Daytona 24: Ten Motorsports race report

Ten Motorsports Survives Rolex 24 Despite Major Setbacks Daytona Beach, Fla. - February 8, 2005 - It was a topsy turvy day for the Ten Motorsports team. On the one hand, the team felt privileged to begin its career in the Grand American Rolex...

Ten Motorsports Survives Rolex 24 Despite Major Setbacks

Daytona Beach, Fla. - February 8, 2005 - It was a topsy turvy day for the Ten Motorsports team. On the one hand, the team felt privileged to begin its career in the Grand American Rolex Series at the prestigious Rolex 24. On the other hand, suspension issues halted the team's chance of finishing in the top ten. Regardless, the punishing 24 hours of continuous racing gave the team an instant injection of what can only be learned from an entire season of testing and racing. On top of the enormous wealth and breadth of valued education was an incredible if not surreal carnival-like atmosphere provided for the tens of thousands of fans including a Ferris wheel, fireworks at midnight and a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Exact preparation for such a mentally and physically draining challenge in the first race of a rookie year is nearly impossible. Even so the BMW-Riley appeared continually in the top-five during practice sessions earlier in the year and at the end of 2004. However, due to some mechanical setbacks, the team Thursday qualified for the Rolex 24 in 11th position.

Within the first 100 laps of the 24, the Ten team was among the leaders, as Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell held steadfastly onto sixth place. An issue that proved to be fatal for the team came soon after Michael Valiante took over for McDowell. On lap 108, the first of three right-hand continuous velocity (CV) joints would seize and sizzle. At the team's low point, they found themselves in 43rd place, but with persistence and perseverance, the team continued to battle back against all odds, as the number 19 finished the race in 19th place.

Typically, had a team experienced a major setback such as a damaged CV on more than one occasion, the car would be steered directly to the paddock knowing what the amount of hours of work would be into replacing the part, with no guarantee that it wouldn't happen again. However the Ten Motorsports crew replaced all of the three damaged CV joints in addition to four blown headers, just so they could meet their goal of finishing the race.

The team proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are capable of persevering through the exceptionally labor intensive challenges while at the same time taking in and enjoying their first experience at the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona. Their way of handling the pressure and maintaining a stable attitude is best narrated by the following scenario that occurred deep into the night about 15 hours into the race. The stress of repairing headers and drive shafts was eased by a few moments of good ol' fashion women's wrestling that seemed to magically appear on the team's would-be SPEED TV monitor. "Oh's!" and "Ah's!" from the exhausted and overworked crew gave way to smiles, high-fives and cheers. Then, just as suddenly as it began, everyone was back in position to tackle the next task - with a smile on their faces. A little comic relief goes a long way for a crew that is as well equipped and as well grounded as is the Ten team.

Rob Finlay discussed this weekend from an owner's perspective: "The festive atmosphere of this event is just wonderful, we're all thrilled to be a part of it. We definitely had our sights set on a better finish, but the strategies and know-how gained from the Rolex 24 is immeasurable. We were also fortunate to have participated and podiumed in the [Grand Am Cup] 200 and christen the new Gatorade Victory Lane."

Memo Gidley said, "Of course, you always go into a race with the desire to come away with a win. But in reality, this race is so much more than that. Everything we received from the race has made and will make us a better team. The drivers all had a great deal of time behind the wheel. The crew probably had more practice in the pits and the garage than they wanted or anticipated, but that's what racing is all about. To us, finishing the race was such an extraordinary achievement, and that goes to show just how spectacular of a job our guys did."

Michael McDowell expressed the pleasure he took from participating in all of the festivities throughout the weekend: "It was great to take part in practice and qualifying, to finish the race and to witness the legions of fans that were in attendance throughout the weekend. It was also special that we shared the weekend with the Make-a-Wish foundation and the Wish family." He summed up the physically demanding nature of the race in two words - "long and brutal." Regardless of the difficulties that were imposed on him and his teammates, McDowell felt fortunate to partake in the legendary race: "The experience of the endurance race was not lost on us. We're going to take everything we learned and apply it to the rest of our season. What didn't kill us will certainly make us stronger and more competitive."

Michael Valiante described what it was like to race the Daytona Prototype: "It was a new experience to me, as I'm not used to having a roof over my head. The amount of time I spent in the car was great, and I'm sure that this and any experience with different platforms will help me grow as a driver."

Jonathan Bomarito, who handled the Daytona Prototype at perhaps it's most difficult times appreciated being afforded the opportunity: "I'm so thankful that Rob Finlay, Steve Cameron and all of the other drivers gave me a chance to embark on this challenge with them."

Steve Cameron, team manager, analyzed the issue with the CV joint: "Obviously there is an issue with the way the rear suspension is interacting with the motor and gear box, and how it reacted to the high banking here [at Daytona]. We're going to need to revisit the geometry of the entire system to see where the added pressure is coming from. I seriously believe that if we hadn't had this reoccurring problem, we would've finished in the top-ten, if not higher."

Ten Motorsports returns to California before heading back to Florida for the series' next stop at Homestead the first weekend in March.

-tm-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Memo Gidley , Michael Valiante , Michael McDowell , Jonathan Bomarito , Rob Finlay , Steve Cameron