Track record time for Tags Daytona Beach, FL (28 January 07)-After spending the week testing his new Panoz DP01 Champ Car with Rocketsports Racing in Sebring, Alex Tagliani jumped into his rental car and headed north to Daytona to...
Track record time for Tags
Daytona Beach, FL (28 January 07)-After spending the week testing his new Panoz DP01 Champ Car with Rocketsports Racing in Sebring, Alex Tagliani jumped into his rental car and headed north to Daytona to join Blackforest Motorsports for the 45th Rolex 24 at Daytona on Thursday.
The three hour tour was well worth the trip, as less than five laps into his first practice session in the car, Tagliani pegged a time of 1:51.649 seconds in the new Rolex Sports Car Series GT-Class Ford Mustang Cobra GT, smashing the previous GT qualifying track record by nearly two seconds and proving to be quicker than the GT class pole-winning time set on Thursday.
"I was kind of surprised because we hadn't had much chance to test the car and yet to go out and be that much faster than the track record was pretty encouraging," said Tagliani. "Brian Nott does an amazing job preparing Mustangs and I knew this was a great package with the Roush/Yates motor in the Mustang, but we didn't expect that kind of result so fast, especially because most of the other cars in the class are a couple hundred pounds lighter than we are."
Blackforest is based in Deland, not too far from Daytona International Raceway. The Mustang Cobra GT had proven to be quick out of the box in limited pre-season testing, and with their strong local knowledge and proven winning track record with Mustangs, the fast lap time was a just reward for some late nights at the shop for the Blackforest squad.
"These guys have been working incredibly hard to even have the car ready to go fast--it's not even painted yet because that was much less important than having everything else sorted with the car. So I know that fast time was a good reward for the guys and it really motivated everyone for the race," said Tagliani.
When the Mustang FR500C debuted in Koni Challenge competition in 2005, Blackforest gave the car a great opening run as Tom Nastasi took the car to a maiden victory at Daytona. The team was hoping to score a similar result in the 24, but the debut event posed some significant challenges as the stress of the twenty-four hour event brought to the fore some weaknesses which prevented the Mustang from running the entire race distance. But the black No. 15 crossed the finish line at Daytona in its first attempt as the field took the checkered flag.
"We learned a lot and found some weaknesses that we can focus on so it was good to have so much track time to really push the car to the limit," said Tagliani. "It turned into a long test session and it really was a great opportunity for us to try a lot of things. You don't often get twenty four hours of testing!"
With the Mustang packed up and rolling on the way back to the shop in Deland, the team is looking forward to putting their new knowledge to work in the upcoming rounds of Rolex Sports Car Series competition.
"I'm looking forward to Mexico City and Homestead because I have experience there, and I know this is going to be a great sprint race car," said Tagliani. "We didn't get the result that we wanted here this weekend, but in the long term, this is really going to help us get those results with everything we learned because we showed how much potential this car really has."
-credit: blackforest motorsports