Daytona International Speedway
GRAND-AM’s newest race car, the Ferrari F458 Italia built specifically for Rolex Sports Car Series competition, completed 174 trouble-free laps at competitive speeds during a two-day session at Daytona International Speedway.
“Today was a tremendous improvement over yesterday,” said Ferrari of Fort Lauderdale team principal Ronnie Vogel. “We’ve got good feelings about the car, and the drivers were very comfortable out there. We had a great time, and now we’re really looking forward to the 50th Rolex 24 At Daytona.”
Ferrari of Fort Lauderdale enters nine cars in the Ferrari Challenge, including one for points leader and defending champion Enzo Potolicchio – who also drives the No. 2 Starworks Motorsport Porsche/Riley Daytona Prototype in the Rolex Series. The team also provided technical assistance for the Dragon Speed’s Ferrari F430 in the 2011 Rolex 24. Now it’s looking forward to stepping up to the Rolex Series.
“We’re planning to run two cars in the Rolex 24, and hoping to take delivery of the second car very soon,” Vogel said. “We’re also working on our driver lineups for the Rolex 24 and next season, and that’s being ironed out now.”
Jaime Melo and 2008 Rolex 24 GT winner Raphael Matos drove the car on both days and were joined by Guy Cosmo for the Wednesday session.
“This has been an awesome experience, and I feel honored to be part of this test,” Matos said. “The return of the legendary manufacturer to Daytona, and I was able to run competitive lap times and absorb a lot of information from Jamie.”
While the Ferrari of Fort Lauderdale entry was the only car testing, several other car owners and team owners watched with interest. Steve Hallam, Michael Waltrip Racing’s executive vice president for competition, said the NASCAR team is seriously considering running two of the new Ferraris in the 2012 Rolex Series.
“The test has been very positive, and the car appears at first sight to be competitive,” Hallam said. “There is still data to be studied and details to be considered to see how competitive the car will be. It was a real privilege to be welcomed into the test as an observer.”
The return of Ferrari is one of many intriguing storylines for next seasons 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, held on Jan. 28-29. Four to six of the F458 Italias are expected to participate, looking to add a new chapter to Ferrari’s extensive legacy that includes five overall victories and 15 class victories in the American classic.