PR1 Motorsports Set For Saturday's Rolex 24 At Daytona
Daytona Beach, Fla. (January 23, 2009) -- The Rolex 24 at Daytona is motorsports ultimate test of driver, team and machine. Through two days of practice and qualifying for Fresno, Calif. - based PR1 Motorsports and the No. 32 Miracle Sealants Pontiac GXP.R, its also been a test of patience.
Through it all, when the green flag waves to start the famed twice-around-the-clock endurance classic at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, the team and drivers Jeff Westphal (San Carlos, Calif.), Thomas Merrill (Salinas, Calif.), Mike Forest (Edmonton, Alberta), and Al Salvo (Arcadia, Calif.) are confident they'll be challengers.
More importantly, PR1 Motorsports fully expects to be near the front when the checkered flag falls on Sunday.
We as a team have done a great job of balancing the track time with taking care of the equipment so far this weekend," Merrill said. "I'm really positive about our chances at the end of the race in the Miracle Sealants Pontiac. All of our equipment is nice and fresh, and I think we're going to be in a good position at the end."
With the Pontiac GXP.R displaying very different characteristics from the Porsches, Mazdas and Ferraris that make up the GT class of the Rolex Series, PR1 Motorsports is using perennial series championship contenders and fellow GXP.R teams Banner Racing and Stevenson Racing as a benchmark. The 1:51.629 (114.108 mph) lap that Westphal turned during Thursday's qualifying was just four-tenths of a second off that pace.
"It can be a little bit discouraging to look at the time charts and see all of the Pontiacs a little bit down, but that's sports car racing," Forest said. "Knowing that we at PR1 aren't alone helps. In the end, this race isn't going to be about pure speed, but running a smart race and taking care of the car."
Westphal qualified the car 21st among the 32 GT-class cars in the field, along with an additional 19 Daytona Prototypes on the 3.56-mile road course. As the opening driver, Westphal will have the team's first challenge -- wading through the carnage that can occur when aggressive drivers transition from the high speed Daytona banking to a tight Turn 1.
"I've talked to a lot of people, and from what I understand about Rolex 24 strategies, starting a little bit deeper in the field isn't going to hurt us," said Westphal, who will start tomorrow's race in the driver's seat for PR1 Motorsports. "Historically, the race winner can be two or three laps ahead at the end, so its really about risk management for the duration of the 24 hours. My responsibility will be to get us through clean at the start."
In a 24-hour race, speed almost runs second to reliability as one mechanical failure can send the fastest cars to the garage, ending the race prematurely. The PR1 Motorsports crew under the supervision of team principal Bobby Oergel has the Miracle Sealants Pontiac running flawlessly.
"The crew has been simply fantastic," Salvo said. "Because of that, we as drivers can just drive within ourselves. We haven't had any wheels off, no crashes or damages at all during the practice session. That's allowed us to test different things, and we've continuously progressed and improved. Everyone's done a phenomenal job, and the Miracle Sealants Pontiac is great right now."