PHOENIX, Ariz. (April 30, 2003) -- Phoenix International Raceway hosted an open test session for the Rolex Sports Car Series and Grand-Am Cup Series today as teams prepare for this weekend's trio of races at the track. The Grand-Am Cup Series Sport Touring division will kick off the racing on Friday night with the UnitedAuto 200. Saturday afternoon will feature Grand-Am Cup's Grand Sport division in the Phoenix 200 and the Rolex Series will take to the track in the main event Saturday night - the AJ's Fine Foods 250.
Lally To Compete In Four Races This Weekend
Andy Lally will pull double duty this weekend at PIR. He will compete with Team Lexus in Friday night's UnitedAuto 200 and with G&W Motorsports in the AJ's Fine Foods 250 on Saturday night. But when the checkered falls on Saturday evening the racing will be only half over for Lally, who will hop a plane to San Francisco to compete in two street luge races on Sunday.
"Two races here and then two luge races. I'm probably going to be pretty beat after this race on Saturday night. I am going to certainly sleep the whole way to San Francisco. I'm looking forward to it. I am just going to keep my head down, keep my head in the game and do what I have to do here. Certainly I want to focus on doing really well with these guys (G&W Motorsports), so hopefully they will invite me back for another race," remarked Lally, who got behind the wheel of G&W's BMW-powered Picchio DP2 for the first time today during testing.
"It was certainly a pleasant surprise. It was actually a very nice, compliant car that did what we wanted it to when we made the changes. It's a blast. In all honesty, we have a couple of little things to fine tune about how I fit into the car, and then I'll be a happy camper."
Ferrari Anticipating Lots of Competition
Ferrari of Washington picked up its first GT win of the season at the Nextel Grand Prix of Miami last month and hopes to repeat its success in the desert during Saturday night's race. However, a strong field of GT entries looks to be tough competition for the 2002 GT championship-winning team.
"I think it's going to be a battle, because there are going to be a lot of other GT cars out there as well," remarked Ferrari driver Cort Wagner. "I think it's going to be a great battle to watch. Phoenix is beautiful. It's a great environment. The track is good - just a little slippery."
G&W Trying To Keep Cool In the Desert
One of the most memorable images from SPEED Channel's coverage of the Nextel Grand Prix of Miami was that of G&W Motorsports driver Darren Law exiting the team's #8 Daytona Prototype and immediately putting his feet into ice cold water for relief from the extreme heat inside the race car's cockpit.
Since that 'heated' race, G&W has taken several steps to cool things off for its drivers inside the car. "(The heat) seems to be better, but until we do a long run we won't really know. We've got some new carbon ducking behind the radiator, we've got heat shields against the front bulkhead and rear bulkhead, and we've got special ceramic coating on all the frame. We've done a lot of stuff," explained Law after his first testing run in the car.
Tight Track Not Friendly to High-Horsepower Cars
The Rolex Series visits a variety of different types of racetracks during the 2003 season. There are some that are ideal for high-horsepower cars and then there are those where agility in the tight turns is key. Everyone at PIR this weekend agrees that quickness in the twisty infield is going to be essential for anyone looking for a trip to Victory Lane.
"We are just making some adjustments. Learning little things so maybe it will like this racetrack better," said Heritage Motorsports driver Tommy Riggins of the #48 Mustang. "This track doesn't favor horsepower as much. There is only one little segment of the racetrack that I think the horsepower is going to be of any advantage at all. But it's just a short area that is not going to give us many passing opportunities, so we've got to get it working better in the infield. We are 600 pounds heavier than the prototypes, and that hurts us in the infield. We've just got to be the best we can be."
Doncaster Hoping To Hold Onto Points Lead
Doncaster Racing enters the third race of the season with the Grand-Am Cup Grand Sport I points lead, but the 2002 championship winners know there is a lot more racing left in the season before they can be named a two-time champion.
"There is some great competition out there. It's a great series. There are so many cars that could win the race in our class. Nothing is done yet (in the points race). We just need to keep our nose clean and make sure we try to win some more races," said Jean-Francois Dumoulin, who won the ST I driver championship last year with Team Lexus and hopes to repeat his success with Doncaster in the GS I class.
Elder Nonnamaker Has Three Shots To Repeat Win
Joe Nonnamaker took home the overall win in the Grand-Am Cup Grand Sport race last year and will have three opportunities to pick another victory at PIR this weekend. Nonnamaker will first race in the ST II class during Friday's UnitedAuto 200. Then on Saturday he will race in both the Grand-Am Cup Phoenix 200 and Rolex Series AJ's Fine Foods 250.
"I think we are going to do quite well. We won here last year, and that was one of the best races. I would have paid to watch that one. This weekend, I think, will be the same thing. I've got a finishing driver that hustles the car. All I've got to do is keep it on the lead lap and up in the lead, and I think it's going to be a good race. I think we've got a good chance of winning in GS II (in the Phoenix 200)," said Nonnamaker who will co-drive with his son Wayne Nonnamaker in the three races.
However, three races in two days in the desert heat could prove to be rough on Nonnamaker in his quest for a second win at PIR. "The first day is not a big deal, because it's at night so its not so hard. The big race will be Saturday afternoon with the GS II cars. It will be hot. I've had that before, but I've got to tell you, people don't understand that this is rear engine car (Porsche 911). The difference between this thing and a Corvette is unbelievable different. All the heat is in the back. The Corvette was one of the hottest things I've driven in my life," remarked Nonnamaker, who won in a Corvette last year. "The big race in the evening I figure I'll go drive for an hour and let my co-driver finish it. He's young - let him do the rest."
Tickets are currently on sale for the AJ's Fine Foods 250 at Phoenix International Raceway, Saturday, May 3, as well as the Grand-Am Cup Series UnitedAuto 200 on Friday, May 2. Tickets can be purchased online at www.phoenixinternationalraceway.com.
The AJ's Fine Foods 250 will be broadcast LIVE in SPEED Channel on Saturday, May 3 at 9 p.m. ET. Additional information on the Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup is available online at www.grandamerican.com.