Daytona 24: GM Racing preview

Pontiac Aims For Third-straight Rolex 24 At Daytona Win Brand's Arsenal Includes Star-studded Daytona Prototype Lineup and Race-winning Pontiac GTO.Rs for GT Class Attack DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Defending 2005 Grand American Rolex Sports ...

Pontiac Aims For Third-straight Rolex 24 At Daytona Win

Brand's Arsenal Includes Star-studded Daytona Prototype Lineup and Race-winning Pontiac GTO.Rs for GT Class Attack

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Defending 2005 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series driver co-champion Max Angelelli has been to the speedway at Daytona many times before. In fact, the Italian-born sports car racer won the 43rd annual Rolex 24 At Daytona sharing SunTrust's Pontiac-powered Riley Daytona Prototype (DP) with 2005 Rolex Series teammate Wayne Taylor and Rolex 24 co-driver Emmanuel Collard. With the 44th running of the world-famous endurance race only days away, Angelelli's previous Daytona experience may explain his high level of confidence and poise.

"I'm really optimistic. We know we have a good, solid package," said Angelelli. "It will hopefully be easier for us compared to other teams because we've already won the race, so we know basically how to do it. However, there's a new challenge, a new year, a lot more drivers and a lot more teams."

More teams, more drivers and more weight - 2006 Grand American rules state that 75 pounds of ballast weight be added to all DP cars with 5.0 L engines (this includes Pontiac, Ford and BMW), and added weight will undoubtely slow the cars down.

"Pontiac-powered Daytona Prototypes were again strong in this year's Daytona test days," said Pontiac's Rolex Series program manager Jim Lutz. "In fact, SunTrust Racing posted the second-highest time in testing that weekend. However, the Porsche-powered Crawford cars - new for this season - tested very well and one posted the fastest lap of testing. Additionally, the Lexus-powered Riley cars have traditionally been fast and they will again be a force to be reckoned with."

Other manufacturers, however, have a hard act to follow after Pontiac's 10 wins out of 14 races in 2005. Lexus and BMW DP cars were the only ones to come close to Pontiac's winning record last season. 10 victories (and additional four second-place finishes) led Pontiac to its second consecutive DP manufacturers championship, a team championship for the SunTrust team and driver championships for Angelelli and Taylor. SunTrust's #10 Pontiac Riley, incidentally, finished every lap of every race last season - a true testament to the capability of Pontiac power and the determination of its Rolex Series teams.

This January, Pontiac's Rolex Series teams return to action at Daytona with their talented cast of drivers such as Andy Wallace, Jorg Bergmeister, Alex Gurney and Butch Leitzinger. To assist with the Rolex 24 At Daytona, a host of drivers from NASCAR, various open-wheel series and other sports car series will co-drive Pontiac DPs. Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick, Ryan Briscoe, Bobby Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Jimmy Vassar have all (temporarily) signed on with Pontiac teams to make this one of the most memorable 24-hour races ever.

Pontiac's Rolex 24 At Daytona history is also in the making, for Pontiac-powered Daytona Prototypes have won the last two Rolex 24 At Daytona races (with a podium sweep at last year's event, one of five podium sweeps in 2005). A third-consecutive Rolex 24 victory would give Pontiac the honor of the only American brand to have achieved three wins in a row - and only Porsche has had more than three successive wins at the grueling 24-hour endurance event. With half the Rolex 24 At Daytona DP grid consisting of Pontiac-powered vehicles - attributable to Pontiac's successful and reliable V-8 engine - the brand has strength in numbers.

In the GT class, Pontiac's two production-based GTO.Rs - campaigned by TRG - face more daunting odds than their DP cousins as they are up against 37 other cars, the majority of them Porsches. Porsche won last year's GT manufacturers championship, but having started racing mid-season, the GTO.Rs nevertheless finished with four wins and helped TRG win the team championship. Andy Lally and Marc Bunting, who shared the #65 car, came within a point of winning the drivers championship. Saturday's race will be the GTO.R's debut in 24-hour racing and teams and drivers are ready. GTO.R co-driver Jan Magnussen, having won two 24 Hours of Le Mans races, is no stranger to endurance races. He will share the #64 car with Kelly Collins, Paul Edwards and Andy Pilgrim (a three-time Rolex 24 winner) and all drivers share confidence in their teams and vehicles.

"We're confident in our Pontiac engines, even with the restrictor Grand American requires us to use, so I think we'll be in good shape. I personally think we have a chance to win the big race - there are a lot of new Porsches and they are fast but so are we. The Porsches have the advantage in the straights, but we can pass them in the corners."

The Rolex 24 At Daytona is run on the 3.56 mile tri-oval/infield road course of the Daytona International Speedway. The 2006 event will start at noon Eastern time on January 28th and end at noon the following day. The start will be televised live on SPEED TV and a Pontiac-sponsored look at the race will be broadcast at 8:00 p.m. EDT. The remainder of the race will air on January 29th at 8:00 a.m. EDT.

-gm racing-

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Wallace , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Alex Gurney , Paul Edwards , Jan Magnussen , Butch Leitzinger , Andy Pilgrim , Emmanuel Collard , Wayne Taylor , Kelly Collins , Andy Lally , Max Angelelli , Ryan Briscoe , Marc Bunting , Danica Patrick