Allmendinger Leads Second Day of Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Testing at Daytona International Speedway
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 5, 2008) - AJ Allmendinger turned the fastest lap on the second day of Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 January Test Days, besting a field of 21 Daytona Prototypes at Daytona International Speedway preparing for the 46th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Allmendinger's time of 1:41.555 (126.198 mph) around the 12-turn, 3.560-mile infield road course at the famed superspeedway in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley was just off the weekend's top spot set by Scott Pruett's circuit of 1:41.232 (126.600 mph). Pruett turned his lap on Friday in the No. 01 TELMEX/Target Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing Lexus Riley. The NASCAR Sprint Cup pilot will trade his Red Bull Racing machine for a Daytona Prototype in the Rolex 24, co-driving the twice-around-the-clock race with Rolex Series regulars Ian James, John Pew and Burt Frisselle.
"I'm happy with the car; we've really improved it compared to the last two times I was here," said Allmendinger, who will run the Rolex 24 with Michael Shank Racing for the third time in as many seasons. "I got a little bit of tow on that lap, which was one of the only clean ones I've had all weekend. We have good speed with this car so far but we know we need to get faster."
Pruett was quick again today, turning the second-fastest lap in a time of 1:41.576 (126.172 mph). Pruett, who won the 2007 Rolex 24 with Juan Pablo Montoya and Salvador Duran, will be joined in his title defense by season-long co-driver Memo Rojas and NASCAR stars Montoya and Dario Franchitti.
Both of those lap times were among the 17 Daytona Prototypes on the new Pirelli P-Zero tires who bettered the 2007 Rolex 24 pole time, set by Alex Gurney at 1:43.475.
Colin Braun, who is scheduled to run the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for Roush Fenway Racing after two full seasons in a Daytona Prototype, turned the third-quickest lap of the day in the afternoon session. The 19-year-old piloted the No. 61 AIM Autosport Exchange Traded Gold Ford Riley around the "World Center of Racing" in a time of 1:41.582 (126.162 mph). Braun will be joined in the race by Rolex Series regulars Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins and NASCAR Canadian Tires Series champion Andrew Ranger.
The three fastest times of the day were turned in the two-hour, 30 minute midday session.
Helio Castroneves was quickest in the one hour, 45-minute morning session. The IndyCar star turned a best lap of 1:41.758 (125.946 mph) in the No. 9 Penske-Taylor Racing Toshiba Pontiac Riley.
The No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Mazda RX-8 driven by Robert Thorne, Ken Dobson, Bob Michaelian and Jim Michaelian topped the 40 car GT field in Saturday's practice session with a time of 1:50.617 (115.859 mph). The run by the Racers Edge group was the first GT car of the weekend to drop into the 1:50s, besting the 2007 Rolex 24 pole time of 1:51.800.
Blackforest Motorsports ripped the second fastest time of the day in the first session under the lights at Daytona International Speedway. The cool evening air agreed with the trio of Tom Nastasi, David Empringham and Jean-Francois Dumoulin, who turned a lap of 1:51.139 (115.315 mph) in the No. 15 USG Sheetrock Mustang Cobra GT. The Blackforest Motorsports team will be joined by Boris Said for the Rolex 24.
Jan Heylen, sharing the No. 80 Synergy Racing EMC Mechanical Porsche GT3 with Mark Greenberg, Damien Faulkner and Lance Arnold, was third quickest on the day with a time of 1:51.223 (115.228 mph). The Champ Car star will make his first Rolex 24 appearance this season.
While the three quickest GT class times fell in the midday and night sessions, Richard Westbrook piloted his No. 66 TRG Mitchell Rubber/Marquis Jet Porsche GT3 to their quickest time in the morning session. Westbrook, teaming with Andy Lally, Ted Ballou and Bryce Miller, turned a lap of 1:51.270 (115.179 mph).
Rolex Series Drivers Get First Taste of Testing Under Lights At Daytona
After two days of testing under the sun, drivers got their first test on Saturday night of what the early-morning hours may feel like during the Rolex 24. Rolex Series teams used a 90-minute session in darkness to test under the lights.
The sun has set around 6 p.m. in Florida over the last two weeks and hasn't risen until around 7 a.m. During the Rolex 24, drivers will spend almost as much time racing in the dark as they will in sunlight.
Jon Fogarty pedaled the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley to the fastest time during the session with a lap of 1:42.010, followed by Oswaldo Negri at 1:42.390. In GT, the No. 15 Blackforest Motorsports Ford Mustang Cobra GT was quickest during the session and second fastest on the day at 1:51.159, followed by the No. 89 Farnbacher Loles Motorsports Porsche GT3 at 1:51.232.
Penske-Taylor Racing Announces Official Two-Car Effort
Wayne Taylor made certain everyone knows exactly the name of the No. 9 Pontiac Riley team.
"It's Penske-Taylor Racing," he said. "Not Taylor-Penske Racing."
Indeed, Roger Penske has loaned more than his name to the team, which encompasses both the No. 9 car and the regular No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley in Indianapolis. Penske's drivers -- Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe and Kurt Busch -- make up the three-driver lineup, and Penske Racing President Tim Cindric attended Saturday's press conference as a member of the audience.
Penske, a former Rolex 24 winner, approached Taylor and Max Angelelli last year after the trio formed a relationship. Taylor and Angelelli manage Briscoe's career.
"We were up at an event with him," Taylor said, "and Roger called me into the bus and we thought we were going in there for a discussion about Ryan, and he said, 'What do you think about us doing (the Rolex 24) together. I'll give you my guys, we can send them up to your shop, we'll integrate the two teams and we'll build a program.' So that's how it started."
This weekend is the first time the teams have taken to the track together, and the results of the pairing have been to this point spectacular. Castroneves, Briscoe and Busch have consistently sat among the top five in each session.
"We will be benefitted from having the No. 9 car and the Penske organization with us because we will keep learning," Angelelli said. "And those people have such great experience everywhere -- sports cars, IRL, NASCAR, so we're going to learn, we're going to improve our car, we're going to have a strong combination, two cars together for the race. It's going to be great."
TRG, Farnbacher Loles Pushing Seven Car Efforts in Different Fashions
TRG and Farnbacher Loles have each put together seven-car efforts for this year's Rolex 24 At Daytona. Covering a third of the entry list, the two Porsche-powered teams have run near the front of testing throughout the weekend and are favorites for this season's race.
However, the teams are looking to different strategies and have taken different approaches to get to their respective efforts.
TRG, located in Petaluma, Calif., tailors each of its programs specifically to meet individual driver needs and goals. Farnbacher Loles, which recently purchased a shop in Braselton, Ga., has accumulated its seven cars by servicing Team Seattle and customers in Europe, and sees the effort more as a 2-3-2 combination.
TRG team owner Kevin Buckler called his shop "mass chaos" when speaking of his crew putting together cars. Farnbacher Loles team principal Greg Loles said the breakaway from its Connecticut-based performance shop has created fewer headaches in terms of logistics and travel.
However, both teams have strong driver lineups. Former series driving champion Andy Lally anchors TRG's efforts and will welcome Bryce Miller, Ted Ballou and Richard Westbrook in the No. 66 Porsche GT3. Defending series driving titlist Dirk Werner will be joined by Germans Dominik Farnbacher, Pierre Ehret and Timo Bernhard.
Former Rolex 24 Winners Bergmeister, Papis Getting Acclimated to GT Cars
Jorg Bergmeister and Max Papis - former Rolex 24 champions as well as Rolex Series Daytona Prototype titlists - will compete in this year's twice-around-the-clock classic in the GT class.
Bergmeister, who captured the 2006 Daytona Prototype championship with Krohn Racing and the 2003 Rolex 24 At Daytona, will drive in the endurance classic behind the wheel of the No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup. The German will be part of a seven-car effort for Farnbacher Loles Motorsports gunning for the GT class win.
"It's back to my roots again," Bergmeister said. "I've had good success here in Daytona in the GT cars, especially at the Rolex 24. I'm glad to be with Farnbacher Racing, as I raced with Horst Farnbacher in Europe in Super Cup and won the championship there together."
"Mad" Max put his stamp on American racing with a thrilling performance in the 1996 Rolex 24, charging to a second-place finish after challenging for the lead with a flair. His challenge this year will be getting acclimated to the GT car and the awareness necessary to negotiate with the faster Daytona Prototypes.
"It's a great challenge to be in a GT car, and something very different for me," Papis said. "I was very surprised at how competitive the whole GT field was. It's like having 40 Daytona Prototypes running 100 percent."
Plumb Fastest Again, Skavnes Continues ICY/Phoenix Bragging Rights For KONI
While the Rolex Series saw different drivers atop the leader boards through its Saturday sessions, the KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) charts remained nearly unchanged in preparations for the Fresh From Florida 200.
Hugh Plumb and the No. 60 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT, which he shares with Mike Canney, led the way for the second consecutive day in GS with a time of 2:00.963 (105.950 mph). Trailing again was the team's sister car, the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang. Canney said Friday the team's combined efforts with Rehagen strengthened the car, and the driving duo will try to make a clean sweep of fast times on Sunday.
Like Friday, ICY/Phoenix Racing sat atop the ST charts today with Kristian Skavnes piloting the No. 111 Subaru Legacy, which he shares with Chuck Hemmingson, fastest at 2:10.000 (98.433 mph). A day earlier, the team's No. 141 Subaru Legacy with David Rosenblum and Andrew Aquilante set the fast time. That car posted the third-fastest time on Saturday.
"This is a very good car for this type of track," Hemmingson said. It's "always getting better. We're getting more grip in the corners."
"Chuck and I have been in a car together now for three years, so we're communicating better," added Skavnes. "It's nice to have him on the headset when I'm in the car or vice versa and make the changes we need to make."
NOTES: Three-time Rolex 24 At Daytona winner and 66-year-old Derek Bell may be making another attempt in the prestigious race. Bell joined his son, Justin, Roger Schramm, Paul Dallenbach and Tonis Kasemets in the No. 12 RVO Motorsports Pontiac Riley. Bell will decide Sunday whether or not to compete in the event--Ralf Kelleners and Anthony Lazzaro were added to Autometrics Motorsports Rolex 24 At Daytona lineup earlier in the week, joining Cory Friedman and Mac McGehee. The team hopes to campaign the Porsche GT3 fulltime in 2008--Former Champ Car World Series titlist Cristiano da Matta was roaming the pits looking for a ride in the Rolex 24. da Matta is looking to compete in his first race since suffering a serious injury at Road America in August 2006.