Fast Times for Michael Marsal with a busy month of racing
Rolex 24 debut, Continental Tire season-opener, and some PCA racing
11 February 2011--With a debut run at the famed Rolex 24 At Daytona, a promising outing in the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season-opener, and some fun in PCA competition, Michael Marsal has already got 2011 off to a fast start.
After nearly scoring the 2010 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge championship in his rookie season with Turner Motorsport, Marsal continued to expand his racing resume as he was tabbed by Racers Edge Motorsports to share the No. 30 3dimensional.com Mazda RX-8 in the 2011 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
In addition to to dealing with the challenges that naturally arise during 24 hours of hard fought racing, the list of new things to learn was significant for Marsal, from sharing the car with three other drivers to sharing the track with a field of nearly fifty cars including the top Daytona Prototype class machines. Despite an off track excursion early in his run, Marsal returned to the track to post some strong double-stint efforts before a mechanical problem cut the run short shy of the finish line.
"I learned so much in one weekend, and it's definitely something that you can only come to understand after actually doing it and getting that experience," said Marsal. "I made a mistake early in the race-I got frustrated with some slower traffic and I went around the outside of the guy and he just didn't see me there or expect me to be along side him. So we had some damage from that, but the team did a great job to get back on track and we were able to run through the night."
While the early incident was frustrating, the opportunity to run some extended stints, learn the traffic flow, and get the experience of what taking on a race like the Rolex 24 At Daytona really requires is something that Marsal is looking forward to building on.
"You think you know what to expect, but just can't know really until you do it," offered Marsal. "It's a very much a mental challenge, pacing yourself and the car and working the traffic. The mindset is so key to being successful. And then, trying to go from running at 180 mph for three hours and then trying to get some sleep for the next stint--thats nearly impossible! But getting the experience that I did, I already feel like I'm going to be so much more prepared for the 24 next year."
The epic 24 event was the second race of the weekend for Marsal, who had a full-speed warm up in the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 that he will once again share with Joey Hand. A loss of fuel pressure in qualifying meant that Marsal was starting deep in the nearly 80 car field. But it was a challenge that he relished, moving up to 16th before turing the reigns over to Hand. The 2.5 hour race saw the Turner machine move up into podium position under Hand's control, but a small mechanical issue and a late-race caution conspired to keep the No. 97 machine from scoring a top-ten finish to open up the year.
"That wasn't what we were hoping for, but finishing 11th is two spots better than we started last year," said Marsal. "And even though we didn't get all the points we wanted from the weekend, I was still very happy with the race. I wanted to pass as many cars as I could and make up ground and still give Joey a good car for the finish, and I was able to do exactly that. And now, looking ahead to Homestead, I have so much more confidence because we know the car, I know the team and the tracks, and we are ready to go hard and strong for Homestead. Having a year under my belt is really big. "
With Marsal's machine not running in the closing stages of 24, it gave him the chance to watch his co-driver make history as Hand scored his first overall Rolex 24 race win after he staged a race-winning drive to put the Ganassi machine in position to win.
"I'm so excited for Joey-we've talked constantly leading up to Daytona, looking at the race and at the season ahead and him having this great opportunity with Ganassi," said Marsal. "We all knew what he was capable of and now the rest of the world does too! Hopefully it leads to some more opportunity for him down the road."
The month of speed wasn't just over yet for Marsal though as he strapped back into a Porsche Cup machine at Sebring last weekend for some PCA racing. Gaining yet more seat time and race experience was all part of the plan for Marsal, who left the weekend with another successful outing for his racing resume.
"The PCA events are a lot of fun and there are a lot of guys racing or coaching there who you see at the GRAND-AM events. I started racing in PCA and it's something I always enjoy coming back to so it was another great weekend to follow up from Daytona."
Marsal will be back in action in three weeks as he prepares for round two of the 2011 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge championship on March 5th at Homestead Miami Speedway.