Rolex Series Looks for Record Fifth Different Winners in U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express With four different cars and nine different drivers visiting Victory Lane through the first four races in the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex...
Rolex Series Looks for Record Fifth Different Winners in U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express
With four different cars and nine different drivers visiting Victory Lane through the first four races in the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve, the series is poised to set a new record should another different car take the win in Sunday's U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express (SPEED, Live, 4:00 p.m. ET).
For the first time since 2004, the first four races were won by four different sets of teammates, but a fifth different set of winners would be a first for the Rolex Series. Daytona Prototype points co-leaders Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen will be among the teams looking to break the cycle of different winners this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Sharing the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley, Angelelli and Magnussen top an entry list featuring 19 Daytona Prototypes and 41 cars overall, after the teammates claimed their first victory of the season in last month's VIR 400. That victory, coupled with podium results in each of the first three races, vaulted Magnussen and Angelelli to the Daytona Prototype points lead. They currently lead 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion Scott Pruett by 11 points, 127-116, and head into this weekend's race riding a streak of 11 straight top-five finishes as co-drivers. They are also the defending champions at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
While Pruett and his No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-driver Memo Rojas had their worst finish of the season to date with an eighth-place run in the VIR 400, the No. 01 team also has fond memories of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Pruett, who hails from Auburn, Calif., and then-co-driver Luis Diaz claimed the inaugural Rolex Series victory at the 2.238-mile permanent road course in 2005, and a return trip to Victory Lane is certainly not out of the question. Pruett claimed his first victory of 2007 in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona with co-drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Salvador Duran, and is looking to share the top step of the podium with Rojas for the first time this weekend. They are also looking to return Pruett to the top of the Daytona Prototype driver standings and the No. 01 team to the top of the team championship after holding the respective positions through the first three races.
The tandem of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 GAINSCO Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley are also looking for a second victory this season after taking the Mexico City 400k in March. Look for the No. 99 teammates to be strong in qualifying, as the car has started from the front row in all four races thus far. Add to that the fact that Gurney and Fogarty co-drove to second place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last year, and the No. 99 teammates cannot be overlooked.
The same can also be said for the No. 05 Luggage Express Team Sigalsport BMW Riley pairing of Matthew Alhadeff and two-time Rolex Series GT champion Bill Auberlen. Alhadeff and Auberlen picked up their first career Daytona Prototype victory in the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami in March, and will be looking to deliver another victory this weekend for team and race sponsor, Luggage Express.
Any of the aforementioned teams and drivers are solid bets to win again this weekend, but there are plenty of others that are undoubtedly candidates to make it five winners in five races. Topping that list are teammates Colin Braun and Max Papis in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley. The highest running drivers in the point standings yet to win a Daytona Prototype race, Braun--who has snatched two poles in the last three races--and Papis have finished in the runner-up spot in two of the four races this season, at Mexico City and VIR.
Braun also finished third at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last year, co-driving with Jorg Bergmeister, who went on to claim the 2006 Daytona Prototype title. This year, Bergmeister shares the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford with American racer Patrick Long, and the teammates are currently tied for 11th I the championship standings. Bergmeister and Long finished ninth at VIR -- one of three top 10s this season -- after starting 23rd following two off-course excursions during qualifying, and the pair scored a season-best fifth at Mexico City. Long started on the pole in last year's race at Laguna Seca with Mike Rockenfeller as his co-driver, and the combination of Long and Bergmeister could certainly break through this weekend..
No. 58 Red Bull/Brumos Racing Porsche Riley co-drivers David Donohue and Darren Law, who share sixth in the point standings with Rojas, also look to win their first Daytona Prototype race of the season after a season-best third at VIR, just days after the loss of Brumos Racing President and CEO Bob Snodgrass. Donohue and Law own three top 10s thus far in 2007, and finished fifth last season at Laguna Seca after starting 22nd in class. Donohue led four laps at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last year en route to a fifth-place result for himself and Law.
After missing the VIR 400 due to a family emergency, Patrick Carpentier returns to the No. 11 SAMAX Motorsport Pontiac Riley and Rolex Series competition this weekend, which will be his first Rolex Series start at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. However, Carpentier knows the quick way around the track as his back-to-back Champ Car victories in 2003 and 2004 will attest. Carpentier, whose co-driver has not yet been named, is in a five-way tie for 15th in points.
Rob Finlay and Michael Valiante will run their second race under the Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates banner at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca after racing under Finlay Motorsports in the first three races. Co-driving the No. 19 Z-Line Designs/Mission Residential/Make-A-Wish Lexus Riley, Finlay and Valiante own two top 10s this season, with a best finish of seventh at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The second car from the Brumos Racing stable--the No. 59 Brumos Porsche/Kendall Porsche Riley -- will be driven by Hurley Haywood and JC France this weekend. The duo was joined by Joao Barbosa and Roberto Moreno in its fourth-place finish in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, one of two top fives for the car this season.
After three straight top 10s to start the season, No. 61 AIM Autosport Exchange Traded Gold/Barrick Gold/RBC Financial Lexus Riley drivers Burt Frisselle and Mark Wilkins return to boost the car's eighth-place ranking in points. The team achieved a season-best fifth in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Michael Shank Racing's two teams will also look for their third top 10s on the year and first top-five results. Co-driving the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Riley will be regular pilot Ian James and multiple-time Rolex 24 At Daytona starter John Pew, who is in his first start with the team after car co-owner Henri Zogaib stepped out of the cockpit to concentrate on his growing business interests. The No. 6 machine is currently 10th in points, thanks in part to James' and Zogaib's season-best sixth-place finish at VIR.
Co-driving the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Riley are Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri Jr. The pair started the season with back-to-back ninth-place finishes and was 11th at VIR. Patterson and Negri are also part of the 15th-place tie in points. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has also been good to Negri and Patterson, as Negri picked up his first career Rolex Series pole at the venue in 2005, and the pair has finished inside the top 11 in each of its two Rolex Series appearances.
Harrison Brix will co-drive the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Fabcar with Christian Fittipaldi in the race. Brix is from nearby San Jose, Calif., and, together with Fittipaldi, is looking for the team's first top 10 of 2007.
Krohn Racing's second car, the No. 76 Pontiac Riley driven by Nic Jonsson and car owner Tracy Krohn, is coming off its second top 10 in 2007 after placing 10th at VIR, while No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley co-drivers Jim Matthews and Marc Goossens recorded a season-best seventh at VIR.
Completing the Daytona Prototype field are Shane Lewis and Randy Ruhlman in the No. 3 Preformed Line Products/TrueChoice Motorsports Lexus Riley for Southard Motorsports, Roger Schramm and Justin Bell in the No. 12 Rock Valley Oil & Chemical Co. Pontiac Riley, and Memo Gidley and Guy Cosmo in the No. 77 Kodak Ford Doran for Feeds The Need/Doran Racing.
Sunday's race will be the second of five races in which the Daytona Prototypes will race separately from the GT class.
The GT race takes center stage on Saturday, with points co-leaders Nick Ham and Sylvain Tremblay looking to return the No. 70 Mazdaspeed Mazda RX-8 to Victory Lane at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Tremblay and Ham have taken the victory in two of the four GT races thus far in 2007, at Mexico City and Homestead-Miami Speedway and maintained their points lead with a second-place run in the VIR 400. A victory for the RX-8 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, however, would be especially sweet for Tremblay and Ham.
If they are to win, however, the No. 70 teammates will have to withstand Farnbacher Loles Motorsports teammates Dirk Werner and Bryce Miller in the No. 87 Marquis Jet/IPC/Recaro Porsche GT3, who have teamed for two consecutive podium finishes, including their first Rolex Series class victory last month at VIR. There, Werner held off a spirited charge by fellow Farnbacher driver Dominik Farnbacher in the final 20 laps, with Farnbacher retiring in the end of the race after suffering a damaged radiator.
Werner moved into sole possession of third in the standings after the win, 18 points behind Tremblay and Ham, (128-110). However the No. 85 Shoes For Crews/Recaro Porsche GT3--being co-driven this weekend by 2005 Rolex Series GT champion Craig Stanton and Leh Keen--has led the most laps in the GT class. Drivers of the Porsche GT3 car have combined to lead 371 of the contested 884 laps (nearly 42 percent) this season. Stanton will take the place of Farnbacher in the No. 85 this weekend.
Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins, who are tied for fourth in the current driver point standings, finished third at VIR, and trail Tremblay and Ham by 21 points. The No. 07 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R co-drivers, have finished in the class top 10 in all four races this season.
GT class Rolex 24 At Daytona champions Jean-Francois Dumoulin and Carlos de Quesada, who share driving responsibilities for the No. 22 Gatorade/TodayMD.com Porsche GT3 for Alegra Motorsports/Fiorano Racing, have scored back-to-back sixth-place finishes at Homestead-Miami Speedway and VIR, moving their car to fourth-place in points. Canadians Greg Wilkins and Dave Lacey have not finished lower than ninth in four GT class races, with a season-best fifth at VIR in the No. 17 Doncaster Racing MineStar Solutions/Tim Hortons Porsche GT3.
Others to watch closely in the GT class include the four-car Porsche program from TRG and a pair of Porsche GT3s from Tafel Racing. With headquarters not too far up the road in Petaluma, Calif., the two-time defending GT team champion TRG operation looks for its first victory with Jim Lowe and Jim Pace sharing the team's No. 64 JLowe Racing/SRS/CheapCaribbean.com/American Cancer Society/20Nine.com Porsche GT3, Ross Smith and a co-driver to be named in the No. 65 Maxwell Paper Products Co. Porsche GT3, 2006 GT champion Andy Lally and co-driver RJ Valentine in the No. 66 CRG/Maxter/Rotax/MBA/NFP/F1Air Porsche GT3, and Bob Heniff and Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 67 Heniff Transportation Porsche GT3.
The Georgia-based Tafel operation will field the No. 72 Tornos/Dunkel Bros/ANCA/North South Machinery Porsche GT3 for Nathan Swartzbaugh and Andrew Davis and the No. 74 Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3 for Eric Lux and Ian James. Tafel Racing earned its first-ever Rolex Series class victory last year at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with drivers Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell.
On-track activities get underway for the Rolex Series with practice sessions on Friday morning, followed by GT qualifying Friday afternoon and Daytona Prototype qualifying Saturday morning. The GT class will take the green flag for the U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express at 3:20 p.m. PT on Saturday, May 19 with a scheduled distance of 400 km or 250 miles (112 laps) and a two-hour and 30-minute time limit. The Daytona Prototypes are poised for a 1 p.m. start Sunday, also a scheduled distance of 400 km or 250 miles and a two-hour and 30-minute time limit.
SPEED will provide live and taped television coverage of the U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express. Live coverage of the Daytona Prototype race is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, while a tape delayed version of the GT class race is scheduled for Saturday, May 26 at 8 p.m. ET. Live coverage from throughout the weekend, including Live Timing & Scoring data from all sessions and an audio webcast of the race will also be available on the official web site of Grand-Am, www.grand-am.com.
U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express Storylines
Who: Grand American Road Racing Association
What: Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve
Where: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca -- Monterey, Calif.
When: Saturday, May 19, 2007 -- 3:20 p.m. PT (Rolex Series GT race)
Sunday, May 20, 2007 -- 1:00 p.m. ET (Rolex Series DP race)
TV: SPEED, Live, 1:00 p.m. ET Sunday (GT race Tape Delay, 8:30 p.m. ET Saturday, May 26)
Schedule of Events: (All times local, Eastern Time)
Friday, May 18
8:00 AM - 8:45 AM Practice -- KONI Challenge ST
8:55 AM - 9:40 AM Practice -- Rolex Sports Car Series GT
9:50 AM - 10:35 AM Practice -- KONI Challenge GS
10:45 AM - 11:30 AM Practice -- Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototypes
1:00 PM - 1:40 PM Practice -- KONI Challenge ST
1:50 PM - 2:35 PM Practice -- Rolex Sports Car Series GT
2:45 PM - 3:25 PM Practice -- KONI Challenge GS
3:35 PM - 4:20 PM Practice -- Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototypes
5:10 PM - 5:25 PM Qualifying -- KONI Challenge ST
5:40 PM - 5:55 PM Qualifying -- Rolex Sports Car Series GT
Saturday, May 19
8:30 AM - 8:50 AM Practice -- KONI Challenge GS
9:00 AM - 9:30 AM Practice -- Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototypes
9:40 AM - 10:00 AM Final Practice -- KONI Challenge ST
10:10 AM - 10:30 AM Final Practice -- Rolex Sports Car Series GT
10:40 AM - 10:55 AM Qualifying -- KONI Challenge GS
11:05 AM - 11:20 AM Qualifying -- Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototypes
11:45 AM - 12:30 PM Autograph Session -- Rolex Series GT Drivers
12:05 PM Recon Laps -- KONI Challenge ST
12:20 PM - 2:50 PM START -- KONI Challenge ST Race (400k -- 112 laps - 2 ½ hour time limit)
3:05 PM Recon Laps -- Rolex Sports Car Series GT
3:20 PM - 5:50 PM START -- Rolex Sports Car Series GT Race (400k -- 112 laps - 2 ½ hour time limit)
Sunday, May 20
8:00 AM - 8:15 AM Final Practice -- KONI Challenge GS
8:25 AM - 8:40 AM Final Practice -- Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototypes
8:55 AM Recon Laps -- KONI Challenge GS
9:05 AM - 11:35 AM START -- KONI Challenge GS Race (400k -- 112 laps - 2 ½ hour time limit)
10:30 AM - 11:30 AM Autograph Session -- Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Drivers
11:45 AM - 12:40 PM Lunch -- Fan Parade Laps
12:40 PM Recon Laps -- Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototypes
1:00 PM START -- Rolex Sports Car Series GT Race (250 miles -- 112 laps - 2 ½ hour time limit)
TIME CERTAIN SCHEDULE -- All sessions to start and finish as shown