Daytona Winter test notes 2006-11-06

Testing Underway at Daytona International Speedway in Preparation for 2007 Rolex 24 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (November 6, 2006) -- A total of 25 teams and 40 cars from the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special...

Testing Underway at Daytona International Speedway in Preparation for 2007 Rolex 24

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (November 6, 2006) -- A total of 25 teams and 40 cars from the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve took to the 3.56-mile, 14-turn road course of Daytona International Speedway Monday for the first of a two-day test session in preparation for the 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The test was designed so that teams could get acclimated to the new BOSCH electronic control unit (ECU), which will be mandatory on all Daytona Prototypes beginning next season and on all GT machines by mid-year. Turning laps at Daytona Monday was a mix of Rolex Series regulars and potential newcomers, looking to solidify deals for January's twice-around-the-clock classic.

Italian hotshoe Max Angelelli--the 2005 Daytona Prototype co-champion and Rolex 24 At Daytona overall winner--turned the fastest lap of the day in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley with a 1:43.728 (123.554 mph) in the afternoon session. Patrick Long turned the second-quickest lap in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche Crawford for Alex Job Racing with a lap time of 1:44.202 (122.992 mph). In the GT class, Germany's Wolf Henzler turned the fastest lap, a 1:52.982 (113.434 mph) in the No. 72 Tafel Racing Porsche GT3.

Testing at the "World Center of Racing" will continue Tuesday, with cars scheduled to be on-track from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with an hour-long break for lunch at 12 p.m. noon.


Champ Car World Series rookie Katherine Legge made her first laps in a Daytona Prototype on Monday, running in the No. 84 Robinson Racing 74 Ranch Resort Pontiac Riley.

"Obviously, it's one of those races that no matter where you are in the world you've heard of," Legge said. "It's definitely something I've wanted to get involved in. I'm very fortunate to be here right now. They're interesting looking cars. It's unlike anything I've ever driven. It will be a good experience for me. At the end of the day, driving anything you can get you hands on is always good experience, and it adds to making you a better driver."

Legge plans to co-drive in the Rolex 24 with brothers Paul and Wally Dallenbach, along with owner-driver George Robinson. Paul Dallenbach also spent time in the car on Monday before Legge spent the bulk of the afternoon behind the wheel.

"It was a lot of fun," Legge said of her first experience in a Daytona Prototype. "I'm taking it easy at this stage. I don't want to do anything stupid. I'm getting used to the car and which way the track goes. I like the track. The car's a lot of fun to drive. It's very different to what I'm used to. The team is doing a great job, and obviously Paul's (Dallenbach) being very helpful with all of his experience."


NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitor Bill Lester was back at Daytona International Speedway Monday, turning laps in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Riley. Lester turned his first laps aboard a Daytona Prototype earlier this year also at the "World Center of Racing."

The team announced last month that Ian James and Henri Zogaib would pilot the No. 60 Lexus full-time in 2006, but still has a slot or two available for the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Lester hopes that his performance during the test could turn into a ride.

"Grand-Am has such a good formula," said Lester. "I like the fact that teams don't have to necessarily outspend everyone to win, and this Mike Shank Racing team has shown that. My roots are in road racing and this race has been on my mind for quite some time now. I just hope they'll be pleased with my performance enough to ask me back for the race."

Brazilian Oswaldo Negri Jr., who scored his first-career Rolex Series win alongside Mark Patterson in the 2006 Rolex Series finale at Miller Motorsports Park in MSR's sister No. 60 Flight Options Lexus Riley, was impressed with Lester's adaptation to the car.

"It was amazing how quick he got up to speed," said Negri, who turned the fastest lap of the morning session. "In my time in the series, I've seen many drivers climb into these cars and take a long time getting used to the feel. Bill got into a rhythm pretty quickly."

Michael Shank Racing will unveil its Rolex 24 At Daytona driver lineup for the No. 60 machine in a press conference on Tuesday morning.


One of the busier teams since the 2006 Rolex Series season finale at Miller Motorsports Park has been Alex Job Racing. The team, which finished fifth in the 2006 Daytona Prototype championship, will complete its sixth day of testing on Tuesday and is working hard to challenge for the 2007 Daytona Prototype championship with the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford. The team recently announced that it is focusing all of its efforts for the 2007 season on the Daytona Prototype program after 18 years of running GT Porsches.

"We've been doing quite a bit of testing since the season ended," said team owner Alex Job. "This program came on late last year and we didn't get to test much, so we're taking the opportunity to do a lot more this year. We're going to concentrate on competing for the Daytona Prototype championship with Ruby Tuesday and the No. 23 car. I've been wanting to race for overall victories for some time.

"For Ruby Tuesday, this year was a great start, a great first year. We didn't do Mexico and wound up fifth in the championship, which is respectable, but not good enough after leading the championship midyear last year. We're hoping to take it to the next level next year."

In addition to the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche, which will once again utilize Porsche factory drivers to be announced shortly, Job is also making good progress towards fielding a second Porsche Crawford. Job admits that the second car would not be in place by the Rolex 24 At Daytona, but could begin running as soon as Round 3 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"My goal for the second car is to be a good partner that complements Ruby Tuesday and sees good benefit to being in Grand-Am," Job explained. "We will have Porsche factory drivers in the No. 23 car only. The second car will be drivers I bring."

A longtime Porsche competitor, Job's new direction in 2007 has garnered strong support from the German manufacturer. After returning the marque to Victory Lane in Daytona Prototype competition in 2006, Job is hoping to bring a championship to Porsche next year.

"Porsche is very interested in Daytona Prototypes and would like to be a serious contender for the championship," Job said. "Porsche is pretty unique because they bring personnel to the race tracks that are available to everybody running a Porsche. They have encouraged me to focus on the Daytona Prototype championship, which is very good news to me."


Howard Motorsports brought its pair of Pontiac Crawfords to Daytona International Speedway, and quickly went to work on becoming familiar with the new BOSCH ECU. The team's No. 20 Pontiac Crawford was set up with the new Robert Bosch 4.3 electrical system, while the No. 2 machine used the system the team raced in 2006.

"It's going to take awhile," Howard Motorsports driver Butch Leitzinger said. "We're down here with two cars this week, and one of them is dedicated to getting the new system up and running. With that car, we missed most of the morning session trying to get it going, but we made a few laps near the end. It doesn't have the traction control and other systems working yet. It's going to the entire test here to get it working. Hopefully when we're finished here, we'll have it pretty well understood. It's a good idea, and in the long run it's going to be much better for the series."

In addition to regular co-driver Andy Wallace, Leitzinger was joined for the test by Raphael Matos.


Over the past few years, one whole row of garages has been dedicated to a massive fleet of vehicles from TRG, which earned an overall victory in the 2003 Rolex 24 At Daytona and the 2002 GT victory in the twice around the clock spectacular. This week is no exception, as TRG brought five Porsche GT3s to Daytona and an army of drivers in preparation for another run at Rolex 24 glory.

"We're here with five cars this week preparing these drivers for the Rolex 24 and some other guys that are looking at a whole season," said TRG owner Kevin Buckler. "We have three brand-new Porsches signed up for the Rolex 24 and hopefully for the full season. Jim Lowe and Jim Pace are leading the charge with the No. 66 car, and the No. 67 car will have Brett Milner, John Peterson, Michael Gomez and Murray Mardin."

The team has also entered Mike Solley, RJ Valentine and Pierre Bourque in the No. 44 Porsche GT3, Scott Schroeder, Duncan Ende, Grant Maiman and John Bibbo in the No. 65 Porsche and Bruce Dandrew in the No. 68 Porsche. Andy Lally, who co-drove with Marc Bunting to the 2006 Rolex Series GT championship with TRG, and Buckler himself have also turned laps in the TRG machines for setup purposes.

"One of the nice things about having five cars here is that we can use several different setups and decide what we like," Buckler said. "The (No.) 44 car has been fast today, and the 65 had an unfortunate incident in the bus stop, so we're trying to get that fixed. Basically, we're just getting these guys ready for the Rolex 24.

"We've got a really strong group of drivers for all the cars, and there's probably one more to come. We're working on getting the guys who haven't been here before familiar with the car and the track, and the guys that have been here ready to go. For us it's a fairly important week getting everybody reacquainted with the Speedway in a low pressure environment."

Buckler said the team is looking to field either one Daytona Prototype or two GT cars for the full 2007 season. The team is also likely to have a strong presence in the Grand-Am Cup Series with more details to come shortly.


Cheever Racing used the test to evaluate the No. 51 Fabcar chassis in a side-by-side comparison with the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve Porsche Crawford it raced throughout 2006.

"We need to check out all the opportunities that are given to us, because this series has become so competitive," said driver Christian Fittipaldi, who shared time in both cars. "We're trying to find an edge somewhere. The Fabcar is definitely a different creature compared to what we're used to. I think there is room for improvement, but in general, everything is going fine. We have to keep chipping away at it."

Cheever Racing took possession of the Fabcar--formerly the No. 58 Red Bull Porsche fielded by Brumos Racing--two weeks ago, stripped the chassis and built it back up. The team planned to test it at Putnam Park last Thursday, but did not due to a clutch problem. Harrison Brix also joined the team for the test, driving in the No. 39 Crawford. Owner/driver Eddie Cheever may also test the car on Tuesday.

"There are a lot of pluses and minuses for both cars," Fittipaldi said. "The Crawford is a more developed car because so many teams are running that car, as opposed to only one for the Fabcar. That made their life a lot harder. There is room for improvement in the Fabcar. We'll see where we're at Tuesday afternoon."


Italian racer Fabrizio Gollin--who competed with fellow countryman Matteo Bobbi for Doran Racing in the Rolex Series full-time in 2005--was back behind the wheel of the No. 77 Kodak/Sirius Ford Doran at Daytona Monday, eying a return to Rolex Series competition in 2007.

"I hope to at least be here for the Rolex 24," said Gollin. "If things work out, it would be great to contend for the championship, because this is my favorite championship. A lot of other series have good competition, but not many cars. Here, you are battling with so many good drivers."

Mexican pilot Jorge Goeters and Texan Forest Barber also tested the No. 77 Ford. Barber, the overall winner of the 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona, plans to compete in the 2007 twice-around-the-clock classic.

"I hope to be here, for sure," said Barber, who co-drove to victory in the 2004 Rolex 24 with Christian Fittipaldi, Terry Borcheller and Andy Pilgrim. "There's an outside chance I could do the other endurance races, but for now, I plan on being here in January."


Los Angeles-based team Sigalsport, which announced last month their plans to enter the No. 05 Sigalsport BMW Riley for drivers Bill Auberlen and Matt Alhadeff for the full 2007 Rolex Series season, are in the early stages of negotiations to add a second car to the roster, at least for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

"There's a possibility that we could have a second car here at Daytona," said Sigalsport team manager Emmanuel Lupe. "The biggest thing for us would be to get a car that was as close to race-ready as possible. We are talking with a few funded drivers right now, and we'll know more before the end of the year."

With its headquarters on the west coast, Sigalsport has perhaps the toughest--and longest--road to prepare for the Rolex 24. From the time the team left California late last week until it returns to the Golden State for the final time following the Rolex 24, the team transporter will have made eight transcontinental trips, nearly long enough for one lap around the world. The trips will include this week's test session, next month's test session at Homestead-Miami Speedway (December 5-6) and the traditional January Test Days (January 4-6, 2007), in addition to the trip for the race (January 26-28).


TruSpeed Motorsports, which made six starts in Rolex Series competition in 2006 campaigning the No. 47 Querencia Golf Club Porsche Riley with the father-son combination of Rob and Charles Morgan, is looking for increased involvement in the series in 2007.

"We'll be at the Rolex 24 At Daytona," said Rob Morgan. "Other than that, things are pretty much up in the air. There's the possibility to run just Daytona. There's a chance we could be at seven races, and there's a shot we could be full-time."

The No. 47 Porsche team--like the rest of the Daytona Prototypes--was spending Monday getting acclimated to the new Bosch ECU that will be mandatory on all machines in 2007.

"Our gearing is a little bit off right now on the infield portion of the track, but I've driven so many laps here," continued Morgan. "It is special to be a part of such a great race. You would be hard pressed to find a stronger driver contingent in all of motorsports. We're in the process of finalizing our driver lineup for the Rolex 24, which will be announced in December."


While Team Sahlen brought a four-car fleet comprised of three different marques, they did not have the Corvettes they will campaign in 2007.Instead, they tested a Porsche that the team raced in 2006; the Corvette raced by Zak Arnold; and a pair of Pontiac GTOs obtained from Jim Harrell's Horizon Motorsports.

While the team waits for Georgian Bay to finish up the Irv Hoerr Corvette chassis, it is using the three tests cars to familiarize itself with the tube frame cars.

Team Sahlen plans to pair Joe Sahlen with Joe, Will and Wayne Nonnamaker in the Rolex 24, in addition to running a pair of customer Porsches. The team plans to campaign a pair of Corvettes throughout the remainder of the season. In addition, Arnold will run his Corvette in the Rolex 24.


Randy Pobst, who won the GT class in the 2006 Rolex 24 in the No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche GT3, tested for the first time in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8, joining team regulars Sylvain Tremblay and David Haskell.

"This car ran real strong last year in its debut in the Rolex 24," said Pobst, who drove for Mazda in the Speed World Challenge. "I was real impressed to see a brand-new, built-up car run so strong for so long."

While the Mazda led portions of the Rolex 24, it retired while running second when a rock went through the radiator and led to terminal overheating problems after 10 hours. The team finished second in the Linder Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami in its second appearance in March, losing the lead to BMW driver Bill Auberlen at the white flag.

"This is a fantastic car," Pobst said. "It's a race car. It's very well balanced, easy to drive and it sounds great. It's a brand new experience for me."

Pobst met Tremblay in 1981, when he sold him a Fiat X-1/9 that he formerly autocrossed. "We're here to test, and also to get to know each other, the car and the team," Pobst said. "We'll wait and see what happens."

Tremblay was pleased with the progress of the test. "We came here with a strong testing plan, and we're on the right path to do what we need to accomplish," he said. "Last year was like a Cinderella story, to actually lead the Rolex 24 with a brand-new car. Then, reality set in."

Asked if Pobst will be on the team's lineup for the Rolex 24, Tremblay said, "I'd rather race with him than against him."


Roger Schramm's RVO Motorsports is campaigning the No. 12 Rock Valley Oil & Chemical Co. Pontiac Riley, which he will co-drive with Jack Baldwin.

"This is the ex-Adrian Fernandez Riley," Schramm said. "We're not only getting ready for the Rolex 24, we'd like to do the whole season. If we can't, we hope to do most of the races."

RVO tested at Daytona and Homestead prior to the 2006 season in a Pontiac Fabcar, but did not enter the car in any races.

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Wallace , Fabrizio Gollin , Butch Leitzinger , Eddie Cheever , Adrian Fernandez , Christian Fittipaldi , Andy Pilgrim , Bill Auberlen , Randy Pobst , Kevin Buckler , Wayne Nonnamaker , Ian James , David Haskell , Andy Lally , Terry Borcheller , George Robinson , Matteo Bobbi , Max Angelelli , Sylvain Tremblay , Katherine Legge , Patrick Long , Bill Lester , Rob Morgan , Charles Morgan , Jim Pace , Forest Barber , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Grant Maiman , Marc Bunting , Jim Harrell , Mark Patterson , Wolf Henzler , Harrison Brix , Paul Dallenbach , Joe Sahlen , Henri Zogaib , Jorge Goeters , Alex Job , Michael Shank , Roger Schramm , Jim Lowe , Duncan Ende , Scott Schroeder , John Bibbo , Pierre Bourque , Bruce Dandrew , John Peterson , Michael Gomez , Murray Mard
Teams Doran Racing , Team Sahlen , Alex Job Racing , SpeedSource , Michael Shank Racing