Daytona 24: Apple Motorsports first qualifying report

So Far, So Good for the Apple Motorsports Crew at the Rolex 24 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 3 - One of the keys to performing well in motorsports is preparation. For the York, Pa.-based Apple Motorsports team of Gary Stewart and his three nephews...

So Far, So Good for the Apple Motorsports Crew at the Rolex 24

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 3 - One of the keys to performing well in motorsports is preparation.

For the York, Pa.-based Apple Motorsports team of Gary Stewart and his three nephews - Dave Stewart, Rob Stewart and Bob Gilbert - along with Guy Cosmo, preparations for the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway have been on-going for several months.

A look at the team's "to do" list on Thursday, the first day of official practice and qualifying for the Rolex 24, one of the world's most prestigious endurance races, showed a short list of tasks.

Among the biggest tasks were having the two-way radios checked and the application of two decals to the car, one for the Grand American Rolex Series and one for a contingency sponsor.

Cosmo was in the car for qualifying, with the West Palm Beach, Fla. driver posting the eighth-fastest lap in the GT category. Cosmo pushed the team's Porsche GT3 Cup car, stopping the clocks at 1:57.946 to average 108.66 mph around Daytona's 3.56-mile road circuit.

That ended up being 33rd overall. The top 30 spots were locked in during qualifying, and most of the top spots were taken by the faster Daytona Prototype class. The Apple Motorsports crew will qualify again Friday from 11:40 a.m. until noon, with the best lap between the two sessions counting.

Winning the GT pole was Wolf Henzler of Germany in a Porsche that was timed in 1:55.958 (110.523 mph).

"Since the test days at Daytona, we had TPC and the Apple Motorsports crews go over the car. My first flying lap this weekend showed that the car is definitely better than what it was when we were last here," said Cosmo after qualifying.

The Apple Motorsports team joined forces with Michael Levitas' TPC Racing team for this race, taking its Porsche GT3 to Jessup, Md. for some pre-race suspension tweaks. "We took the car down to Mike's shop and he worked with us on the suspension, so when we showed up the car was fast right off the truck," said team manager Michael Goss.

"After the test last month, we made a lot of wholesale changes on the car. In the morning, it was show up, do some system checks and make sure there were no rubs. We made some small changes, what I would call fine tuning, dialing a few clicks on the shocks, and the car is responding well."

Responding so well that, on his fourth tour of the circuit this morning, Cosmo managed a lap at 1:59.798, putting the team eighth in class during the first practice session.

In the second session Cosmo shaved nearly three-tenths of a second from his time, lowering the team's best lap to 1:59.513.

With the small improvements made over the course of the day, the team's results continued to improve. Cosmo's qualifying time was over a second and a half better than the team's best lap in practice.

"Really we were just trying to capitalize on the progress we made at the shop," said Cosmo. "The car feels pretty good and we're all still learning the car. The guys on the team are all doing a really good job and the other drivers are all getting adjusted to it. That was our best performance so far and that was a full second and a half faster than I've gone in the car. That's just a sign of how much better we'll be by the time the race starts. By 4 o'clock on Saturday night, you'll see some [one minute] 56s out of us."

Goss wasn't surprised by Cosmo's performance. "We decided to go with a light fuel load, make a small shock change and put Guy Cosmo in the car and let him tear it up. We were 33rd overall and eighth in class out of 32 GT cars. We can't be happier, but it's not where we start, it's where we finish.

"When the chips are down, you can always count on Guy. He's magic. I like to think we can make him look good, but a lot of times he makes us look good too."

In the world of endurance racing, where the demand for peak performance lasts for 24 hours, preparation and attention to detail are paramount. For the Apple Motorsports team, everything is running on schedule so far, and the "to-do" list is nearly finished.

The 24-hour race starts at noon on Saturday. Most of it will be covered live on SPEED.

For more information see www.grandamerican.com, www.speedtv.com and www.restartcommunications.com.

-am/lm-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Guy Cosmo , Michael Levitas , Gary Stewart , Wolf Henzler , Dave Stewart , Rob Stewart