Spirit of Daytona Racing Endures to Finish Rolex 24 At Daytona

Daytona Beach, FL 25 January 09 -- The Spirit of Daytona Racing No. 09 Porsche V8-powered Coyote overcame several setbacks over the course of 24 hours of hard racing in the 47th Rolex 24 At Daytona before racing to the finish with the Boy Scouts of America-livered machine. The team completed 649 laps to finish 11th in the Daytona Prototype class with motorcycle champions Jeff Ward, Scott Russell, and Jason Pridmore sharing the driving duties with Spirit of Daytona Racing pilot Guy Cosmo.

The race marked the first round of the 2009 Rolex Sports Car Series as the team continued to move the development curve forward for the Coyote chassis teamed with Porsche V8 power.

Starting the race from the seventh row, the team was dealt its first bad hand in the early laps, as the electrical charge dropped, forcing the drivers to race in the high cockpit temperatures without the benefit of helmet blowers or coolers as all non-essential electrical systems were switched off to conserve power over the long run.

Before the race passed the first hour mark, the challenge got even bigger after the clutch went, only to then be followed up by a throttle cable issue that also slowed the team's progress. But the team continued on undeterred, focused on bringing team partner Boy Scouts of America a finish in their first Rolex 24 together.

Despite the race being the first Rolex 24 appearance for Pridmore and Russell--Ward made a start in the 1997 Rolex event--the motorcycle champions continued to show a quick adaptation to running on the high banks on four wheels rather than two, keeping the car moving at a quick clip over and over on the 3.56-mile infield road course.

The team continued to press on through the night and into the long Sunday race day. As the field thinned from attrition while the team established a strong rhythm and moved up the charts, there was one final set back as a fuel line broke and caused a small fire in the pits as Cosmo came in to turn the car over to Russell. Quick work in the pits by the team and fire marshals saw both Cosmo and Russell out of the car unscathed. After taking the No. 09 behind the wall for the first time after over 22 hours of racing, the team found the problem, fixed it, and sent the machine back out to race to the finish.

Appropriately enough, "Mr. Daytona" Scott Russell took the machine across the finish line for the 649th time to accept the checkered flag just after 3:30 PM ET local time.

"I couldn't believe that they could get the car fixed after the fire and back out on the track," said Russell. "There have been a couple of times that I had to pinch myself that this whole experience is really happening. The team has been great. It's amazing to get through the adversity that we did, that the whole team fought back all they way to get to the finish. This Coyote did its job and I know the team is looking forward to getting the new one soon and starting that development process. This was a fatiguing race, but I had a blast and would love to do it again. It was great to have Guy driving with us because I'm not sure what we'd have done if he wasn't with us. It was a long day! Hopefully I'll get a chance to race again as soon as (Rolex next race) VIR."

"This was a great opportunity to race in this Rolex 24 after watching it for so many years and just wanting so badly to race in it myself so it's great for us to get to the finish today," said Pridmore. "To be fair, we certainly had our share of problems in this race but the team never gave up and never stopped fighting. It's a big challenge for us to jump into this sandbox like this, but I think we just kept getting closer and closer and we' d made a lot of progress before the fire. You always want to finish on top, but this was our first time out. I'd love to do this again."

"There was a lot of rubber and junk out there on the track in my last stint, but the car was pretty much consistent throughout," said Ward. "I got a lot more time in the car in this race than when I was here in 1997 because even though we had some set backs, the car just kept running, all through the night. This is a great group of guys to work with and I want to do more races like this, but it'd be great to get more time testing and getting ready but if there was a chance, I'd really like to do more. The seat wasn't perfect, so I'm going to be sore and tired tomorrow, but this was a tough race!"

"It is an amazing feat for us to finish this race, with the guys doing this for the first time and all the problems we had to overcome to get to the end is just amazing to me," said Cosmo. "But all the guys did great. It was a grueling race, and I think we are all feeling beat up and cramped up, but I think this was a good chance for us to work with some fantastic champions and to also keep the process of learning this new Coyote bodywork going . I'm happy that the fire didn't cause any injuries and that we were able to get back out and keep going to have Scotty take it over the finish line."

"We put a pretty big challenge in front of ourselves to have the motorcycle guys taking this on for the first time after we just got this bodywork a month ago. So I think we have to be happy to come out of this with a lot of data and another finish in the Rolex 24 as well," said Team Owner Troy Flis. "This was a great opportunity to work with some really cool people, and we're all counting our blessings to get to do that. I'm just looking forward to getting the new car and to hopefully having the chance to go to VIR with a car that we're already familiar with inside and out."

-credit: sodr