Daytona testing notes 96-01-08

AUBERLEN LATEST TO GO UNDER DAYTONA TRACK RECORD IN TESTING DAYTIONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 8) -- Exxon World SportsCar rookie Bill Auberlen became the latest driver to unofficially best the Daytona International Speedway track record Monday as he...

AUBERLEN LATEST TO GO UNDER DAYTONA TRACK RECORD IN TESTING

DAYTIONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 8) -- Exxon World SportsCar rookie Bill Auberlen became the latest driver to unofficially best the Daytona International Speedway track record Monday as he turned the fastest lap of the three-day IMSA Open Test Days in preparation for the Feb. 3-4 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Auberlen, of Redondo Beach, Calif., toured the 3.56-mile road course with a quick lap of 1:41.634, an average speed of 126.100 mph. The track record, set by Italian Mauro Baldi in qualifying for the 1995 Rolex 24, is 1:43.326, 124.034 mph. A total of five drivers eclipsed the track record during the test, including Baldi, Gianpiero Moretti, Andy Wallace and Wayne Taylor.

Fermin Velez, the 1995 IMSA World SportsCar Championship titlist, had been quick all three days of the session in his Scandia-Simon Racing Ferrari 333SP. "Definitely we are coming back (to Daytona) with our eyes on victory," said Velez, whose team will be one of the favorites when the green flag drops on the 34th Rolex 24. "The team and the car are strong. It's very difficult to win a 24-hour race but I think a Ferrari will win the race. I just hope it's my car!"

Ford NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams are scheduled to begin a three-day test on Tuesday, including those of former Daytona 500 winners Bill Elliott and Dale Jarrett. A section of the Oldfield Grandstand is open daily at no charge from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with access through the Visitors' Center. Guided tours of the Speedway are also available from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for a nominal fee.

*IMSA TEST SPEEDS -- Jan. 8

NO DRIVER/CAR TIME SPEED

Exxon World SportsCars 30 Bill Auberlen/Ferrari 333 SP 1:41.634 126.09 4 Wayne Taylor/Olds R&S Mk. 3 1:41.651 126.07 30 Gianpiero Moretti/Ferrari 333 1:42.597 124.91

Exxon Supreme GTS-1 95 Tommy Archer/Dodge Viper GTSR 1:50.757 115.71 1 Darin Brassfield/Olds Aurora 1:51.358 115.08 56 Jorge Trejos/Porsche 911 T 1:52.783 113.63

Exxon Supreme GTS-2 07 David Donohue/BMW M3 1:57.894 108.70 99 Andy Pilgrim/Porsche 911 2:00.728 106.15 06 Bill Adams/BMW M3 2:02.271 104.81

IMSA Endurance Championship -- Grand Sports 35 Steve McNeely/Pontiac Firebird 2:08.157 100.00 1 Andy Pilgrim/Pontiac Firebird 2:08.783 99.516 47 John Kohler/Ford Mustang Cobra 2:10.479 98.222

* Electronic times furnished by IMSA scoring.

PETE HALSMER (#06* Valvoline BMW M3) -- Right now I don't think we have any weak links. We keep trying to make all of it strong: Like the driver lineups, the sponsors, the equipment in terms of BMW, the crew guys and the entire team. I think we've got a pretty good package and we're concentrating on making it better. (On the chief competition for the Rolex) It looks like there are some really good Porsches that are going to be running and there is a mid-engine Porsche that has been built. I think there are a number of potential competitors but we're just going to have to wait and see what shows up for the race. We run under the unibody side of the rules which is basically a stock chassis of the BMW and we try to work within that configuration. But we're just working real hard and keeping our heads up. (On picking up more time) We keep working at it and I think we're reasonably pleased about where we're at. We just want to keep running our program, keep optimizing and making the car better. We need to learn about what the car needs so it will go 24 hours because that's a critical element. We may go fast but if we don't go fast for 24 hours it doesn't do us much good. So we are trying to learn about the durability factor as well as the speed so we can be right for a 24-hour race. The key is to keep focused on what we're trying to do and watch what the competition is doing. If we stay focused on what we're trying to do -- our plan and our procedure -- that will produce the best results that we can get. Hopefully good enough that we are ahead of everybody else.

DEREK BELL (#72+ Champion Porsche 911 Turbo) -- (On the performance so far) Well, we went quicker this afternoon than the car ever has been before, so that's quite something for that sort of car. There are really no secrets about these kind of cars. The guys have really done a super job of preparing it and we are very happy! Overall, I am very pleased considering I haven't driven this kind of car for a very long time. I'm really looking forward to next month's race very much now. (On durability) One of the guys asked me today how do I think we're going to run in the race. I told him that you could finish any endurance race in the world with that car -- it is a proven package. You know, with that identical engine I've won Daytona twice before. The car is so proven! Now having said that, something stupid will probably happen, but you can't account for that. But we haven't got any gray areas like the gearbox. This car you just drive it as fast as you can without hitting anything. If you go off the road then you're a naughty boy, but you can't go off the road and keep within the rev limits. I would love to win Daytona another time. I think we will do very well in the Porsche and I am excited about driving it. I didn't think we could win in the McLaren at Le Mans and we ended up leading it for 10 hours (and another McLaren won). We have a very reliable car and anything can happen and we have three very good drivers in it and I am really looking forward to it. I wish it was tomorrow!

Don Kitch (#43 Payne Racing/CF Team Oldsmobile R&S Mk. 3) -- We're actually racing as a fundraiser for the cure for cystic fibrosis, the leading genetic disease afflicting children and young adults in the U.S. What we're doing is garnering corporate or private donations to be collected for research on a laps-completed basis according to IMSA official timing and scoring. Right now we're sitting on about $100 per lap from what we've taken in. Our goal is to get to $200 per lap. If the car goes somewhere between 650- 700 laps then we'll have raised approximately $140,000. We plan to have some families with kids who are afflicted with CF here for the race. We plan to have a block of cellular phones right in the hot pits so that people can call right in, talk to the drivers and team and make their pledge right there. It's going to be a great effort. We're looking for nothing less than a win. The driver lineup includes Canadian Ross Bentley, who has an extensive IndyCar background (and who drove the car during 1995) and Frenchman Franck Freon, also with some IndyCar racing during his career; plus team owner Lee Payne and myself. We've already had good test sessions before coming here. Last year, the car was on the front row at New Orleans and led the race for a while. The car has (pushrod) Oldsmobile power in a Riley & Scott chassis, which is an incredible package. We're looking to qualify within the top four and then we'll go to race pace.

TOMMY ARCHER (#95+ Dodge Viper GTSR) -- We've got a brand new car with the Viper and we're having the typical teething problems associated with trying to make a road car a race car. When you do that, put that much horsepower through the stock components, you find things which have to be adjusted or changed especially for a 24-hour race. The car looks like it's moving even when it's parked and I've had people tell me the V-10 sounds like a P-51 (World War II fighter plane) coming around the banking. It's a neat car. This is the first time I've been here since 1988 so I'm sort of new to the track too.

Our goal with the car is to finish the race. If the program had been going for maybe a year, then we might be saying we had a good chance of finishing up front. Realistically, what we're trying to do is use the race as a test for Le Mans and see if we can make the car finish. Right now every time I get in the car there's a new piece on it. You just can't expect to win with a car this new. I do know we can run comfortable race laps with the car, but whether we have all the right pieces to last 24 hours -- well, time will tell.

DARIN BRASSFIELD (#1+ Brix Racing Oldsmobile Aurora) -- The test is going really good. The car has impressed us even more than the test we had here in December. We've had six different drivers in the car. Other than a bit of wear and tear, we haven't had one problem. I started back in 1992 with this program and the wait for this (overhead cam) car has been worth it. Without a doubt in all the years we've been here with Oldsmobile this is the best car we've had. Even though we didn't have this car last year, we did win the class title and the manufacturer's championship so you can see the team can get the job done. I believe my (one minute) 50.9 has been the fastest in the car. The main thing has been to get the others in the car. I can't drive the entire 24 hours so we need them to be able to maintain the pace we set. I would have to say that we're going to be running up front in the race. If we can keep the car out of pit lane for other than routine stops then we're going to be the pace setters. It's a very easy car to drive and a very fast car. I'd be real surprised if you didn't see us in victory lane at the end of the race.

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Series IMSA Others
Drivers Andy Wallace , Bill Elliott , Dale Jarrett , Andy Pilgrim , Wayne Taylor , Bill Auberlen , Tommy Archer , Mauro Baldi , Bill Adams , David Donohue , Ross Bentley , Darin Brassfield , John Kohler , Fermin Velez , Gianpiero Moretti , Jorge Trejos