Daytona 24: SAMAX Motorsport preview

SAMAX Motorsport Set for Daytona Kick Off Pompano Beach, Florida (January 23, 2008) -- Florida-based SAMAX Motorsport gets set to kick start the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 on home turf this...

SAMAX Motorsport Set for Daytona Kick Off

Pompano Beach, Florida (January 23, 2008) -- Florida-based SAMAX Motorsport gets set to kick start the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 on home turf this weekend with the 46th running of the 'Rolex 24 at Daytona' hosted at the famed Daytona International Speedway, January 26-27th, 2008.

Team Principal Peter Baron has again assembled a truly international line-up of talent to compete in the classic endurance event, hoping that the #11 / CANTV Pontiac Riley Daytona Prototype can build on last season's runner-up finish and go on to claim the top step of the podium for SAMAX .

Involved in 2007's spectacular fight to the finish and returning to pilot the #11 entry this season are Venezuela's Milka Duno and Scotland's Ryan Dalziel. The SAMAX regulars will be joined behind the wheel this weekend by Tomas Enge from the Czech Republic, who competed for the team in last year's event in a second SAMAX entry, and Switzerland's Harold Primat. All four drivers boast a wealth of sports car experience and have proved their abilities in Daytona Prototype racing making the #11 team one of the strongest line-ups on the 66 car grid heading into Saturday's 'Rolex 24 at Daytona'.

"We came so close to winning this race last year I really believe we can go one better this time round," stated Baron ahead of the team's arrival at Daytona. "There's no doubt our driver line-up in the #11 car has the potential to win this race and obviously I'm delighted that Milka and Ryan are back for another attempt having helped take the fight all the way to the flag last January.

"I'm really pleased to pair them with Tomas and Harold. Tomas we know quite well having had him race the #7 car in last year's 'Rolex 24 at Daytona'. We're happy to welcome Harold to the team, as he brings with him a stack of experience, both from open-wheel competition and most recently in sports cars including competing in the Le Mans 24 Hour race. I'm excited to have everyone onboard and it goes without saying we're hoping to challenge for honors this weekend and use Daytona as a launch pad for the 2008 Grand-Am season."

Milka Duno, with three wins and seven podium finishes to her credit in Grand-Am's Daytona Prototype class, gets set to make her sixth straight start in the 'Rolex 24 at Daytona'. By gracing the podium last January Duno became the highest-placed woman in the event's 45 year history. The Caracas-born racer teamed with Dalziel, Patrick Carpentier and Darren Manning to finish second overall.

Duno, who enjoyed a partial schedule in last season's Indy Racing League -- including qualifying for the Indy 500, is keen to challenge for overall glory and believes the pieces are in place to achieve this.

"I'm really excited by our driver line-up for this year's Daytona 24," Duno commented. "Ryan and I raced here together last year and we know how close we came to winning while Tomas and Harold bring a lot to the table with respect to their previous accomplishments both here in North America and in Europe. It's great to be back competing in Grand-Am with SAMAX and while we know last year's effort was good, we all believe that we have an even stronger package this time round."

Scotland's Ryan Dalziel is no stranger to the SAMAX organization having made his Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series debut with the team in the GT class back in 2005. The 25-year-old, who currently bases himself in Orlando, made four Daytona Prototype starts with the team in 2007. He earned four top-five finishes including topping and tailing the season with runner-up podiums in the opening round at Daytona, the 'Rolex 24 at Daytona' last January, and the season-ending 'Sunchaser 1000' at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah in September.

Dalziel fitted his Grand-Am commitments around his rookie season competing in the 2007 Champ Car World Series. Despite competing for a brand-new entrant, the talented Scot scored six top-ten finishes from 11 starts. Dalziel knows the key to success at Daytona is to race hard but steer clear of trouble.

"Well there's no doubt we have a strong team and a strong car," said Dalziel. "We're definitely better prepared than we were this time last year so that bodes well. We showed we had the speed to race at the front in 2007 and I'm sure that will be the case this weekend. We have a car capable of qualifying on pole but as always in this race you have to avoid trouble on the track. There's probably a little bit of luck that comes into play in a 24 hour event but our goal is to either lead or be up with the leader heading into the last couple of hours when it really becomes a sprint to the flag!"

Tomas Enge returns for a second crack at the 'Rolex 24' having led SAMAX's second Daytona Prototype entry to a sixth place finish in 2007. The Czech driver's debut proved eventful but the team battled to stay in the game and take the checkered. Enge later hooked-up with SAMAX and Daytona team-mate Dalziel to score a second-place podium at the season finale at Miller Motorsports Park.

The 31-year-old, born in Liberec, holds an impressive career resume including starts in Formula One, Indy Racing League, A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, the Le Mans 24 Hour Race and sports cars.

"I really like these endurance races," Enge reflected. "I've raced in a few now and I'd really like to do well at Daytona. SAMAX had a strong package for Daytona last year and finished with two cars in the top-six. I definitely think we have a shot at winning based on last year's experience and the strength of the team's line-up. It's a short track and there are a lot of cars out there, including the slower GT cars, you have to be mindful of everything going on around you while pushing throughout!"

Harold Primat's only previous experience of the 'Rolex 24' ended in an early-morning retirement back in 2006. The 32-year-old, who currently calls Geneva, Switzerland home, is relishing the prospect of a return to Daytona and the thrill of racing twice around the clock. Like his team-mates, Primat's well versed in the art of endurance racing having raced at Le Mans for three straight seasons, highlighted by a sixth place finish in last season's French classic.

"Unfortunately my last start at Daytona ended in disappointment but the experience was good and I look forward to doing much better this year," stated Primat. "I'm happy to be with one of the leading teams this time round and we know we're going into the race with a fast car. My team-mates have all raced for SAMAX before which helps and everyone's welcomed me in and we've worked hard to make sure I'm comfortable in the car as I'm taller than the rest of them. It's a long race but I'm looking forward to getting out there and seeing what we can achieve."

As previously released, SAMAX Motorsport, in addition to fielding the #11 / CANTV Pontiac Riley, will also enter the #2 Florida Children's Hospital Pontiac Riley to be driven by Allan McNish, Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Henri Zogaib.

-credit: samax

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Milka Duno , Ryan Dalziel , Tomas Enge , Darren Manning , Allan McNish , Patrick Carpentier , Lucas Luhr , Peter Baron , Harold Primat , Mike Rockenfeller , Henri Zogaib