, keeping the car on the right side of the pit wall is vital, too."

Regular season drivers Camirand and Cosmo are chomping at the bit to get the racing underway. Camirand feels that the positive momentum begun at Miller and carried through the test days will serve the Spirit of Daytona crew well as the grueling pace of the 24 wears on. Cosmo is also buoyed by the success of the recent tests having gained even more experience with the Pirelli tires with the Fabcar chassis.

"So much better," said Camirand with a smile. "Troy (Flis) and this whole team have done an amazing job with this car and now that we've had the chance to run at Daytona and find out more about what the car likes here, we keep getting faster. We want to be fast of course, but have to also focus on keeping out of trouble because there is so much GT traffic and it can be tricky. You just have to make good decisions- you have to think of the big picture, and the hundreds of laps we need to get to score a positive result. But this package keeps getting stronger and hopefully will take us all the way to the finish!"

The Porsche-powered Fabcar is far from the first development program that Guy Cosmo has been involved with, and the Florida resident is looking forward to picking up the baton and running with it all weekend long.

"The 24 is it's own animal-you have to be fast, you have to be smart, and you have to be out on the track, lap in and lap out, and just avoid problems," said Cosmo. "This is a huge opportunity for all of us involved-to race in the 24, to get more miles on the car and to amass as much data as possible. I'm also just looking forward to sharing the car with this driver line up, I think we're going to be strong and I'm looking forward to operating as a three-driver team. We are all pushing to make this package the one to have, and hopefully we can move the whole program forward this weekend."

-credit: sod

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