Grand-Am Rolex Series November Test -- Day 2 Notebook Two-Day Test Concludes Debut Run on Pirelli Tires DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 15, 2007) -- With two days of testing now complete, the new Pirelli P-Zero Tire is firmly entrenched in ...
Grand-Am Rolex Series November Test -- Day 2 Notebook Two-Day Test Concludes Debut Run on Pirelli Tires
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 15, 2007) -- With two days of testing now complete, the new Pirelli P-Zero Tire is firmly entrenched in Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 competition and the teams and drivers put in the miles to prove it. In total, the 45 participating teams ran a total of 24,614 miles (6,914 laps) on the new Pirelli P-Zero tires, which is just 288 miles short of a trip around the earth.
As many predicted, the tire has improved lap times but kept the characteristics of the Rolex Series machines -- especially the Daytona Prototypes -- consistent.
"The Pirelli is a bit quicker, but our balance is maintained in the GAINSCO machine," said defending Rolex Series co-Champion Jon Fogarty. "It's still going to be a difficult car to drive. Everyone is on the same playing field and we're looking forward to running the Pirelli."
While no official times were released, 12 Daytona Prototypes turned laps that would have bettered the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona qualifying time.
"This Pirelli Tire suits my driving style like crazy," said Oswaldo Negri, who was unofficially the fastest on Wednesday in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley. "I can throw stupid speed into the corner and it will take it, where I couldn't do that before."
Max Angelelli topped the Daytona Prototype field on Thursday with an unofficial time of 1:41.196 (126.645 mph) in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley. For the second straight day, Eric Lux in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche GT3 was the fastest GT machine, turning a fast lap of 1:51.399 (115.046 mph).
Fogarty, Gurney Return To The Track For The First Time As Champions
It was such a mad dash to the Daytona Prototype championship in 2007 that Fogarty and Alex Gurney didn't get to spend a lot of time savoring the journey. Now that the 2008 season has unofficially begun with the November Tire Test, they've already begun to look forward to next year.
"It doesn't really seem like much time has elapsed, but nevertheless I'm anxious to get back into it and check out these new Pirellis and see where we stand," Fogarty said. "So far we're coming to terms with it. It's awesome to be back and see everybody and get a head start on next year."
It is often said that it is tough to win a championship, but it is even more difficult to repeat. GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing knows this, but still has an eye on the future. One of the 2008 goals includes an as-to-now elusive trophy.
"Obviously again our focus is the championship, but I've got my mind set on the Rolex 24 in particular," Fogarty said. "It's such a tough event, and I've not had much luck there, and it would be an awesome accomplishment to get that one."
Valiante Hoping To Join Wayne Taylor Racing For 2008
Wayne Taylor and SunTrust Racing worked with Michael Valiante this week at November Test Days. Valiante, who raced with Finlay Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates over the past two seasons, is looking to join Max Angelelli as the regular co-driver in the No. 10 SunTrust Dallara for 2008.
"We're talking about a deal, and hopefully this is a start of things coming together," Valiante said. "Things look good. It's an honor to be driving for them; it's a prestigious team. Wayne hasn't driven for most of the year; he's getting used to the car again and he's been quick right away. His son (17-year-old Ricky Taylor, who tested the car both days) has been doing real well, too, so it should be a strong effort."
Plans are for the SunTrust team to race the Riley Pontiac at the Rolex 24, and then switch to a new Dallara chassis for the Grand Prix of Miami.
"Any time you introduce a new car, it's a challenge," Valiante said. "I think it's smart that they've gone with the Riley for Daytona, because they know it. But I'm sure the Dallara will be a great car when it comes out."
Hand Pilots Ruby Tuesday Machine on Opening Day of Test
Five-time Rolex Series GT Class race winner Joey Hand is one of many drivers in the paddock this week working to land a ride in the 2008 Rolex Sports Car Series. If anyone noticed his test in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Porsche Crawford Wednesday afternoon, Hand won't be unemployed for long.
Climbing into the Porsche Crawford for the first time, Hand unofficially rattled off lap times that were quicker than fulltime driver Bill Auberlen up to that point on Wednesday. As the set-up improved throughout the two days Auberlen continued to set the team's fastest laps, but Hand's ability in a Daytona Prototype was evident.
"My plans for 2008 are still in the works, but I've had some great discussions with different teams and I'm hoping to be in the Rolex Series and in a Daytona Prototype in 2008," Hand said. "It was nice to get in the car yesterday and turn some laps, especially with a team that's as strong as Alex Job Racing and the Ruby Tuesday team."
Autohaus Motorsports Borrows GXP; Runs Lewis, Aschenbach During Test
Autohaus Motorsports gave Tim Lewis Jr. and Lawson Aschenbach track time in a borrowed Pontiac GXP.R during the test, the team's first under the Grand-Am sanction.
The team, utilizing the No. 72, borrowed the No. 30 Pontiac GXP.R, which last year ran under the Racers Edge Motorsports banner. Aschenbach said Thursday he and Lewis have each inked a deal to drive fulltime during the 2008 season with the first-year Rolex Series team, which is expected to receive its new Pontiac GXP.R prior to the January Test Days.
Aschenbach drove the same car during the 2007 season when it was owned by Racers Edge Motorsports, while Lewis earned a victory in a Pontiac GXP.R with Banner Racing in 2007. Aschenbach has competed against Autohaus and current engineer Nathan McBride in the past and welcomes working with them this time.
"I've spent time in the car before, and it is obviously different with the new Pirelli tires," Aschenbach said. "However, a lot of the same principles apply. It's a Pratt & Miller built car, so I know how it drives. It's a pretty neat car."
Aschenbach said he expects the team to make an announcement on the full Rolex 24 driver lineup in the near future.
Spirit of Daytona Continues Engine Development
Spirit of Daytona is testing with a "Porsche-based" 5.0-liter V-8 engine based on a block from a Cayanne. The team used Guy Cosmo, Marc-Antoine Camirand and Shane Lewis to get the car up to speed this week. The driver lineup for the Rolex 24 and the 2008 season has yet to be determined.
"We have a little different motor program, and I think it's working, and we've learned a lot about aero," team owner Troy Flis said. "This is only the second time that we've got to work on the car. We're trying to learn a lot, because we've got a lot of data on Crawfords, but we don't have a lot of data on the Fabcar. We're trying to gather as much data as possible so we can make better and quicker decisions."
Flis is working with the current Fabcar bodywork, but if the Cheever team shows major improvement with their new bodywork, the team may also go in that direction.
"We want the best package we can get with our budget; whatever makes the most sense for us," Flis said. "We'd like to run all year, but we want to run a limited schedule for sure. And we want to run up front if we run a limited schedule."
Cosmo, Camirand and Lewis all have experience in a variety of sports cars, making the team's job easier.
"We're learning a lot about this car," Cosmo said. Every time we touch "it, we've made it faster."
Michael Shank Racing Adds Ford And A New Team Energy
Michael Shank Racing has been among the frontrunners in Grand-Am Rolex Series action for a number of seasons. In case the team had been overlooked, Negri unofficially posted the fastest time in yesterday's opening day and added the third fastest time in Thursday's session in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley.
The recently-installed Ford power plant was a welcome addition to the team, but the motor alone was not necessarily the biggest impact on the team's success this week.
"Everyone wants to make a big deal of that," Negri said. "We did change engines, but Ford is giving us what other manufacturers have given to other teams, which is other heads to think with the heads that we already have. It's a good package that we have, and that's the most important thing; it brought a whole new dynamic to the team. It's energized everybody here. Everybody wants to do their job a little bit better."
That energy, along with the resources from Ford, is what the team is counting on to continue to improve their success on the track.
"That energy is real," team owner Shank added. "We've been doing this for four or five years, and now have added a new project. We've got engineers from the Ford side of it involved inside our team now. Not only is the engine a good motor, but the engineer side from Ford looks like it's going to be a huge asset. That part alone is worth as much as the motor is to me, honestly, because I think we can develop our chassis further than we have before."
Four Drivers Test Cheever Racing's Pontiac Fabcar
Cheever Racing team owner Eddie Cheever Jr. sought three Italians on Wednesday to drive his No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve Pontiac Riley during the two-day test.
Among those was Italian Formula Mazda driver Alberto Costa and former FIA GT World Champion Matteo Bobbi. Both drivers were making their debuts in Rolex Series participation.
"This is a very, very beautiful facility," said Costa, who was in the U.S. for the first time. "Being my first time here, it is very difficult to learn. I was driving today (Wednesday) to get a feeling for the car, because it is my first time in a Daytona Prototype. Being here is definitely a very good experience."
Bobbi only lapped the track five times Wednesday before gaining more time on the track Thursday. While he admitted the session was just a test, he remained positive about a ride for 2008.
Cheever and Richard Antinucci also spent time in the No. 39. In addition, Cheever revealed a new number and a black-and-gold paint scheme were two changes for the 2008 season.
"This is the car we will race in the Rolex 24, but with different bodywork," Cheever said. "The car itself is going through constant evolution. We're making the chassis lighter and stiffer; we're changing the ergonomics. We have a very long list of things we need to change by the end of the year on the Fabcar. It will look different from this. It will have a new number and will black with gold trim -- very classy. It will have a more efficient lift over drag coefficient with the bodywork, and we've changed a lot of things within the parameters of the rules to make it more competitive."
Doran Racing Tests Five Drivers During Session
Doran Racing returned to action during the two-day November Test Days with four drivers in the No. 77 Ford Doran.
Memo Gidley, the team's lead driver during its abbreviated 2007 campaign, spent much of the time in the car. Brad Jaeger, who competed in the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona, also earned seat time.
Two drivers also hoping for more seat time included Gabriele Gardel, an Italian who won the 2005 FIA GT championship, and Arie Luyendyk Jr. Gardel made his debut Wednesday in a Daytona Prototype.
"This is my first time to America and to Daytona, and it is my dream to run the 24-hour race," Gardel said. "Today we just had a test, but hopefully this will lead to something for the Rolex 24. We should know something soon."
Luyendyk's father, two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Arie , was also on Luyendykhand but did not take part in the test.
The Grand American Road Racing Association, which operates and sanctions the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve and the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series, is the premier road racing organization in North America. The 15-race 2008 Rolex Series and the 11-race KONI Challenge Series calendars deliver professional sports car racing to key markets throughout North America in addition to being televised in the United States and Canada on SPEED and distributed globally through ESPN International. With title sponsorship support from Rolex Watch USA and presenting sponsorship from Crown Royal Special Reserve, the Rolex Series showcases emerging and legendary drivers from around the globe and thoroughbred racing machines from the industry's leading constructors and the world's top automobile manufacturers. Learn more about Grand-Am at www.grand-am.com.