2006 Champions Banquet report

2006 Rolex Series Champions Bergmeister, Bunting and Lally Among Honorees at Rolex Champions Banquet in Las Vegas LAS VEGAS, Nev. (September 4, 2006) -- In an elaborate celebration with nearly 500 guests on Monday evening, 2006 Grand American...

2006 Rolex Series Champions Bergmeister, Bunting and Lally Among Honorees at Rolex Champions Banquet in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (September 4, 2006) -- In an elaborate celebration with nearly 500 guests on Monday evening, 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Daytona Prototype champion Jorg Bergmeister and GT class co-champions Marc Bunting and Andy Lally headlined the list of honorees in the Rolex Champions Banquet at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.

In the crowning moment of the evening, Grand American Road Racing Association President Roger Edmondson and Rolex Watch USA Senior Vice President Doug Meine presented Bergmeister, Bunting and Lally with Rolex Daytona Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph watches emblematic of their championship performances. All three drivers also received championship trophies and Bergmeister's name will be added to the breathtaking Grand American Trophy of the Americas alongside previous Daytona Prototype champions Terry Borcheller (2003), Max Papis and Scott Pruett (2004) and Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli (2005). The perpetual Trophy of the Americas will be on permanent display at DAYTONA USA.

Bergmeister earned his first Daytona Prototype driver title on the strength of three victories and a total of five podium results co-driving the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley. In addition, the German racer never finished worse than ninth in any of the 14 Rolex Series races in 2006.

"I'm very honored to be up here with the championship in such a competitive series with so many great drivers," Bergmeister said. "I need to thank the team for all of their hard work, as well as my team owner, Tracy Krohn. I couldn't have done it without you. I'm sorry that (Bergmeister's co-driver for 11 of 14 races) Colin (Braun) can't be up here, but the good thing is that he's young and he'll get plenty of chances to win a championship. I also need to say thanks to all the drivers who filled-in when Colin couldn't drive: Max (Papis), Boris (Said), and Nic (Jonsson). All of you guys did a great job."

For Bunting and Lally, the championship was their second Rolex Series title in three seasons. The duo claimed the one and only Super Grand Sport class championship in 2004 before moving into the GT class for 2005 and missing their second-consecutive title by just one point. Co-driving the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R, Bunting and Lally led the GT class with five victories and finished on the class podium an amazing 11 times in 13 feature races. Like Bergmeister, Bunting and Lally never finished worse than ninth in class this season.

"This is a huge accomplishment for Marc and I, but it is just part of a whole team effort," Lally said. "I'm proud to be part of such a great year for the team. Our crew put a lot of their heart into this, and it's amazing the dedication they put into this. All of these guys do such an amazing job with everything. It's just been an unbelievable year. It has been said a lot here tonight, but I can't help saying that this is definitely the best road racing series in the world. I am proud to be a part of it. This wouldn't mean so much without the guys that pushed us so hard in this championship, and I want to congratulate the No. 72 and No. 64 teams on doing a great job this year."

"I think I've got the best co-driver out there," Bunting added. "This was certainly a team effort. Our car may not have always been the best car, but we always had the best strategy and the crew always did a great job. This is the best team in the business."

In addition to taking the GT championship, Bunting was also honored as the 2006 recipient of the Bob Akin Award, which goes to the top-performing sportsman driver in the GT class. The similar Jim Trueman Award for the top sportsman driver in the Daytona Prototype category went to No. 60 Flight Options/Net App Lexus Riley driver Mark Patterson from Michael Shank Racing. Just two days ago, Patterson and co-driver Oswaldo Negri Jr. celebrated their first Rolex Series victory in the season-ending Discount Tire Sunchaser at Miller Motorsports Park. Patterson was also the central figure in one of the lighter moments of the Rolex Champions Banquet, as he performed a song parody that he had written about the Rolex Series.

No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley owner Chip Ganassi accepted his second Daytona Prototype team championship in three seasons. The No. 01 team picked up the championship on the strength of a series-leading five victories and a total of eight podium finishes by drivers Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz. In addition to taking home the team championship trophy, Ganassi was also presented with free use of a Featherlite Luxury Coach during the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona, and the $100,000 Hoosier Tire PaceSetter Award.

During the PaceSetter presentation, Grand American President Roger Edmondson announced that for 2007, the top-15 teams Daytona Prototype teams and the top-10 GT teams that competed in every race will be part of the PaceSetter program. Edmondson also said that Hoosier Racing Tire was increasing its contribution to the PaceSetter program by $300,000 for 2007.

For the second-consecutive year, TRG team owner Kevin Buckler accepted the GT team championship trophy on behalf of the championship-winning No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R team. Buckler was also awarded the use of a Featherlite Luxury Coach for the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford driver Mike Rockenfeller was honored as the inaugural recipient of the MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year Award. Rockenfeller earned the $10,000 prize on the strength of two victories alongside co-driver Patrick Long and seven podium results in 13 feature races. Due to a family emergency, Rockenfeller was unable to attend the Rolex Champions Banquet, so Long accepted the award on his co-driver's behalf.

"I want to thank all of you for racing us hard and welcoming us to your series," said Long. "We're really looking forward to coming back next year and challenging for the championship. It's an awesome place to be and really a lot of fun."

Lexus was honored for its first Daytona Prototype Engine Manufacturer's Championship, while Pontiac earned its first GT class Manufacturer's Championship and Riley Technologies was presented with its third-consecutive Daytona Prototype Constructor's Championship. No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Riley owner/driver Tracy Krohn was presented with the season-ending $4,000 SunTrust Improve Your Position Award, as he and co-driver Jonsson led the series by winning the SunTrust Improve Your Position Award at three races in 2006.

The No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford team and the No. 17 SAMAX Porsche GT3 team were the inaugural recipients of the $4,000 Performance Drink Endurance Challenge Award, given to the Daytona Prototype and GT teams with the best average finish in the three 2006 Rolex Series endurance races, the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen and the Discount Tire Sunchaser.

Also honored at the Rolex Champions Banquet were Pruett and Diaz for their second-place performance in the Daytona Prototype championship and No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley driver Max Angelelli, who finished third in the final Daytona Prototype driver standings. The No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley and No. 10 teams were honored for finishing second and third, respectively, in the Daytona Prototype team championship.

In the GT class, No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 co-drivers Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell were presented with second place in the GT driver championship, while No. 64 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R co-drivers Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards took home third-place hardware in the GT championship. Likewise, Tafel Racing--which fielded the No. 72 machine--claimed second place in the GT team championship and the No. 64 TRG team earned third place in the final GT team standings.

The exciting finish of the VIR 400, in which Rockenfeller passed Pruett and Angelelli with three turns remaining on the final lap to go from third place to the victory, was named the Rolex Moment of The Year. The Rolex Moment of The Year was determined through fan voting on the official web site of the Grand American Road Racing Association, www.grandamerican.com.

-credit: garra

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Max Papis , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Kelly Collins , Luis Diaz , Kevin Buckler , Andy Lally , Terry Borcheller , Jörg Bergmeister , Max Angelelli , Patrick Long , Chip Ganassi , Tracy Krohn , Mark Patterson , Wolf Henzler , Bob Akin , Michael Shank
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , Michael Shank Racing