PORSCHE-POWERED DAYTONA PROTOTYPES GRAB FRONT ROW FOR SATURDAY'S ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA; PORSCHES TAKE TEN OF THE TOP 12 POSITIONS IN ROLEX GT
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - January 22 - Forty years after his father won the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona (Mark Donohue with Chuck Parsons in 1969 in a Lola), David Donohue, from Malvern, Penn., put his #58 Brumos Porsche Riley on the pole by the slimmest of margins - one-thousandth of second - for Saturday's 47th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Donohue's fastest qualifying lap of one minute, 40.540 seconds on the 3.560-mile Daytona combination oval/road course, edged the brand-new #16 Crown Royal Penske Racing Porsche Riley driven by Germany's Timo Bernhard. It was the first time that Porsche has swept the front row at Daytona since 1990, when Porsche 962 teams qualified one-two.
Although Donohue was not personally impressed with his own performance, he did not under - estimate the positive effect it has on his team, Jacksonville, Fla. - based Brumos Racing.
"I have always said winning the pole at an endurance race just gives your bragging rights for a day or two - it doesn't really prove anything. If we want to prove something, I have to be standing here late Sunday afternoon, accepting the award for the fastest car after 24 hours of racing," said Donohue.
"But, with our team having to work in sub-freezing temperature to change engines and prepare our car for the race, this pole position puts wind in our sails. It tells all the Brumos Racing employees that all the hard work we put in during the winter is paying off, and motivates everyone to move towards a Rolex 24 win and a Grand-Am championship in 2009," said Donohue, who also accepted congratulations from Roger Penske, who is Timo Bernhard's car owner and was Mark Donohue's car owner when his team won in '69).
The Brumos Porsche Rileys, with the Porsche 911-based 3.99-liter six cylinder boxer engine, led the previous two Rolex practice sessions. The #59 Brumos Porsche Riley of J.C. France/Joao Barbosa/Terry Borcheller/Hurley Haywood was fastest in Thursday morning's first session, and the #58 David Donohue/Antonio Garcia/Darren Law/Buddy Rice car fastest in the afternoon practice - right before qualifying. Barbosa placed the #59 car ninth on the grid
Bernhard, who thought he had earned the pole with a good lap right near the end of the session, was surprised that the Brumos car overtook him, but, for a car just off the trailer, Bernhard and Penske Racing were pleased at how competitive they were.
"After the hard work the Penske guys put into the car, I felt that I owed them a strong qualifying effort, and, while I am disappointed we didn't get the pole, I am pleased that Porsche has the front row," said Bernhard.
Timo will be joined by American Le Mans Series GT2 class co-champion Romain Dumas (France), and Penske Racing IndyCar star Ryan Briscoe (Australia).
In the Rolex GT class, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars took ten of the top 12 spots on the grid, including outside of the front row. Right behind the pole-sitting Mazda RX-8, Andy Lally, from Dacula, Ga., driving the #67 TRG Porsche, finished second in the qualifying session as the fastest Porsche. Lally will share the car with Porsche factory drivers Patrick Long and Joerg Bergmeister, along with R.J. Valentine and Justin Marks. Third on the grid is the #14 Autometics Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car which was qualified by Porsche Junior team driver Martin Ragginger (Germany), who will co-drive with Jack Baldwin/Claudio Burtin/Cory Friedman/Mac McGehee.
Porsche Motorsport North America President Paul Ritchie, whose company services the Porsche racing components in both classes, was pleased with the qualifying results because the teams had worked so hard to get to this point.
"We saw the Brumos team work so hard in this series last year, with several pole positions and other podium finishes, and I know they are ready for the next step - a run at the DP championship. As for Penske, we all know the success they had for the last three years in ALMS, but this is a new ball game, and they have put in a lot of work in a short period of to get to this point. But we must remember that Penske entered the Rolex 24 last year and finished third, so they are not exactly rookies," said Ritchie.
"We would have liked to win the pole in GT, but we are gratified that our teams are running so well, and we are hopeful that our reliable racing components, good preparation, and the top drivers who are racing our products this weekend will result in another victory for the Porsche 911," he said.