Daytona 24: Round one preview

Stars Converge on Season-Opening Rolex 24 At Daytona For Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 22, 2008) -- Racing stars from around the world will converge on the "World Center of Racing" this weekend with the 46th...

Stars Converge on Season-Opening Rolex 24 At Daytona For Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 22, 2008) -- Racing stars from around the world will converge on the "World Center of Racing" this weekend with the 46th running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, the top endurance race in North America and the official start to the 2008 international motorsports calendar.

Defending race winners Scott Pruett, Juan Pablo Montoya and Salvador Duran return to the twice-around-the-clock classic -- which starts at 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday (1 p.m. ET on FOX Sports; 2:30 p.m. ET on SPEED; Sunday -- 6 a.m. ET on SPEED) -- looking for their second consecutive wins specifically and third straight for team owners Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates.

The 2004 Rolex Series co-champion Pruett and Montoya -- the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner, Formula One star and current NASCAR Sprint Cup driver -- will share the No. 01 TELMEX/Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley with Pruett's season-long teammate Memo Rojas and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti. Duran, meanwhile, will compete in the No. 02 Target/TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley with the teams' third Indy winner Dan Wheldon, former IndyCar Series titlist Scott Dixon and 2007 Indy Pro Series champ Alex Lloyd.

Pruett and his No. 01 team finished second in their championship standings last season to Bob Stallings Racing and the No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac/Riley team with co-champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty. Gurney, who set the Daytona Prototype track qualifying record last season at 1:43.375, and Fogarty will try to capture the only major prize which eluded them last season with two-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and 1996 Champ Car World Series titlist Jimmy Vasser.

The No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley team finished third in points in 2007 and finished third in last year's Rolex 24 despite running five laps behind the leader's pace at one point. Lead driver Max Angelelli returns to the team with newcomer Michael Valiante and the father/son duo of Wayne Taylor and 18-year-old Ricky Taylor, who is making his first appearance in the race.

Wayne Taylor is also involved in the No. 9 Penske-Taylor Racing Toshiba Pontiac Riley team, who boasts two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Dancing With The Stars titlist Helio Castroneves, his Penske IndyCar Series teammate Ryan Briscoe and 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champ Kyle Busch. All three have made previous appearances in the Rolex 24.

Ford Racing has increased its involvement in the Rolex Series for 2008 and will power four cars in the Rolex 24, all with all-star lineups. Among those in the Michael Shank Racing stable are AJ Allmendinger (No. 6) and Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal (No. 60). Wilson, Allmendinger and team regulars Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson took the No. 60 machine to second overall in 2006, while team regulars Ian James and John Pew as well as series regular Burt Frisselle look to run up front again this season.

Another Ford-powered team, the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley, will see NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver and former Rolex Series regular Colin Braun and defending NASCAR Canadian Tire Series champ Andrew Ranger join team regulars Mark Wilkins and Brian Frisselle. The team finished fifth in last year's race.

IndyCar Series team Vision Racing has put together a last-minute effort for its regulars A.J. Foyt IV, Ed Carpenter, John Andretti, Vitor Meira and team owner Tony George. Foyt, Carpenter and George debuted last season, Meira is a rookie and Andretti was a co-winner in the 1989 race.

SAMAX also fielded an IndyCar Series team in 2007, but the team has been a staple in Rolex Series competition for many seasons and has again put together a two-car effort for the Rolex 24. The team's No. 11 Pontiac Riley finished second in last year's race with entered drivers Milka Duno and Ryan Dalziel, who will share the car with Tomas Enge and Harold Primat.

SAMAX's No. 2 Pontiac Riley has European pilots Allan McNish and former Rolex Series regulars Lucas Luhr and Mike Rockenfeller along with Henri Zogaib.

Five-time Rolex 24 winner Hurley Haywood returns for his 35th start in the race and is one of the lead drivers in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche Riley, also a former race winner. His teammates include JC France, Joao Barbosa and Terry Borcheller. The car finished fourth in last year's race. The team's No. 58 car includes team regulars David Donohue and Darren Law as well as 2004 Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Rice.

Other Rolex 24 champions in Daytona Prototype competition include Fabio Babini (No. 16 Cheever Racing Pontiac Fabcar), Johnny O'Connell (No. 91 Bob Stallings/Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley) and Andy Wallace (No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford).

Two former Rolex 24-winning teams have entered a pair of seven car efforts to bolster one of the most diverse GT fields in event history. TRG and Farnbacher Loles Motorsports will field 14 Porsche-powered machines of the 42 GT entries in a class that packs the series' and sports car racing's top names.

In all, entrants made up of Pontiac GXP.R, Ford Mustang, Mazda RX-8, Porsche GT3, Corvette, Ferrari 430 and BMW M6 race cars will be gunning for GT supremacy in the Rolex 24.

Horst Farnbacher and Greg Loles put together a championship-winning team in 2007 and welcomes back Rolex Series GT class champion driver Dirk Werner for 2008. Werner's season-long No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche GT3 teammate Dominik Farnbacher won the 2006 Rolex 24 in GT with Wolf Henzler, who will compete in the No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Porsche GT3. 2006 Daytona Prototype champion Jorg Bergmeister (No. 86) and Pierre Ehret and Timo Bernhard (No. 87) have also been on Rolex 24 winning teams, while fellow German Sascha Maassen is among the many Porsche factory drivers on hand to compete in the Rolex 24.

The team is also comprised of a third fulltime car, the No. 88 Porsche GT, with Dave Lacey, Greg Wilkins, Pierre Kaffer and Frank Stippler, two Team Seattle cars and two additional machines from the U.S. and Italy competing only in the Rolex 24. Former Rolex 24 class winners Luca Drudi and Gabrio Rosa will pilot the No. 89.

Kevin Buckler's TRG team also features stout lineups throughout the team's seven-car effort. The 2002 GT and 2003 overall Rolex 24 winning stable is led by the No. 66 Mitchell Rubber/Marquis Jet Porsche GT3, with fulltime drivers Bryce Miller and Ted Ballou, longtime TRG hotshoe Andy Lally and Richard Westbrook. Romain Dumas and 2005 Rolex 24 co-winner Emmanuel Collard join Tim George Jr., Bryan Sellers and Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3.

Jim Pace, a co-winner overall in 1996, anchors the No. 64 Globus/Adopt A Pig Porsche GT3, along with Johannes van Overbeek, Jim Lowe, RJ Valentine and Tim Sugden, while sports car legend Jack Baldwin will co-pilot the No. 62 Burtin Engineering Porsche GT3 with Claudio Burtin, Martin Ragginger, Scott Tucker and Ed Zabinski. The Nos. 63, 65 and 68 are also entered.

Neither of those teams, however, has Rolex 24 bragging rights. Those accolades sit with Alegra Motorsports/Fiorano Racing, which has two cars entered this season. Defending race winners Carlos de Quesada, Marc Basseng and Scooter Gabel return to the race, spread among the Nos. 22 and 29 Gaterade/ Porsche GT3s. Also entered is Louis-Philippe Dumoulin, brother of the fourth 2007 winner, Jean-Francois Dumoulin.

Jean-Francois Dumoulin is now with Blackforest Motorsports and will compete in the No. 15 USG Sheetrock/DeWalt Tools Ford Mustang with Tom Nastasi, Boris Said and David Empringham, one of two Blackforest entries.

Other teams winning races in 2007 included Banner Racing and SpeedSource with three victories each. Banner was second in last year's Rolex 24 with Kelly Collins, Paul Edwards and 2004 co-winner Andy Pilgrim, and the trio welcomes Jan Magnussen to the No. 07 Pontiac GXP.R in 2008. The No. 06 Banner Racing entry will be piloted by Edwards, Pilgrim, Robert Nearn, Marc Bunting and team owner Leighton Reese.

SpeedSource, in turn, has team owner Sylvain Tremblay, Nick Ham, David Haskell and Raphael Matos in the No. 70 Castrol Syntec/Mazdaspeed RX-8, while Emil Assentato, Nick Longhi, Jeff Segal and Lonnie Pechnik will share the No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8.

Other top GT pilots include 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion and 2002 Rolex 24 overall winner Max Papis (No. 72 Autohaus Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R), Robert Doornbos (No. 81 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3) and Ron Zitza (No. 17 Terra Firma Motorsports Millenia Fine Art Porsche GT3), who co-won the 2000 Rolex 24 in the AGT class and 2002 SPRII Rolex 24 winner Anthony Lazzaro (No. 14 Autometrics Motorsports Mac Papers Porsche GT3).

Rolex 24 At Daytona Fast Facts

Who: Grand American Road Racing Association

What: Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16

Where: Daytona International Speedway -- Daytona Beach, Fla.

When: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2008 to Sunday, Jan. 27, 2008

TV: SPEED, Live, 1 p.m. Saturday on FOX; 2:30 p.m. Saturday on SPEED; 6 a.m. Sunday on SPEED

Schedule of Events:

Thursday, Jan. 24
7:00 AM Rolex Series, KONI Challenge Garages Open
10:00 - 11:30 AM Practice -- Rolex Series
1:30 - 2:30 PM Practice -- Rolex Series
3:45 - 4:00 PM Qualifying* -- Rolex Series GT
4:15 - 4:30 PM Qualifying* -- Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes * sets top 30 cars overall
6:30 - 8:00 PM Practice -- Rolex Series

Friday, Jan. 25
9:00 - 9:45 AM Practice -- Rolex Series
11:40 AM - 12:00 PM Final Qualifying -- Rolex Series
1:00 - 1:45 PM Final Practice -- Rolex Series

Saturday, Jan. 26
10:30 AM Rolex Series Driver Autograph Session
11:30 AM Rolex 24 Heritage Exhibition
12:15 PM Rolex Driver Introduction/Grid Opens
1:00 PM Pre-race Ceremonies/Grid Closes
1:30 PM Start -- 46th Rolex 24 At Daytona

Sunday, Jan. 27
1:30 PM Finish -- 46th Rolex 24 At Daytona

TIME CERTAIN SCHEDULE -- All sessions to start and finish as shown

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Autometrics Motorsports , SpeedSource , Michael Shank Racing