Strong foot forward for AIM Autosport during Test Days; Team sets 4th quickest time as experienced young foursome already at home with new equipment Daytona Beach, FL- 7 January 08- AIM Autosport got the 2008 Rolex Season off to a quick start...
Strong foot forward for AIM Autosport during Test Days; Team sets 4th quickest time as experienced young foursome already at home with new equipment
Daytona Beach, FL- 7 January 08- AIM Autosport got the 2008 Rolex Season off to a quick start this weekend, setting some impressive times during the "Roar Before the 24" test days in preparation for the 46th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona, which takes the green flag on January 26th. Newly announced full-season AIM Autosport drivers Mark Wilkins and Brian Frisselle were joined by Rolex 24 At Daytona teammates Colin Braun and Andrew Ranger for the test days.
The test marked several firsts for the Toronto-based team as it prepared for its sophomore season in the Rolex Sports Car Series. Not only has AIM joined the Ford Racing stable for the 2008 season, but the team is also an early-adopter of the new specification Riley MK XX chassis upgrade, which was made available only days before the test kicked off.
During the test days, Team Principal Ian Wills was asked at a media event why AIM would take on this significant new variable as it prepared for the highly abusive 24 hour event.
"In racing, you snooze, you lose," said Willis. "We know that there is going to be a learning curve-new Pirelli tires, new Ford powerplant, and now this new Riley upgrade. But it's clear to us that in order to be on the right side of that curve, we needed to move forward as quickly as we could to integrate this new Riley package. There is a lot that goes into this-so the data we collect, the impression and feedback the drivers have of the car, and the familiarity of the team working on it, so the sooner we made the switch, the sooner are able to make advances in all those areas. Hopefully this will pay off in the 24, and it should definitely pay off as the season unfolds."
The driver line up, with no driver older than 24, is the youngest combined line up for the big race, yet with a combined CV that includes wins, championships, and countless podiums, is a group that also packs a ton of experience. The test days not only gave the team the chance to put the new car through its paces, but it was also a good opportunity for the drivers to gel.
For Ranger, who won an open wheel championship with AIM in 2003, the team homecoming was a welcome one. Despite never having driven on the 3.56-mile infield road course, and never having been in a Daytona Prototype, he got acclimated as one would expect a champion to do-quickly.
"This car reminds me a little bit of my time in open wheel cars," said the recently crowned NASCAR Canadian Tire Champion. "I'd never driven on this road course and have to say I really enjoyed it. Of course it was good to be back with the team and see some familiar faces but I think what was even better is how competitive I think we can be."
While there are no prizes given for strong practice times, one might not know that by looking at the time sheets, as less than one second separated the top twelve times set during the test, with AIM sporting a firm presence at the sharp end after Braun set a 1:41.584-second lap on Saturday. The time was fourth on the charts, some two seconds faster than last year's pole time and a three-tenths sliver from the fastest time of the test.
"These guys definitely made the right call going to Ford power," said Braun, who set a record as the youngest winner of a major event when he scored a Daytona victory in the 2006 Brumos 250 at Daytona before even turning 18. "I am still getting used to this new Riley, but this test was a great start for us and I think we're going to be even stronger when we come back for the race."
Echoing that sentiment was Wilkins, who had a breakthrough season in his first full year of Daytona Prototype racing last year and is looking forward to even more in 2008, his seventh year of racing with the team.
"This was a great start for us and we just want to keep this momentum going through the race," said Wilkins. "Getting to the finish and taking fifth was not only a good way to start the season last year, but in a big way it also was great preparation for this year because we have all our guys back and everyone knows how to get the job done. That gives us a lot of confidence and with how things are coming together with the Ford and the new Riley, we're all really just looking forward to the race, and the rest of the season."
-credit: aim autosport