Orbit Racing started the annual three-day test for the Rolex 24 at Daytona at the top, posting the quickest GT class times in alll three practice sessions on Saturday. Johnny Mowlem of England was quickest in the morning session, covering the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course in one minute 56.062 seconds in the No. 44 Classic Industries Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Mike Fitzgerald of Fountain Hills, Ariz., led the way in the the second session (1:56.476) and Mowlem replied in the third session (1:55.599).
Joe Policastro drove last in the final session. He and his son Jay will share driving duty in the Porsche for the 2004 season. Joe said the car is already better than it was in 2003.
"I think the crew have a few more kinks they can take out of it, but it's much better than we had it at the last race - we can drive it a little bit harder," he said. "I think we'll see it in getting our [lap] times down, but more important, getting the car to do what we want it to do. Johnny and Robin and Mike have really tuned this in great! It's the best this car has ever handled, and we've got some more to do."
Robin Liddell drove his first laps at Daytona on Saturday, experiencing the track's 33-degree banking for the first time.
"It's good fun!" he enthused. "When you get up on the banking the first time, it's actually quite spooky. The banking is quite steep; it's different and it's got its own character. When you get out there, the angle you're sitting at in terms of what you can see out of the windscreen is totally different. You can't imagine what that's like until you're in it."
Johnny Mowlem has enjoyed success at Daytona, with a second-place GT finish in 1999 and an overall second in 2003. But he's still chasing the coveted Daytona hardware - a Rolex watch, presented only to class winners in the annual 24-hour endurance race.
"I want to win a watch!" he exclaimed. "I told Rodger [team owner Hawley], I don't really care if we finish 10th overall, if we win GT."