GRAND AMERICAN LAUNCH PAD FOR A CANADIAN ROCKET Rising Canadian racing star Michael Valiante signs to race a Daytona Prototype for Finlay Motorsports in the 2006 Rolex Series Charlotte, NC (October 30, 2005) Finlay Motorsports today ...
GRAND AMERICAN LAUNCH PAD FOR A CANADIAN ROCKET
Rising Canadian racing star Michael Valiante signs to race a Daytona Prototype for Finlay Motorsports in the 2006 Rolex Series
Charlotte, NC (October 30, 2005) Finlay Motorsports today announced that it has signed rising Canadian racing star Michael Valiante as a full-time driver beginning immediately.
Valiante will make his debut as a Finlay Motorsports driver next weekend in Mexico City at the 2005 Grand American Rolex Series season finale co-driving with Rob Finlay in a second Finlay Motorsports Daytona Prototype under the Essex racing banner.
Valiante, who has had three `guest' drives with the Finlay team this year, and Finlay, who will be making his debut as a Prototype driver after running the full season in Grand Am Cup, will race the #5 Ford-Crawford prepared for this event by Essex Racing.
Next to them in pit lane at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City this weekend will be Finlay Motorsports' regular driving duo of Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell in the #19 Air Force Reserve/Make-A-Wish Foundation/Commercial Defeasance Dinan-powered Riley.
Finlay Motorsports will expand to a 2-car team of Ford-Crawford prototypes next season, and while driver assignments have yet to be finalized, Valiante will be an integral part of the team's plan to compete for the 2006 Grand American Rolex Series championship.
"Finlay Motorsports is a top team with the focus, talent and resources to compete for the championship, and I'm delighted to be a part it," says Valiante. "My background is open-wheel racing, so I'm still relatively new to prototypes, but I've worked with many of the team members and other drivers previously, and the chemistry is excellent. I've already spent a day testing the Ford-Crawford we'll be racing in Mexico and all next season, and it's a really good package with winning potential. Add that to the support we'll be getting from our new technical partners and 2006 looks pretty exciting."
Like so many top young drivers, Valiante started in karting, and became an international champion before graduating to cars in 1997. He is best-known as an extremely-talented open-wheel racer and rising through the Skip Barber Racing School scholarship system to become a standout in the intensely competitive Toyota Atlantic series. He finished on the podium in only his second Atlantic race and over the course of two-and-a-half seasons, won six races. He finished 2nd in the 2002 Toyota Atlantic championship, and 3rd in 2003.
Valiante moved up to Champ Car in 2004, running the season finale in Mexico City with Walker Racing. He also ran the Portland race for Dale Coyne Racing in 2005, and has been a test driver with the RuSport Champ Car team.
Valiante's first drive in a Grand American Rolex Series Daytona Prototype came earlier this year when he co-drove, along with Michael McDowell, Memo Gidley and Jonathan Bomarito in the series-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona. Several months later, when Gidley had a schedule conflict with another series, Valiante stepped in to co-drive with McDowell in the Ferrari/Maserati 400 at California Speedway qualifying the car 7th on the grid. He set the fastest race lap and led 22 of the race's 84 laps on the way to a 7th place finish. Most recently, when McDowell had to sit out the September Watkins Glen race, Valiante stepped in and co-drove with Gidley.
"Michael Valiante is an extremely talented driver who has been a tremendous asset to our team during the 2005 season and I'm happy to be sharing a car with him for my DP debut in Mexico City," says Finlay Motorsports team owner Rob Finlay. "We've made major commitments to compete for the 2006 Rolex Series championship, including new cars and engines. Adding a driver of Michael's caliber was another essential element because of what he can bring to our testing and development program and because he's a proven winner, a team player and as fast as any driver in the series."
Though a new team, Finlay Motorsports has quickly become a force to be reckoned with in the well-ordered world of Grand American Rolex Series racing. The team's 2005 record includes five top-5 and four top-10 finishes, leading seven races and a 2nd-place finish at Barber Motorsports Park on July 31. With one race yet to run, Finlay Motorsports currently 6th in the 2005 Rolex Series championship battle.
"Michael Valiante and I graduated from the Lynx driver development program and we have an excellent relationship both in and out of the car," says Gidley. "Chemistry between the drivers, between the drivers and the engineers and between the drivers and the team members is critical in a front-running effort like ours. Valiante already has those relationships, and that should make for a very smooth transition. His technical feedback is impressive, he's fast and he's going to help make us into an even more competitive team."
On track activities begin with a Rolex series practice session from 8:30 am to 9:30 am Friday morning. The 15-minute qualifying for the Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes takes place from 5:30 pm to 5:45 pm Friday afternoon. The 250-mile/2 ¾-hour Rolex Sports Car Series 250 is scheduled to take the green flag at 3:00 pm Saturday afternoon. The race will be broadcast live on the SPEED Channel beginning at 4:00 pm ET.