Daytona 24: Porsche at top of their classes

Porsche 911 GT3 Rs, Porsche Lola At Top Their Classes For The 40TH Running Of The Rolex 24 At Daytona; 17 Of 24 GT Entries Are Porsche -Hurley Haywood, Randy Pobst, Lucas Luhr, Fabio Rosa. Gabrio Rosa, Luca Drudi, and Mike Fitzgerald, all former...

Porsche 911 GT3 Rs, Porsche Lola At Top Their Classes For The 40TH Running Of The Rolex 24 At Daytona; 17 Of 24 GT Entries Are Porsche

-Hurley Haywood, Randy Pobst, Lucas Luhr, Fabio Rosa. Gabrio Rosa, Luca Drudi, and Mike Fitzgerald, all former Daytona 24 Hour winners, will pilot Porsches this year-

DAYTONA BEACH, FL. -- January 29 -- A strong combination of experienced Porsche race teams, veteran road racers, and young drivers will compete in Porsche 911 GT3 RS race cars and one special prototype racer as sports cars' most successful marque at Daytona prepares for the 40th running of the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona February 2-3.

Leading the Porsche charge in the prototype class for the checkered flag for America's most famous endurance race is the #38 Champion Racing Porsche/Lola, driven by Andy Wallace/Lucas Luhr/Hurley Haywood/Sascha Maassen. The car, which debuted at Sebring a lmost two years ago, has gone through an extensive development program leading up to its outstanding performance at Daytona test days January 3-5, where the car was third fastest overall. Haywood, from nearby Jacksonville, has won the 24 Hours at Dayton a a record five times dating back to 1973, while Luhr, a German Porsche factory driver, was in the winning GT Class Porsche which also finished second overall last year. Maassen, also a German Porsche factory driver, and the veteran Andy Wallace -- drove the Champion Porsche at Daytona last year, when it was running second before retiring at the nine-hour mark.

Powered by the 3.2-liter, Le Mans winning Porsche GT-1 motor with twin turbochargers, the #38 Porsche Lola is now capable of winning the race overall, according to Champion team officials.

"We have successfully mated two reluctant -- in terms of fitting together easily - titans of the auto racing world, Lola chassis and Porsche drivetrain, into a unique race car which can now contend for the overall victory at America's most well-known sports car event," said Brad Kettler, Champion's crew chief. "Even with all the success Champion Racing has achieved with both Porsche and Audi race cars, a victory at Daytona would be the greatest success for us and our Pompano Beach, Florida-based dealership. "

In the GT class, both the Corvette-powered Mosler -- which had the pole in last year's race, and the BMW M3 are expected to give the favored Porsche teams stiff competition, but 21 of the 29 GT entries are Porsche 911 GT3 RS race cars. Several teams show p otential to run up front -- all with experience in their driver line-ups.

The #66 Racers Group Porsche, entered by Sonoma, California's Kevin Buckler, will feature two well-known Porsche GT drivers -- reigning Porsche Supercup Champion Jorg Bergmeister, who came from Germany last year to clinch his championship at the Indianapoli s Motor Speedway, and reigning Porsche Carrera Cup champion Timo Bernhard, who commuted last year between the German Carrera Cup series and a ride with one of the Porsche teams in the American Le Mans Series. This will be both drivers' first race at Dayto na. Buckler and Michael Schrom, from Ghent, NY, will share the driving in #66. Buckler has also entered two other Porsches, with their final driver line-up still to be determined

The #66 car, like four other Porsches running this weekend, is a new 2002 version of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, and is almost identical to the 2001 model. The engine and drivetrain are the same, and the car still produces 420 horsepower, but improvements hav e been made in the suspension, including a blade adjustment for the front sway bar for easy pit lane adjustments, and new rear suspension uprights. The bodywork is slightly wider to accommodate the wider offset tires.

Built at the Porsche Motorsport in the Research and Development Department at Weissach, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS delivers 420 horsepower from its 3.6-liter normally-aspirated engine. In 1999, its first year of competition, the car finished 1-2 in class at L e Mans, and has won its class in the both the Grand Am and American Le Mans Series two years in a row. The car has also won its class two years in a row Rolex 24 and the 12 Hours of Sebring as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. More than 80 Porsche 911 GT3 RS have been sold so far worldwide, with almost half of those cars having raced in the U.S.

Several other teams have multiple Porsche 911 GT3 RS entries, including the Jupiter, Florida, based Orbit Racing team, which caught everyone's attention last year event when NASCAR star Kyle Petty passed 10 cars lining up for a "photo" finish on the last t urn to pass a competitor for seventh place overall. Petty is back to drive the #43 (what else?) Orbit Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RS, along with car owner and business partner Leo Hindery, Florida yacht dealer Peter Baron, and Mike Borkowski. In the other tea m Porsche #44, Grand-Am Cup champion Sylvain Tremblay, veteran driver and instructor Tony Kester, cigar baron Gary Schultheis, and Selby Wellman share the driving duties.

Spencer Pumpelly's Zip Racing, headquartered in Lakeville, Conn., will also enter two cars, led by the #34 Porsche 911 GT3 RS driven by Steve Ivanlovich of Chicago and Pumpelly, from Mason Neck, Virginia, also with Porsche racing specialist Randy Pobst, fr om Melbourne, Florida, and his Grand-Am team owner Kim Hiskey, from Seattle. Pumpelly and Ivankovich did well in the Grand-Am series last year with a win and several top-three finishes, but the addition of Pobst -- who won the GT class at Daytona last year and is a consistent winner on the American Le Mans Series circuit -- should enhance their chances of a top finish.

The 2000 Rolex 24 GT champions, who also won the 2001 24 Hours of Le Mans in the GT class, are back at Daytona this year in the #56 Seikel Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Fabio Rosa, Gabrio Rosa, and Luca Drudi -- all from Italy -- are the world's most succe ssful Porsche endurance team over the last two years. Former CART star Alex Caffi will join the team for this race, as he did for their winning Le Mans effort. Seikel American Le Mans regulars Tony Burgess and David Shep -- both from Canada, and Philip Co llin, will man the #57 team Porsche at Daytona.

Other significant Porsche 911 GT3 RS teams include the RWS Motorsport Red Bull car, with European veterans Luca Riccitelli and Dieter Quester joining Vincent Voss and American road racer Boris Said; Justin Jackson Racing car with 2000 Porsche Cup winner Mi ke Fitzgerald joining car owner Jackson, Manuel Matos, and Marino Franchitti; and last year's third place car overall from Freisinger Motorsport, with former Le Mans winner Stephan Ortelli driving along with Romain Dumas, Hans Ferti and N. Amorim.

In the GTS class, with neither 2000-winning Dodge Vipers or the 2001-winning Corvettes entered this year, the #0 Bytzek Motorsports Porsche GT1 from Canada, with David Empringham, Richard Spenard, and owner Klaus Bytzek at the helm, have a shot at the clas s title. In practice days earlier this month, the car ran a close third to the favored Saleen and Jaguar.

The race will be televised live -- the first six hours and the last four hours -- on Speedvision starting at 12:30 PM Eastern time on Saturday, February 2. Speedvision will telecast a 30-minute pre-race show followed by the green flag at 1:00 PM, and will s tay with the race until 7:00 PM. The network will then pick up the event on Sunday morning at 9:00 AM, and carry it through the checkered flag at 1:00 PM. Also, the more than 110 affiliates of the Motor Racing Network (MRN) nationally will provide covera ge on the radio -- check local listings for time in your area.

The cars will see their first track time on Thursday, January 31, when practice opens at 10:00 AM. The first round of qualifying will take place Thursday afternoon, followed by a night practice Thursday night. Final qualifying will take place on Friday, with the race starting Saturday at 1:00 PM Eastern time.

The official Porsche media web site -- www.press.porsche.com -- will have qualifying information for the Rolex 24 for all 20 Porsches entered, and will post stories and photos during and after the race. Porsche media web site users enter the word "carrera" for both user name and password, then choose "motorsports news" and "24 Hours of Daytona" to find the Rolex 24 updates. The same information is posted for consumers on Porsche's main site www.porsche.com (under "motorsports" and "race reports.").

Other Web sites that will follow the overall event include the office Grand-Am site (www.grand-am.com), TotalMotorsport (www.totalmotorsport.com); The Race Site (www.theRaceSite.com), the Speedvision site (www.speedvision.com), Motorsport.com (www.motorspo rt.com), AutoSport magazine's site (www.autosport.com), and Daily Sports Car (www.dailysportscar.com).

-porsche-

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Wallace , Kyle Petty , Boris Said , Stéphane Ortelli , Randy Pobst , Tony Burgess , Lucas Luhr , Leo Hindery , Peter Baron , Tony Kester , Hurley Haywood , Kim Hiskey , Jörg Bergmeister , David Empringham , Timo Bernhard , Michael Schrom , Marino Franchitti , Luca Riccitelli , Luca Drudi , Spencer Pumpelly , Dieter Quester , Richard Spénard , Alex Caffi , Fabio Rosa , David Shep , Romain Dumas , Justin Jackson , Selby Wellman , Manuel Matos