Rolex Roundup: Daytona Test Days -- Day 1 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 7, 2005) -- Preparations for the 43rd Rolex 24 At Daytona officially got underway on Friday at Daytona International Speedway as more than 50 cars toured the 3.56-mile...
Rolex Roundup: Daytona Test Days -- Day 1
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 7, 2005) -- Preparations for the 43rd Rolex 24 At Daytona officially got underway on Friday at Daytona International Speedway as more than 50 cars toured the 3.56-mile road circuit at the "World Center of Racing" during the opening day of the annual Daytona Test Days.
The cars turned a total of 2,734 laps (9,733.04 miles) through 5 p.m. ET on the first day of the three-day test, with the No. 20 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford to be driven in the Rolex 24 by Andy Wallace, Jan Lammers and NASCAR star Tony Stewart posting the day's best time at 1:48.770 (117.827 mph). Second-quickest was the No. 39 Orbit Racing Pontiac Riley of Jim Matthews, Marc Goossens, Guy Smith and Scott Sharp at 1:48.857 (117.732 mph), followed by the No. 66 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley of Max Papis, Jorg Bergmeister and Oliver Gavin at 1:48.998 (117.580 mph).
In the GT class, the No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup of John Littlechild, Randy Pobst, Mike Fitzgerald, Manuel Matos and Spencer Pumpelly turned in the quickest time at 1:56.604 (109.910 mph). Second-quick in GT was the No. 75 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup of Johannes van Overbeek, Lonnie Pechnik Seth Neiman, Jon Fogarty and Patrick Long at 1:57.0 (109.552 mph), with the No. 65 TRG Porsche GT3 Cup of Kevin Buckler, Marc Bunting, Andy Lally, Carlos de Quesada and Hugh Plumb third quickest at 1:57.233.
Night practice is scheduled to conclude at 8 p.m. ET and any news from that session will be reported in Saturday's Rolex Roundup from Test Days.
NO. 2 CITGO HOWARD-BOSS TEAM LOOKS FOR DAYTONA GLORY
Albeit with an entirely different driver lineup, the No. 2 CITGO-sponsored Crawford came within 20 minutes of victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona one year ago. Today, Howard-Boss Motorsports formally unveiled the four drivers who will make up the No. 2 CITGO Pontiac Crawford, as regular driver Milka Duno will be joined by IRL IndyCar Series stars Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti, as well as Franchitti's brother, Marino, an accomplished sports car racer in his own right.
"It would be unbelievable to win here," said team owner Rick Howard. "My lasting remembrance from last year is looking at (Crawford Race Cars principal) Max (Crawford) and (car designer) Andy Scriven and just seeing the total defeat in their eyes and their body at the end of the race. That was an unbelievable downturn, although it was a very proud moment for us because we had such a great event and led our first race as a team. We were excited about that. We're doubly excited about this year."
Duno is especially excited to be joined by an all-star cast of drivers as she attempts to become the first woman to take an overall victory in Rolex 24 At Daytona history.
"I'm very happy to be here in this competition for another year," Duno said. "This year is very special in the Daytona 24 hours, because I will drive with Dan Wheldon and Dario and Marino Franchitti. I'm very happy for that, and I'm sure that we will do the best job we can to have an excellent result this year."
For the IndyCar Series regulars, the Rolex 24 At Daytona will serve as a return to road racing after a few years of running exclusively on ovals. For Wheldon, it will also be his first-ever race with a roof over his head, as he has spent his entire career in open-cockpit cars.
"I've spoken to Milka and (No. 20 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports driver) Andy Wallace, and they're both very, very helpful," Wheldon said. "It must be strange for them when they've got these strangers coming in, but they've both been excellent from the standpoint of helping.
"I haven't been on a road course for a couple or three years now. I'm certainly looking forward to the experience. Anytime you're running in a competitive championship with a good organization, it's to your benefit. Dario's a bit richer than me, and he's got a Rolex on his wrist. I've got to try and match him when the race comes around too."
The Rolex 24 At Daytona will also be the Franchitti brothers' first-ever race as teammates. Both expressed excitement for the opportunity and have been pleased with their progress in the Daytona Prototype thus far.
"This is the first time, and it's very special," said Dario. "It's one of the reasons I wanted to come here and do the Rolex 24. It's going to be fun. We did the first session and Marino drove the car first and I drove the car second. We jumped out and we had a little bit of a moment, because we've been talking about it a long time."
"I've given him a little bit of advice, but only when he asks," added Marino, whose sports car experience is much fresher than his brother's. "I don't want to overstep the mark. He still likes to beat me up now and again. Seriously, we talked about it a lot. We tried to do this race last year with these guys, but it fell apart at the last minute before the test. I'm really happy to be here this year, and hopefully at the end of the 24 we can get a nice Rolex watch."
SPIRIT OF DAYTONA PREPARES FOR ROLEX 24 WITH EYE TOWARD EXPANSION
Spirit of Daytona Racing plans to field the No. 09 Pontiac Crawford for drivers Stephan Gregoire, Doug Goad, Bob Ward and an as-yet-unnamed fourth driver. However, the addition of Ward to the team also brought with it the No. 07 Pontiac Crawford, which the team will run for four races later in the season. Both cars turned laps during the Test Days today, but team owner Troy Flis plans to field just the No. 09 car for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"If I had five of them, I could put drivers in all of them," said Flis. "There are a number of guys wanting to rent the 07 car, which is Bob's car, to run in the 24 hours. In our eyes, we don't feel it's in our best interest to run that car. We've done it before. It's not something that I'm not going to do, I just didn't think it's time to do it yet. We'll definitely run two cars next year, we might even run three cars next year."
In the wake of the team's expansion to two cars, Spirit of Daytona also plans to move into new headquarters in Daytona Beach, which the team views as a sign of growth and stability.
"At Spirit of Daytona, we're on our five-year game plan, which is great," Flis said. "It's great that Grand-Am has given us the opportunity to have a good thing like this. We've just acquired an 8,000 square foot facility here in Daytona Beach and we're really excited about that. We're hopefully going to have it done by the 24 hours, but the biggest thing is that we're just happy that we get to be here and race with all these guys. The series is growing so well."
ORISON PLANET-EARTH MOTORSPORTS LOOKING FORWARD TO NEW GT CLASS
With the Rolex Series GT and SGS class merging in to a single GT class this season, the ORISON-Planet Earth Motorsports team is anxious to start competing against BMW, Mazda, Ferrari, Pontiac, Corvette and a new crop of Porsches that make up the class.
"We're really excited about the new GT class," Wayne Nonnamaker said. "We were only one of three teams last year that won multiple races in those two classes (SGS and Grand-Am Cup GS). It's a lot to do in the off season because we had some development work to do with the Porsche GT. The rules that Grand American have put out allow us to race in a very effective budget at this level, whereas other series can be two or three times the cost at this level. It's very affordable, which allows us to give return to the sponsors and an effective way for people to come in and enjoy the weekend. We're pretty excited about that."
The team finished third in last season's SGS point standings and look to improve upon that in 2005.
"It's going to be tough racing the BMWs," Nonnamaker said. "PTG has a strong driver line-up. They lost Boris, but they picked up two or three really good drivers. They're going to be tough, so is The Racer's Group and TPC -- I know there are some teams I am forgetting. It's going to be a really tough year. But it's going to be a strong year. We're trying to put the program in place so we can challenge for the title against the BMWs. We've won in every class we've ever been in, so we'd really like to do that in GT."
KROHN RACING/TRG; PAPIS QUICK OUT OF THE BOX
The No. 66 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley of defending co-Daytona Prototype champion Max Papis, Jorg Bergmeister and Oliver Gavin was among the quickest cars during the opening day of Daytona Test Days despite the fact that team hadn't run the car on a race track prior to this week. The team's performance today has Papis excited about his prospects for 2005.
"We have a brand new adventure here with Krohn Racing/TRG," Papis said. "We have a lot of work to do, but we're very pleased with the progress we've been doing up to now. Today was just a little reminder. We have a lot of work to do. We respect everyone out there, but at the same time we have one goal. It's bringing the Krohn Racing/TRG No. 66 car right in front of everyone.
"We have a great form of racing where people can compete against a great team. Last year, I was lucky to be able to join Ganassi Racing. They have a great history of Indy winners, Champ Car winners, IRL champions and NASCAR teams and everything, and you can actually compare your team with an organization like that. I don't think that can happen anywhere else. You can do it without having to overspend. The car is affordable, the racing is very exciting, and the racing is left to the people."
The people that will be racing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona is also a source of excitement for Papis. The Italian is thrilled by the star-studded lineup already in place, but would like to see one of his friends also land a seat.
"I think it's going to definitely be one of the most exciting 24 hours of Daytona, not just in terms of car lineup, because there's going to be over 30 Daytona Prototypes and I think over 60 cars in the field," Papis said. "In terms of the excitement of racing, the names of people involved and the enjoyment that is going to be amongst us drivers working with other drivers and being able to race side-by-side with big names. Tell me which other series in the world you can have a NASCAR champion competing against the Grand-Am champion, the IRL champion, the Indy 500 champion and the Champ Car guys. It doesn't happen very often. The only one missing would be my friend Alex Zanardi. That would complete the series."
SUNTRUST RACING BACK ON TRACK
Last season's Rolex Series Daytona Prototype runners-up, the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley team, missed Hoosier Tire Testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway a few weeks back awaiting the arrival of it's new chassis. This weekend's testing at Daytona gave the team the opportunity to take the car on the track and make any necessary changes.
"It's going pretty well," said team owner and driver Wayne Taylor. "Straight out of the box we seem to be very competitive, but there's still little problems that there always are on a new car. We've got a solid team from last year and a good partner with SunTrust. We're just using this weekend to find out what things work and what things don't work.
"I think the program is developing really well. Everyone saw we challenged for the championship. Consistency is what you need for this business. We have the same team, with a couple new people, and with some added support from Pontiac, we are doing really good."
Taylor's co-drivers for the Rolex 24 At Daytona will be regular teammate Max Angelelli and Emmanuel Collard. Angelelli is looking forward to racing with drivers from the other disciplines of motorsports.
"At the moment, this is the best championship available," Angelelli said. "I've never seen anything close to this at any championship that I've been to. It looks like this race is going to be the best race ever. I badly need a watch. I really need to get a watch. I've finished second two times, and now it's time to finish first."
MICHAEL SHANK RACING COMPLETES ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA DRIVER LINE UP
Larry Connor and Duncan Dayton will join regular drivers Mike Borkowski and Paul Mears, Jr. in the No. 6 Mears Motor Coach Pontiac Riley for the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The driver line up should be a strong one, providing the combination of speed and experience needed to finish well in the twice-around-the-clock classic.
"This is a driver line up that I am very excited about," said team owner Shank. "This is going to be one of the most competitive 24 hour races ever, and with our drivers and the new Riley-Pontiac combination, we feel like we are well prepared for the event. Duncan and Larry are great additions to the team, so we are really looking forward to the race."
Michael Shank Racing took fourth in the Daytona Prototype class in last year's Rolex 24 and is looking to start the 2005 season with a strong finish in this year's event. The team has switched to Pontiac power, and will be utilizing the championship-winning Riley chassis for the 2005 season.
Connor and Dayton have extensive experience in road racing, and raced together at Le Mans. The two also partnered to take a win in the Petite Le Mans in 2003. Connor has a wide range of experience in the sport, from racing recent Formula 1 cars to Atlantics and has twice been crowned as an SCCA National Champion.
Dayton also has experience in nearly every kind of race car, and will be entering his sixth Rolex 24. The 2005 event will be his first since mechanical problems took his team out of a seven-lap lead in 2002. Dayton has some experience with the DP class, having made his first start in a Daytona Prototype in 2003, qualifying fourth for the season-ending race at Daytona International Raceway.
HORIZON MOTORSPORTS LOOK TO BE CONTENDER WITH NEW CHASSIS
After using last season to test and refine their racecar, the No. 23 Horizon Motorsports LLC Pontiac GTO team is back with a new chassis and ready to take on the other cars in the Rolex Series GT class.
"It's a better chassis than what we had from last year because it has the updates from what we've learned from last year," team owner Jim Harrell said. "We've modified the first one to bring it up to date, and we're looking forward to having a good time.
"We think the car will be competitive. We have a lot of faith in Grand American making parity and making sure everyone is on a level playing field. That's part of what attracted us to get back in to the game - the average guy can possibly get to a podium. We believe in what Grand American's goals are, and we believe in the whole GT class and how they structured it. I think it's a great deal, and it out classes all the other series out there. It's really coming in to its own."
The team competed in only five races last season and are ready to campaign a whole season and finish on the podium in 2005.
"We parachuted into the series in the middle of the season we like to say. We ran five races, we didn't do well in three of them, but we did fairly well in two of them. We did a lot of testing and felt real comfortable. Last year was simply 'jump in and see what we can do.' We think this car will be in contention for the podium this year, and it's going to be great."
ANCHOR RACING SET TO RUN SAID AND HAINER IN GRAND-AM CUP SERIES
Anchor Racing announced its 2005 Grand-Am Cup Series driver lineup, with team owner and driver John Munson and James Sofronas co-driving the No. 92 BMW M3, while Boris Said and Anders Hainer will share the team's No. 93 BMW M3.
"Anchor Racing is very excited to have an all-star driver lineup," Munson said. "After spending last year developing the car, we feel we have a great chance of winning the championship."
Munson and Sofronas spent the majority of last season developing the M3 for the 2005 season, with a best place fifth finish at the California Speedway. Said and Hainer co-piloted the No. 13 Unitech Racing Nissan 350Z to victory last season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in September.
"I'm very excited to be part of the Anchor Racing team with owner, John Munson," Hainer said. "John and his crew will put on a first class effort in Grand-Am Cup during the 2005 season. I know that the team that John has assembled, between technicians, pit-crew, support staff, and drivers, etc, will produce excellent results. I will be driving with Boris Said, who is an amazing driver, and also an overall great guy. We had a lot of fun driving together last year in the Nissan. Boris is a perfect addition to the team that already consists of two very fast drivers. My goal this year is to do a good job for the team, and to help Anchor Racing get a championship. I just can't wait to get started."