Trans-Am Champions And Rocketsports Racing Triumph In The Rolex 24 At Daytona; Team Wins The GTS Class DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Three Trans-Am champions, the 2001 Trans-Am Manufacturers' Champion, and a repeat Trans-Am championship team combined...
Trans-Am Champions And Rocketsports Racing Triumph In The Rolex 24 At Daytona; Team Wins The GTS Class
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Three Trans-Am champions, the 2001 Trans-Am Manufacturers' Champion, and a repeat Trans-Am championship team combined efforts score a decisive win in the GTS class and fifth overall in the prestigious Rolex 24 of Daytona on February 2-3. Three-time Trans-Am champion Paul Gentilozzi, 2000 Trans-Am champion Brian Simo, two-time Trans-Am titlist Scott Pruett together with road racing specialist Michael Lauer drove the Rocketsports Racing No.3 Johnson Controls Jaguar XKR to a 10-lap victory over the second place No.77 Larbre Competition Viper.
By virtue of being the winning manufacturer in the GTS class, Jaguar has been designated as the "Daytona Sports Car of the Year." This was Jaguar's first win at the Rolex 24 of Daytona since 1992 when Scott Pruett co-drove with Davy Jones, David Brabham, and Scott Goodyear in an XJR-12D to the GTP class victory. Jaguar previously finished 1-2 overall in 1990 fielding a pair of XJR-12 entries.
This marks the second Rolex 24 victory for Gentilozzi and Pruett as teammates who also co-drove to win the overall 1994 Rolex 24 in a Nissan 300ZX GTS class car. Pruett has three additional class wins as well. The 2002 Rolex 24 win is the first for both Simo and Lauer.
"This win is even more special because it was our team - Rocketsports Racing - that came here and did what we had to do to win," said Gentilozzi, who qualified the XKR on the GTS pole. "It wasn't the overall win, but GTS isn't suppose to win overall. GTS only wins overall if someone else fails, and that's not how we like to win. We prefer to earn it, and did we ever this weekend...right down to that last pit stop in the last half-hour of the race.
"Winning is certainly the first reward for your effort," continued Gentilozzi. "But when you add the history and heritage of a brand like Jaguar, that just enhances the reward."
Pruett, who co-drove the winning Jaguar XJR-12D in 1992, acknowledges that his 2002 Rolex 24 win is special. "I'm fortunate to have had several great experiences in the Rolex 24, but this one stands out as being the most special," he said. "First, it was 10 years ago that I won in a Jaguar and to be come back 10 years later and give them a repeat victory means a lot to me.
"The second reason is to win here with Rocketsports and Paul," Pruett explained. "We've shared a friendship and a passion for racing for many years. To incorporate them both here at the Rolex 24 is the epitome of winning. This is such a team effort and no where is that more evident than at Rocketsports. It's no wonder why the car always performed so well, so consistently throughout the race."
Simo was extremely pleased with his Rolex 24 experience. "This Rocketsports Jaguar team is unbelievable," said Simo, who finished third in 1996 in the GTS1 class in his only previous ride at Daytona. "These guys came prepared for anything and it paid off. They came here ready to win and that's what they did.
"It's fantastic to race with Paul," said Simo of his Trans-Am archrival. "Along with rivalry comes respect. Winning has taken on a new meaning for me. This is one of my driving career highlights. It meant being able to drive to win, to be picked as a co-driver with Paul and Scott because they think I can contribute to that win. It's validation by people in your own world. It's my first time racing with Paul and it's really been a privilege. This is the first time I've been here with a lineup like this, and the parts, people, and team to win."
Lauer claimed his first Rolex 24 win in his third start. "There's not a better bunch of guys or drivers to work with," said Lauer. "They took care of most of the racing and made it very easy for me. I knew my job was not to damage the car and I succeeded in that. This is the `Dream Team'. Driving with this team was in incredible privilege. It was wonderful."
All the drivers understood that the Rolex 24 is truly a team effort. "We've all won enough races and championships to know that this takes a team effort," said Gentilozzi. "You don't win this in the first hour. It takes discipline to be patient and protect the equipment; let the other teams make the mistakes and be in a position to capitalize on them.
"And that's exactly what we did," concluded Gentilozzi.