Daytona 24: Valerie Limoges race report

Daytona Beach, FL (9 February 07)-Valerie Limoges joined a select crowd recently as she etched her name as one of the few women to race in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. It was a last-minute call up for Limoges to enter the race, but it was a call...

Daytona Beach, FL (9 February 07)-Valerie Limoges joined a select crowd recently as she etched her name as one of the few women to race in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

It was a last-minute call up for Limoges to enter the race, but it was a call the Quebec native had been working all her life to get. After excelling as a youngster in the karting ranks in her native Canada, Limoges moved up to formula car racing before joining Blackforest Motorsports in 2006 for her rookie Koni Challenge Series season.

Despite racing with the with the Ford Mustang FR500C, the rookie learning curve was steep for Limoges, as she was competing on tracks she'd never seen before, often against fields that featured more than 100 cars. But Limoges made steady progress in the Grand-Am ranks and had a solid run in her rookie season, taking 18th in the points championship out of nearly 200 drivers competing in the GS class.

With a year of lessons learned under her belt, Limoges was looking forward to her sophomore season in the Koni Challenge, and put her experience to use as she posted impressive lap times in pre-season testing with the Mustang FR500C. Her lap times caught the attention of Blackforest, which was preparing for a full-season Rolex Sports Car Series GT-class campaign with the Ford Mustang Cobra GT. Which led to the call.

"They told me we were going to be testing, but I didn't know until I got to the track that they meant in the GT car!" said Limoges. "It was like getting the best Christmas gift ever to get to drive that car."

She showed her appreciation by setting times nearly as quick as the team's full-season drivers in just her first few laps, and the team in turn showed theirs by giving her the chance to make her Rolex 24 debut as she made her next logical step up the Grand-Am ladder. Limoges tapped into the experience she gained in the Koni Challenge Series to adapt to driving at night and to racing on a track with multiple classes simultaneously.

The all-new Mustang GT-class entry proved to be quick out of the box at Daytona as co-driver Alex Tagliani set an unofficial track record in practice for the 24, confirming the confidence the Blackforest squad had in their new Mustang. But after transmission problems developed during the race and put the Blackforest entry behind in the lap count, the team changed focus from racing for position to making the most of the track time and prepare for the rest of the Rolex season. Despite not running for the lead, Limoges relished every lap she got in the Daytona night in her Rolex 24 debut.

"I had a lot of fun out there and I was just trying to be very careful around all the prototypes," said Limoges. "It was a good way to get some experience in the 24 for the future and I felt very confident out there. I'm really thankful that Blackforest gave me this chance and I'd certainly like to get back in the Cobra GT again!"

-credit: www.valerielimoges.com

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Series GRANDAM