Daytona II: Porsche Motorsport preview

ROLEX GRAND-AM TO RACE AT DAYTONA ON JULY 4 IN FRONT OF A QUARTER-MILLION PEOPLE; DP PORSCHE RILEYS, GT PORSCHE 911 GT3 CUP CARS ARE TOP CONTENDERS ATLANTA - June 30 -- With NASCAR'S traditional Fourth of July racing festival and the fireworks...

ROLEX GRAND-AM TO RACE AT DAYTONA ON JULY 4 IN FRONT OF A QUARTER-MILLION PEOPLE; DP PORSCHE RILEYS, GT PORSCHE 911 GT3 CUP CARS ARE TOP CONTENDERS

ATLANTA - June 30 -- With NASCAR'S traditional Fourth of July racing festival and the fireworks display, the Daytona International Speedway celebrates America's Independence Day with not only a NASCAR Sprint Cup series event, but the next round of the hotly- contested Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car series as well.

The audience, expected to be the largest of the season at more than 250,000, will be a mix of sports car and stock car fans as Grand-Am shares the stage with the NASCAR Sprint Car Series. The Grand-Am event, known as the Brumos Porsche 250, is a one-day event, with practice on July 4 from 8:30-10:30 am, qualifying at 10:45 am and the race starting at 2 pm (all Eastern Daylight times). The NASCAR race will run approximately two hours after the finish of the Grand-Am event.

The Brumos Porsche 250 will be broadcast live on Speed TV 2 pm - 5:00 pm. Live timing and scoring, notes and results will be available on www.grand-am.com, with regular weekend updates also posted on www.twitter.com/RolexSeries.

Porsche's chances to win its second Grand-Am race on the 3.56-mile, 14-turn Speedway road course, have slightly increased from the most recent event through another change to the regulations last week. After the engine revs of the Porsche Riley were reduced by 300 rpm following the successful start to the season, the Porsche engine could not fully utilize its potential in the following races. Now, the Porsche is again permitted top revs of 9,200 rpm for the 520 hp, 911-based boxer engines.

"Now we're back to the status we were at with the Porsche engines in January," said

Porsche's head of motorsport, Hartmut Kristen, who has had little tolerance for the three regulation changes that handicapped the Porsche Riley between the races in Daytona and Watkins Glen.

"It was mainly the change from a six speed to a fifth speed gearbox and back again - these zig-zag decisions of the sporting authority were very hard to understand. For our Daytona Prototype teams, Brumos and Penske, this made it very hard to work on the performance of the vehicles in a focused and lineal way."

Kristen also pointed out that the stable rules for the other teams has enabled them to develop and improve their cars for the last six months, while the Porsche teams have been forced to start over with setup every time there was a change.

Despite the regulations difficulties, Porsche's factory pilots Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) have regularly achieved top finishes with their Penske Racing Porsche Riley, and even managed two podium results with third in both Millville and Watkins Glen. Their chances to win the title are still alive. In the championship the duo lies just 13 points behind the leaders. Considering that victory yields 35 points, Hartmut Kristen thinks, "the situation certainly shows promise." Directly behind the pair in the points are the 2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona winners David Donohue and Darren Law, who drive the #58 Brumos Porsche Riley.

For the Brumos Porsche 250 on Saturday, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas take up the race in the #12 Porsche Riley for Penske Racing. The two Daytona Prototypes fielded by Brumos Racing, the successful customer team from Jacksonville,Florida and title sponsor of the race, are manned by David Donohue and Darren Law (number 58) as well as Joao Barbosa (Portugal) and JC France (USA), who secured their best result at the Daytona 24 hour event in January. Competing at the wheel of the #59 vehicle recently at Mid-Ohio, Barbosa/France saw the flag directly behind the Penske Porsche which further improved their position in the overall standings.

"Hopefully, we should roll off the truck fast," says Joao Barbosa, who will co-drive the #59 Brumos Porsche Riley with JC France (Ormond Beach, FL). "We should be able to use pretty much the same setup we did in January (at the Rolex 24 at Daytona). Things will be a little different with the rules changes, but I think we are back on the right track again after some tough races.

"I am really looking forward to the second half of the season," said the veteran Portuguese driver.

The Brumos Porsche-powered Daytona Prototypes finished first and third in the season- opening Rolex 24 at Daytona - after more than 3,600 miles of testing at Daytona - but had struggled until the EMCO Gears Classic June 20 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Barbosa and France finished a strong fifth at Mid-Ohio, just behind the #12 Verizon Wireless Penske Porsche Riley of Porsche works drivers Bernhard and Dumas. Rolex 24 winners

David Donohue (Malvern, PA) and Darren Law (Phoenix, AZ) also ran strong at Mid-Ohio, but wound up 10th after a late lap incident that dropped them back.

"We look forward to racing at Daytona again," Law said. "The track is different from any other track on the circuit with the high banking and some of the highest speeds we see all year. That's why we're glad to get our RPMs back."

After the Brumos victory in the Rolex 24, Grand-Am officials have changed the rules three times for Porsche-powered prototypes. That latest rules change should be beneficial to Porsche teams, as the maximum RPM limit has been raised to 9,200.

"The lower RPMs really hurt us," Bernhard said. "We were not able to reach maximum speed. We would run out of power, especially on the straights and in uphill corners. We have been doing the best we can with what we had."

The Penske Porsche is still looking for its highly-anticipated first victory of the season. Bernard and Dumas have finished on the podium twice with a worst finish of only seventh. Despite the lack of a win, they are in the thick of the driver's championship points battle, currently ranking fourth with 162 points, and only 13 behind Lexus Riley pilots Scott Pruett (Auburn, CA) and Memo Rojas (Mexico), who have won the last two races.

"We have high expectations for the rest of the season," Bernhard said. "Our goal is to win."

Porsche Motorsport customer teams competing in the Acxiom GT class have even stronger aspirations. The duo of Leh Keen (Charleston, SC) and Dirk Werner (Germany) seek their third straight victory in the #87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry and strengthen their hold on both the driver and team championships.

Now halfway through the season, the situation in the GT class looks extremely positive for Porsche. With the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup of Farnbacher Loles Racing, Dirk Werner (Germany) and Leh Keen (USA) have already secured wins at Millville, Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio and thanks to these hard-fought successes they now hold the points' lead in the drivers' championship. Works drivers Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) netted another victory for Porsche at the Daytona 24 hour race teaming with the TRG team, giving Porsche the manufacturers points lead as well.

Just how well Porsches are performing in this racing segment has been underlined by Spencer Pumpelly (USA) with the 911 GT3 Cup of the TRG team with second places at Daytona and Millville as well as the performance of Farnbacher Loles pilot Eric Lux (USA), who came third (with Porsche works driver Wolf Henzler) in Millville and Watkins Glen - strongly backing up victories of their Porsche teammates.

Keen and Werner have grown accustomed to winning in the Acxiom GT class. They have won three of the first six races and have a 16-point lead over Pontiac drivers Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards.

"The only way to thank our crew for the incredible job they have done lately is to win again," Werner said. "We have a lot of momentum and we have to be careful not to get overconfident."

-credit: porsche motorsport

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Scott Pruett , Kelly Collins , Darren Law , David Donohue , JC France , Timo Bernhard , Joao Barbosa , Memo Rojas , Patrick Long , Spencer Pumpelly , Romain Dumas , Wolf Henzler , Lehman Keen , Eric Lux , Dirk Werner
Teams Team Penske