Rolex Roundup: Hoosier Tire Introduction Test
Homestead-Miami Speedway -- Day 3
MIAMI (December 2, 2004) -- With 4,589 recorded laps and more than 10,500 miles turned over three days at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Hoosier Tire Introduction Test was a resounding success for the new Rolex Series tire supplier.
"We are pleasantly surprised with how well everything went," said Hoosier Tire Product Manager Mike Kraemer. "We hit the target. The tire has proven to be consistent, but also the performance level was where we were shooting for. The teams have been very accommodating and complimentary; we are very pleased with their professionalism. This is a new area for us, and we are working hard to live up to their expectations."
Today's final day of testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway saw a total of 18 cars log 1486 laps around the 2.3-mile Homestead road circuit. For the second consecutive day, the No. 27 Doran Racing Lexus Doran turned the most recorded laps, as the car made 159 tours around the South Florida facility. As has been the case for all three days of the test, The Racer's Group again logged the most laps among the GT competitors with the team's No. 65 Porsche GT3 Cup turning 139 recorded laps. Times were not distributed.
"It was a very productive test, a great debut for Hoosier and we were impressed that the teams ran more than 10,000 relatively trouble-free miles without any major incidents," said Grand American Road Racing Association President Roger Edmondson. "The competitive nature of even our debuting teams is particularly impressive and newcomers and our series veterans alike have made it clear that they want to begin next season with a victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. It says something about the Rolex Sports Car Series that teams believe they have a shot to win the most prestigious endurance race in North America in their series debut, but the competition next season will undoubtedly be our strongest in history."
Hoosier and the Rolex teams will next test at Daytona International Raceway, January 7-9 for the annual "Daytona Test Days" in preparation for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
FINLAY MOTORSPORTS GETS FAMILIAR WITH DAYTONA PROTOTYPE
Daytona Prototype newcomers Finlay Motorsports took full advantage of the Hoosier Tire Introduction Test to get the team's drivers, Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell, as well as the entire team more familiar with the nuances of the Rolex Series' top category. While the team has a wealth of experience in various forms of open wheel racing, the team is working quickly to get their No. 19 BMW Riley up to speed.
"(Tuesday) was the first time we ever ran the car, so we just had a few little glitches to get everything working," said Steve Cameron, who manages the Finlay operation through his company, Cameron Motorsports Management. "We're pretty happy. We had both Michael and Memo pretty good speed-wise. We'd like to be faster, but we've got a lot to learn. It was good."
While Gidley and McDowell clearly turned the lion's share of laps in the car, the team also used the test session as an opportunity to test potential co-drivers to run with the regular driving duo in February's Rolex 24 At Daytona. Among the drivers seen spending time in the Finlay pit were young open-wheel standouts Michael Valiante, Jonathan Bomarito and Leo Maia.
"We're going to try to get Valiante in the car," Cameron said. "If things work out and we get through most of the stuff, we're going to run Bomarito. Leo might. He wasn't on our list originally, but he asked if he could run. (Team owner) Rob Finlay is getting in, and if Leo can convince him to put him in, we'll put him in. It would be easy for us to go out and find somebody that's really experienced and put him in, but part of what Rob wants to do is give some of these guys a chance. I think for the series, he'd like to bring some new guys in and show that there's an alternate route to go. You don't have to go open-wheel to make a living; you can come here and run professionally. I think that's a good deal."
MICHAEL BAUGHMAN RACING PREPARES FOR '05 WITH HELP FROM EXPERIENCED DRIVERS
After stepping up from the 2004 Rolex Series Super Grand Sport (SGS) class to the Daytona Prototype category for 2005, Michael Baughman Racing put its new No. 07 Pontiac Crawford through testing paces throughout the three-day test. The team's regular drivers, Bob Ward and owner/driver Mike Baughman, were joined by veteran racers Stefan Johansson and Roberto Moreno as the team worked on getting the car sorted.
"A team like ours, we've got a steep learning curve," Baughman said. "It's going to take miles and miles and laps and laps for us to develop what they can feel almost immediately because of their backgrounds and because of their years of experience in these types of cars. It's a tremendous benefit to us, on the front end of our operation."
While Baughman's team undoubtedly benefited from input from Johansson and Moreno provided, so too did both drivers benefit from the experience. Both are actively seeking driving opportunities, particularly in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"The car is a lot of fun to drive," Johansson said. "It's performing better than I expected, actually. It's a pretty high level of performance. It's been working quite well. We had a good run here. I hope I can give them some guidance on the setup of the car, because I know what to expect from a car like this. Maybe we can give them some kind of a benchmark of what's possible to do or not to do with the car."
"At this point, I'm not completely done with formula cars, but there's an opportunity here to try the car and see how I like it," Moreno said. "The category is growing. I like what Grand-Am is doing. It's a good car and a good series for the right amount of money. I think next year we'll see more cars and then we'll pick up from there. It's something that I definitely want to do."
PROTOTYPE TECHNOLOGY GROUP PREPARES FOR EXPANDED PROGRAM IN '05
The 2004 Rolex Series GT championship-winning team, Prototype Technology Group, was hard at work this week at Homestead-Miami Speedway as the team revises its BMW M3s to meet the new-for-2005 GT class rules. To that end, drivers Joey Hand, Justin Marks, and '04 GT driver champion Bill Auberlen spent significant time in the seat.
"We're pretty happy," said PTG team owner Tom Milner. "Everything seems to be going okay. Really, the times don't mean anything here. Basically, what we are looking for is to get as much information about the tires, get a good setup and get familiar with the tires. At this moment, we're pretty happy with what we found out here. We're happy with the Hoosier Tires. They seem to be working just fine. The balance of the car is still the same. We've probably put 70 laps on a set of tires, and they seem to be fine. They're not wearing out. As a team owner, I'm happy about that."
While Auberlen, Hand and Marks were the ones doing the testing in Homestead, Milner is planning a four-car assault on the Rolex Series GT class in 2005. It's a tall order for the team that won 10 of 12 races in the GT category in 2004.
"My son (Tom) will be racing next year, he will be racing with Justin in the car," Milner said. "The reason why he's not here is that he's got to go to school. He's in his first year of college. Tom has a lot to learn, and Justin has some experience having been the co-driver of Bill, so that was obviously good. I suspect that they will do a very good job. Bill and Joey will be together, then we will have Ian James and Chris Gleason and Kelly Collins and RJ Valentine. For Daytona, we'll take all of those eight drivers and have four drivers per car. We are going to run the four cars the first time (in Round 2 of the 2005 season) at Homestead."
MICHAEL SHANK RACING TESTS MEARS AND BORKOWSKI; LOOKS TO ADD SECOND CAR FOR '05
With a full year of experience in the Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype category, Michael Shank Racing went to work on its 2005 program, as Paul Mears Jr. and Mike Borkowski have brought their Mears Motor Coach-sponsored Pontiac Riley to the team. The new car No. 6 turned several laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"It's really good," said team owner Mike Shank. "We just started with the car. It's a new car, engine, drivers, everything, and at least the beginnings of those times are a 'feeling out' time. It's a totally different package. It's going really well. We were pretty quick out there. It's quite a bit different from the Doran, it does things differently, so we're just trying to learn about those kinds of changes and what it likes and doesn't like. The same for the Pontiac motor versus the Lexus."
While the team's focus at this test was to familiarize themselves with each other and the new equipment, Shank is still actively working on putting together a program to also run the Lexus Doran the team campaigned in 2004. Oswaldo Negri Jr., who drove for MSR in 2004 and resides in nearby Aventura, was a fixture in the paddock throughout the three-day test.
"I'm hoping very shortly that I can come out with something for at least Daytona, but hopefully the whole season," Shank said. "Os is here a lot, and we'd like to try to utilize him if we can. He did a really good job for us. There's a couple of other guys out there that I would like to try to get in our cars. It's just trying to package the whole thing up so we can get it paid for."
MULTIMATIC MOTORSPORTS CONTINUES DEVELOPMENT
While the primary goal of the test for all teams at Homestead-Miami Speedway was to familiarize themselves with the new Hoosier Tires for 2005, the teams in attendance had various other things they were working on in addition to the new tires. Many of the teams used the opportunity to audition drivers or get drivers some much-needed seat time, but Multimatic Motorsports took advantage of the test to continue its development of the No. 49 Ford Multimatic with driver Scott Maxwell.
"We've learned a lot," said Multimatic Vice President Larry Holt. "A bit of a problem with Multimatic has been that we haven't been racing regularly. We've developed the car. The car's come a long way since last year, but our disadvantage is we don't race it every two weeks like everybody else. These three days have really helped us. We've done a huge amount of changes, and we've just learned a lot of things about the car that we wouldn't have had an opportunity to learn otherwise. Obviously, we had to learn on these new tires, which seem to be pretty good. I have no complaints at all with the tire, and certainly the service from Hoosier is fantastic. Those guys have done a really, really good job."
While Doran, Riley and Crawford chassis clearly outnumber the Multimatics, Holt was quick to point out that Multimatic is extremely committed to a building a successful program in the Rolex Sports Car Series.
"I'm here and I'm the vice president of Multimatic," Holt said. "I've got a lot of other things to do other than being in Homestead for three days, but I'm here because, as Multimatic, we take it really, really seriously. We committed to it. We've had a bit of a struggle with some of the customers and this and that. We didn't run our own factory car, which in retrospect, I guess that was a mistake, whereas the other guys are. I guess that's why we're here. We've got to come out of the closet, tune the thing up and go head-to-head with them."
Holt mentioned that there are currently four Multimatics in circulation. One of them now belongs to Gunnar Racing, which plans to field the car in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Although Gunnar Racing did not participate in the test with the entered No. 45 Ford Multimatic, Gunnar Jeannette turned a few laps in the No. 49 race car and was a fixture in the team's pit throughout the sessions.
"We've been involved with Multimatics for the last couple of years," Jeannette said. "Through the year 2004, we've been more involved with the Daytona Prototype and the upcoming Mustang that's going to run in Grand-Am Cup for the 2005 season for Ford. We've seen a lot of new development with the car throughout the last couple of months, and I was at VIR (in October) with the team when they ran. It's come a long way. We're not totally there yet, but it's test days like these that really get you where you want to be."
RILEYS CONTINUE BRISK PACE
While official times were not distributed from the Hoosier Tire Introduction Test, Orbit Racing's new No. 39 Pontiac Riley was clearly among the quickest cars throughout the test in the hands of Jim Matthews, Joel Camathias and No. 10 SunTrust Racing regular driver Max Angelelli, who was on hand to help out for the test.
"This is chassis number 11, which is here as a spare," said Riley Technologies Vice President Bill Riley. "Jim Matthews and Orbit own it. I just delivered it here for them as a spare. The '05 cars have some new parts on them, but you'll see the new parts on the cars for Daytona. The test is going pretty well. We have a lot of new customers here and people that are getting their hands on the cars for the first time. All the cars are kind of working up to it. I'm pretty happy with everything so far."
Like many others at the test, Riley was also pleased with the progress of the Hoosier Tires throughout the time at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"We just want to make sure that the Hoosier Tires are working the way we thought they were going to work, and that there wasn't anything dramatic we need to do to make them work stronger," Riley said. "It's kind of been the case that they're working very well, so we're pretty comfortable going into Daytona."
FLYING LIZARD MOTORSPORTS GETS READY FOR ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA
With a second place GT class finish in the 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona, Flying Lizard Motorsports is looking to improve their performance by one position in 2005. To that end, the team had a pair of Porsche GT3s at Homestead-Miami Speedway for drivers Seth Neiman, Lonnie Pechnik, Jon Fogarty and Johannes van Overbeek to get re-acquainted with the Rolex Sports Car Series.
"Flying Lizard is here to learn about the Hoosier Tires and also the configuration of these cars--they're different than what we races last year--to learn how to make them fast, reliable and consistent," van Overbeek said. "We're also learning about the Hoosier Tires, which have been great, very consistent and incredibly durable. The year before last we finished third (in the Rolex 24), last year we finished second, so if natural order persists, we're hoping for a good finish this year in the 24."
While the team has not competed in the Rolex Series since February, van Overbeek has definitely been paying attention to the series and likes what he sees.
"It's just phenomenal, the growth of the series, the competitiveness and the number of teams that have stepped-up and run really competitive programs, top to bottom," he said. "It's definitely an exciting series to watch, and we're excited to be a part of it for the 24."
DORAN LENDS A HELPING HAND
The No. 27 Doran Racing Lexus Doran turned hundreds of laps through the three-day Hoosier Tire Introduction Test. While the team was making itself more comfortable with the Hoosier Tires like the other teams, the main mission for team owner/chassis builder Kevin Doran was to make some new customers more comfortable with the car.
"We're really just using these test days to get some new Doran car drivers familiar with the car," Doran said. "The Hyper Sport guys are here, and their car's not ready yet, so they're getting time in the car. There's also some of the people that are going to be running with us next year, and some prospects for future sales. There's a lot of interest around DP right now, everybody wants to drive one, so we're trying to accommodate as many people as possible."
The new Hyper Sport Daytona Prototype team--which will consist of drivers Joe Foster, Rick Skelton and Brad Nyberg--had originally planned on running their new car during the test sessions this week. While circumstances prevented that from happening, the team looks forward to receiving its car next week in addition to an announcement regarding the team's engine package in the near future.
"We're looking forward to getting our Doran," Foster said. "Kevin's been pretty busy. He's working as fast as he can to get the thing built. It wasn't quite ready for this test. There's a few bits and pieces still missing, no big deal. He was nice enough to let us come down and wear his car out and make sure we could get the drivers and the crew up to speed on how to work on the car as well as drive the car. We should be taking delivery of our car by the end of next week."
TPC RACING BACK ON TRACK
The 2004 Rolex Series SGS team champion TPC Racing was on hand at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a stripped-down No. 36 Porsche GT3 Cup. Team owner Michael Levitas shared the car with Randy Pobst and Spencer Pumpelly for the team's GT introduction to Hoosier Tires.
"I've always loved Hoosier and their tires," Levitas said. "They do such a good job, and they make great tires. They have such good characteristics and they are really stable. It's amazing how they last such a long time."
The team used Hoosiers in their championship-winning SGS campaign in 2004, and is also well familiar with the tires from their Grand-Am Cup Series experiences.