DAYTONA BEACH – The Children’s Tumor Foundation Racing4Research program starts its sixth year at the Rolex 24 At Daytona this weekend, now teaming with Park Place Motorsports in the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports/Racing4Research Porsche GT3. North America’s premier 24-hour race begins Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
The Children’s Tumor Foundation Racing4Research program is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by Neurofibromatosis (NF), a common yet under-recognized genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body. The disorder can lead to blindness, bone abnormalities, cancer and excruciating and disabling pain. Found in one of every 3,000 children born, NF is a more common disorder than many more widely known illnesses, including cystic fibrosis and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Donations to CTF Racing4Research can be made directly at www.Racing4Research.org.
Porsches swept the top four starting positions on the 34-car grid and were covered by slightly more than half a second. Long estimated time could be gained and lost based on how drivers worked through drafting conditions.
“The lap had some good parts and some not so good parts, but that’s always the timing of GT qualifying in Daytona,” said Long, Porsche’s only American factory driver. “We had a rough traffic issue in the Bus Stop (chicane) but then we had a monster tow from the same guys coming out of the Bus Stop, so we’ll take it. You had to play the draft, and the guys I was around that didn’t are outside the top 12.”
For Long and the Children’s Tumor Foundation/Racing4Research car, the day was more about dialing in a good race setup than setting a great qualifying lap.
“The main emotion today is that we got the car back in the balance window for the race, where we needed it,” Long said. “We had to find ground zero again as we had to recover from some unfortunate setbacks. It feels good to go back where we need to be and work from that.”
The CTF/Racing4Research campaign raises funds and awareness for the fight against NF through a busy and diverse racing program that is annually anchored by the Rolex 24 At Daytona effort. A highlight of each race event is the on-site presence and support of a large group of courageous youngsters and their families who have been nicknamed “NF Heroes” for their tireless efforts in fighting the disorder. Last year’s Rolex 24 campaign raised more than $600,000, and the goal is to exceed that amount this year in the first CTF/R4R partnership with Park Place Motorsports.
“I always look forward to Daytona as it's our biggest race of the year,” Pumpelly said. “It's a little cruel in a way holding the longest, toughest race first because the teams and drivers are all a little out of sync. For this reason I am glad to be with Park Place Motorsports. We have a great team of experienced guys, many of whom have won the 24 before, so we should be in a good position for this one. I'm very excited to be driving the Children’s Tumor Foundation/Racing4Research car this year as Daytona will now take on extra meaning. The NF Heroes with us at the track and the others with us in spirit will be a huge motivation late at night when the race gets tough.”
Pumpelly joins the Park Place/Racing4Research entry after several years racing Porsches for other teams on the grid. He co-drove the winning GT class car in the 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona.
For Graeff, the race takes on a greater meaning given it serves as both a race itself and a great opportunity for fundraising.
“Park Place Motorsports has helped us position the Children’s Tumor Foundation to raise the most ever dollars and awareness for NF,” Graeff said. “Everything we've been working for over the last five to six years leads to this race, this moment. This team expects greatness with the best in the business behind the wheel and in the pit box. This team of greats doesn't require motivation to excel and win, but the NF Heroes will help us all do everything we can for them, and dig deep to win on all fronts.”
Hart, a two-time starter in the supporting Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge 200- mile race, makes his Rolex 24 debut in what is also the team’s first.
“Testing during the Roar was the first time all the crew and drivers were able to work together as a complete unit, and the experience and talent of this group was an inspiration,” Hart said. “Park Place Motorsports has assembled not only the most capable people in the business, but more importantly were able to also find the right chemistry as well…it really felt like a family on day one.”
The No. 73 Park Place Motorsports/Racing4Research Porsche concluded the day with Thursday night practice. Final practice is Friday with this year’s Rolex 24 At Daytona scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. EST local time this Saturday.
Park Place Motorsports