Homestead: SunTrust Racing preview

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 26, 2008) -- Like the sunrise signals the dawning of a brand new day, a bold, new paint scheme and a new-from-the-ground-up race car ushers in a new era for SunTrust Racing and drivers Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante as...

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 26, 2008) -- Like the sunrise signals the dawning of a brand new day, a bold, new paint scheme and a new-from-the-ground-up race car ushers in a new era for SunTrust Racing and drivers Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante as they head to Homestead (Fla.) Miami Speedway for Saturday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Gainsco Grand Prix of Miami.

With this weekend's highly anticipated debut of the all-new Dallara DP-01 prototype -- an intensive project that has been a collaborative effort between legendary race car manufacturer Dallara Automobili Spa of Parma, Italy, and Indianapolis-based Wayne Taylor Racing for most of the past year -- SunTrust dipped into a few different shades on its corporate color pallet to create a stunning, orange- and tangerine-based paint scheme for the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac, featuring the company's trademark sunray logo effect on the side pods. The familiar SunTrust blue from the previous paint scheme also remains prominent on the race car's cockpit rooftop.

SunTrust and Wayne Taylor Racing are banking on the all-new Dallara to continue the program's championship form in the Rolex Series. In its previous 53 races since joining the series in 2004, SunTrust campaigned a Pontiac-powered Riley chassis to 11 victories, 30 podium finishes, six pole positions and the 2005 series championship at the hands of co-drivers Angelelli and Wayne Taylor, who formed the team that bears his name in November of 2006. SunTrust has never finished outside the top-three in the season-ending team championship since joining the series and looks to take major strides toward capturing its second championship as the Dallara factory effort in the midst of a dozen Rileys entered in Saturday's Gainsco Grand Prix of Miami.

Angelelli, who began a longtime relationship with the Dallara factory in 1989, when he was Rookie of the Year in the Italian F3 Championship, is certainly excited about driving the company's first Rolex Series product. Valiante, his new full-time co-driver, gets to play a prominent role in bringing an all-new race car into the world on the heels of becoming a father for the first time. Valiante and his wife, Nicola, welcomed the arrival of a new son, Massimo Claudio Valiante, into the world on March 11.

Practice for Saturday's Grand Prix of Miami begins Thursday afternoon with Daytona Prototype-class qualifying set for 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday. Saturday's 250-mile (or 2-hour, 45-minute) race begins at 3 p.m. with SPEED-TV's delayed broadcast beginning at 6 p.m. The detailed event schedule, as well as live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions, can be found at www.grand-am.com.

Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara:

This has got to be one of the most exciting times in your racing career as you were heavily involved, along with Wayne Taylor, in bringing this Dallara program to the Rolex Series. What's on your mind as you're about to debut the new car?

"Going to Homestead this week will finally show evidence of the job that has been done in the last 12 months between Dallara and Wayne Taylor Racing. I will have the pleasure of driving the first Dallara in the Grand-Am series. I am especially excited because this deal seemed like such a long and involved process. Once we took delivery of the car, it was the entire Wayne Taylor Racing organization that made it possible to be at the track this week. Remember that Wayne and I made the arrangements with Dallara, which started a year ago. But since then, it was up to the Wayne Taylor Racing people -- our engineers and mechanics, technical director Travis Jacobson, team manager Simon Hodgson -- they are the ones who deserve all the credit for making this happen because of the unbelievable amount of work that had to be done. I don't know how they did it. My task is to make them proud -- our mechanics, our guys who work on the car with their hands. I want to make them proud. And then, I would like to be able to give a lot of success to Dallara, personally, because I have a long relationship with them dating back to 1989 when I joined the Italian Formula 3 Championship."

Based on what you experienced at the shakedown and initial test at Kershaw, S.C., earlier this month, what are your expectations for this weekend?

"My expectations always are very high. I'm very optimistic right now. From the test at Kershaw, it's difficult to really know how we will do against everybody else because it's a track where we don't go racing, and no other cars were there with us. So we can't say for sure until we are out on the track with everybody else in race weekend conditions. The only thing I know for sure is all of our competitors should be very well-prepared because they tested at Homestead at the end of February. We must match them through our preparation of this new car. When it comes to speed on the race track, we will have to rely on our preparation and we must be confident that speed will come from various avenues as a result of our preparation. Don't forget that SunTrust Racing has always had a very strong history at pretty much all the tracks. I would put SunTrust Racing right alongside the Ganassi team in terms of results and history and the ability to prepare our race cars. Obviously, we're making a huge change with this new car, but that is because we want to get better, not worse."

How would you describe the new Dallara compared to other cars you've driven?

"It is a mix of new concepts and very old concepts. That is really nice because Grand-Am racing is all about that sort of mix. All of the aerodynamic knowledge that Dallara has, combined with huge restrictions created by the rules, adds up to a huge challenge for Dallara, the company. They have the super high technology, and they've only built carbon fiber chassis, and now they're competing with a tube-framed chassis for the first time against five other car manufacturers. I'm very pleased with what they've done, so far. They consider this a great exercise for their engineers. They have a great record for success in many other formulas, and this is a whole new challenge for them with the tube frame, racing against different car manufacturers, different engines, all sorts of driving styles and levels of experience. I'm confident that they are up to the challenge."

Quotes from Michael Valiante, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara:

What was your initial impression of the new Dallara during the shakedown and test earlier this month, and what are your feelings for its first race weekend at Homestead?

"The test went really well. I think everybody was pleased with the car. It handled really well. But any time you bring out a new car, it's a challenge to get it up to speed in such a short amount of time. I don't believe there's any reason we shouldn't have a shot at winning this race. Definitely, we're going to have to work really hard to make up for some of the lost time we didn't have to totally develop the car to its full potential. To be honest, the car has a nice balance, overall, especially in the fast corners. At the test, the main things we focused on were the teething problems, a lot of those things that creep up that you don't want to happen during a race weekend. So, more than sheer, outright speed, the things we worked on were just to make sure that everything is reliable and working properly. Still, we were able to do some really quick (lap) times. Any time you can bring out a new car and it's on pace right away, that's really a good sign."

Do you think Homestead is a good place to show up with a brand new race car?

"I don't think it really matters where we would go on the circuit. Every track presents its own challenges. We'll just have to make sure we tailor the car to the Homestead track and get everything right for the conditions because we didn't test there with everybody else in February. I figure we'll be a little bit behind at the start of the weekend. But we've got a great engineering staff and crew, so I'm confident we can sort it out. The track is just really low on grip. It'll be a matter of finding the grip we'll need to give us really good balance coming off the high-speed corners and coming off the oval onto the road course. I really enjoy Homestead. It's a challenging track. I'm looking forward to going there."

Wayne Taylor, owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara team:

To say the last year has been a busy one for you and the team might be quite an understatement. How does it feel to finally be introducing the new Dallara and the new SunTrust paint scheme at Homestead this weekend?

"Basically, for the last year, it's been fraught with a tremendous amount of things to do, from putting together and running the two-car effort at Daytona, and at the same time preparing the new Dallara, working with SunTrust on the color scheme of the new car, then testing the new car at Kershaw. Once this weekend is behind us, I'm looking forward to returning to normalcy. But this weekend really sets the stage for an exciting future for SunTrust Racing. I'll say I'm cautiously optimistic as I'd like to manage expectations. I'm not worried about the competitiveness of the new car. I might be just a little worried about the fact it's a brand new car, and with the limited amount of time we've had to run the car, that we might encounter some little problem during its first race. But we've got what we've got and the guys have done an outstanding job of preparing the car. From that perspective, I feel pretty good. When we got the car, we had tons to do, like designing of the wiring looms and the various other things. It was very much a joint effort between Dallara and Wayne Taylor Racing to get this first car running. I think both sides have done an enormous amount of work. I can't tell you the amount of hours our guys have put in to get this car ready for this race, and their tremendous attention to detail. I think once everybody sees the car, everyone will realize the amount of work that's gone on."

Can you point out any features on the new Dallara prototype that might yield your best results, yet, on the race track?

"The rules are pretty tight, so there's really not much a new constructor can change. The biggest advantage, I feel, is that the new car represents our close relationship with Dallara as their works team. Their attention will be around us rather than us just being another customer. For me, if you want to win, you've got to surround yourself with the best, and you don't just want to be a customer. That only means great things for SunTrust Racing and Dallara as we move forward."

-credit: str

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Wayne Taylor , Michael Valiante , Max Angelelli
Teams Wayne Taylor Racing