GRAND-AM Cooldown Lap: Daytona
Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011
Spirit of Daytona, SunTrust Racing and Action Express Racing continued to work with the new Corvette Daytona Prototypes Wednesday as a two-day GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series test concluded in preparation for the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona, set for Jan. 28-29, 2012.
The four Corvette DPs showed steady improvement throughout the test, with some posting their fastest laps in the final hour. Darren Law ran an unofficial lap of 1:41.687 in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP co-driven by David Donohue, followed by the No. 9 Action Express entry of Joao Barbosa, Terry Borcheller and JC France, the No. 10 SunTrust DP of Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor, and Antonio Garcia and Oliver Gavin in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP.
Running a previous generation Daytona Prototype, Felipe Nasr continued to impress by turning in the fastest unofficial lap of the test, 1:40.438 (127.601 mph) in the No. 58 Action Express Racing Porsche/Riley. The 19-year-old Brazilian won the 2011 British Formula 3 championship and earned his ride in the 2012 Rolex 24 by outscoring competitors in three Europeans championships to win the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge.
Spencer Pumpelly was quickest in the GT class for the second straight day, running a lap of 1:50.200 (116.298 mph) in the No. 66 TRG Porsche GT3. The GT class also featured three teams running the new Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am as well as the premiere of the Audi R8 GRAND-AM. Both cars were built by the factory specifically for Rolex Series competition.
Two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip turned his first laps on the Daytona International Speedway road course in preparation for his GRAND-AM debut. Since his AF Waltrip team’s Ferrari was not yet ready, Waltrip and co-drivers Rob Kauffman and Rui Aguas practiced in a TRG Porsche GT3.
- While not entered in the test, Charlie Putman and Charles Espenlaub both drove in the No. 41 Dempsey Racing FishingCapital.com/Bass2Billfish Mazda RX-8 they will be sharing for the 2012 Rolex Series season. Espenlaub moves to the Rolex Series fulltime after serving as Patrick Dempsey’s standby for three seasons when the team owner was forced to miss races due to his acting schedule. The Rolex 24 will be the Rolex Series debut for Putman, who tested a GT car for the first time on Wednesday.
- Eliseo Salazar hopes to make his first appearance in the Rolex 24 since 1999, driving a Porsche for TRG. The Chilean veteran of Formula One, IndyCar and sports car racing finished fifth in that year’s USRRC-sanctioned event, driving a Riley & Scott/Ford for Transatlantic Racing.
- The new Racers Edge Motorsports Dodge Viper ran only three laps at the test before retiring with a broken transmission. Team owner Jon Mirachi plans to do a private test later in the month in Savannah, Ga., in preparation for January’s Roar Before the Rolex 24.
- The lone incident of the day saw Doug Grunnet spin in the horseshoe and contact the barrier, sustaining front end damage to the No. 55 Acumen Motorsport Porsche GT3. He was uninjured. Co-driver Gary St. Amour had the lone incident in Tuesday’s practice, when he hit the barrier in the chicane.
- “I ran a lap of 1:47.3 - and did it three times in a row. I’m over the moon. I’m pleased as punch for all the boys on the team. It’s not my talent, it’s my passion that’s carrying me. The team told me to let the car come to me, and I’m going a little faster every time I go out.” Brian Johnson, AC/DC Lead Singer, No. 50 50+ Racing/Predator BMW/Riley
- “Our new Corvette is very similar (to the 2011 Chevrolet/Dallara) as far as handling goes. Daytona isn’t such a critical downforce track, so I think once we go to the smaller, tighter tracks that require downforce, we’ll see a difference. Here at Daytona, we just normally trim the car out as much as possible to try to get that straight line speed.” Ricky Taylor, No. 10 SunTrust Corvette DP
- “Overall we’re really pleased with the Corvette. It has good handling, it has straightaway speed and the drivers are very comfortable driving it. All of that, we hope, will translate into another good run at the Rolex 24. We’ll go back to the shop, go over our notes, and come back ready to test again in January.” Gary Nelson, team manager, No. 5 and No. 9 Action Express Corvette DP
- “I remember being here in 1983, watching these cars run and marveling at the technology. I’ve always wanted to do the Rolex 24, but I’ve never really had a great opportunity before. Over the past few years I’ve gotten to do some road racing over in Europe. Now, to get the chance to come to Daytona. At least I know where the turns are – now I can work on improving my lap times. It’s not unrealistic to think we’ve got a shot at a podium finish – that’s our goal.” Michael Waltrip, No. 68 TRG Porsche GT3 (will race a Ferrari in the Rolex 24)
- “I feel like I can come in and be a good complement to an already successful program. Already in the first days with the team I feel like I’m right at home and Jordan (Taylor) and I seem to like the same things with the car. Jordan did an awesome job last year. I followed him closely, so I’m looking forward to another successful season.” Paul Edwards, No. 88 Autohaus Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro GT.R
- “We’re not really worried about the speed right now. We’re working with the handling of the car and trying to improve the reliability of our new Ferrari. We really want to put miles on it and see what we have to improve and be better prepared for the race.” Raphael Matos, No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am
Selected teams with new cars not ready for this week’s test will have the opportunity to shake down their cars at Daytona on Monday, Dec. 19.
The next official activity for the Rolex Series will be the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test at Daytona International Speedway on Jan. 5-8. The 2012 Rolex Series opens with the Jan 28-29 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona.
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