MONTREAL (July 31, 2007) -- The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve may be a track with a rich racing history, but getting around it remains nothing but a mystery as the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series prepares to pay its first-ever visit to the 2.71-mile,...
MONTREAL (July 31, 2007) -- The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve may be a track with a rich racing history, but getting around it remains nothing but a mystery as the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series prepares to pay its first-ever visit to the 2.71-mile, 15-turn Formula 1 layout for Friday's Montreal 400K.
Co-drivers Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen of the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley, along with their teammates at Wayne Taylor Racing, hope to make short work of learning the finer points of negotiating their way around the legendary circuit that plays host to F1's annual Canadian Grand Prix. They'll get their first chance when they first take to the track for practice Thursday morning as they continue their quest for a second Rolex Series championship in the last three seasons for SunTrust.
After 10 of 14 events on the 2007 schedule, Angelelli and the SunTrust team find themselves in second place in their respective driver and team championships, 11 points behind driver Scott Pruett and his No. 01 Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley entry. Lurking close behind -- just two points back in both the driver and team standings -- are five-time race winners Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty of the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley team, who scored their series-high fifth victory of the season two weekends ago at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.
While Angelelli will be making the first start of his illustrious racing career at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Magnussen returns to the scene of his career-best Formula 1 finish of sixth, driving for Stewart Racing in the 1998 Canadian Grand Prix. It was Magnussen's last of 25 career F1 starts from 1995-98, which also included the 1997 Canadian GP, when he was forced to make an early exit in the Stewart Racing entry after an incident on the opening lap.
Team owner Wayne Taylor, who co-drove with Angelelli to the 2005 Rolex Series title in the SunTrust racing machine, also has one career start at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, driving the Spice Engineering 3.5-liter Group C prototype in the 1990 480K of Montreal World Sports Car championship event. His only recollection of that afternoon, which resulted in a 21st-place finish with co-driver Fermin Velez, was an on-track encounter with Keke Rosburg.
If recent history is any indication, Angelelli, Magnussen, Taylor and engineer Travis Jacobson and his technical staff just might have the familiar, blue No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac at the front of the pack by the time qualifying takes place. Just two races ago, the series visited another venue for the very first time -- the tight, challenging Iowa Speedway circuit -- where Magnussen posted a top-three qualifying effort and found himself leading the race in the early going before an off-course excursion relegated he and Angelelli to a seventh-place finish.
Angelelli and co-driver Memo Gidley rebounded quickly at Birmingham the very next weekend by posting the team's seventh podium finish of the season, despite the effects of extreme heat exhaustion that struck Angelelli at the conclusion of his 89-lap stint behind the wheel. Their goal this weekend is to continue chipping away at the No. 01 team's lead in the points and to try and find an answer to the hard-charging No. 99 team. With a full field of Daytona Prototypes and GT-class competitors racing together for the first time since the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on July 5, the SunTrust camp certainly likes its chances.
Practice for Friday's Montreal 400K -- running in conjunction with Saturday's first-ever NASCAR Busch Series race in Canada begins Thursday with qualifying set for Friday at 9:30 a.m. EDT. Race time is 4:15 p.m.
Quotes from Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley:
You're racing at Montreal for the first time in your career. What's on your mind as you head north of the border?
"I'm really looking forward to this weekend. We had a good test at Barber (Motorsports Park in Birmingham) the day after the race there. Otherwise, I really don't have any idea what to expect at Montreal. I've been to the circuit three times in the past, looking after drivers in the Formula 1 race. But I never even had time to walk around the circuit, so I am totally in the dark. It's a good thing that I really like surprises. On paper, I believe the closest thing to the Montreal circuit is Long Beach. It has long straightaways and tight corners. We have a good package for that. We always have a good package. I do know it's a good, quality track and we will be running with the GT cars, so it will be a very exciting race."
Without even the benefit of a test at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, and the event being only a two-day show, do you feel your work will be particularly challenging this weekend?
"Yes, we are absolutely in the dark ... complete, total darkness. The track is basically a complete unknown to us. So we will have to work quickly to be sure our gearing is correct, and to make sure we have the right amount of downforce. We have to get everything done in a very short time. We will try to, at least. It looks like the track is very tight in certain places. The good thing is, we have a very good team and we are capable of getting the job done."
You had a scary moment there at the end of the Birmingham race, suffering from the effects of extreme heat exhaustion. How do you feel, now?
"It was very, very scary. I thought I died. But everyone did a great job getting me out of the car and giving me fluids at the (track) medical center. I want to thank everyone who came to my rescue. I feel fine, now. We had a good test there on Monday (after the race), so it was business as usual. But there are things I don't remember about the race, and even practice and qualifying. That concerns me. But, otherwise, everything is back to normal."
Quotes from Jan Magnussen, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley:
You enjoyed one of your career racing highlights at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve back in 1998. Are you excited to come back to the facility for the first time since then?
"I have pretty good memories of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. I scored my only Formula 1 World Championship point there in 1998. I came in sixth, which is a pretty good result. I like the track. It's a cool track. It definitely suits me, and I believe it will suit our cars. I'm looking forward to going back. I like Montreal. It's one of the nicest places I've been."
Even though it's been nine years since you've been there, can you describe some of the finer points of a lap around the circuit?
"It's got a little bit of everything. Fast corners, slow corners, long straightaways. It's got some places where you have to really commit yourself to going super hard into the corners. You also have to commit yourself to hit the curbs in just the right way in a couple of key places, like the last chicane heading onto the front straight. If you hit it too much, the car bounces. If you hit it too little, you're going too slow. I remember that being one of the trickiest places. To tell you the truth, it's been nine years and a lot of race tracks have gone by in my mind since then. I'm sure we'll get up to speed in short order. The team's quite good at figuring out circuits quickly with the setup of the car and everything. I'll just do my usual thing, help as much as I can, and try to get the best result."
Quote from Wayne Taylor, owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley team:
The championship tightened up with the results from Birmingham two weekends ago. What are your expectations heading to Montreal for the first time?
"Obviously, we are definitely within striking distance in the driver and team championships. We're 11 points behind with four races to go, so we have to consistently beat the 01 car. Our objective at Birmingham was just that, and we did what we set out to do with our seventh podium finish of the year. The 99 car is red hot, having won for the fifth time at Birmingham, so we have to keep trying to find an answer to that. The 75 (Krohn Racing) car is also showing its strength as we head down the stretch. So we have a nice, four-car battle for the championship."
What is your knowledge of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve?
"I raced there in 1990, driving for Spice Engineering when they had the 3.5-liter Group C program in the World Sports Car championship. I don't remember exactly how the day went, other than the fact I took out Keke Rosburg. (Laugh.) That's about my only memory of the race. It's really a great venue. Montreal is really nice with all its great hotels and restaurants. It's really a fun place, and they love their racing there."
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