Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team completes Rolex 24 testing at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 6, 2007) -- When a race team goes testing, the results may find the team asking more questions than the test sessions answered. It was no different for the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team this past weekend following three days of Grand-Am Rolex Sports Cars Series testing at the Daytona International Speedway.

The three-day test gave each team the opportunity to continue testing its car using the new Pirelli tire, while searching for the right combination of speed and stability that will help it finish the upcoming Rolex 24 at Daytona Jan. 26-27. However, at the conclusion of this weekend's test, there was one question that left most teams puzzled, "What was the right car setup combination that will help them find speed, stability and consistency with the new Pirelli tires?"

"As far as the Crawford and Pirelli combination goes, this is a bit of a mystery to us," Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team driver Bill Auberlen said. "I don't think I've ever come to a three-day test and done that many things to a car -- ever. We threw everything including the kitchen sink at it. We made so many changes that you can not evaluate all of them here. There's no way to know what the best combination is going to be. We are going to have to go back and stare at the computer, stare at the results, look at the data, look at everything we did and then decide on a combination and put it in the car."

"We're struggling, we really are," former Rolex 24 winner and Ruby Tuesday driver Andy Wallace said. "We're struggling to make the car match the tire. But, we've still got some time [to figure it out]. We've made a little bit of progress, but I don't think we are getting to the root cause of the problem. We're just changing a few things around it. But, as always, at the Daytona test there are a lot of cars that are out on the track. Grand-Am, being as successful as they are, has attracted an awful lot of entries and so it is very hard to get clear laps. You really need a couple clear laps before you can see if your changes were right.

"I am not worried; we'll get to the bottom of it. But, at the moment the car is very nervous. So, it is hard to drive the car at its limit consistently. If you put a new set of tires on it and go out and really wind yourself up, you can get a [good] lap out of it. But, you couldn't drive it like that for 24 hours. So, that is what we are working on. Whenever things are tricky, you come away from a test with a lot of questions and you also come away with some of the answers hidden in some of the data. It's not always obvious what the answers are while you're there, but quite often you have to go back and analyze the data."

"We're still working on some speed," Ruby Tuesday driver Joey Hand said. "We are down a little bit on speed, as we try to get a hold on these Pirelli tires. All you can really say is these guys have never stopped working all weekend. And, being new to the team, I look at that kind of dedication and know that we are going to need it all year long. In Rolex field, there are no slouches -- it's 15 [teams] deep. We are going to need hard work from everybody."

Driver Patrick Long, who has driven the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche-powered Crawford the past two seasons, knows just how hard the team has worked to give the drivers a good car for the Rolex 24.

"The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team has worked tirelessly throughout this weekend and we've probably made as many changes as anybody can in the paddock," Long said. "We tried some things that we like and tried some things we didn't like. Now, we've got to find the right combination of everything we've tried. I don't think we are quite there yet, so it is going to take a little bit more time. But, I am sure we'll be ready for the race."

Despite the challenges with the new tires, both team owner Alex Job and the drivers have reasons to be optimistic about his team's progress this weekend and heading into the race.

"We made a lot of progress," Job said. "We are not exactly where we want to be yet, but we made a lot of progress over the past three days and we feel much better now than we did at the start of the weekend. We've still got a lot of work to do in the next two and a half weeks before we come back for the race. We have a clear direction now and we're very optimistic. All four of the drivers did everything and more than we expected, as did the team and the car. The close working relationship with Crawford is working out great. We haven't showed our full potential yet. There is no prize for these three days, but there will be when we come back. You always walk away with new questions, but we clearly got a lot of answers to a lot of things. So, we made a lot of progress and I am very optimistic."

"We've got a solid lineup," Hand said. "I mean come on -- Pat Long, Andy Wallace, Bill and myself. There is a lot of talk [in the paddock] about that and I am personally excited to be teamed up with these guys. We did a lot of work this weekend. We weren't quite as fast as we wanted to be, but there is a lot of dedication here especially from Alex and Holly [Job]."

"Ruby Tuesday, Alex Job and the driver lineup we've got are going to be in really good shape for the race," Auberlen said. "It really can't get much better than that. These guys have worked unbelievably hard to make it [the car] better and they will not stop [working on the setup] until the race. They've got a lot of plans to get things done over the next couple of weeks. Everybody is very optimistic about coming back here for the 24 hours. This is probably my best chance that I've ever had to win the overall."

-credit: ajr