Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team's quest for Daytona Prototype Championship begins with the Rolex 24 at Daytona TAVARES, Fla. (Jan. 24, 2008) -- Nearly 20 Daytona Prototype teams (totaling 25 cars) will descend upon the "World Center of ...
Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team's quest for Daytona Prototype Championship begins with the Rolex 24 at Daytona
TAVARES, Fla. (Jan. 24, 2008) -- Nearly 20 Daytona Prototype teams (totaling 25 cars) will descend upon the "World Center of Racing" this weekend for the 46th Rolex 24 At Daytona all looking to notch their first win of the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 season.
Winning the season's first race means two very important things. First, it means the winning team outlasted 25 other DP entries to claim one of the most coveted titles in all of motorsports -- Rolex 24 Champion. And second, it means the team took a major step toward earning one of the most coveted championships in all of motorsports -- the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype Championship.
For the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team and its pilots Bill Auberlen, Joey Hand, Patrick Long and Andy Wallace that season-long championship quest begins this weekend at Daytona International Speedway. The foursome will pilot the Alex Job Racing-prepared No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche-powered Crawford Daytona Prototype.
Fielding one of the strongest driver lineups in the DP field, coupled with reliability the No. 23 Porsche Crawford showed in preseason testing, team owner Alex Job is excited about his team's chances to win this weekend.
"I expect we will show some good speed this weekend," Job said. "We will be upfront. We've got a very reliable car. To win this thing, you need to be fast and run up with the front pack, while being careful, smart, and consistent. The drivers need to make no mistakes. The team needs to make no mistakes. The preparation needs to be top notch. That's what it takes to win. I am very confident that between the drivers, the team and the car, that we have the package to win."
Auberlen is no stranger to the Rolex 24 podium. He is a former Rolex 24 At Daytona GT winner and knows what it takes to win. His expectation for this weekend's race is simple, but also knows his expectation is easier said than done.
"My expectation is to win the race," Auberlen said. "The reality is that Ganassi is very strong, SunTrust is very strong. The other driver lineups out there are unbelievable. But, this driver lineup is also very strong. It is every bit as good of a team as there is out there."
Much like Auberlen, Wallace has also tasted victory at the Rolex 24 and knows how important it is to have a properly setup car for such a long race.
"The team has done a lot of 24 hour races and so have my teammates," Wallace said. "[It is important] to keep in mind, that this is very long race. You would attack this race quite a bit differently than you would a two hour and forty-five minute race. With a shorter race, even if the car isn't right, you can hang onto it for that long. But, you really can't do that in a longer race. What tends to happen is you wear the tires out and then your performance drops off. It doesn't matter how hard you drive, you're still getting slower and slower towards the end of the stint and can't wait to get into the pits to get some new tires. If you get [the setup] it absolutely right and it's comfortable, you find that your lap times are consistent. I couldn't wish for any better teammates. The team always puts on a really good show and I am sure we will get the best out of the car. I am really looking forward to this weekend."
Long drove the No. 23 machine in the past two Rolex 24 races and is quite familiar with what the car can do. In fact, two years ago Long and his then teammates Mike Rockenfeller and Lucas Luhr put the car on the pole, led the race early and then went seven laps down when the car sustained a broken rear boot on the car's right rear half-shaft. The team retook the lead more than 430 laps later only to have a second axle boot failure. Despite those two setbacks, the team finished third.
"Heading into my third Rolex 24 with this team, we are facing as many challenges as we ever have," Long said. "Mainly, those challenges are due to the competition being as good as it's ever been. My projection is that we will be there at the end and that we will be one of the teams to beat. But, as always in a 24 hour race, you got to drive trouble and mistake free. And, that is usually what a 24 hour race comes down to, it is you against yourself. I think we've got the performance to maintain a good pace throughout the 24 hours and if we come out of the race clean, we should be looking at the top step if everything goes as planned."
Of the four Ruby Tuesday drivers, Hand is the one with the least amount of DP seat time. While he may not have the DP seat time his teammates have, he demonstrated in preseason testing just how fast he can be. In fact, he was the fastest of the four drivers in preseason testing. Not only is he quick, but he also understands what it takes to be competitive in a DP.
"In the older days, in terms of race pace, everybody talked about saving their equipment for the race," Hand said. "Nowadays, with the way things are more spec and evened out on a spec tire, teams are not laying back. Now, there is really a hot pace early in the race and you're not saving brakes and you're not short shifting early. We will need to get our speed up to be able to hang with the lead pack early in the race. But, when it's all said and done, it's really about four drivers who are going to keep the car underneath us the whole race. A team that does not have a problem throughout the whole race is going to be a top five car at the end of the race."