Pontiac Grand-Am Teams Test In Preparation For Rolex 24 At Daytona; Penske-Taylor Racing Post Fastest Pontiac DP Time, Connolly GTO.R Fast In GT
Daytona Beach, Fla., January 6, 2008 -- Pontiac powered Daytona Prototype (DP) and GT teams exercised their racers this weekend at the "Roar Before the Rolex 24" in preparation for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 46th running of the Rolex 24 Hour At Daytona January 26-27. The top Pontiac DP team, Penske-Taylor Racing, turned a time of 1:42.261 which resulted in second place on the time sheet at the end of the weekend. In GT, the Connolly Motorsports GTO.R was the fast Pontiac with a time of 1:51.774, eighteenth on the time sheet.
The SunTrust Pontiac team headed by owner/driver Wayne Taylor will be looking for a third Rolex 24 victory. Piloting the No. 10 along with Wayne is 17-year old son Ricky, Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante. In addition to his No. 10 Pontiac Riley, Taylor has combined forces with Roger Penske to field a second entry.
"We have had a managerial relationship with Ryan Briscoe, so that has helped us to create this relationship with Roger Penske," Wayne Taylor said. "This deal came together last year when we were at an event in Atlanta. The Penske-Taylor effort has been a great collaboration so far this weekend and we will carry that over to the race. The number one goal was to make sure the No. 10 and the 09 have the best equipment. We leased the 09 car and had to rebuild it from the ground up, and the guys have done a great job. It will be a full race weekend with Ricky driving with me, my son Jordan is in a GT car, all I need to do is get my wife in the Pace Car and we will have the whole family covered."
The Penske-Taylor Racing effort brings IRL driver Ryan Briscoe and Dancing With the Stars winner Helio Castroneves with Penske NASCAR driver Kurt Busch rounds-out the line-up.
"The Mirrorball trophy I have from Dancing With the Stars and now I am going for the Rolex watch," Castroneves said. "I am very glad to be back racing. Wayne Taylor and Penske Racing is a good combination. Wayne's team has had a lot of success in the Rolex Series and we are benefitting from that work. Last year was my first 24 hour, I learned you have to be a consistent survivor. You need to be around at the end. It is nice to be with our Penske guys here, so the comfort level is very high. The key to the race is getting through traffic, making good choices and not taking too many chances."
Rolex Series DP 2007 champions Bob Stallings/Riley-Matthews had series regulars Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty heading the effort this weekend. The duo are joined by open-wheel star Jimmie Vassar and 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.
"There has been a big swing the air temperature this weekend, which can make setup a little tricky," Fogarty said. "There have also been a lot of interruptions with red flags during the sessions. With all of the GT cars it is tough to run the line, so our work in off season testing is really paying off. We are working on a setup that conserves tires as well as trying to control driver aggression going into the braking zones."
Last year's Rolex 24 runner-ups SAMAX returns with a two car effort that is sure to be a factor in this year's race. In the No. 2 SAMAX Pontiac sports car ace Allan McNish will share the seat with Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Henri Zogaib. In the No. 11 SAMAX entry Milka Duno is joined by Ryan Dalziel, Tomas Enge and Harold Primat.
"The Rolex race is one that every driver around the world wants to win," McNish said. "To have that Rolex on your wrist is a symbol that you won the race and one of the most coveted trophies in racing. Our team should be really strong for the race. I have Mike, Lucas and Henri as teammates, all great drivers. I race with Mike and Lucas in Europe and we share a similar driving style. We have been very competitive this weekend running in the top ten every practice session. I have finished second in this race twice overall, so it is time to win."
New and updated cars are also on order for the Rolex Series in 2008. Krohn Racing baptized their new Proto-Auto Lola DP car this weekend. The No. 75 Krohn Pontiac will be driven by Tracy Krohn, Eric Van de Poele and Oliver Gavin. The No. 76 Krohn entry will see Nic Jonsson, Ricardo Zonta and Oliver Gavin at the wheel.
"Last year we decided to become a constructor resulting in the coming together of Krohn Racing and Lola to form Proto-Auto," Krohn said. "The cars are out running this weekend and we are working hard to get them to the front of the field. Our goal was to have them here for the test and of course the Rolex 24 and the season and we have accomplished that goal. We are now going to prove their competitiveness and then offer them to other teams. As a driver the car is really coming along. This race is one that I have followed since before I got involved behind the wheel. To win this race would be great, to win in a car that we built will be really special."
Eddie Cheever took the cover off of his new Coyote DP car. Over the winter Cheever has corralled a host of technical resources to create a new DP car for the Rolex Series. Cheever Racing drivers this weekend included Mike Newton, Tommy Erdos, Scott Mayer, Fabio Babini, Matteo Bobbi, Stephane Ortelli, Antonio Garcia. The final driving pairings will be made within the next couple of weeks.
"We need to put some more laps on our new Coyote cars," Cheever said. "One car we had out all weekend and then we had a gear box issue in the second car and did not do as many laps as we hoped. We are really just experiencing some new car stuff which we will have solved by the end of the month."
In GT Pontiac standouts Banner Racing brings their winning black and yellow GXP.R racers back to Daytona looking to move up to the top step of the podium. In the No. 06 Banner Pontiac Leighton Reese is teamed with Andy Pilgrim, Robert Nearn and 2006 GT series champion Marc Bunting. In the No. 07 Banner GXP.R two-time 2007 race winners Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins are joined by Jan Magnussen.
"We finished second here last year with a brand new car," Reese said. "We now have a year of running under our belt with three wins to our credit. The cars ran great all weekend. There were some rules adjustments over the winter and we seemed to have gained some weight. When I follow a German car off of the Bus Stop, it motors me by some ten car lengths by the braking zone of turn one."
Stevenson Motorsport, new to the Pontiac family for '08, put their No. 57 GXP.R on the track for the first time with drivers Robin Liddell, Andrew Davis, Randy Pobst and Gunnar Jeannette.
b^0x001cWe are making sweeping changes on the setup to see exactly what the handling parameters of this new GXP.R," Liddell said. "The chassis is great, we are just getting familiar with it wants in the handling department. We are really working hard on the handling of the car in the infield. We are comparing ourselves to the other Pontiac teams and we are happy with where are at the moment. We have been within a half-second pretty much all weekend. It think if can qualify in the top ten for the race that will be a good effort."
Another new GXP.R team, Autohaus Motorsports, had their No. 72 GXP.R up to speed. Lawson Aschenbach, Tim Lewis Jr., Max Papis and Criag Stanton will drive at month's end.
"The GXP.R is very impressive," Max Papis said. "It is really a turn-key car. We had it on the track the first day and we really had no issues. The Autohaus team is doing a good job of learning the car and we get faster every session. Every car has subtleties and it is just a matter of providing feedback to the team to make the most it for 24 hours. We have been working on having a consistent car and right now we're almost as fast on used tires as we are on new rubber. The drivers are really getting along and I am very happy how the test has gone. We have the right ingredients to be successful. The car looks really good, the nose is very aggressive, it will look good in victory circle."
-credit: gm racing