Mexico City: Thursday practice report

Negri Tops Time Charts in Opening Day of Practice at Mexico City MEXICO CITY, Mexico (March 2, 2006) -- Under nearly perfect weather conditions for the opening day of Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special ...

Negri Tops Time Charts in Opening Day of Practice at Mexico City

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (March 2, 2006) -- Under nearly perfect weather conditions for the opening day of Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve practice in Mexico City, Brazil's Oswaldo Negri Jr. posted the day's quickest time in preparation for Saturday's Mexico City 250 (SPEED, 8:00 p.m. ET).

Negri clocked a best lap at 1:23.127 (108.255 mph) aboard the No. 60 Flight Options Lexus Riley for Michael Shank Racing to head a field including 25 Daytona Prototypes and 13 GT machines. Negri and co-driver Mark Patterson are tied for the most points among Daytona Prototype drivers in attendance this weekend in Mexico City, and the duo's hopes of leaving Mexico with the outright points lead got off to a good start on Thursday.

"I am just so proud of how hard the people at Lexus and Michael Shank Racing work," Negri said. "We knew when we left here last year that we had some work to do if we wanted to be more competitive, and I think being quickest in both sessions today shows the effort that everyone has put in. Of course, I am working hard in the car, but this really is a team sport and it takes an extra effort from everybody on the team to get to the front in Rolex. I am also very excited about how fast Mark (Patterson) was today because he put in some very fast laps on old tires, so we should be strong in the race."

Second quick on the Thursday time sheets was hometown hero Luis Diaz in the No. 01 Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley with a lap at 1:23.262 (108.093 mph). Diaz, a native of Mexico City, views this weekend's Mexico City 250 as the most important event on the 2006 schedule for himself and the Ganassi team. Diaz and co-driver Scott Pruett are eager to get their season back on track after a mechanical failure ended their race prematurely in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.

"This is the biggest race of the season for us, especially with Telmex on board in my home country," Diaz said. "We started off the day a little bit off the pace, but managed to get the No. 01 Ganassi car up to speed. Scott did an awesome job as usual bringing the car up to speed, and I was able to get the second best lap of the day on our last lap. I'm pleased overall, but Scott and I both know there is more work to be done before Saturday."

Ryan Dalziel turned in the day's third-quickest time in the No. 89 Playboy/Vonage Pontiac Riley for Pacific Coast Motorsports. Dalziel's best lap was 1:23.332 (108.002 mph) at the same facility where he and co-driver Alex Figge made their respective Daytona Prototype debuts in 2004, although the course layout this weekend is significantly different from last year. For his part, the Scot believes this layout is more suitable.

"I think the layout's way better than the one we had last year," Dalziel said. "I think the Daytona Prototypes prefer to be wound up for higher-speed stuff. They don't like the slow speed acceleration. I think this track suits them much better. I think it's going to be better racing for the fans. It was fun last year and it's going to be fun again this year. It's encouraging for us to be the highest Pontiac. We've got a bit of work to do, but for sure our car is good at the minute."

Colin Braun led a sweep of the fourth and fifth positions on the time charts for Krohn Racing, which is using Ford power in its pair of Riley chassis for the first time this weekend. Braun posted a best lap at 1:23.925 (107.239 mph) in the No. 76 Ford Riley he shares with Germany's Jorg Bergmeister, while Nic Jonsson was fifth in the No. 75 Ford Riley at 1:23.949 (107.208 mph). Jonsson's co-driver is car owner Tracy Krohn.

The top-seven cars were covered by one second in the opening day of practice. Friday's schedule is highlighted by Rolex Series qualifying, which gets underway at 12:00 Noon ET (11:00 a.m. local time). Saturday's Mexico City 250 takes the green flag at 4:15 p.m. ET (3:15 p.m. local), and will be televised on SPEED beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday evening.

STRONG MIX OF MAKES ON TOP OF GT SPEED CHARTS

On the first day of practice in preparation for Saturday's Mexico City 250, three manufacturers put their machines in the top-five of the GT class speed charts at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, with Pontiac slightly bettering Porsche and BMW.

Paul Edwards posted the fastest lap of the day in the GT class--coming in the second of two sessions--with a lap at 1:31.809 (98.030 mph) in the No. 64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R. Edwards, who teamed with Jan Magnussen to take the class victory in La Gran Final de la Serie Rolex Sports Car in the same car last November in Mexico City, will co-drive with Kelly Collins this weekend.

"The track went from 16 turns down to eight, so not too much carried over from last year," said Edwards. "We put a lot of wing into the car compared to when we ran here in November. The baseline of the car was good off of the trailer and we were focusing on getting Kelly comfortable in the car. The long straightaway kind of hurts us, so we also need a car that can get off of that last sweeper fast to try and maintain our positions over these Porsches which are very fast down that mile drag strip."

One of the Porsches--the No. 72 NEC/Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3 for Tafel Racing--was second-quickest on the day, with a lap time of 1:31.886 (97.947 mph) by Wolf Henzler. Henzler qualified the No. 72 Porsche on the class pole in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, and will share the car this weekend with teammate Robin Liddell.

The second of the day's two sessions proved to be the fastest for the GT class, as the top three times all came in the second period. Andy Lally recorded the third-fastest lap in class, posting a time of 1:31.983 (97.844 mph) in the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R. Lally and co-driver Marc Bunting finished fourth in last year's event at the venue, one position--and one point--short of claiming the Rolex Series GT championship. The duo is joined by RJ Valentine this weekend.

American hotshoe--and two-time Rolex Series class champion--Bill Auberlen was fourth-quickest on the day, turning a best lap at 1:32.278 (97.531 mph) in the No. 05 Alhadeff Motorsports/Motul/GRW.com.mx/enVista/OMP BMW M3 for Sigalsport. Auberlen qualified on the GT class pole in Mexico City last year, and co-drove with Gene Sigal and Matt Alhadeff to a runner-up GT finish in last year's season finale. Auberlen and Alhadeff will share the No. 05 machine this weekend.

Rounding out the top five was Andrew Davis in the No. 73 NEC/Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3, putting a second Tafel Racing car near the top of the class field with a best lap time of 1:32.329 (97.477 mph). Davis will share the No. 73 Porsche with team owner and co-driver Jim Tafel.

-garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , HART , Michael Shank Racing