FIRST TWO DAYS OF OPEN TEST FORECASTS WILD ROLEX 24
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- After two days and participation by more than 70 cars, IMSA's ninth annual January Open Test Days really began to whet sports car fans' appetites for the season- opener Feb. 1-4.
As of Sunday night, some 48 Exxon Series cars had tested for the Feb. 3-4 Rolex 24 At Daytona, while more than 25 IMSA Endurance Championship cars had lapped in preparation for the Daytona inaugural 90-minute Endurance Championship event on Friday, Feb. 2.
The hottest news? The Exxon World SportsCars once again lowered their lap times -- outrageously so. Brit Andy Wallace unofficially clipped more than a second off Mauro Baldi's track standard, set one year ago, only a day after Baldi had shaved a couple tenths off his own mark.
The rumored two-car assault by Courage appeared in the person of Rick Sutherland's Wheel Works team, with several drivers on hand including Sutherland, quick man Eric van de Poele and Jerome Policand.
The GT ranks of Camaros and Porsches were swelled by the fascinating "International GT" cars present, including a pair of Agusta Racing Callaway Corvettes and the Daytona-debuting Bugatti EB110, which proved to be right on the testing pace with Gildo Pallanca and Derek John HIll -- son of former World Champion Phil Hill -- guiding it. Two Dodge Viper GTSRs, and news that the Jaguar-powered Lister Storm was due for an appearance at the end of the month, further excited GT proponents. FERRARI LEADS ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA TESTING SATURDAY, JAN. 6
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- More than 70 teams -- representing three series -- opened a three-day test session in preparation for IMSA's season-opening events: The Friday, Feb. 2, Daytona inaugural 90-minute IMSA Endurance Championship race; and the Feb 3-4 Rolex 24 At Daytona Exxon World SportsCar and Supreme GT Series event.
Track record holder Mauro Baldi, in the Scandia Ferrari 333 SP, unofficially eclipsed his track record when he recorded the quickest time of the day at 1:43.193, an average speed of 124.194 mph.
Wayne Taylor, the 1994 IMSA World SportsCar champion, is among the test entries. Taylor's best time on day one placed him third quickest.
"It's certainly nice to be on the pace the first time out," said Doyle Racing's Taylor, a South African now living in Altamonte Springs, Fla. "This year's goal is to regain the series championship. The Rolex 24 is really an important race. It's one I need to win."
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. 6 NO DRIVER/CAR TIME SPEED Exxon World SportsCars 3 Mauro Baldi/Ferrari 1:43.193 124.19 16 James Weaver/ Ford 1:43.949 123.29 4 Wayne Taylor/Oldsmobile 1:44.040 123.18 Exxon Supreme GTS-1 95 Tommy Archer/Dodge Viper 1:53.241 113.17 91 Roger Schramm/Chevrolet Camaro 1:53.945 112.47 00 Rocky Agusta/Corvette 1:55.104 111.34 Exxon Supreme GTS-2 07 Pete Halsmer/BMW M3 1:59.042 107.65 67 Charles Coker/Porsche 911 RSR 1:59.079 107.62 06 Dieter Quester/BMW M3 2:00.143 106.67 IMSA Endurance Championship -- Grand Sports note: Almo Coppelli set fast time in #00 Callaway Corvette... 35 Marty Miller/Pontiac Firebird 2:09.975 98.603 33 Joe Aquilante/Pontiac Firebird 2:10.825 97.962 3 Don Knowles/Pontiac Firebird 2:11.016 97.820
* Electronic times furnished by IMSA scoring.
MAURO BALDI (#3 Momo/Perry Ellis America Ferrari 333SP) -- (Baldi is the track record holder at 1:43.326 / 124.034 mph, set Feb. 2, 1995.) I love Daytona International Speedway. I love the track. I love coming back to Florida to race. I think the car is pomising. The setup, right now, is not too bad so we're in good shape. We'll be ready for the race.
Pirelli has developed the tires from what we used last year. Daytona is a hard track on tires and Pirelli want to be a leader at Daytona so they have worked very hard. I look forward to a consistent race. It's not important to be the fastest car. Speed is important in qualifying, but consistency is important in the race. You must be quick, but not too quick. You must set a pace which isn't as hard on the car because the race is very long.
We had brake problems last year. We wore out the brake pads. This year we are using new pads, very hard pads. They are specially made and should last twice as long as the ones we used last year. Now, we have stiff brakes and stiff pads. We are used to having very strong brakes but we must rethink our braking points because we have to start braking a bit sooner to get the same effect.
WAYNE TAYLOR (#4 Oldsmobile R&S Mk. 3) -- We're still improving things and making it better and easier to drive, which is critical for a 24-hour race. We're not working on speed. We've got the endurance package on the car, so when we get to working on a sprint package we think it can be pretty quick. We're turning lap times that the Silk Cut Jags (XJR-12 GTP cars) were running and that's impressive!
I think we're looking at a fantastically competitive season. With Courage coming in (two cars being run by Rick Sutherland's Wheel Works team) that makes it more interesting.
(Looking at the Feb. 3-4 Rolex 24.) For a 24-hour race, whoever stays out of the pits the most -- has the least trouble, will win. It's going to be a WSC car, for sure: Either an Olds, Ford, Ferrari or Chevrolet. The American V8's are definitely as reliable as the Porsche was (which won the '95 Rolex 24). Our engine package has been super.
Our driver lineup is locked-in. It'll be myself, Scott Sharp and Jim Pace.
SUNDAY, JAN. 7
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Endurance driving ace Andy Wallace, driving a Dyson Racing Ford R&S Mk. 3, unofficially shattered the Daytona International Speedway sports car track record Sunday with the fastest lap ever turned at Daytona by a World SportsCar as he led the second day of IMSA sports car testing in preparation for the Feb. 3-4 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Wallace, of Oxford, England, blistered the 3.56-mile road course with a quick lap of 1:42.210, an average speed of 125.389 mph. The track record, set by Italian Mauro Baldi in qualifying for the 1995 Rolex 24, is 1:43.326 for a speed of 124.034 mph.
"The car is raging!" crowed Wallace, a former winner of 24- hour races at Daytona and Le Mans, France, and of the 12 Hours of Sebring. "The performance of the car is really exciting, it is so much fun to drive."
In one session, Wallace tracked down the Scandia Racing Ferrari 333SP, the car Baldi drove a year ago, and eventually passed it. "The car seems to really rocket out onto the banking (transition from the road course to the high-speed oval) and I suppose that is where we are making up a lot of our time."
The test will conclude on Monday. 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. 7
NO DRIVER/CAR TIME SPEED Exxon World SportsCars 16 Andy Wallace/Ford R&S Mk. 3 1:42.210 125.38 4 Wayne Taylor/Olds R&S Mk. 3 1:43.518 123.80 39 Eric van de Poele/Chevy Courage C41 1:44.055 123.16 Exxon Supreme GTS-1 6 Johnny O'Connell/Ford Mustang 1:53.205 113.21 01 Derek Hill/Bugatti EB110 1:53.247 113.16 90 Tommy Riggins/Oldsmobile Cutlass 1:53.374 113.04 Exxon Supreme GTS-2 07 Dieter Quester/BMW M3 1:59.176 107.53 06 Pete Halsmer/BMW M3 1:59.723 107.04 67 Jeff Purner/Porsche 911 RSR 2:00.981 105.93 IMSA Endurance Championship -- Grand Sports 33 Joe Aquilante/Pontiac Firebird 2:10.734 98.031 35 Marty Miller/Pontiac Firebird 2:10.825 97.962 3 Don Knowles/Pontiac Firebird 2:11.016 97.820
* Electronic times furnished by IMSA scoring.
JOHN PAUL JR. (#07 Valvoline BMW M3) -- We are here these three days testing for durability, mainly. Both cars are running very well. My car is basically the same car we had here last year. We are going to debut new headlights for this race. We don't have them here for testing, but they'll be brighter and give off a blue glow.
DIDIER THEYS (#30 MOMO Ferrari 333 SP) -- I have not been in the car much because we're trying to get Tim Hubman and Bill Auberlen used to the car here at Daytona. We're excited to be running two cars for the Rolex 24! Tim Hubman, Bill Auberlen and John Morton will be in one car, and I'll be in the other with Bob Wollek and (team owner) Gianpiero Moretti.
ERIC VAN DE POELE (#36 Chevrolet Courage C41) -- It's coming. We started work yesterday and had a small problem and we're really starting to work now and it's coming together. The car is generally very stiff and more suited for a European track and we have to adapt to make it more smooth and comfortable for 24 hours. Generally it's okay, but we just have to find the right setup, and we have two more days. These cars don't have much downforce and we just have to find the right balance.
END SUNDAY -- MORE TO COME MONDAY, WE HOPE