SCC: Birmingham: Friday practice report

Fittipaldi Leads Practice for Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (July 28,2006) -- On a hot and sunny opening day of practice for Sunday's Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by ...

Fittipaldi Leads Practice for Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (July 28,2006) -- On a hot and sunny opening day of practice for Sunday's Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant (SPEED, Live, 3 p.m. ET), Brazilian Christian Fittipaldi turned in the day's fastest time around the gorgeous 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park road course.

Fittipaldi piloted the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford to a quick time of 1:22.355 (100.540 mph) during the first of the day's two practice sessions, a time that held up throughout the afternoon session. The Brazilian is sharing the No. 39 machine for the first time with 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Papis, who also clocked the afternoon's best time of 1:23.404 (99.275 mph).

"Needless to say, I'm a very happy guy for a lot of reasons after a day like that," Fittipaldi said. "It's only Friday, but so far, so good. I drove the morning session and we worked on a lot of performance things. The car did its job perfectly, and we ended up fastest. This afternoon, we wanted to give Max as much time in the car as possible because it's his first time racing a Crawford chassis, where you sit on the right side instead of the left. He worked more on race setup things and ran on older tires in the afternoon session, and we came away with the fastest lap, again. In both situations, we ended up fastest. It doesn't get much better than that. Again, it's only Friday, but we're definitely headed in the right direction."

While the No. 39 team paced both sessions, both sessions were extremely close with 10 cars running within one second of Fittipaldi's quick time in the morning and 15 cars turning laps within a second of Papis in the afternoon. Virtually all of the quickest times were posted during the morning session.

Alex Gurney logged the day's second-quickest time aboard the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley with a lap at 1:22.487 (100-379 mph). Gurney earned his first Rolex Series pole position at Barber Motorsports Park a year ago, and heads into Sunday's race looking to record his first Rolex Series victory with co-driver Jon Fogarty.

"I'm pretty happy with the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac," Gurney said. "Jon and I have been chasing the setup a bit but it seems like everyone's pretty much got the same push we do. In the second session we chose to save tires, so we've got an extra set of stickers for practice tomorrow and that should help. There's so many good teams out there right now - the No. 39, the No. 10, and the No. 76 - that qualifying is going to be a real shootout. I'm going to do what I can to get the pole here again for the GAINSCO team and we think we've got a good shot at it."

Mike Rockenfeller was third in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford with a best lap at 1:22.546 (100.307 mph). Rockenfeller and co-driver Patrick Long are seeking their third Rolex Series feature race victory of the season in the Porsche 250.

"This is my first visit to Barber," Rockenfeller said. "I really like the track although it is a bit tight with all of the DP and GT competitors out at once. We are having our troubles finding the setup here so far. When the Ruby Tuesday team tested here a couple of weeks back it wasn't quite this warm. We are carrying a little extra weight since the last race so it really is our first opportunity to run the car in that configuration. The Alex Job crew is really working hard on the setup and we are getting closer. We have more time tomorrow to work on the handling, right now we have a good car, not a great one. We had a good run at Daytona earlier in the month and the team is hungry for another win."

Defending race and Daytona Prototype champion Max Angelelli was fourth on the time charts in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley with a lap at 1:22.589 (100.255 mph). Angelelli is teamed with Danish racer Jan Magnussen, with whom he co-drove to his lone victory of the season in May's Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Colin Braun completed the top five in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley with a lap at 1:22.594 (100.249 mph). The 17-year-old, who became the youngest winner in North American major league auto racing history in the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona last month, is sharing the ride with current Daytona Prototype points leader Jorg Bergmeister. The German has finished on the podium in each of his past three Rolex Series starts, including victories in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen with co-driver Boris Said and the Brumos Porsche 250 with Braun.

HENZLER PUTS NO. 72 PORSCHE ON TOP OF GT SPEED CHART AT BARBER

Germany's Wolf Henzler laid down a lap time of 1:31.128 (90.861 mph) in the No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 in the Friday morning practice session at Barber Motorsports Park to top the GT class speed chart in preparation for Sunday's Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant.

Henzler and co-driver Robin Liddell come into the weekend just eight points in arrears of No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R co-drivers in the championship standings (407-399), with just three races remaining on the 2006 calendar for the GT machines.

"We need to finish on the podium, for sure," said Henzler, who with Liddell hasn't finished lower than sixth in the GT class all season. "It would be nice to finish in front of them here, but with three races to go, anything can happen. We just have to be smart and avoid mistakes and have a good finish."

The No. 72 Porsche has scored victories in three of the last six races, finishing on the class podium five times during the stretch that began with a victory in the U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May. The Tafel Racing machine also scored back-to-back wins in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen and EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank at Mid-Ohio in June.

Lally posted the second-fastest time of the day--also in the morning session--in the No. 65 Pontiac, with a time of 1:31.276 (90.713 mph). On a day that saw track temperatures reach upwards of 130 degrees, Lally found himself searching for grip on the slick racing surface.

"The track is very hot," said Lally. "The heat is no fun and it's pretty warm in the cockpit. All of the makes are fighting power down issues, spinning the tires because the track is slick. It's not going to be a very comfortable race, perhaps the trickiest race of the year for us. The championship battle is getting real tight, and I'm sure our team will come with a good setup for Sunday."

No. 73 NEC Porsche GT3 co-driver Andrew Davis was third fastest of the day with a lap time of 1:31.571 (90.421 mph) early in the morning session. Davis and team owner/co-driver Jim Tafel scored their best finish of the season one race ago, a fourth place run in the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

"We have a pretty fast car here," said Davis. "Right now, our job is to work on a good setup for Sunday because the temperature and conditions are going to be similar to today. There are a lot of different strategies we're discussing for the race, and I think we can have a pretty solid finish."

MAXWELL FASTEST AMONG 71 GRAND-AM CUP ENTRIES

Five-time overall Grand-Am Cup Series race winner Scott Maxwell was back at the top Friday, posting a lap time of 1:38.854 in the No. 55 Hyper Sport Engineering Ford Mustang GT in the second of two practice sessions at Barber Motorsports Park for Saturday's Grand-Am Cup 200.

Maxwell finished second in the Grand Sport (GS) class championship a year ago, scoring six podium finishes with then teammate--and eventual champion--David Empringham. Maxwell has only competed in one Grand-Am Cup event this season, finishing sixth in Round 2 at Virginia International Raceway. Maxwell is sharing the No. 55 machine this weekend with Joe Foster.

David Murry was second-quickest in the No. 33 Playboy Nissan 350Z, a time of 1:39.079 in the afternoon session. Craig Stanton was third-fastest on the day, posting a time of 1:39.267 in the No. 38 Intown Suites/BGB Motorsports Porsche Carrera. In the Street Tuner (ST) class, Travis Walker was quickest in the No. 76 Honda De Sigi/ Skunk2/ Hondata/ Hawk/ KHF Acura RSX-S with a lap at 1:42.088.

-grandamerican.com

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Boris Said , Christian Fittipaldi , Jon Fogarty , David Murry , Colin Braun , Robin Liddell , Scott Maxwell , Jörg Bergmeister , David Empringham , Max Angelelli , Patrick Long , Andrew Davis , Craig Stanton , Mike Rockenfeller , Wolf Henzler , Jim Tafel , Joe Foster , Alex Job
Teams Krohn Racing , HART