DAYTONA BEACH, Fla -- The TruSpeed Motorsports team and drivers Timo Bernhard, Charles Morgan, Rob Morgan, and B.J. Zacharias shook down the No. 47 Querencia Golf Club, Los Cabos/TruSpeed MotorCars/Wright Motorsports/VelocityVille.com Riley-Porsche Daytona Prototype at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the upcoming Rolex 24 at Daytona for the Grand American Road Racing Association Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve. The team was one of 29 teams to participate in the Daytona Prototype class, and ended the three-day test 16th on the overall speed charts.
* Throughout the on-track action, the team's four drivers worked on driver comfort issues, chassis setup, and engine and component durability.
* The only major handling issue the team confronted during the test was a loose condition entering the "bus stop" chicane on the backstretch.
* The car, a Riley chassis purchased from Jim Matthews, has been fitted with the potent 3.8-liter Porsche Flat-6 cylinder engine. TruSpeed debuted the car last season at Homestead, finishing ninth.
* Crew chief John Wright is overseeing the preparation of the car. Wright and the TruSpeed crew have taken the car back to their shops in suburban Cincinnati and will totally disassemble and then reassemble it prior to leaving for the race. Wright and team will check of 25 pages worth of checklist items before the car is deemed race ready.
Team chemistry vitally important:
With four drivers taking the wheel over the course of the twice-around-the-clock enduro, it is essential that all drivers are on the same page when out on the track. Maintaining the pace and taking care of the equipment is essential if the team hopes to have a shot at the overall victory as the final hours tick off the clock.
If one of the four drivers has his own agenda, such as running fast laps in an effort to gain the spotlight, it could detract from the team's chance at a victory or podium finish.
"We were talking with Jack Baldwin on the plane coming home and he was asking about who he could put in as a fourth driver. The first question he asked when I made a suggestion was "is he a team player or does he have his own agenda?" Someone could go out and wreck in the first thirty minutes and throw away a chance to win the race." -- Rob Morgan
"The base works. I knew BJ from an American Le Mans Series race back in 2002 at Mid-Ohio. We drove against each other. I got to know Rob by racing against him here at Daytona. And I have to say we worked really good on the setup, all together as a team." -- Timo Bernhard
Previous success leaves team wanting more:
The Morgan family has found success in American sports car endurance racing. Patriarch Charles Morgan has earned one class win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona -- co-driving with his son to win the 1996 GT1 class -- and also scored two class wins in the 12 Hours of Sebring. Rob Morgan has found his own success at Daytona, picking up the class win in GTS-1 in 1996 before he picked up an overall runner-up finish in 1997, finishing just a lap off the winning pace after 24 hours of competition. In addition, the younger Morgan has scored two other runner-up finishes in America's most prestigious endurance road race.
German Timo Bernhard has also tasted success on the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway, driving his way to the overall victory in a GT class Porsche in 2003. He was also a class winner in 2002 in the GT class.
B.J. Zacharias has also been competitive at Daytona in the past, threatening to surplant Bernhard's team in 2002 as the two teams swapped the lead as the sun rose on Sunday. However, a short off-course excursion by one of Zacharias's co-drivers meant an extended stay on pit road and resulted in a fourth-place class finish.
"The biggest thing we have in the back pocket is the team's experience in the 24. John Wright is our crew chief and he has a lot of top ten and top five finishes there. He's run well there and has a great history. He is the biggest asset we have. If we keep our noses clean, I think we have to gun to be in the top ten and then see where we are in the morning." -- B.J. Zacharias
What's the driver's focus during a test with all four drivers assembled for the first time:
"I have raced at Daytona since 2002 and I won the GT class in '02 and overall in 2003, so I'm familiar with the track and the event. But I had to get familiarized with the Riley chassis and the team because every team works different and you have to find out the structure of it. Straight away I felt very welcome. The base is good to start from. The next thing was to work on the setup. The car reacts to track, temperatures and other changes so you have to work and adjust constantly." -- Timo Bernhard
Toughest part of the race is in the driver's head:
Racing for 24 hours non-stop is a test of physical endurance. However, drivers will have the opportunity to step out of the car and recharge their batteries throughout the course of the event. The toughest test each driver will face throughout the race is mental. Race drivers inherently want to compete, to race the competition deep into the turn and be the first one out of the corner. In a 24 hour race, drivers must often fight their instincts to compete and focus on preserving their equipment for a late-race surge to the finish.
"For the driver the mental aspect is tough. You can't make any mistakes. You can't put the car in a bad situation. That is where you are going to lose the race as a driver is making a mental mistake. And someone does it every year, knock on wood. It happens, it's racing. You get out there and you think you need to make up positions right off the bat like it's a sprint race and that's not what wins this race. The hardest thing I had to do when I went to race the NASCAR Trucks was I would get into a rhythm early in the race and by the time I was ready to get racing, the race was over. If it was a sports car race, it would be time to go. I am used to pacing and running hardest at the end, and that's what it takes to win this race." -- Rob Morgan
Every moment as hard as the next:
Some drivers find the overnight hours -- when most "normal" people would be sound asleep in the comfort of their beds -- to be the most difficult part of the race. Some others would say it's the time around sunrise that is difficult; the bulk of the race is in the history books but they now must face the sprint to the checkered wondering what lays around the next bend and what could possibly go wrong with the car.
For TruSpeed Motorsports, every moment of the race carries the exact same stress level as any other moment.
"I would say it's every waking minute of this race. You can be running fine and have a 100 lap lead and in one blink of an eye it's completely wiped out. A couple of years ago I was running in the GT class with one of the TRG cars. Timo was in a team car and they were leading and we were second. We were running that way all the way until 7 in the morning. We actually took the lead and we weren't the outright fastest car. In the blink of an eye, one of the guys ran off the track and punctured a radiator. We spent 20 minutes changing a radiator and dropped back to fourth. It can happen that quick." -- B.J. Zacharias
Crew chief confident in powerplant:
With one of the most successful nameplates in the history of worldwide sports car and endurance racing on the engine cover of the TruSpeed Motorsports Riley chassis, crew chief John Wright believes the team has the most competitive package entered in the race. The Riley chassis is known for its consistency, and mated with a thoroughbred Porsche 3.8-liter Flat 6-cylinder engine, Wright expects good things once the green flag falls on the Rolex 24.
"We got this car from Jim Matthews. It was a good car for him and was very quick. They ran a Pontiac engine in the car previously, but we've made the change to the Porsche 3.8 liter flat 6-cylinder. It was a very strong engine last year. There is a lot of durability and reliability with the Porsche, and we think it will give us a performance advantage for sure.The Porsche engine is the only real thoroughbred race engine that is in the series. The durability and reliability of the engine is what we are looking at; and the consistency of the overall package. Porsche is behind the engine program one hundred percent as far as the development. They are known as one of the best research centers in the world, so when you have a company that is focused on the engine package like that, it is hard to beat it. With Ford, they have Yates and Roush doing their powerplants and TRD is doing the Lexus engines. But Porsche is backed one hundred percent by the manufacturer as far as research and development." -- John Wright
Details, details, details:
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of small details that must be attended to in order to reach the checkered flag in a 24-hour race. Driver comfort is key, especially when dealing with four different drivers who have very different physical characteristics. The mechanical aspect of the car is crucial. Ancillary systems, such as radio communications, must stay functional. Those details must be executed to perfection if you have any hope of reaching victory lane. At one point or another during the race, each team will be faced with an unexpected set of circumstances, and the response to that unexpected twist could mean the difference between finishing first and finishing laps behind.
"It is crossing all the "T's" and dotting all the "I's" as far as the mechanical aspect of the car is concerned. There are so many details that are involved in preparing a car for running 24 hours. You have to keep the driver comfortable. The ergonomics have to be correct because you go from daylight through sunset and into the night, then you have to deal with sunrise and daylight again. There is always the possibility of rain and fog. Then you have the mechanical aspect. The gearbox has to be perfect, as does the engine, the wiring, the plumbing. On top of all of that you have a lot of other details. We don't normally do a brake change in a normal race, but most likely we will have to change the brakes. The body work might need to be changed so we need to make sure all of the replacement body work fits like the original. Even if you have a repair to make, you want to do it as fast as you can because the guy you're trying to beat might have to deal with something similar throughout the course of the race. You have to practice those repairs, have orchestration and be efficient. We have 25 pages of checklists to go through before the car leaves the shop."- John Wright