Homestead: Thursday practice report

Rojas Leads Opening Day of Practice for Grand-Am Rolex Series GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 27, 2008) -- The last five minutes of the Thursday afternoon's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16...

Rojas Leads Opening Day of Practice for Grand-Am Rolex Series GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 27, 2008) -- The last five minutes of the Thursday afternoon's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 practice session shook up the leaderboard, and as the dust settled all five different engine manufacturers sat in the top-seven slots on the time sheets.

Memo Rojas turned the fastest lap during the last five minutes of the session behind the wheel of the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley, turning a lap of 1:12.824 (113.699 mph). Rojas' time was unofficially under the Daytona Prototype track record of 1:13.375, set by co-driver Scott Pruett in 2004.

"We've been working very hard and the team has been doing an awesome job at the shop," Rojas said. "Myself and Scott have been training in the car. We're really excited about this, so it's just the beginning. We're not taking it for granted now -- things are working out good for everybody."

Pruett held the top spot of the session for most of the one hour, 45 minutes the Daytona Prototypes were on the racetrack before Rojas took over for him.

David Donohue slipped into the second slot on the time charts on a flying lap of 1:13.350 (112.883 mph) that was actually completed after the checkered flag flew. Donohue's time in the No. 58 Brumos Porsche Riley was not much of a surprise, as Homestead-Miami Speedway has traditionally been a strong race for the Brumos team.

"It's just practice and you never take any awards home for practice; Saturday is another deal," said an obviously pleased-but-tempered Donohue. "We're happy. Everyone here at Brumos is working really hard. It's nice for the No. 58 car to be in the white colors again since Daytona; that was our first time. We're optimistic. It's always been a good track for us. We have to just keep plugging away. I'm sure not everyone is showing their cards."

The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley of Oswaldo Negri sat third in the time sheets with a lap of 1:13.381 (112.836 mph) at the conclusion of the session after being bumped by Donohue's lap. Negri, the Rolex 24 At Daytona polesitter, was also unofficially the quickest during the Rolex Series test session in February.

Defending Rolex Series co-champion Alex Gurney turned his fast lap of 1:13.453 (112.725 mph) on the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley's 43rd and final lap of the session to climb into fourth place, marking the fourth engine manufacturer in the top-four positions on the time sheets. Marc Goossens in the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley was fifth in a time of 1:13.470 (112.699 mph).

Ryan Dalziel piloted the No. 2 SAMAX Racing Miami Garage/Cigarette Racing BMW Riley to the seventh quickest time in the session, the fifth manufacturer near the top of the time sheets.

Today also marked the official on-track debut of the Dallara and Lola Chassis bodywork. The No. 77 Doran Racing Kodak Ford Dallara, driven by Memo Gidley and Brad Jaeger, set the fastest time of the four machines, 11th quickest overall. The No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola was right behind in 12th, while the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola was 17th. The No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara's times were not recorded due to transponder issues.

Liddell Tops Rolex Series GT Practice

Robin Liddell turned a fast lap of 1:19.430 (104.243 mph) to top the GT practice charts on the opening day of the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami Thursday, leading a field of 26 GT machines around the 2.3-mile, 11-turn infield road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Driving the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R, Liddell led three Pontiacs in the top-five during the one hour, 45 minute practice session.

"We were very happy with the car because we tested here two days in February and we made a lot of changes to the car, some of which were improvements, some of which weren't so good," Liddell said. "But it was part of the learning curve. We're still learning the car; it's still a new program for us. John Miller and GM have been very supportive."

"The Stevenson Motorsports team is really doing an awesome job with this car because it's very new to us and we're still learning, but we've evidently found the sweet spot of the car to some degree already," Liddell continued. "And we've managed to be quickest today, which is a testament to how good the car was today, so we're very happy."

Liddell will team with Andrew Davis in Saturday's race.

Rolex Series rookie Lawson Aschenbach followed Liddell on the time charts in the No. 72 Autohaus Motorsports GXP.R with a lap 1:19.514 (104.133 mph). For the Autohaus team, the opening-day success comes in the team's second Rolex Series race -- the first coming at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Aschenbach and Tim Lewis, Jr. will share the car Saturday.

"This is still a new team," he continued. "We're still kind of learning the car, I'm still learning the car a little bit, but so far, so good. As long as we can keep driving that way, hopefully we can keep it up there. We're still waiting for everyone else to finally pick up their pace."

Aschenbach echoed some of the same sentiments of Liddell.

"We're pretty happy," Aschenbach said. "You know it's a bit frustrating because we know that some other cars are coming back strong and we don't really know exactly where we're going to be in qualifying tomorrow -- we'll see."

Spencer Pumpelly was the quickest driver not in a Pontiac, as the TRG pilot lapped the Homestead-Miami Speedway circuit in 1:19.751 (103.823 mph) behind the wheel of the No. 67 TRG Gleukos/Monster Cable Porsche GT3. Pumpelly will co-drive with Tim George Jr. on Saturday.

Kelly Collins in the No. 07 Banner Racing Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R turned a lap of 1:19.957 (103.556 mph) to finish fourth in the afternoon session. Dirk Werner's lap of 1:20.018 (103.477 mph) in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 rounded out the top-five in GT competition.

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Memo Gidley , Scott Pruett , Marc Goossens , Robin Liddell , Kelly Collins , Lawson Aschenbach , David Donohue , Memo Rojas , Spencer Pumpelly , Andrew Davis , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Chip Ganassi , Brad Jaeger , Tim Lewis , Bob Stallings , Michael Shank , Dirk Werner , Tim George Jr. , Felix Sabates
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , Stevenson Motorsports , Doran Racing , Michael Shank Racing