Daytona Test: Day two news and notes

Ganassi Happy To Be Back in Sports Car Racing DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 4, 2004) -- To most race fans, team owner Chip Ganassi is known for his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and open-wheel racing teams. However, the former sports car racer is ...

Ganassi Happy To Be Back in Sports Car Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 4, 2004) -- To most race fans, team owner Chip Ganassi is known for his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and open-wheel racing teams. However, the former sports car racer is returning to his roots with his new Daytona Prototype team in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series.

"This is like coming full circle really. I drove here in 1986 in (the Rolex 24) in a Buick-powered March sponsored by RC Cola for a guy named Phil Conte, who was very active in sports cars for many years. He had me come to Daytona and drive down here with John Paul Jr. and Whitney Ganz," said Ganassi. "Sports car racing has been in my heart for a long time. There was an opportunity to get involved again, and I couldn't pass it up."

"I like the idea of the formula now. Back in those days, you had factories getting involved and if you weren't a factory team, you had to really struggle to keep up with them as a privateer. It's more open now for everybody to get involved. With the formula now, you really have to work hard to find speed and obviously you still need reliability for 24 hours. We've got a little bit of learning to do. We like the direction of the series right now and that's why we're back," continued Ganassi, who will have Max Papis and Scott Pruett piloting his team's No. 01 Comp USA Lexus Riley this season.

This weekend's testing was the first opportunity for Ganassi's team to take its new car on track.

"It's very much in the development stage. When we unloaded here it was the first time that sucker turned a wheel. We've got a lot to learn in a short period of time. The first race is always the toughest," said Pruett. "You've got to take Daytona by itself. The Rolex 24 is the survival of the fittest. Those guys who have done their homework and have a bit of luck and can take advantage of the opportunity to come here, they may not be the fastest, but certainly can run the longest."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Riggins Runs Toyota FABCAR

FABCAR's Dave Klym has used his Toyota-powered Daytona Prototype as a show car for the last few months, but today the race car finally hit the track with Tommy Riggins behind the wheel. Late Saturday afternoon, an agreement was reached between FABCAR and Brumos Racing to allow Riggins a chance to test the car this weekend and gain some valuable experience.

FABCAR has been working with Heritage Motorsports, which Riggins and Dave Machavern won the GTS championship with last season, on an agreement for the Vermont-based team to run the Daytona Prototype in the Rolex 24. However since an agreement has yet to be reached, Jacksonville-native Riggins was not going to get any experience in the car until Brumos Racing, also of Jacksonville, offered its assistance with crewmembers and fuel. Goodyear then stepped up to assist with the tires, and Toyota lent a hand attending to the engine.

Guy Cosmo, who has experience in the Toyota FABCAR of Cegwa Sport, first took the car out for a quick shakedown before handing it over to Riggins.

"To say this is exciting would be right. It was a different environment. I spent a couple of years in the other car (Mustang); that environment and nature was comfortable to me. This is different. They are real race cars. It feeds back different. I'm getting used to that, and I'm getting used to the environment; how things are and the threshold and things," explained Riggins. "It was just a great inauguration for me in one of these cars. I know the track here, and the Brumos guys have just been wonderful to decide to do this yesterday about 30 minutes before the garage closed and have us make the first session today. That was a phenomenal thing; I can't thank them enough for this opportunity.

"The whole focus today was to get me a lot of time in the car. I've never had car owners so enthused. It overwhelms me that people have gone out of their way to do something for me like this," added Riggins.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Arie Jr. Enjoys Being Back in Road Racing

After spending two years competing with the Indy Racing League, Arie Luyendyk Jr. returned to his road racing roots this weekend when he tested with the SpeedSource No. 9 Ford Multimatic. Although the 22-year-old son of Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk is quickly adjusting to being back on a road course, he is still getting used to being in a heavier, closed-cockpit car.

"This was the first time I've ever driven a car with a roof over my head. It was a new experience," said Luyendyk Jr. "My first impression was it has a lot more weight than what I'm used to driving. That took a lot of getting used to. This is the first time I've driven a road course in two years. Just the braking and getting back into the swing of things; it's a little bit of a learning curve, but at the moment we are doing very well."

Luyendyk Jr.'s road racing experience includes racing in the U.S. F2000 for two years in addition to competing in Formula Ford 1800 in Europe. For the past two years, he has run in the IRL Infinite Pro Series, where he raced strictly on oval courses.

"It's nice to finally get back in the car and get on a nice track like Daytona and really push the limits of the car on a road course," said Luyendyk Jr. "It's great that SpeedSource gave me the opportunity to drive in the Rolex Series with a great car. I think we were sixth this morning, and there are a lot of improvements we need to do with the car, so I'm really happy to be 22 (years old) and running in the prototype class at Daytona. It's a pretty prestigious thing, and I just hope to last the whole race. The longest race I've ever done is 45 minutes or so. I'm going to have a lot of work on the table."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Auberlen Happy To Be Back In A BMW

After racing as a factory BMW driver for several seasons in other series, Bill Auberlen is happy to be behind the wheel of a BMW at Daytona.

"We've won here a lot. We have a great record of winning our class. We started it, and then Porsche started bringing in the heavy artillery. We can at least compete with them now, and we'll just see if we can keep up with Porsches and beat them," said Auberlen, who is sharing the Prototype Technology Group No. 21 BMW M3 with Boris Said and Justin Marks this weekend.

"Being back here half fulfills my dream to come back here in a BMW. The other half would be if we could have come back in a prototype car. It would have been a perfect dream. Maybe it just gives me something to look forward to next year. Let's hope we come back full force in a prototype next year," he added.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Wagner Soaking Up Knowledge of Doran JE-4

Cort Wagner and Brent Martini will partner in a Doran JE-4 Daytona Prototype during the 2004 season, however since the pair's car will not be ready in time for the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the duo is teaming up with Michael Shank Racing in its Lexus Doran JE-4 for this weekend's testing and the Rolex 24. Even though the 2003 GT champions are not able to record laps in their own race car this weekend, Wagner and Martini are soaking up every bit of knowledge they can from their time in the MSR Daytona Prototype.

"You try to create a stride early on and try to get things going for development and stuff like that. We are going to another Doran chassis, and we'll take a lot of what we learn over to our car," said Wagner.

Wagner and Martini will race with G&W Motorsports during the 2004 season, which is a homecoming for both drivers, who have competed with the Alton, Va.-based team in the past.

"I love it. It's like family. I love (team owner) Cole (Scrogham) and (team manager) Price (Cobb) and Charissa (Cobb) and everyone there. They're really great people. They are honest, hard-working people. We've got Cary Gross, the new engineer, on our team. He's a really heads-up engineer. We're really excited, and the program is really coming together. I'm really excited about being part of the BMW deal with Rx.com," said Wagner.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Race Fans Can Witness The Action

Race fans can watch Monday's testing at Daytona International Speedway from the Oldfield Tower grandstands. Admission is free of charge and accessible through the lobby of DAYTONA USA.

The 42nd Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona will be run January 29 - February 1. Tickets are currently on sale and can be purchased online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 386-253-RACE. The Rolex 24 will be broadcast LIVE on SPEED Channel.

Additional information on the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series pre-season testing and Rolex 24 At Daytona is available online at www.grandamerican.com.

-garra-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Boris Said , Arie Luyendyk , Max Papis , Scott Pruett , Bill Auberlen , Guy Cosmo , Justin Marks , Tommy Riggins , Brent Martini , John Paul Jr. , Michael Shank , Whitney Ganz , Cort Wagner
Teams SpeedSource