Daytona 24: Pontiac Friday report

12 Daytona Prototype teams prepare for battle DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Pontiac continued an impressive warm up for the 24 Hours of Daytona with the fastest times during Thursday night and Friday afternoon practices. 12 out of the 29 Daytona ...

12 Daytona Prototype teams prepare for battle

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Pontiac continued an impressive warm up for the 24 Hours of Daytona with the fastest times during Thursday night and Friday afternoon practices. 12 out of the 29 Daytona Prototype cars on the grid will run with Pontiac power in hopes of capturing another overall victory for the division.

Andy Wallace Drives the Official Pace Car

Three-time Daytona winner Andy Wallace, driver of the #20 Pontiac Crawford, had the opportunity to drive the Official Pace Car of the Rolex Series, a 2005 Pontiac GTO. "The Pontiac GTO is one hell of a road car," said Wallace. "It really is fantastic. I just drove it down pit lane and it's got a lot of power. On all of the slower turns, you can just slide the back of the car out and it's just beautiful to drift the car; it's very consistent. With every other road car that I've driven on a race track, the brakes are completely cooked. Yet, this pace car has been doing lap after lap after lap and yes, they're very hot, but they've lasted an awfully long time. We're going about 150 mph and then some on the straight and what a car it is."

Max Papis also had the opportunity to wheel the pace car around the track. "I was very, very impressed," said Papis. "It has great handling, unbelievable sound and I really liked the toque of the engine. You can have a lot of fun in this car. I feel as though it is a really fun car and smooth, but you can also make it aggressive if you want."

Gavin's Reaction to Two Small Block V8s

Oliver Gavin, driver of the #66 Pontiac Riley, has years of experience driving the factory Corvette C5-R at Le Mans and is used to the driving characteristics of that small-block Chevy V8 engine. This weekend's race is one of Gavin's first experiences with the 5.0-liter, LS6-based small block V8 that powers his Pontiac Riley prototype race car.

"It's my first time driving in the Riley Pontiac and I'm enjoying it an awful lot," said Gavin. "Both cars are a huge amount of fun to drive. The Corvette has got a lot of low-down torque and really punches up the corner, whereas the motor in the Pontiac will pull a little bit more at the top end. It's a bit of a slower burner - it's still got plenty of punch, but it's not quite as aggressive as the Corvette. It isn't any better or worse. The Pontiac and the Chevrolet engines are both good engines and very strong engines. They just have two quite different characteristics, so you have to tune the car to that and tune yourself to that."

Lessons Learned from 2004

Andy Wallace, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. came close to capturing an overall win at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2004, holding onto a lead until the final twenty minutes. Andy Wallace provided his feedback on what the team has learned since that heartbreaking non-victory and what the team has done in the off-season.

"Last year we had a brand new car with all new parts," said Wallace. "It was the rear suspension - a post on the bell housing where the rocker is - that wasn't strong enough. So this year we have a completely different bell housing, and I'm confident that particular part won't break. In the course of a 24-hour race any number of things could break but the car is developed over the course of a whole year, and if there was something that wasn't strong enough, it's been changed."

Mr. Lammers, meet Mr. Wallace

This year's 24 Hours of Daytona is packed with over 200 drivers from a variety of different disciplines, including champions from road racing, stock cars and open-wheeled cars. While few would argue there are a number of good cars with excellent driving lineups, the #20 Pontiac Crawford is particularly excellent. Tony Stewart, Jan Lammers and Andy Wallace are sharing driving duties throughout the daylong event.

"I think between the three of us we have a good lineup for the car," said Lammers. "It's nice to drive with Tony Stewart because he gets the job done. He's used to so many different cars so he can adapt to this one quickly. All of us are pretty much on the same level in the wet or dry as well, and we've been doing this a long time, so we feel pretty confident."

The Labonte Brothers

NASCAR champions Bobby and Terry Labonte will share the #44 Pontiac Doran with Corvette factory driver Jan Magnussen and open-wheel star Bryan Herta. Terry Labonte has winning experience in the daylong Daytona event, as he won the GTO class in a Chevy Camaro in 1984, finishing sixth overall. That was the same year he won his first NASCAR Winston Cup title. His brother, Bobby Labonte, said that driving in this race together had been a goal of theirs for some time.

"We've talked about doing this race together for quite a bit over the past couple of years and thought it would be neat to run it together," said Bobby Labonte. "With his experience and background, he's always enjoyed it. Now with him running a limited schedule in NASCAR we thought it would be fun to come down here and run this. This is my fist time here for the 24- hour race and I'm already having a blast with everyone I've met. I want to say that when I leave here I'll come back again. These cars a lot of fun to drive and they drive like real race cars."

-gm racing-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Wallace , Jan Lammers , Dale Earnhardt , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Jan Magnussen , Max Papis , Bryan Herta , Oliver Gavin