stellar start Orbit Racing will open the 2004 race season with a long play, pacing its drivers, crew and equipment for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, scheduled for Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in Daytona Beach, Fla. Â The team's regular drivers, Joe and Jay ...
Orbit Racing will open the 2004 race season with a long play, pacing its drivers, crew and equipment for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, scheduled for Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in Daytona Beach, Fla. The team's regular drivers, Joe and Jay Policastro of Latrobe, Pa., will be joined by three others for the race - Mike Fitzgerald of Fountain Hills, Ariz., Robin Liddell of Scotland and Johnny Mowlem of England. The five will share driving duty in the No. 44 Classic Industries Porsche 911 GT3 RS.
"The team we have for the 24-hour is a stellar group," Joe Policastro said. "These are some of the best drivers in the GT class. We are very fortunate to have them driving with us. We have driven with Mike in several races and every time it is like family. We know and respect each other as drivers and friends. When we tested in early January with Robin and Johnny, it was like we had driven with them before. They are great drivers and first-class people."
A 24-hour race presents an ever-changing test for drivers and teams. Jay Policastro noted some of the challenges of the Daytona International Speedway road course.
"Daytona has quite a personality," he said. "When it is hot, the infield section goes away and you're looking for traction. In the morning, you have dew to deal with. The real killer is the sun. Around 4 to 5 pm on Saturday, the sun will be right in your eyes from NASCAR turn 4 to the turn into the infield. The best way to drive is to look at the marks on the pit wall to judge where you are. This is a real challenge in traffic."
The Orbit drivers set fast laps during the January test for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, posting the best GT time in five of the seven sessions. They expect a similar pace during the race. Jay Policastro explained, "With shorter stints as a result of a smaller fuel cell [required in 2004], the strategy will be to go harder because we will not be in the car as long."
The drivers will shift gears about 25 times during each lap of the 12-turn Daytona track, covering the 3.56-mile circuit in less than two minutes. (The GT race lap record is 1:52.354.) The Classic Industries Porsche will stop for fuel about every 50 minutes, depending on the number of caution periods.
"In a perfect race we would do 724 laps, all under green, and make 28 pit stops," Mike Fitzgerald noted. "In reality, we will probably stop at least 35 times to take advantage of the yellows and it will take in the high 600s (laps) to get a Rolex."
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Daytona Cosmograph watches will be presented to the winning drivers in each class.