Daytona Prototype Championship Battle Heading to VIR Alton, Va. (Sept. 14) -- The world's fastest-growing professional sports car series, the Grand American Road Racing Association's Rolex Sports Car Series, is heading to VIRginia International...
Daytona Prototype Championship Battle Heading to VIR
Alton, Va. (Sept. 14) -- The world's fastest-growing professional sports car series, the Grand American Road Racing Association's Rolex Sports Car Series, is heading to VIRginia International Raceway over the weekend of Oct. 1-3, and the VIR 400 presented by SunTrust will play a crucial role in deciding this year's championship.
The Rolex Series' headlining Daytona Prototype class has exploded in popularity since its debut in 2003, growing from a regular group of four cars per race last year to 18-20 this year. The racing has been fierce and close, and the twists, turns and elevation changes of VIR's beautiful and historic 3.27-mile circuit will present a stern challenge for those hoping to gain ground in the title fight.
Currently, the Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Scott Pruett and Max Papis, piloting the No. 01 CompUSA Lexus-powered Riley chassis, are leading the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac/Riley of Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli. In the drivers championship, Pruett and Papis are tied for first with 244, with Taylor third at 225. In the teams championship, the Ganassi squad leads SunTrust by the same margin.
SunTrust's Taylor, who recently tested at VIR, is taking an analytical approach to the battle.
"We have four more races," he explained, "and I'm lying second in the championship. Mathematically, if we were to win every one and Ganassi finishes second, they would win the championship. So in order for us to have a shot at the championship, we need to get lucky. We have proved, I think, that we can be the quickest over the period of any of the races, but you know what it's like in racing."
The Riley chassis is new to the series this year, but has proven to be very competitive, winning five of the eight races to date. According to Taylor, the key to success is a delicate balance among mechanical grip, downforce and braking.
"We seem to be able to outbrake all the other cars almost anywhere," he said. "I think we have more mechanical grip than anybody else, and we seem to have a little more downforce than everyone else. But remember, when you have downforce, you're also losing straightaway speed. So it's a fine line. That's why I think in the races some of our competitors in other chassis are a little quicker in a straight line, because they don't have the aero. It's very competitive."
The Rolex Series has definitely struck a nerve in the professional sports car racing community with the Daytona Prototype, which has strict limits on cost and technology as well as rules that are said to be stable for 10 years. The concept has attracted a number of teams that cannot afford more sophisticated prototypes, and it has been reported that between 12 and 16 new cars are currently under construction.
Taylor says that limiting the technology, especially in terms of costly aerodynamic research and development, has brought about an unintended benefit: the cars are a ball to drive.
"They are really, really a lot of fun," he enthused. "They don't have a ton of downforce, but they have enough to make it really fun for the driver. Also, it's very forgiving. But to drive them on the edge, to really drive them at 10/10ths, the cars are literally sliding around everywhere, just because of the nature of the regulations."
Taylor says that the technical layout of VIR will make it difficult for the drivers in the VIR 400 presented by SunTrust, but the fans will reap the benefit.
"This track is a very high-speed racetrack," he said, "and there's a very definite line to do a fast lap time. So passing is going to be difficult. A lot of these corners are very sweeping and they're very high-speed, and you have to follow the line. To pass somebody you have to go off-line, and that's going to make it tough. But it's going to be a really good race. I think last year's was a good race, and they only had four Daytona Prototypes. But this year I think you're going to see something really, really exciting."
The Rolex Series' Daytona Prototypes will be joined by the GT and SGS classes of production-based cars for the VIR 400 presented by SunTrust, which should provide a grid of approximately 40 cars for the 400 km/three-hour event. Also competing during the weekend will be the popular Grand-Am Cup street-stock series, with Porsche and BMW club racing filling out the undercard.
Advance tickets for the weekend will be available either over the telephone or online through September 23, priced at $40 for a three-day Super Ticket (including a complementary race program) and single-day tickets for Sunday priced at $30. At the gate, three-day Super Tickets (with program) are priced at $50, with single-day tickets priced at $10 (Friday), $20 (Saturday) and $40 (Sunday). For advance ticket sales, call 1-888-RACE099 ext. 116 (American Express®, Discover®, Visa® or MasterCard®) or purchase your tickets online at www.virclub.com with Visa® or MasterCard®. VIR is a family-friendly facility, where children 12 and under are admitted free with a paying adult. Spectator camping is available.
VIRginia International Raceway is a multi-purpose road racing facility, located on the Dan River between Danville and South Boston, Va., and just north of historic Milton, N.C. In addition to its 3.27-mile natural-terrain road racing circuit (designed to be operated as two autonomous, full-service courses), VIR is the cornerstone of VIR Club, America's first motorsports country club; the VIR Raceplex Industrial Park; the VIR Gallery, which is a showroom for high-end collector and racing cars; the VIR Safety and Security Institute, which provides specialized training for U.S. Government and military groups; and the VIR Euro Rally and Corporate Motorsport Experience, which features four rally stages plus a kart track, motocross track, ATV and SUV training grounds. Opening this fall will be The Lodge at VIR, a 27-room hotel overlooking the track, and the Oak Tree Tavern, a full-service restaurant located within the circa-1840 Plantation Clubhouse.
VIR made history from 1957 to 1974 and is doing so again. The renovated original circuit has 17 challenging turns and 130 feet of elevation change. In addition to spectator events, the track is also available to rent for testing, driving schools and club days.
For more information, visit the track's website at www.virclub.com or contact VIR toll-free at 888-RACE099. For more information on the VIR Euro Rally and Corporate Motorsport Experience, call toll-free 877-RALLY66 or visit their website at www.vireurorally.com. For more information on the Grand American Road Racing Association, visit their website at www.grandamerican.com.