Past, Future collide in Daytona this week

Open-Cockpit Prototypes take final turns at Daytona. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (November 6, 2002) -- The past and future of sports car racing will meet this week at Daytona International Speedway during the Dark Dog Grand American Finale. The Rolex ...

Open-Cockpit Prototypes take final turns at Daytona.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (November 6, 2002) -- The past and future of sports car racing will meet this week at Daytona International Speedway during the Dark Dog Grand American Finale. The Rolex Sports Car Series is holding official test sessions featuring the first Daytona Prototype today and Thursday. The Daytona Prototypes will become the premier class of the Rolex Series next season. Also testing this week are the current SportsRacing Prototypes in preparation for their last professional race at Daytona.

The new Daytona Prototype class will take the place of the current open-cockpit SportsRacing Prototype class, based on the World Sports Car (WSC) formula. While drivers and team owners around the garage have been excited about the introduction and first running of the new Daytona Prototype, they are also saddened by the knowledge that this weekend's race will mark the end of an era in sports car racing at Daytona.

"I have to admit that I am a little sad that this is the last time for the old cars," said Hurley Haywood, the winningest sports car racer in Daytona history. "I had some nice times in those cars. You're saying goodbye to one and hello to another."

Elliott Forbes-Robinson, another icon in sports car racing, echoes Haywood's thoughts. "They have been such great cars to drive here. Everyone had a lot of fun driving these two cars," he noted while sitting beside Dyson Racing Team's pair of Ford-powered Riley & Scotts.

"It's sad to see the prototypes go away," notes current SRP driver points leader Didier Theys. "Everything with a windshield, except for these new Daytona Prototypes, was built as a street car and changed for a race track. These were the true prototypes because they were built for racing."

While the new Daytona Prototype has several differences from the current SRP class, with the most evident being the closed cockpit design, it shares the philosophy of a race car being designed for racing. "We started with a blank page with these new cars, and we were able to put on it all the philosophies that Grand American was trying to incorporate - the latest technology, while being mindful of the cost. And then we handed that page to the engineers to let them work their magic," said Haywood, who will pilot a Porsche-powered FABCAR Daytona Prototype for Brumos Racing next season.

"The premise is very good for the Daytona Prototypes. It's now a matter of getting some of that to work and hoping people don't get frustrated in the process. When they came out with World Sports Cars, they had several kinks that had to be worked out before they worked, but they were really great cars," remarked Forbes-Robinson.

Haywood made history as the first driver to ever take a lap in a completed Daytona Prototype last Friday in a private test session at Daytona International Speedway. However, with nearly 50 onlookers present for the test, including photographers and reporters, Haywood is the first to admit that the development of the new car has been anything but private.

"One thing that has made this car unique is that our teething problems are very visible and in public. Most of the development that we are doing right now goes on behind closed doors on other race cars, but we don't have that here. All eyes are on these cars right now, and in order to take advantage of the opportunity to test at Daytona, it means you must test in public."

While six of Brumos' eight drivers lined up to race at the 2003 Rolex 24 At Daytona got a chance to take the car out during its first test session last Friday, Haywood and Scott Goodyear have been the primary drivers working with engineers during shake downs today at the Speedway.

Tickets are currently on sale for this weekend's Dark Dog Grand American Finale at Daytona International Speedway and may be purchased by calling the Speedway ticket office at 386-253-RACE (7223). More information on the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Dark Dog Grand American Finale is available online at www.grandamerican.com.

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