Rolex Roundup: Hoosier Tire Test -- Day 1
MIAMI (December 5, 2005) -- The No. 2 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford unofficially turned the fastest lap on the first day of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Hoosier Tire Test Days at Homestead-Miami Speedway, posting a lap at 1:13.966 during the second of two sessions. A field of 20 Daytona Prototypes and six GT machines combined to tally over 4,000 miles on the 2.30-mile road circuit. Testing continues on Tuesday.
CHEEVER RACING COMPLETES FIRST DAY OF ROLEX SERIES TESTING
After announcing its plans to compete in the 2006 Rolex Series late last week, the No. 39 Cheever Racing Lexus Crawford participated in its first Rolex Series-sanctioned activity in the Hoosier Tire Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Team owner and 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever shared the car with 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona overall winner Christian Fittipaldi on Monday.
"It's all very new to us," said Cheever, who is fielding a sports car for the first time after owning cars in the IRL IndyCar Series. "We shook the car down once before this at Virginia International Raceway. We're still accumulating data."
"It's still in its really early days," Fittipaldi said. "I probably put in 15-20 laps, but so far, so good. There are a definitely a couple things we need to change on the car, but the level of this team is very high. They are very professional. It's going to be hard competing against the 10 car, the 01, the 02 at the Rolex 24 -- they have so much experience -- and us putting a team together at this stage of the game is pretty hard. But I'm pretty confident we can pull something special here."
Fittipaldi will run the full season for Cheever, with the co-driver -- possibly the car owner -- to be determined. "It's a possibility (that he will be driving the full season), but not a certainty yet," Cheever said.
Cheever said it's "highly probable" that the team will run two cars in the Rolex 24 with a solid driver lineup. Marino Franchitti will drive for the team at the test on Tuesday.
BUSY DAY FOR DORAN RACING AT HOMESTEAD
Doran Racing tested five drivers in the No. 77 Ford Doran, with Harrison Brix, Paul Tracy, Michele Jourdain, Terry Borcheller and Forrest Barber taking turns behind the wheel.
"I really enjoyed in Rolex 24 last year, and I had a really good time driving with the Kodak team, with Jim Bell and Forest Barber," Tracy said. "I really haven't decided what I'm going to do this year. Forrest would like me to come back with Doran, and I'm also going to test here with Andy Wallace."
Team owner Kevin Doran is unsure of the team's plans for the Rolex 24, possibly expanding to a two-car lineup.
"We're making a pretty significant change for tomorrow to make the car better," said Borcheller, the 2003 Daytona Prototype champion who is helping the team with the test. "We'll see what tomorrow brings."
BRUMOS RACING TO BE EQUIPPED WITH MODIFIED FABCAR CHASSIS
Spending nearly 10 weeks building a new rear-end of the No. 58 Red Bull/Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar chassis--and seeing the on-track results at a separate track test last week--Fabcar President Dave Klym has plans of designing another for the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar in time for the start of the 2006 campaign.
"We tested here last week, and so far, we've been cautiously optimistic by the results," said Klym. "We built the new end for the No. 58 car in 10 weeks, and now we have five weeks to build it for the No. 59. We're hoping it's ready for Daytona."
Motorsports veterans Ted Christopher and Sascha Maassen will join Rolex Series regulars David Donohue and Darren Law in the No. 58 Porsche in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Law and Donohue co-drove the car in 2005, finishing inside the top-10 positions eight times.
Co-driving the No. 59 Porsche in 2006 will be road racing legend Hurley Haywood and JC France, who shared the car in 2005.
GANASSI TEAM LOOKS TO REGAIN CHAMPIONSHIP FORM IN 2006
On the heels of consecutive top-two performances in the Daytona Prototype team and driver standings--including the 2004 Daytona Prototype team and driver championships--CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing went back to work in preparations for another solid year in 2006.
"For our team, things are going well," said managing director Mike Hull. "We're running two cars here, the No. 01 and the No. 02 car. We have a bit of a test plan that we're trying to get through here. We brought three of our drivers, Luis Diaz, Scott Dixon and Scott Pruett, and between the three of those guys, they're going through a pretty systematic plan of attack and trying to utilize every moment of daylight."
Hull was quick to point out that the Hoosier Tire Test was simply the first of a two-pronged test program prior to the Rolex 24, as the team will also be a part of Daytona Test Days on January 4-7. He said that the team's driver lineup for the Rolex 24 will be much clearer at the Daytona test, and the team expects to field two cars in the twice-around-the-clock classic.
"Our hope is to have two full-time entries, just like we've had for the previous two years in the series," Hull said. "That's the way that we want to support the program here. We're working toward that right now. We've got our CompUSA group back with us, with Luis and Scott Pruett. That's a solid program. We want to have an equally solid program in the No. 02 car for 2006, so we're working hard for that right now."
While both of the team's sports car drivers and one of the team's IndyCar drivers were behind the wheel today, it's a good possibility that the team will draw additional driving talent from its other teams for the Rolex 24. He had one driver particularly in mind.
"Last year we had really great success with Casey Mears," said Hull. "He's in the Havoline car this year in (NEXTEL) Cup racing in the No. 42 car, and we want to run him if we're able to, and I think we'll be able to. We're working on that now."
TRG PREPARES FOR ALL-OUT ASSAULT ON 2006 ROLEX SERIES GT CLASS
Just days after celebrating its 2005 Rolex Series GT title at the Rolex Champions Banquet in Orlando, TRG was back and hard at work a few hundred miles to the south at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Monday.
Team owner Kevin Buckler said that the team will concentrate all of its efforts on the GT class for the 2006 season, and will again field its No. 64 and No. 65 Pontiac GTO.Rs for the full season in addition to a full-time program with one Porsche GT3 Cup. As was also the case in 2005, the team will have an expanded program for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"For the Rolex 24, TRG is going to come back armed for bear again," Buckler said. "We're going to be running both of these beautiful Pontiac GTO.Rs. We'll have a real strong driver lineup in both cars. We've done a lot of off-season testing and some durability testing, so we're ready to go on that. Also, we'll run four Porsches at the Rolex. I have a good lineup in all those cars, which I'm very proud of. One of those cars will run all season with Grand-Am, and one of the other cars will run a good chunk of the races, probably about half the season. We're basically good for about three-and-a-half cars next year, which is exciting."
After taking the team title this year, Buckler has aimed even higher for the 2006 season.
"I want to win the Rolex 24 and I want to win the championship," Buckler said. If I have a chance at winning the championship, I'd like to try to win all three (driver, team and manufacturer). This is a year that we're really going to go after it and grab it by the neck. It's going to be really interesting. With the GT class this year, there's some new cars coming in. We'll see how they run, but they're going to be fast. It's going to be a really interesting competition between the manufacturers this year, and I look forward to the fight."
FRISSELLES EXCITED ABOUT 2006 POSSIBLITIES WITH PORSCHE POWER
As was announced last week at the Performance Racing Industry trade show in Orlando, Burt and Brian Frisselle will once again co-drive for Synergy Racing's No. 8 Rx.com Doran in 2006, but the team has switched from BMW to the new Porsche Daytona Prototype powerplant. The Hoosier Tire Test is providing the team with its first opportunity to get acquainted with their new engine, but for his part, Burt Frisselle is looking for his best season yet in Rolex Series competition.
"To be completely honest, our expectation is to try to compete for a championship," said Burt. "We want to win races, and we want to try to compete for a championship. Hopefully, with this engine and some adjustments on the Doran chassis working closer with Kevin Doran, we can have a more competitive package than we did last year. This is only my third year and Brian's second year. This is the first time in Brian's entire career that he's actually done the same series two years in-a-row. For us to finally be in a spot where we want to be and have consistency is really good. We've also been in the junior formulas, where you need to move up every year. We finally found our home, where we want to make a career for ourselves. Our comfort level is higher than it's ever been in our entire career, and I think it's going to show on the track."
Both drivers still rank among the youngest in Daytona Prototype competition, as Burt Frisselle is 24-years-old, while Brian is a few weeks shy of his 22nd birthday. However, more young drivers entered the series in 2005 and with more on the horizon, Burt foresees a changing of the guard over the next few seasons and is optimistic that he and his brother will the right in the middle of it.
"The health of the Grand American Rolex Series is what's attracting everybody to it," Burt said. "There are sponsors, there are manufacturers, and it's just phenomenal racing. As a young guy coming up, I came up in open-wheel racing. You want to go where you can have a career. Right now, that seems to be here. It was funny, because in 2004, I was absolutely the youngest guy. Half of the other competitors could have been my dad. Now it's awesome. I see guys that I've run in the junior formulas with. Last year, it was big names like Wallace, Leitzinger, Pruett and Angelelli. Hopefully, in a few years, those names will be replaced by McDowell, Frisselle, Frisselle and others."
TRANS-AM SERIES VETERAN GIVES INPUT TO CB MOTORSPORTS
Trans-Am Road Racing Series veteran Randy Ruhlman joined Chris Bingham in the No. 15 CB Motorsports Pontiac Riley at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the test sessions. The No. 15 machine, which finished fourth in the Crown Royal 250 at The Glen in September, will again be piloted by Bingham in 2006. The car's co-drivers have not yet been determined.
"These tests are always important in giving us feedback," said team owner Bingham. "We brought Randy here to drive the car, using his knowledge and experience to help us out. A lot of 2006 questions have yet to be answered; all of that stuff is still in the works."
Ruhlman was the runner-up in the 2005 SCCA Trans-Am Series standings, logging two victories and four podium-finishes in 2005.
PACIFIC COAST MOTORSPORTS PREPARES FOR FIRST FULL ROLEX SERIES SEASON
Pacific Coast Motorsports, which made its Rolex Series debut in La Gran Final de la Serie Rolex Sports Car in 2005 with Scotland's Ryan Dalziel and American Alex Figge sharing the team's No. 89 Pontiac Riley, the team will jump in with both feet beginning with the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Figge and Dalziel finished sixth in their Daytona Prototype debut in Mexico City, and Dalziel believes that performance was just the tip of the iceberg.
"I think to win is very realistic," Dalziel said. "We had two days in the car and we turned-up in Mexico and were surprisingly quick to ourselves and surprisingly quick to everybody else that saw us there. We've got a driver lineup as strong as anybody. We're not going in to finish third or fourth, or be happy with podiums. We're going in to win the championship. Maybe Daytona's not going to be our strongest race, but for sure we're going to get stronger every race. As long as we keep it at the start, we're going to be there at the end."
Both drivers are excited about competing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and competing against stars from NASCAR, Champ Car and the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series. But Dalziel will not discount the driver lineup he will face week-in and week-out in the Rolex Series either.
"We're racing against the NEXTEL Cup drivers and these other drivers at Daytona, but realistically, we race against them every race of this championship," Dalziel said. "Even talking to a couple of the Champ Car guys that were here today, there's definitely as much talent at the front of this grid as what there is in any Champ Car or IRL grid. It's good for them to come here.
"Daytona's going to be great no matter what, but the schedule we've got next year is going to be great. Long Beach is going to be amazing, and Mexico City is going to be amazing with the Busch Series, and the first four or five races are going to be great. You couldn't really get better venues, so I think that's going to be pretty exciting."
With one race and one official test day under his belt, Figge is already looking forward to bigger things for Pacific Coast Motorsports.
"We're working on a second car," Figge said. "We want to stay here. I don't have anything negative to say. I mean, the only frustration today came from the fact that we know we can do better. Not so much against everybody else, just our own performance within the team. As far as being here, we want to stay here. We have another truck sitting there. We want another car."
RVO MOTORSPORTS TURNS FIRST LAPS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
The Rock Valley Oil Motorsports Pontiac Fabcar made its first appearance at a Grand American test.
"We've done some testing, but not nearly enough," said lead driver Roger Schramm, who joined team manager Dave Watson behind the wheel in several private sessions at Black Hawk. "At least we've been making progress, and we're making the car better. We're on the first step of the learning curve."
Also testing with the team at Homestead is Joao Barbosa, a former Rolex Series regular.
GROUP FOUR/CCP RACING PREPARES FOR MAIDEN ROLEX 24 VOYAGE
After having its previous tests at Daytona and Sebring cut short by rain and engine problems, Group Four/CCP Racing got in a full session with its No. 12 Ford Multimatic.
"This is our first time testing at Homestead," said Enzo Pottolichio, who joined Jay Howard at the test. "We ran a few laps this morning, then made a gear change to adapt it for Homestead. "Today was my first time in this car."
The team recently purchased a second Ford Multimatic, the No. 5 formerly raced by Essex Racing.