Pontiac Qualifies Fourth For Rolex 24 At Daytona Porsche Crawford Takes Pole Position with Time of 1:44.009; SunTrust Racing's ...
Pontiac Qualifies Fourth For Rolex 24 At Daytona
Porsche Crawford Takes Pole Position with Time of 1:44.009; SunTrust Racing's #10 Pontiac Riley Posts Second-best Time but is Disqualified for Technical Infraction
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The countdown to the Rolex 24 At Daytona is well underway, with Daytona Prototype (DP) and GT class qualifying the main feature of today's track activities here at Daytona International Speedway. Once again, SunTrust Racing's Max Angelelli posted high times during practice and qualifying and initially qualified for a spot on the front row next to polesitter Lucas Luhr, co-driver of the #23 Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports Porsche Crawford, but was disqualified for the technical infraction of their front splitter being too wide.
"It's a real shame because qualifying was so tough," said Angelelli's teammate Wayne Taylor. "(This) would make it the third time for the start of this race to start on the outside front row. With this issue with the jabroc (front end splitter) being 3/16ths too wide, I can't really comment on that because technically I don't do the car. However, I understood that the car went through tech prior to qualifying and it was fine, so I'm not sure. It's no good doing anything now other than planning how we're going to get back to the front."
"Three years in a row we've never had problems with our engine and in a 24-hour race reliability is the most important thing," said Angelelli. "We're confident in our package. although I think the #01 and #02 Lexus Rileys are cars to watch along with the Porsche Crawford."
The #02 Target Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley, driven by Scott Dixon, posted the third-fastest time (and were bumped up to second) in qualifying but the #99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley was less than a tenth of a second behind with Alex Gurney driving. Gurney crashed in practice but the team acted quickly and had the car repaired and in tip-top shape for qualifying.
"My practice crash was very disappointing - in fact, I felt a little silly doing that on the first day of practice for an endurance race," said Gurney. "The entire team did an outstanding job coming together to put the car back together, which gave me the opportunity to come back and give it another shot. I felt all I needed was one good clean lap - but that almost didn't happen, a couple good ones were ruined by traffic - or a Porsche spinning in front of me."
13 Pontiacs will start in a field of 31 Daytona Prototypes for the 24-hour endurance race, with Pontiac Motorsports aiming for a third-straight Rolex 24 victory or even a podium sweep, which the brand accomplished at last year's event and repeated four more times over the course of the 2005 season. Pontiac's stellar on-track performance led to manufacturers championships last year and the year before with team and driver championships in 2005 (SunTrust Racing and their drivers Angelelli and Taylor).
"We're confident in the abilities of our Daytona Prototype teams and are looking forward to a competitive, exciting Rolex 24 At Daytona," said Steve Sitek, brand promotional managed for Pontiac. "Today's disqualification of the SunTrust team from the front row is unfortunate but it may not affect the overall performance of the team during the race. They finished consistently high throughout the 2005 season and the reliability of our engines will be a definite positive factor, one that helped give the team the victory last year."
Pontiac's first attempt at a GT class Rolex 24 At Daytona win is progressing well despite small setbacks experienced during qualifying. The #64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R, shared by Paul Edwards, Kelly Collins, Jan Magnussen and Andy Pilgrim, qualified seventh with a time of 1:54.164 and its sister car, the #65 TRG Pontiac GTO.R placed 13th on the grid with a time of 1:55.554. Co-driver Andy Lally (who is sharing the car with Marc Bunting, RJ Valentine and Johnny O'Connell) attributed his qualifying time to changes made on the car to ensure its long-term reliability.
"The cars have been completely rebuilt so we're still making a few changes to make them comfortable and drivable by all of my co-drivers," said Lally. "I'm not yet comfortable with a few details but our team will keep working on the cars tonight and tomorrow. We'll still have a shot at bettering our position on the grid tomorrow, but in the end our grid position won't make much of a difference in such a race as this. We have to make sure we can keep going the entire event without major mishaps and if that happens, we'll have a good showing."
Tomorrow will bring an additional qualifying session in which cars that qualified below 30th can better their position - spots one through 30 are locked in.
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.