TAFEL RACING ANNOUNCES DRIVERS FOR ROLEX 24 Three-Car Effort Features a Mix of Sports Car Experience & Youth DAYTONA BEACH, Fl., Jan.3, 2006 For the past several years, the paddock of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona has had the look of...
TAFEL RACING ANNOUNCES DRIVERS FOR ROLEX 24
Three-Car Effort Features a Mix of Sports Car Experience & Youth
DAYTONA BEACH, Fl., Jan.3, 2006 For the past several years, the paddock of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona has had the look of the Hollywood "Walk of Fame," auto racing stars everywhere you look. The same will certainly be said about the 44th running of America's classic twice-around-the-clock race at Daytona International Speedway on Jan.28-29, 2006. Already NASCAR stars, such as Tony Stewart, Jimmy Johnson, Rusty Wallace and Bobby Labonte have their race belts cinched, while open- wheel celebs, including Christian Fittipaldi, Jimmy Vasser, Patrick Carpentier and Eddie Cheever await the green flag.
But the Rolex 24 at Daytona is a "sports car" endurance race and that's the focus that Jim Tafel, team owner, and Technical Director Tony Dowe chose in selecting the eleven Tafel Racing teammates that will challenge the world's best GT drivers for the right to proudly wear the Rolex Daytona watches presented to every class winner.
Following on the team's fifth-place Rolex GT finish in only its first full year of competition, Tafel, owner/driver of Tafel Racing, earlier announced a three-car campaign for the full 13-race season in the 2006 Grand American Rolex GT Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve featuring Porsche GT3 Cup cars.
Tafel and Dowe assembled an excellent mix of seasoned professionals and enthusiastic youth to drive for the team, including German Wolf Henzler and Scotsman Robin Liddell who will share the #72 Tafel Racing Porsche for the season.
For the past three seasons, Liddell has successfully driven both prototypes and GT cars in America, including a class victory in the 2004 Rolex 24 at Daytona, as well as 8 additional wins and 7 fastest laps. In 2005, Liddell was in the Top 5 in both American Le Mans (ALMS) and Speed World Challenge Drivers' Championships.
The past two years have been equally successful for Henzler. After starting his career as Junior German Kart Champion in 1991, he broke through in 2004 winning the Porsche Michelin Supercup with 9 wins and 2 seconds out of 12 races. Like Liddell, Henzler won the GT class in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2005 and finished 4th in the ALMS GT championship.
Joining Henzler and Liddell at the Rolex 24 will be Californian Johannes van Overbeek. Last year, van Overbeek finished in 3rd at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and in the ALMS GT championship just ahead of Henzler and Liddell. In 2004, he was the runner-up in the ALMS GT championship and finished 2nd behind Liddell in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. And in 2003, van Overbeek again placed 3rd in both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Grand-Am Rolex GT championship.
Thanks to Tafel Racing, two former Rolex winners and a close second in the same car for the 2006 Rolex 24 should make for some very exciting racing!
Tafel and teammate Andrew Davis, both from the Atlanta area, tied for 9th in the 2005 Rolex GT Drivers' Championship, scoring points in all 13 of the races they contested and finishing as high as 4th at Daytona and Watkins Glen. While they will co- drive during the regular Rolex season, they will split up in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Joining Tafel in the #73 Tafel Racing Porsche will be Dr. C. Michael Cawley from Atlanta, Northern Californian Shawn Price, and Chad McQueen, son of the legendary movie actor and "at speed" enthusiast. Price co-drove with Henzler to a GT- class victory at last year's Rolex 24 at Daytona.
After starting his career with three straight SCCA Southeast Championships from 1997-1999, Davis has had a versatile career as of late competing in ALMS, Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR), Grand-Am Cup, as well as the entire Rolex GT Series with Tafel Racing. Last year, Davis qualified on the front row multiple times and led numerous laps on his way to a 5th place in the Rolex GT Series.
Joining Davis in the #74 Tafel Racing Porsche will be Charles Espenlaub of Lutz, FL, Buffalo's Eric Lux, and Graham Rahal, son of the legendary racer and team owner.
Seasoned driving instructor Espenlaub will co-drive with 17-year-old Lux in the #74 Porsche for the entire Rolex GT season. Espenlaub has been racing SPEED Touring Cars along with Porsche Club, HSR, Motorola Cup and Grand-Am Cup since 1999 but spends much of his time as a senior driving instructor for the Panoz Racing School where he was Lux's instructor. Espenlaub must have done a good job because in his first year of professional racing Lux has scored 8 HSR wins and was the first 16- year old to take the checkered flag in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona where he finished 9th in class and 21st overall.
Hoping to earn "Rookie of the Year" status at the Rolex 24 in the #74 Porsche is another 17-year-old, Graham Rahal, who was successful as a rookie in Formula BMW in 2004 followed by even better rookie year in Star Mazda finishing 4th in the championship. Rahal topped that by becoming the Formula Atlantic Champion in the 2005 SCCA Runoffs last fall.
And, of course, one of the team's strengths and mainstays is unquestionably the experience of veteran racing director, Tony Dowe. Few in sports car racing have such an extensive resume, including Team Manager for Jaguar's overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1990), as well as Technical Director for TWR Group, Panoz Motorsports, Professional Sports Car Racing and Dick Barbour Racing, among others.