Mexico City: Round three preview

Mexico City's Rojas, Daytona Prototype Point Co-Leader Pruett Seek Third Straight Rolex Series Victory Saturday TRG's Pumpelly, George lead defending Mexico City winners Tremblay, Ham in GT points DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 15, 2008) --...

Mexico City's Rojas, Daytona Prototype Point Co-Leader Pruett Seek Third Straight Rolex Series Victory Saturday

TRG's Pumpelly, George lead defending Mexico City winners Tremblay, Ham in GT points

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 15, 2008) -- Memo Rojas knows exactly what a victory would mean in this weekend's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Mexico City 250 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City (SPEED, Live, 4 p.m. ET Saturday).

Rojas grew up about an hour away from the race track, and remembers fondly attending Formula 1 and other open-wheel races at the track. His father Guillermo also competed at the track, and Rojas himself made his first on-track appearance last year in Grand-Am Rolex Series competition. He and No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley co-driver Scott Pruett finished fourth.

Now, Rojas and Pruett hold a 13-point lead over defending Rolex Series driving champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, who are again driving the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley. Pruett and Rojas are two-for-two in 2008 after winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January and backing that up in last month's GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The win was a record 16th in Daytona Prototypes for Pruett and put the duo in position to score a record third straight series victory, a mark set six times previously.

However, none of those statistics matter much to either driver right now.

"We have started the season on the right foot, winning at Daytona and Homestead," Rojas said, "so we have a lot of expectations for the weekend. The Mexico racing fans enjoy racing and cheer a lot, and with a driver from Mexico, they get very excited. The fans have a lot of expectations too. I'm very excited about the opportunity to race there again -- as are the team and Scott. I am just excited to start the weekend."

Gurney and Fogarty know how to win at Mexico City, as the pair won its first of a record seven races in 2008 at the 2.5-mile track last season after Gurney's back-and-forth duel with Max Papis of Krohn Racing. Gurney and Fogarty won last year's series crown by two points over Pruett.

"We feel very good about going back to Mexico," Gurney said. "It is much closer to the traditional road courses where we feel we do very well. We're in a great championship position and we're ready to keep building on that."

Another Mexican-born driver is Memo Gidley, who is running the No. 77 Doran Racing Kodak Ford Dallara this weekend with rookie Brad Jaeger. Gidley won the 2005 edition of the Mexico City 250 with Michael McDowell. Doran Racing will also debut its No. 47 BSI/CDOC Ford Dallara with Burt Frisselle and Gabriele Gardel.

Brumos Racing's Darren Law will notch his series record 100th career start at Mexico City, driving the No. 58 Porsche Riley with David Donohue, and JC France and Joao Barbosa will drive the team's No. 59 machine. Krohn Racing, which led most of last year's Mexico City race, brings its Nos. 75 and 76 Pontiac Rileys to the track. Michael Shank Racing will bring its Nos. 6 and 60 Ford Rileys.

Also on hand are the No. 2 SAMAX BMW Riley, No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus Riley, No. 7 Rum Bum Racing BMW Riley, No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara, No. 16 Cheever Racing Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Pontiac Coyote, No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford, No. 61 AIM Autosport Exchange Traded Gold Ford Riley and No. 91 Bob Stallings Racing/Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley.

ROLEX GT POINT LEAD STANDS AT ONE FOR PUMPELLY, GEORGE

The standings in Rolex Series GT is closer, with the consistent pair of Spencer Pumpelly and Tim George Jr. leading Rolex 24 At Daytona GT winners Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham by one point (62-61). Pumpelly and George, also the MESCO Building For the Future Rookie of the Year leader, have finished on the podium in both races, while the Daytona win and a fifth-place finish at Homestead have Tremblay and Ham in contention to retake the point lead after Mexico.

"The Mexico City race is one of my favorite Grand-Am events," said Pumpelly, driving one of two TRG cars -- the No. 67 Gleukos Porsche GT3 -- in the race. Bryce Miller and Ted Ballou will drive the No. 66 TRG Marquis Jet/Mitchell Rubber Porsche GT3.

"Most of the turns are fast, so there is a good flow to the track. The fans are very enthusiastic and the city offers us a new cultural experience. This year, a strong finish for Tim and me would make the trip complete."

Tremblay and Ham, in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazdaspeed/Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8, won last year's GT race at Mexico City by over a lap. The team's No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8, this season piloted by Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal, finished third in 2007.

"Mexico was great for us last year, we nailed the set-up early had both cars on the podium and got the first GT win for the RX-8, a dream result for sure," Tremblay said. "We should be good this year also. Both cars are faster, but the competition has also improved."

Banner Racing and Farnbacher Loles will also have two-car efforts in the field, with one-car efforts coming from Matt Connolly Motorsports, O'Connell Racing, Racers Edge Motorsports, Stevenson Motorsports, Autohaus Motorsports and Synergy Racing.

RACE SPECS

- This is Round 3 for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16. The combined Daytona Prototype/GT race is 250 miles (100 laps)/400 kilometers or two hours and 45 minutes, whichever comes first.

- The green flag for the race is scheduled to fly at 3:10 p.m. CT. The race will air live on SPEED (4 p.m. ET; Leigh Diffey: Play-by-Play; Dorsey Schroeder, Calvin Fish: Analysts; Brian Till, Chris Neville: Pit Reporters).

- All cars must make a mandatory pit stop prior to the 45-minute mark in the race, and each driver must complete 30 minutes of the race in order to earn points for their respective standings.

- Daytona Prototypes may use a maximum of five sets of tires for the event plus one additional set for eligible Jim Trueman and Bob Akin participants.

- Defending race winners are Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty (Daytona Prototypes) and Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham (GT).

ROLEX SERIES WEEKEND SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES CENTRAL)

- Thursday: Rolex Series Practice (1-2 p.m., 3-4 p.m.); Rolex Series Trueman/Akin Practice (4-4:30 p.m.)

- Friday: Rolex Series Practice (9:30-10:30 a.m.); GT Qualifying (11:10-11:30 a.m.); Daytona Prototype Qualifying (11:40 a.m.-Noon)

- Saturday: Rolex Series Practice (9:40-10:10 a.m.); Rolex Series Autograph Session (11-11:45 a.m.); Mexico City 250 (3:15 p.m.; 250 miles/400 kilometers or two-hours and 45 minutes)

2008 IN REVIEW

Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas are two-for-two after winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona and GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami to start the season. The pair drive the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley and own a 13-point advantage (70-57) over defending Rolex Series Daytona Prototype co-champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty.

In turn, two podium finishes by GT driver Spencer Pumpelly and Tim George Jr. of the TRG camp have the duo first in driver points by one (62-61) over Rolex 24 GT champs Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham. Tremblay and Ham are the defending Mexico City 250 GT winners.

NEWS & NOTES

- Native Sons: Mexico's own Memo Rojas and Memo Gidley will be the hometown favorites in Saturday's Mexico City 250. Rojas was born in Mexico City while Gidley -- the 2005 race co-winner -- was born in La Paz.

- Pulling Double Duty: Multiple drivers are pulling double duty this weekend, racing in both the Rolex Sports Car Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Among those are Scott Pruett and Kevin O'Connell. In addition, Rolex Series GT's O'Connell Racing is bringing both its Porsche GT3 and No. 06 Chevrolet Monte Carlo to compete. O'Connell Racing, based in Upland, Calif., is one of two teams fielding cars in both series; the other is Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, for whom Pruett is driving.

- Doran's Second Entry Debuts: The No. 47 Doran Racing BSI/CDOC Ford Dallara will debut this weekend, the second Doran Racing car. Veteran Burt Frisselle and rookie Gabriele Gardel will drive the car.

- Altitude to Play Factor: At more than 7,300 feet above sea level, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is the highest-sitting track on the Rolex Series schedule. Not only will the drivers and team members need to get used to the altitude change, but so will the cars, whose engines will produce a reduced amount of power.

- Negri Happy to be Back at Mexico City: Rolex Series regular Oswaldo Negri has competed at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez many times in a Daytona Prototype and other cars. He's happy to be back at the track, one he also considers a home venue to due his growing up in Brazil. "I love it there (Mexico City)," said Negri, who drives the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley with Mark Patterson. "I have been living in Miami for a long time and my family is here so Homestead is the closest track for me, but when we go down for the Mexico City race, it really is like coming home because of all the good memories I have there. The track is also quite challenging, but we've been quite fast there with the Michael Shank car."

- New Drivers for This Weekend's Race: Among those drivers making substitute or first-time appearances with their respective teams include Burt Frisselle and Gabriele Gardel (No. 47 Doran Racing), Ron Fellows (No. 06 Banner Racing, driving with Leighton Reese), Jameson Riley (No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports, driving with Craig Stone) and Pierre Kaffer (No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing).

- Starting up Front Has its Privileges: Starting on the pole is the right place to start, at least for drivers in the Rolex Series GT class. Sylvain Tremblay and Kelly Collins have recorded the poles for the two races this season, and both came away with a victory. In fact, the streak dates to last season, when Paul Edwards -- Collins' teammate -- scored the pole in the season finale at Miller Motorsports Park, a race the duo also won.

ROLEX SERIES POINT STANDINGS

- Daytona Prototype: 1. (tie) Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas (70), 3. (tie) Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty (57), 5. (tie) Oswaldo Negri, Mark Patterson (55), 7. Marc Goossens, Jim Matthews (51), 9. Joey Hand, Bill Auberlen (48).

- GT: 1. (tie) Spencer Pumpelly, Tim George Jr. (62), 3. (tie) Sylvain Tremblay, Nick Ham (61), 5. (tie) Kelly Collins, Paul Edwards (59), 7. Jan Magnussen (54), 8. Bryan Sellers (52), 9. (tie) Dirk Werner, Dominik Farnbacher (51).

- MESCO Building For the Future Rookie of the Year: 1. Tim George Jr. (62), 2. Bryan Sellers (52), 3. Ted Ballou (50), 4. Jeff Segal (49), 5. (tie) Matt Plumb, Eric van de Poele (43).

MILESTONES

- Law Chasing The Century Mark: Brumos Racing's Darren Law will become the first driver in Rolex Series competition this weekend to earn the coveted 100th career start. Law has competed in at least nine Rolex Series races each season since the inaugural Rolex Series season, and has eight class victories yet is still looking for his first career overall win. In addition, Law leads the Rolex Series in laps completed (6,122) and miles completed (17,504).

- Pruett, Ganassi Continue Winning Record: Scott Pruett and Chip Ganassi continue to set records for overall victories in the Rolex Series. Pruett notched his 16th overall win in the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami, now three more than second-place James Weaver. In turn, Ganassi earned his 17th win -- all in Daytona Prototypes. That's six more than SunTrust Racing. A win this weekend would tie Pruett and co-driver Memo Rojas with the most consecutive overall wins with three. The mark has been set and matched six times, most recently by Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney in 2007.

OTHER PRE-RACE QUOTES (SELECT DRIVERS)

BILL LESTER (Driver, No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus Riley): "My expectations for Mexico are for us to finish in the top five. It follows since Daytona was a top 20 and Homestead was a top 10. Our biggest challenge will be finding the right setup for the car. We just don't feel like we have found it yet."

MAX ANGELELLI (Driver, No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara): "Historically, Mexico has always been a challenging race for us. We always seem to struggle in deciding the best setup for the car. Even though we had a fairly good result last year (third), we never seemed to be in contention for the win. What I'm expecting this year is a big question mark because of two things -- the fact that we always struggle with our setup, and the SunTrust car is still very new. We did not go testing since Homestead. I would be happy with a finish in the top three. Frankly, I believe a top five is what most likely will happen. Mexico is the kind of track that is very technical. It's very fast, and very bumpy. But while it's fast, you also have slow corners. That combination makes it difficult to decide which one of those areas you want to set up the car for, which kinds of corners you want to make the car good. The slow part, the fast corners, it's always a challenge."

ANDREW DAVIS (No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R): "The Rolex Series event in Mexico City is one of my favorites. The fans are always so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about motorsports, so the crowd really gets pumped up for the race. I have always enjoyed driving at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. The track surface is traditionally very dirty at the start of the event, but the grip level improves by race day which lends to some good racing. The Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R will be very strong for the event. Other than the long front straight, the rest of the circuit really compliments the strong points for the car. The GT field is very competitive this year, and I expect another exciting race."

DAVID DONOHUE (No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley): "I think both Brumos cars are serious threats for race wins this year, but we are still flying just under the radar of recognition. At both Daytona and Homestead we were right up there with the fastest cars, running close to the fastest green lap averages. Unfortunately, at both races we ran into problems. Mexico is typically one of our toughest tracks, perhaps in part due to the altitude and part due to our lack of torque in the esses. If we can turn in a strong performance at Mexico, then that will be like giving the series notice of what we, as a team, already know -- Brumos is back, and back much stronger than we've ever been since the series debut."

NIC JONSSON (Driver, No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola): "I feel Mexico City should be a better track for the Proto-Auto Lola. It's a higher downforce track with all the twitchy corners on the infield and you have a couple of really hard braking zones. I feel we have not quite gotten as much testing in as we would like. In the regulations we can't do that and it's the same for everyone else. The only difference is the Krohn Racing and the SunTrust and Doran team have brand new cars. We're obviously behind the eight ball compared to the Riley, Coyote and Crawford since they've been running the cars for several years and they have much more data than we have at this time. I do believe we have a very strong engineering department within the Krohn Racing organization who are making strides in the right direction on a daily basis. I know we have more development going on between Homestead and the Mexico City race. I couldn't be more excited about going down to Mexico with the new car. I think we should have a very good run down there. From everything I've seen in the past there and with how good we normally prepare the car for the Mexico circuit, and add in the new Lola, I feel we should be very strong."

DIRK WERNER (Driver, No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3): "Mexico City was my first Grand-Am race besides the Rolex 24 At Daytona, so it was quite exciting. We started at the very end of the field and I was the starting driver. I worked through the field and I was second when I gave the car to my teammate. The track is fun to drive. It has a long straight, so you can get a good slipstream and overtake at the end of the straight. There is a long combination where you really have to have a good setup for the car and a good line. It's kind of a driver track. Because of the altitude in Mexico City, there's not a lot of oxygen in the air, so the engine doesn't run well. I think the Mazda has a little bit of an advantage at that altitude -- they won last year and I think they will have a strong car this year."

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Paul Edwards , Jan Magnussen , James Weaver , Memo Gidley , Max Papis , Jon Fogarty , Ron Fellows , Scott Pruett , Marc Goossens , Eric van de Poele , Bill Auberlen , Joey Hand , Kelly Collins , Calvin Fish , Leighton Reese , Darren Law , Michael McDowell , JC France , Dorsey Schroeder , Joao Barbosa , Sylvain Tremblay , Memo Rojas , Jim Matthews , Burt Frisselle , Spencer Pumpelly , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Chip Ganassi , Matt Connolly , Bryan Sellers , Jeff Segal , Pierre Kaffer , Matt Plumb , Nick Ham , Brad Jaeger , Mark Patterson , Gabriele Gardel , Jameson Riley , Bob Akin , Bob Stallings , Michael Shank , Dirk Werner , Ted Ballou , Tim George Jr. , Felix Sabates , Craig Stone , Bryce Miller
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , Stevenson Motorsports , Racers Edge Motorsports , Doran Racing , Rum Bum Racing , SpeedSource , Michael Shank Racing