Sebring: Duncan Dayton qualifying report

Intersport's Dayton, Field and Connor Will Start Fifth in Saturday's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring SEBRING, Fla., March 18 -- Duncan Dayton of North Salem, N.Y., Jon Field of Dublin, Ohio and Larry Connor of Centerville, Ohio will spend the ...

Intersport's Dayton, Field and Connor Will Start Fifth in Saturday's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring

SEBRING, Fla., March 18 -- Duncan Dayton of North Salem, N.Y., Jon Field of Dublin, Ohio and Larry Connor of Centerville, Ohio will spend the first day of spring at Sebring International Raceway here competing in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in Intersport Racing's Banana Joe's/Highcroft Racing/Goodyear Lola B1609 Judd #37.

They've been here testing for several days, and Thursday afternoon Field put the car solidly in the 44-car field by qualifying fifth in the top class, called P1 this year, with a lap in 1:51.288 for an average speed of 119.689 mph.

There are a dozen cars in that class this year, and Dayton said the team qualified "right where we should be.

"With the rules changes this year, it will be like a victory for us if we can finish fifth on Saturday," he explained. "It's not like a couple of years ago, when we were going for the class victory."

Dayton, Field and Michael Durand won their class here in 2002.

The 52nd edition of this 12-hour enduro on the bumpy, 3.7-mile road course is the season opener for the American Le Mans Series, the first of nine events on the 2004 schedule. It attracts approximately 100,000 people, both race fans and partyers anxious to celebrate just about anything.

SPEED will cover the event live from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. Eastern time Saturday.

Although it could change, the driver rotation for the #37 is expected to be Field, Dayton and Connor. Both Dayton and Connor are suffering from bad colds, but they're forging ahead anyway and hoping that they'll feel better before the race starts at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

The team tested here last Friday and Saturday and this Monday. They missed Tuesday due to rain, but they've been hard at work on their set-up yesterday and this morning too. There is a night practice session tonight and more practice Friday in preparation for Saturday's big race.

Dayton got a big scare during one of the practice sessions earlier this week. As he entered turn one, which is a 140-mph turn, the steering wheel didn't respond because the car's right front rocker arm had broken.

"That got my attention," said Dayton, who luckily got out of that one unscathed.

In addition to being in the P1 class this year instead of LMP 675, the car doesn't have a starternator, a combination of a starter and an alternator which caused the team many headaches last year.

The car is back to being painted the familiar Intersport red and blue and doesn't have the bright green portion that affectionately earned the car the nickname "The Junkyard Dog" last year.

Any other changes?

"We have a paddle shift this year now too," Dayton explained. "Over the winter we also changed the front geometry on the car to get rid of the understeer. That's working a lot better now, although the steering input is very heavy. We don't have any power steering in the car now, but by the next race we will."

Prior to its testing last week at Sebring the team also tested at Road Atlanta recently. Dayton didn't participate in that test because he was attending the Formula 1 race in Australia then. It rained and snowed at that test so the team's engineers didn't get everything they wanted to get accomplished, but they've been working hard to make up for that here at Sebring.

This will be Dayton's fifth time competing in Sebring's most famous event. He finished second in the LMP 675 class here last year, won that class here in 2002, finished fifth in the LMP 900 class and overall in 2001, and finished 10th in the top class in his first appearance in this event in 1999.

For more information, see www.intersportracing.com and www.americanlemans.com.

-lm-

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Series ALMS
Drivers Duncan Dayton , Jon Field , Larry Connor , Michael Durand