David Reininger - motorsport.com Daytona, Fla. (February 3, 2000) - James Weaver set the fastest lap of the day to capture the pole position for Saturday's Rolex 24, the twice-around-the-clock classic at Daytona International Speedway....
David Reininger - motorsport.com
Daytona, Fla. (February 3, 2000) - James Weaver set the fastest lap of the day to capture the pole position for Saturday's Rolex 24, the twice-around-the-clock classic at Daytona International Speedway. Although the team had expected two new Reynard chassis for this race, the team wasn't surprised when they rolled out the trusted and true Riley and Scott chassis and set fast lap at 1 minute 41.002 seconds.
"We expected, with all the developments on the car, that this car should be able to get into the thirty-nines (one minute 39 second range)," said Weaver. "We didn't know if that would be quick enough or not, because it drizzled a bit in the session and the times were a little bit down. Certainly, we expected to be on the first couple rows."
Team owner, Rob Dyson, who joins the driver line up once again, was pleased with the car's performance. "We made a couple of adjustments, there were a couple of things we had to tweak, and we're still not done yet," said Dyson "Actually I was kind of hoping we'd be in the 39s. I think we've got a couple of things that we've got to do to make the car run a little freer on the race course. Based on the data that we got, we've got a couple of things that we've got to do, but it's nothing difficult."
Starting alongside the Dyson entry will be the Risi Ferrari piloted by Alex Caffi, Allan McNish, Rolf Kelleners and Domenico Schiattarella. Caffi qualified the car, setting a time one second off the pace of the Dyson team.
"This is a big event," said Caffi. "I raced in Formula One, the top of racing cars, but this is a beautiful day in my life because Daytona is very famous, also in Europe. Especially in Italy, nobody forgets the finish of the three Ferraris in the late sixties. This is one of the most famous races and I'm very happy to be here."
The Risi team won this event in 1998.
While many teams will pace their drivers in order to finish the race, Weaver thinks this race will be a hard fought contest until the end.
"The top sports cars, they're more than strong enough to race flat out for 24 hours," Weaver said. "There's not much you can do to nurse one of these cars along. If you've got a good driver in it, you might as well drive it as fast as you can because you won't break it. When you've got to race against people like Alex (Caffi), they're going to be going flat out, we'll take the fight to them, and they'll be coming after us. It's just a question of, don't get too hot headed in traffic. That's always the game here."
"Personally, the traffic element at Daytona, I find tremendously exciting and a real challenge. It's like a high-speed video game or racing back from the pub through Picadilly Circus in the rush hour. It's just tremendously exciting. You try to judge all the closing speeds, what the other guy is going to do, see if you can recognize the helmet, determine who it is. When a car goes off line in front of you, you see if it's throwing up dust, so you can tell if you can go off line. There are a thousand and one tricks you can do to make the race work for you."
Although there are several new cars in the Sports Racing class, including the Reynard and the Cadillac, Weaver sees his greatest competition coming from the Ferraris. "Traditionally, the Ferraris have always been a real problem here. All the Ferrari teams are very good teams and they always come with a very good roster of drivers. That coupled with the Ferrari reliability and their straight-line speed makes them very difficult to beat."
Dyson had expected to field two cars at the Rolex 24 but the team wasn't able to sort out their Reynard chassis in time for the race.
"We were planning to have two Reynards," said team owner Rob Dyson. "Due to a number of problems, we were not able to get even one chassis working. Right after our test here we had to make the decision to run the Riley and Scott. Our objective is to win races. We just felt that we had a better chance o f winning the race with the Riley & Scott rather than the Reynard. This is the Super Bowl of sports car racing. This is a race where we've been fortunate to win it, and that's our objective this time."
"We've got high hopes for the Reynard, I think any new car takes three or four months to get sorted out. I think Cadillac need a little more time as do Reynard," Weaver added.
A new addition to the Dyson driver line up of Dyson, Weaver, and Elliot Forbes Robinson is Max Papis, driver of Team Rahal's entry in the CART FedEx series. "One of the reasons Max is there, in '96 we raced against him all year and we had fantastic fun," said Weaver. "He's tremendously quick. What everybody on Rob's (Dyson) team really liked about him, he is a fantastic racer. He really enjoys his motor racing."
Ron Fellows set the fastest speed in the GTO class, turning in a lap at 1:45.889. "First we have to thank everyone at the Corvette Group, Pratt and Miller," said Fellows. "This is our first pole with the Corvette so we're pretty happy. We really didn't do much since the test. We found a pretty good set up there. This morning we made one little change to the back and off we went to qualify."
"Right at the end of the second set of tires, I had a perfectly clear lap. The guys sent me out exactly at the right time. I was able to maximize the grip we had with the tires for one or two laps right at the end."
The Oreca Chrysler Viper team, which dominated last year's FIA GT championship, put David Donohue, Olivier Berreta and Tommy Archer in their cars for qualifying. Archer topped the trio taking the outside pole for GTO.
"This is a brand new car," said Archer. "It showed up here yesterday, still in the shrink-wrapping. I had not sat in the car until yesterday afternoon. I hadn't turned a lap under two minutes until I went out to qualify, so I was trying to figure out where I was. We just put the pedal to the metal as long as I could."
"We went out and we were trying to get used to the cars. One of the drivers had never driven the car yet. I went out with the first set of tires and by the time we got in for the second set of tires, the checkered came out. We never got to run the second set of tires, we were hoping for a little more but it's a long race. There's nothing better than a good fight in a long race."
With the Viper contingent being led by Team Oreca, Ron Fellows knows the two-car Corvette team will have their work cut out for them. "We're still the underdogs here at the Rolex 24, these guys have won two straight Le Mans titles and we're still chasing them. But we've got the package together to race for 24 hours. It'll be along race and the fastest car doesn't necessarily always win, anything can happen. You've got to be smart with so many cars. It really won't thin out until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. The biggest thing is traffic, just staying out of trouble."
Fellows returns in the same Corvette they ran last year with one major change, the engine size has increased from six to seven liters.
Craig Conway of Daytona Beach, Florida took the pole position in the American GT class driving a Chevrolet Camaro, which the team obtained three months ago. Conway kept his team on edge in the pits until just before the checkered flag was shown, when he took the pole on his final lap. "We had a couple laps early on that had some traffic problems," said Conway. "I had to wait until I got a clean track. Unfortunately the tires were a little warm by that point but we were still able to squeak the pole."
The 38th Rolex 24 takes the green flag at 1:00 P.M. EST on Saturday, February 5, 2000 at the Daytona International Speedway.