Jon Fogarty led the way in this evening's test session for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series at Daytona International Raceway. The driver of the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley ripped off a 1:42.010 laptime, the quickest of the night.
The 90-minute session that started at 7:30 p.m. gave teams plenty of time to test their machines under the lights. This session was especially important as nearly half of the Rolex 24 will be run in darkness. Sixty cars in all took time.
Fogarty's lap was set with only 20 minutes remaining in the session. Before topping the timesheets, teammate Jimmy Vasser was behind the wheel of the red machine to also turn some laps in the dark. Saturday marked the first time that the former CART Champion was back in the car since last year's season-ending SunChaser 1000k at Miller Motorsports Park.
"These were the first laps I have driven this year and my first time in the car since I drove with the team at Miller in practice," Vasser said. "So it's good for me to drive. From a driving aspect, it's always good to get behind the wheel and knock a little of the rust off. I am pleased that I didn't feel like I had lost much at all and to be able to jump in to try to help the team solve some of the problems we have been encountering trying to adapt to the Pirelli tire. While the tire seems to be fairly grippy and pretty quick it does have some characteristics the team is still trying to come to grips with, but all in all we are reasonably pleased with getting the work done."
The team concentrated on making changes to the overall setup, including working on some brake issues and adapting to the new Pirelli tire. While a few other teams debuted the new Riley Mk XX, the Bob Stallings-led outfit elected to use the tried and tested bodywork for this test. Alex Gurney also took laps in the car today and two-time NASCAR Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson is expected to join the trio tomorrow.
Oswaldo Negri Jr. in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing entry clocked the second-best time of the evening, a 1:42.390. The Ford Riley was one of four cars that ran the new Riley bodywork, the others being the sister No. 6 entry, the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford and the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac.
The No. 11 SAMAX Motorsport Pontiac Riley of Ryan Dalziel, Milka Duno, Tomas Enge and Harold Primat wound up third quickest, with a 1:42.396. Penske-Taylor Racing's Pontiac Riley was fourth best with the No. 02 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley rounding out the top five.
Despite the cooler conditions in the evening, AJ Allmendinger's time of 1:41.555 set midday held as the quickest overall on Saturday. Juan Pablo Montoya's 1:41.232 lap turned on Friday remains the fastest of the weekend.
In the GT class, the No. 15 Blackforest Motorsports Ford Mustang Cobra GT of Tom Nastasi, David Empringham and Jean-Francois Dumoulin topped the time sheets with a 1:51.139 laptime. Second-best with a 1:51.232 was the No. 89 Farnbacher Loles Porsche GT3 Cup of Luca Drudi, Raffael Giammaria, Gabrio Rosa, Jorg Hardt and Giacomo Petrobelli. Third went to the No. 81 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 Cup of Steve Johnson, Duncan Husiman, Robert Doornbos and Richard Lietz, which clocked a best lap of 1:51.474.
Nobody was able to beat the No. 30 Racer's Edge Motorsports Mazda RX-8's time from midday, a 1:50.617. The car is the only GT entry to have broken into the 1:50s.
Two more sessions remain on tap for Sunday, with action kicking off at 10:15 a.m.