Porsche power, strong driver line-ups point to successful Rolex 24 -Timo Bernhard, Jorg Bergmesiter, Kevin Buckler, Lucas Luhr, Hurley Haywood. Mike Fitzgerald, Randy Pobst, Gabrio Rosa, Fabio Rosa - all former Rolex 24 Hour winners- will have ...
Porsche power, strong driver line-ups point to successful Rolex 24
-Timo Bernhard, Jorg Bergmesiter, Kevin Buckler, Lucas Luhr, Hurley Haywood. Mike Fitzgerald, Randy Pobst, Gabrio Rosa, Fabio Rosa - all former Rolex 24 Hour winners- will have Porsche Power-
DAYTONA BEACH, FL. -- January 27 -- A strong contingent of former Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona-winning racers will be trying for all three class titles in Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, and Porsche-powered Daytona prototype race cars as entries conti nue to grow for the 42nd running of the Rolex 24 on January 31 at Daytona International Speedway.
Like most of the 20 times it has won the event overall, Porsche does not have a factory-backed effort in this year's event. However, factory drivers are running with private teams in all three of the event's classes, along with many veterans of this classi c sports car race.
Leading the Porsche charge are last year's champions, and the first GT-class car to win the race overall since the Porsche 911 Carrera RSR in 1977. The #66 The Racer's Group Porsche, led by car owner Kevin Buckler and Porsche factory drivers Jorg Bergmeis ter, Timo Bernhard, and Patrick Long, will defend their title in the 2003 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Bergmeister and Bernhard joined Buckler at Daytona the past two years for GT class wins, and last year for the overall victory as well. Newcomer Patrick Long wil l replace Michael Schrom, who is taking this season off. The latest edition of this car, the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, is not eligible in Grand-Am racing for 2004.
"Last year, we both outran and outdistanced the bigger-engined Daytona Prototypes, but there were only six of them and none had run in competition before," said Buckler, who pointed out that under 2004 Grand-Am rules his entry is limited to 8,000 RPM, smal ler wheels, and a smaller gas tank capacity.
"This year, not only are their 18 prototypes, but several have a full year of development from the 2003 season. Add to that the new rules for our cars, and we will have our hands full just winning the GT class. We will do what we always do -- set up a pla n and run our own race," he said.
Buckler also has to look out for the BMWs, Ferraris, Maseratis, and Corvettes, as well as other Porsche 911 GT3 RS entries, including the Seikel Motor Sport Porsche of Tony Burgess/Phillip Collin/P. van Merksteijgn/Gabrio Rosa/Fabio Rosa. The Rosa's, from Italy, were part of the winning GT entry in 2000 at Daytona, and in 2001 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Buckler has two additional Porsche GT3 RS entries in the GT class with its own cast of drivers. Orbit Racing, from Jupiter, Florida, also has a veteran team effort including the father-son team of Joe and Jay Policastro, Scotland's Robin Liddell, 2001 GT winner Mike Fitzgerald, and 2003 overall and GT runner-up Johnny Mowlem.
A new class for Grand-Am this year is the SGS, or Super Grand Sport, and the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car is well represented. With a larger gas tank allowed for Grand-Am, this car could challenge the GT3 RS in a long race like Daytona. Fourteen of the 1 5 SGS class entries are Porsche GT3 Cup cars, including last year's defending Grand-Am Cup champions from Toronto, Doncaster Racing. With champions Robert Julien and Jean-Francois Dumoulin joining Greg Pootmans and Porsche factory driver and current Porsc he Cup champion Marc Lieb, the Doncaster team looks to lead the pack in SGS favorites.
They will be severely challenged by most of the other 12 Porsches, including a two-car team assembled by former IMSA and SCCA Porsche champion Dennis Aase, who has prepared his leading GT3 Cup racer for Craig Stanton/David Murry/Tim Sugden. A new team fro m Northern California, Flying Lizard Motorsports, also has a very strong driver line-up, including Porsche factory driver Mike Rockenfeller, who will join Seth Neiman, Lonnie Pechnik, Johannes van Overbeek, and Peter Cunningham. The team has entered and t ested both a GT3 RS and a GT3 Cup racecar, and has still not decided which one to enter in the race.
In the Daytona Prototype class, there will be three Fabcar chassis powered by Porsche GT3 RS-based engines, including the two familiar Brumos Racing entries that nearly won the championship a year ago. The #58 Red Bull Brumos entry includes Porsche factor y drivers Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen, who will join last year's Brumos pilot David Donohue and Porsche veteran Darren Law. Hurley Haywood/J.C. France/Scott Sharp/Scott Goodyear will drive the #59 Brumos Fabcar Porsche. Haywood, who is a Vice President for Brumos Porsche in Jacksonville, is The Rolex 24's most successful driver, having won the race overall five times (1973, 1975, 1977, 1979, and 1991).
Gunnar Racing has entered the other Porsche Fabcar in the race. Namesake Gunnar Jeannette will be joined by Michael Brockman, NASCAR pilot Kyle Petty, and two-time SCCA national champion and Le Mans class winner Paul Newman. Newman recently celebrated his 79th birthday.
In all, there are 56 entries for the 2004 Rolex 24, and 30 of them are using Porsche engines.
The 2004 Rolex 24 at Daytona will be televised live -- the first eight hours and the last seven hours -- on The Speed Channel starting at 1:00 PM Eastern time on Saturday, January 31. Speed will telecast the dropping of the green flag at 1:00 PM, and will s tay with the race live until 9:00 PM. The network will then pick up the event on Sunday morning at 6:00 AM, and carry it through the checkered flag at 1:00 PM -- plus the victory circle and post-race celebration until 1:30 PM. Also, the more than 110 affi liates of the Motor Racing Network (MRN) nationally will provide coverage on the radio -- check local listings for time in your area.
The cars will see their first track time on Thursday, January 29, 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 the 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/motorsport (click on Porsche Motorsports North Americ a and "race reports").
The official coverage for all the classes at the Rolex 24 and the Grand-Am series is the official Grand-Am web site (www.grandamerican.com), where fans can follow the qualifying sessions and the race with live timing and scoring on-line.
Other Web sites that will follow the Rolex 24 include Motorsport.com (www.motorsport.com), Daily Sports Car (www.dailysportscar.com), The Race Site (www.theracesite.com), the Speed Channel site (www.speedTV.com), AutoSport magazine's site (www.autosport.com), AutoRacingDaily.com (www.autoracingdaily.com), Motorsport-news.com (www.motorsport-news.com), Crash.net (www.crash.net), racinglines.com (www.racinglines.com), EnduranceSportsCar.com (www.endurancesportscar.com), pitstop.com (www.pitstop.com); and Speed Arena (www.speedarena.com).