Daytona Test: Bell Motorsports Sunday notes

Emerson Fittipaldi Tests the Kodak EasyShare DORAN Pontiac DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 9 - The Bell Motorsports/Feeds the Need Racing team gave an old friend a special opportunity Sunday during the third and final day of pre-Rolex 24 testing at ...

Emerson Fittipaldi Tests the Kodak EasyShare DORAN Pontiac

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 9 - The Bell Motorsports/Feeds the Need Racing team gave an old friend a special opportunity Sunday during the third and final day of pre-Rolex 24 testing at Daytona International Speedway.

That friend was Emerson Fittipaldi, the two-time Formula 1 World Champion, two-time Indy 500 winner, and the uncle of one of the team's regular drivers, Christian Fittipaldi.

Emerson Fittipaldi wanted to try his hand at driving a Daytona Prototype, so team owner Jim Bell and car owner/driver Forest Barber let him do six laps in the Kodak EasyShare DORAN JE4 Pontiac #54 in the first practice session Sunday.

Fittipaldi liked it so much he did five more laps in Sunday's second and final practice session for a total of 11 laps on the 3.56-mile road course.

"It's a great car; I enjoyed it very much!" said Fittipaldi, who last drove a race car in 1996. "I want to thank Jim Bell and Forest Barber very much for letting me drive it."

His nephew; Terry Borcheller; Barber; Paul Tracy and Ralf Kelleners will drive the car in the Rolex 24 Feb. 5-6. The team is the defending Rolex 24 race winner.

Although time sheets don't mean much since teams are experimenting with many different things during tests, on Sunday the car ended up 18th in the first session with a lap in 1:50.530/115.950 mph and 12th in the second session with a 1:49.793/116.729 mph.

Quotes from Sunday follow:

Terry Borcheller: "I'm happy in that our car is working really well. Considering all the changes we made prior to testing, we did well here.

"I'm disappointed that we're not running faster, but I'm ecstatic about our driver line-up.

"It was also great to give Emerson [Fittipaldi] some laps. He's been a hero of mine since I was a kid, and it was great to work with him. It was good to get Forest some laps too.

"We learned a lot here."

Christian Fittipaldi: "We're a top-10 car, or just outside of the top 10. But we can run decent, solid lap times during the race, and that is what is important. I'm going to be very hard, but I'm optimistic about our chances in the race."

Forest Barber: "From a team standpoint, we had a lot of changes to the car to deal with here this weekend. For one, we had a whole re-engineered rear end from Doran Designs. We also changed the engine management system, the data acquisition system and the traction control; they're all inter-related. We also lost about 95 pounds of excess weight on the car.

"The car is better than it was, but we have much to learn and much development to do before the 24.

"For me it was just getting a little seat time. We'll do some private testing between now and the Rolex.

"And our friend Emerson [Fittipaldi] got in the car; he wanted to try it out, and we're glad we were able to give him that opportunity."

Ralf Kelleners: "I think we did everything we could do at the test, but unfortunately there is still a gap between us and the quickest car.

"Our car won't win the race on pure speed. If the car wins the race it will be because the total package will win. The team will have prepared a car that can finish and the drivers will have brought it home in one piece."

Jim Bell: "Specifically we came here with three goals, which were to quantify the changes we made: the engine management system; a complete redo of the rear suspension; and some aerodynamic changes.

"We are lucky to have a stellar driver line-up who could give us excellent feedback. In three days we accomplished what should have taken two weeks.

"We still have a lot of work to do, but I'm much more positive than I am negative.

"It was also great to work with Emerson [Fittipaldi] again. He wanted to try out the car, and we love to work with him."

Emerson Fittipaldi (first session): "I enjoyed it a lot! I like these cars and this type of racing. I need to get a better frame of reference for the turns here though; I couldn't tell exactly where the best braking points were with just a few laps.

"The only time I ever raced here was on the oval in an IROC race. I tested here once too, again with Jim Bell, many years ago."

About the possibility of him running in this year's Rolex 24: "I don't know."

About the possibility of him starting his own Daytona Prototype team: "I don't know that yet either."

(Second session): "Traffic was bad that time. It's a great car. I want to thank Jim Bell and Forest Barber very much for letting me drive it."

-bms-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Ralf Kelleners , Christian Fittipaldi , Paul Tracy , Terry Borcheller , Emerson Fittipaldi , Forest Barber