Daytona 24: Krohn Racing preview

Krohn Racing Ready for Rolex 24 At Daytona Krohn Racing comes to Daytona this week ready to do battle in the Rolex 24 At Daytona endurance race. Sixty-seven cars, including 25 Daytona Prototype and 42 GT cars, have entered the 47th annual...

Krohn Racing Ready for Rolex 24 At Daytona

Krohn Racing comes to Daytona this week ready to do battle in the Rolex 24 At Daytona endurance race. Sixty-seven cars, including 25 Daytona Prototype and 42 GT cars, have entered the 47th annual running of the historic enduro classic at the Daytona International Speedway, January 26-27, 2008.

Krohn's two-car team features the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley of team owner/driver Tracy W. Krohn with new teammate and veteran endurance sports car driver Eric van de Poele. Corvette GT1 champion Oliver Gavin will serve as third driver for the Rolex 24. Krohn Racing regular Nic Jonsson will drive the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley. Paired with Jonsson for the season is new co-driver and former Formula One hotshoe Ricardo Zonta. Briton Darren Turner will serve as the third driver for the Daytona twice-around-the-clock endurance race. This is Krohn Racing's third full season in the Daytona Prototype class in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.

Tracy W. Krohn, team owner/driver, No. 75 Krohn Racing Riley:

Please talk about the difficulty of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. How tough is a 24-hour race?

"Daytona is difficult in that there are so many cars on the track, usually around 65-70, two different classes of cars, weather changes, high speed turns, hard braking zones, 22-24 gear shift changes per lap, low speed turns, usually lots of debris on the track,and we are all running a different spec tire this year, having changed from Hoosier to Pirelli!! This is an extremely competitive race with very, very good drivers, with many championships among them, all wanting to win this very prestigious race!"

What kind of preparedness must you and the team does for an endurance race of this nature?

"We are using three drivers, (we are allowed up to five under Grand-Am rules), hence lots of seat time for everyone and because this is a high speed track on the oval portions, around 190 mph, it requires very focused efforts from everyone on the team. Hence 24-hour races are always difficult, but I think this one is fast, physical, and somewhat hazardous with just the sheer number of cars on the track at high speed! Physical conditioning is certainly important, and everyone is prepared for that, but mental awareness and focus is critical to success. Obviously, the car must be able to run for 24 hours without stopping and the race has almost become a 24-hour sprint race against arguably many of the finest drivers in the world! We strip the cars down to the chassis before the race and meticulously rebuild and inspect all parts such that the cars are essentially new. We will run new motors for the race as well. This race requires speed, endurance (of both man and machine), and patience!! Winning this race is a real testament to an entire team's effort!"

Nic Jonsson, driver, No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley:

What are your thoughts on being back with the Krohn Racing team for 2008?

"I'm excited to be back with Krohn Racing again and try to run for the championship. I'm also excited to be with Ricardo this year in the No 76 car and Tracy and Eric in the No. 75 car. Between the four of us, I think we should be very strong, especially along with Jeff Braun and David Brown as our engineers. I think the team that Jeff (Hazell), David (Brown) and Tracy (Krohn) have assembled is one of the strongest in sports car racing in the world. I'm very excited to be back with the team and can't wait to go racing."

How difficult is the Rolex 24 Hour race?

"It's a very, very difficult race, all together, and not just from a driver aspect. When you start that engine to do the pace lap at 1:15 on Saturday in the afternoon, it's not going to stop until 1:30 on Sunday. To ask that, not just from the engine but also from the gearbox, uprights, bearings and everything that is making that car go, it is a lot to ask. You have to really take care of the equipment as the driver behind the wheel. And of course, the mechanics have to be keeping a very close eye on everything. If there's anything that starts to go, you have to keep a very close eye on that so you can change it before it breaks. You can't afford to go a lap down this year, especially with the new rules with the closed pit and stuff. It's an extremely tough race on both equipment and drivers and the crews. I think we are in a very good position here at Krohn Racing. We've done this for a few years together and I'm ready to go for the win at the Rolex 24."

What do you expect from the competition this year?

"I think every year the competition gets tougher and tougher. Again, I expect this year to be the toughest. We have a lot of new cars out there, we have some Rileys with new bodywork, I think one or two Dorans with the new bodywork on it, and some Fabcars out there. So there will be some new cars, new teams. This year there is an extremely strong driver line-up throughout the whole field. I don't think there' s one weak team. There are a lot of strong, strong teams that have the potential of winning as much as anyone else. The competition, I think, it's the strictest there is today. Not just in sports car racing, but in racing in general, including NASCAR. It will be extremely tough, but I think Krohn Racing is ready to take everybody on."

Eric van de Poele, driver, No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley:

You are quite an expert in endurance racing and probably have competed in more endurance races alone that most teams have in combining four drivers. What draws you to endurance racing?

"I have to say the first thing is the team effort. Why I say that is when you cross the finish line --if you are first or if you are last, the emotion is very big. It is a big effort for many, many people. It is also a lot of work for many weeks to prepare the car to be ready for a long distance race like a 24-hour. When you do a championship with a sprint race distance, you do the race and you do your best. It's easy to forget about the result and to go on and think about the next one. The 24 Hours is very different because of all the spirit and concentration you need, as well as patience. At the end you get the results or you don't for different reasons. At least if you cross the line at the finish, it is always a big emotion for everybody. This is fantastic!"

How difficult will it be to jump in at a big race like the Rolex 24 At Daytona with a new team?

"It's not a big deal. It's very exciting. I don't have to say it's new for me because I know the race. I did this race eight times already. We also did a pre-test with the team and we got to know everybody and get involved. It's just for the start of the season every year; it is the most important race of your career. You are looking forward to it. You weigh that and you try to do your best from the first minute to the last one. Of course everybody makes mistakes, but we try to make the least possible and to be 100% of the potential. It's very exciting to be with new faces and to be with a new team. I last drove in this race in 2003. They have since built new garages and many things that help a lot."

Ricardo Zonta, driver, No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley:

You are a rookie at Daytona this year. How intimidating is it to come to a famous circuit like Daytona for an incredibly difficult race like a 24-hour race?

"I'm very happy to be part of the Daytona race. For me it is something very strange because it has been a long time since I've done any endurance race. And also, I don't know the Daytona track. I only did two laps at the test and crashed. So I don't really know the track layout well yet, but I'm going to have time to learn it better before the start of the race. The track itself is something very different than I am used to driving. I never raced on ovals and it has very different banking. Daytona is very famous, which you see in films or anywhere. The track makes you feel different than all the other circuits."

How do you balance between going for the win and pacing yourself to save the car for the entire race?

"I think it is more important to preserve the car. You have more to gain than going to the limit. We can be quick and not make any mistakes. We have to preserve the tires especially."

How difficult will it be to jump in at a big race like the Rolex 24 At Daytona with a fairly new team -- one you've only worked with once before?

"No, for me, it is not very difficult. As soon as you have a good feeling about the car and the team, it's enough to be on the pace. Of course, during the year we are going to increase the relationships with the team. I know (Krohn Team Manager) David Brown and (teammate) Nic (Jonsson) very well now. That is most important for me to have a good relationship with those people."

Darren Turner, driver, No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley:

You're a Daytona rookie. How intimidating is it to come to a famous circuit like Daytona for an incredibly difficult race like a 24-hour race?

"The hardest thing is coming to a new circuit and learning a new car at the same time. A lot of time you have to learn a new circuit, but you know the car. Or you go to a familiar circuit and you're learning the car. It's not often that you have both at the same time. So I'm getting used to a Grand-Am Prototype and also getting used to the Daytona circuit, which is daunting, just purely by physical size of it. The banking is also quite alien to what I'm used to. But, I've enjoyed the limited running I've had. I feel I got up to speed reasonably quickly. There is still some time to find. But to me, it's just another race. Once I get a few more laps under my belt, I'll be happy, comfortable, know what the car is doing, know a little bit more about the circuit and then I'll just be focusing on making sure once I get to the race that I do what I'm paid to do, which is to have a good speed and no mistakes.

You've been successful at 24-hour races before -- having just won in class at Le Mans last year. What does it take to be successful in endurance racing?

"It is so much different from the normal sprint race, which are all over in 25 minutes or so. In endurance racing, it's a big team effort and one that all three drivers need to have a mistake free run throughout the race. One small problem will always put you on the back leg. Then you're relying on other cars and other teams to have problems as well. So if you can have a clean run to the flag, then at least you hope then, if other people have problems, you're in the better position. So you need a good pace as a driver, but also, a nice, clean run with no mistakes. And you need that across all three drivers.

You also need to work all three drivers as a team. You can't afford to have one guy down because his pace isn't good. You've got to be sure that everyone is very happy with the car. If it means a slight compromise on your preferred set-up to make sure that all three of you have something you are comfortable with, then it's always worth that compromise. The team itself -- the pit stops are more critical than most people can even appreciate. If you're out there racing and you're scrapping over a tenth of a second lap between cars. Then at the pit stop they lose 5 seconds because of a bad wheel change, it could take a whole hour to gain that time back. So the pit crew is under pressure for that and actually has more pressure than the driver in that period. Such team effort is required to get one car to the front to win the race."

Oliver Gavin, driver, No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley:

You have had a lot of success in endurance racing -- what does it take to be successful?

"I think what it takes to be successful is to have as many parts of the jigsaw puzzle together and in place before you start the race. What I mean by that is you have got to have a good set-up, a good race car, a very good team of people around you and very good teammates. I've been fortunate and lucky enough to be in that position. And I've had quite a lot of success with Corvette Racing and some other cars and teams. Fundamentally, it's a real team effort. If you have a good victory and success it is mainly down to the fact that you've got all of that covered."

How difficult will it be to jump in at a big race like the Rolex 24 At Daytona with a new team?

"It's one of the things that sports car racing is all about. I suppose that is one of the challenges...that you are often asked to come and drive cars on a one-off basis. Sometimes it is really, really successful because everything just slots into place with the team and it's like you've been there all the time. You are enjoying driving and working with the people there and it all seems to gel. It is a very, very tough race - the Daytona 24-Hours. There's no getting away from that. The fact is you've got so many good teams and so many great drivers doing it. It's really a great challenge and it's something I'll be relishing when we get started on practice on Thursday."

David Brown, Team Manager, Krohn Racing:

You've decided to run last year's Riley's for the Rolex instead of the new Lolas. Tell us about that decision.

"That was a decision that we knew we would have to take. When Jeff & I discussed the test program for the Lola, we decided that we would review the progress and review our situation after each step of the test program. We did the December testing and then decided we would move on to the next testing. Then we did the January Daytona test. After that test, we would review our position and decide what would be the best thing for the team. Having got to that decision point, we fairly quickly agreed that we had not yet met all the targets we wanted to meet with the Lola. Therefore, we would adopt our second plan, which was running in parallel, so it was not a Plan B, but more of a Plan A2. We would dig the Rileys out. We had not sold any critical parts on the car. We had kept the cars intact, and so we would fire up the Riley program and use those for the race."

You've got both skilled endurance and two Daytona rookie drivers, along with proven cars and a proven team. What will it take for Krohn Racing to win at Daytona this year?

"As ever, you've got to be reliable...which means you've got to put yourself in a position where you are going to finish the race with a car that's in good condition. That's in the hands of the drivers, as well as the team, because the traffic is notorious at Daytona and you're never quite sure what a slower car is going to do ahead of you in the middle of the night. Conditions are iffy. The other thing that we have done is that we have a good mixture of talent and experience on both cars. I think that knowledge and that depth that we have is going to work in our favor when it comes down to making the right split-second decision in the cockpit to avoid issues and bring the car home."

-credit: cr

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Krohn Racing , Corvette Racing