Daytona24: Krohn Racing preview

Krohn Racing Revs Up for Rolex 24 At Daytona The 47th Annual Rolex 24 At Daytona Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series revs up at Daytona International Speedway this week. Over 50 cars are entered for the twice-around-the-clock endurance race on ...

Krohn Racing Revs Up for Rolex 24 At Daytona

The 47th Annual Rolex 24 At Daytona Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series revs up at Daytona International Speedway this week. Over 50 cars are entered for the twice-around-the-clock endurance race on January 24-25, 2009.

The Krohn Racing driver line-up will include Tracy Krohn paired again with endurance sports car veteran Eric van de Poele and Oliver Gavin in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Lola. The No. 76 entry includes Nic Jonsson with former Formula One star Ricardo Zonta and English sports car ace Darren Turner. The six drivers were paired identically in last year's Rolex 24 At Daytona.

TRACY W. KROHN, Team Owner/Driver No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Lola:

Krohn Racing had a very successful test this month. Do you feel with the advancement of the Proto-Auto Lola chassis and the new Roush-Yates Ford that you have the car to beat at this year's Rolex 24 race?

"I think saying that we have the car to beat is way too bold. Certainly we have a competitive car and we think we will be competitive, but Daytona is a long grueling race for everyone and will most certainly be filled with surprises as it always is. That includes weather, crashes and mechanical failures. Hopefully we have done a good job to minimize the latter. "How tough is the competition going to be this year and why?"The competition will be harder this year because the level of every team that is in this thing for the year is very high and the bar gets raised every year. It seems like you have to be about 25 percent better each year and that is just really tough for everyone. All you have to do is one race to fully understand and appreciate that."

As a driver, how do you balance between driving hard for the win and pacing yourself to save the car for the entire race and your teammates?

"The first priority has to be not to sacrifice the car and be patient. If you do not finish all your work it can go down the drain. This race is becoming a 24 hour sprint race. Nonetheless, you must prioritize, staying out of the pits, so race craft must be skewed toward conservatism until the latter part of the race, if you are that fortunate to still be there and not having been collected by someone else's failure to maintain control or a mechanical mishap!!"

What do you enjoy the most and what do you dislike about a 24-hour race?"That's easy! I really enjoy the start and I enjoy the finish with the emphasis being the finish because any 24 hour race is always a real test and just finishing brings a lot of joy. Obviously, that means that not finishing is the thing I would enjoy the least!!"

What makes the Daytona Rolex 24 race so special? "When you are finished with this race, it feels like you have been in a battle. This track is very fast and very physical, so conservation is a key factor here. By that I mean not just conserving the moments in which you put the car at risk, but also managing tires, fuel, drivers, and crew. When you are done, and you have accomplished all those things then you should be in a good position to claim a podium. Easier said than done!!!!!"

Will we see you on the podium at the end of the 24 hours? "Assuming we execute as I have discussed above, then we have really great shot at a podium. A lot can happen, but we have a very good team and very good drivers in Oliver Gavin, Nic Jonsson, Ricardo Zonta, Eric van de Pole and Darren Turner. We have excellent crew and excellent leadership. Of course all of these skills are crucial to being on the podium. The good news is that we have been there before and we expect good things through proper preparation and I believe that we are better prepared for this race than we have ever been!!"

ERIC VAN DE POELE, Driver, No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Lola:

Krohn Racing had a very successful test this month. Do you feel with the advancement of the Proto-Auto Lola chassis and the new Roush-Yates Ford that you have the car to beat at this year's Rolex 24 race?

"It will be the first time we are going to do 24 hours with this car, the Proto-Auto Lola. So, even though all tests and races last year the two cars have been very reliable, 24 hours is always a very hard challenge. I believe that we are ready for this, and believe very much in the combination of Lola-Ford with Krohn Racing."

How tough is the competition going to be this year and why?"It is always very hard because everyone wants this victory. We have definitely better chance than last year but to win a 24 hour race with such good teams around is incredibly difficult. We need speed, chance, consistency, intelligence, motivation and a lot of discipline. When all goes well together, we get 10 more percent of a chance to win the race."

With all your endurance racing experience, how do you balance between driving hard for the win and pacing yourself to save the car for the entire race and your teammates?"In a 24 hour race, the key is to try not to lose time. The problems come when you begin to try to gain time on the competition for different reasons. And it is exactly at that time that you need discipline for knowing your pace of speed. Practice is very important because all of the team must be psychologically and physically quiet between practices and race. It means, if you have wrong pre-race practice with a lot of work for the mechanics, it is not a good start.

It's also very important to feel in the car when it is the right moment to be more aggressive with the car. It must be when you really have a good rhythm, the car and tires give you 100% confidence, and then only there you can force yourself a bit for taking advantage of the conditions. If you do that at the wrong moment, there is a big chance of mistake and then the race could be over. Never drop in the "over-drive", this is discipline.

What do you enjoy the most and what do you dislike about a 24-hour race?

"I do not really like 24 hour races because it's too long. 12 hours is my favorite distance for endurance race. In general, I prefer sprint races as we have in the Championship.

For me the 24-hour race could have a sense if it gave the same hard challenge for the car then for the drivers. I want say that we do a championship for two drivers per car and the 24 Hour race is part of this hard championship. My dream is to win a 24 Hour race with two drivers like in the past. Then, we can speak about heroes. When a car failed, the race is over. It should be the same for the human fact. But I know that not many people think like me, but I have a huge admiration for all those past drivers who won 24 hour races with two drivers per car.

And what I love in the 24-hour race is the emotions in general. There is nothing better than to cross the line and to see the emotions of the team to reach this goal. There are so many people working for the same goal, from the kitchen, through the doctors, physios, mechanics, PR, engineers, spotters and even more that I forget. When you cross the line and you can offer to all these people the joy of a victory. It is the best satisfaction and present you can give. Even when you finish last, the effort has always been huge and everybody tries not to cry, but with the very long week behind it is very difficult to avoid that. I love this moment!"

OLIVER GAVIN, Driver, No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Lola:

Krohn Racing had a successful test this month. Do you feel with the advancement of the Proto-Auto Lola chassis that you have the car to beat at this year's Rolex 24 race?

"I think that we are going to have a very competitive car. We are certainly the best prepared this team has ever been for the Rolex 24. But as so many people on the team know and so many people in the field know, so much of this race comes down to luck. Not much of it comes down to getting it all right. I'm not sure there are not many cars that started from pole position that have gone on to win. The one thing that we've got is we seem to have the pace of the front-runners. Then you've just got to be smart and stay out of the pits -- only come in to the pits for your scheduled pit stops and drivers changes and look after your car. It is going to be particularly hard this year because the race is starting two hours later. That means we are going to be running the cars longer in the daylight, when you've had a hard night run. If it gets warm, that could be a real test for everybody. It's going to be a very, very tough race this year. There are lots and lots of cars out there that could win. And you've really got to be on top of your game, both with the speed of the car and also with the way you drive it and the way your teammates drive it. You've all got to be on the same page with the way you are going to go about that, otherwise something will trip you up. It will only take maybe just one thing going wrong for you not to be the winner, so it's going to be a very tough race."

How do you balance between going for the win and pacing yourself to save the car for the entire race?

"Again, you have to take a lot of your cues from the team, your team manager, engineer and the people calling the race and understanding how many times you're going to be driving the car, how long you're going to be in the car for, what's the tire situation, how many sets of tires you're going to be able to use during the race, fuel economy, and seeing whether we can go one or two laps longer on a tank of fuel, and pushing the window further and further and further on and seeing if we can stretch the fuel out. I'm sure the weather will have an influence. It usually does rain at some point over the race. So again that's something that you are going to have to take into account -- wet tires, slippery conditions and all the challenges that come with driving in a wet race, and especially a wet 24-hour race, such as driving at night in the rain. You've really got to balance all those sort of things out and still be pushing hard and driving hard but trying to make sure you look after the equipment the best you can. Like I say, come 3:30 on Sunday afternoon, we're going to have been running around about two hours more than we usually do in daylight and that could take a real toll on the machinery. Nobody is really sure how that's going to affect things. That will be something that will likely be determined by the weather."

What do you enjoy the most and dislike the least about a 24 hour race?

"I always like being in the car when the sun comes up because that is a great time and the circuit is usually quite fast. You usually feel like you are over the worst part of the race. I always find that the worst part of the race is about 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. That's when the race seems to be going on and on forever. At that point this year, we'll only be 12 hours in, whereas at that point in the past, you've been in about 14 or 15 hours. It will have a slightly different affect this year. Certainly 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning is the hardest point. Just when the sun comes up is the point I do enjoy the most. Also, if you happen to be there right at the end and given the chance of the victory, certainly being in the car at that point is fantastic! If you can influence the overall result and come away with a victory that would be quite something."

Will we see you on the podium at the end of the 24 hours?

"I really hope so. I really hope so for Tracy, most of all. He's got this great group of people together. He's got a great team. He's got now a race winning car in the Lola. I would love to be able to drive with him and get the car up there onto the podium. It would be quite an achievement for everybody involved. I really do think that the other car on the team (No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Lola) stands an excellent chance. It's got great pace and, with all things considered, I think they stand a really good chance of a victory."

NIC JONSSON, Driver, No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Lola:

Krohn Racing had a successful test this month. Do you feel with the advancement of the Proto-Auto Lola chassis that you have the car to beat at this year's Rolex 24 race?

"I do believe that the Proto-Auto Lola with the Ford power plant is a very competitive package going into the 2009 season. The Krohn guys -- with the engineers, management and all the crew guys -- did a fabulous job over the winter. They have been tirelessly working hard towards our goals. Of course, the first goal this year will be to win the race. What's better than to win the Rolex 24? But there is obviously a lot of very good, hard competition out there. You have a lot of other manufacturers, both engine and car manufacturers, with a proven package over the last six or seven years. I do feel we have the reliability and the speed, as well as the driver lineup and the crew. The team has been doing a lot of practicing on brake changes, on tire changes, driver changes, pit stops. I can't say that we can be better prepared than we are this year. We have to go out there and see how far that will carry us because in a 24-hour endurance race it's not all about speed. It is 85 to 90 percent about preparation. I can say that we are very well prepared and you obviously need to have some luck as well to not be in the wrong place at the wrong time. You need to have a little luck and make sure you stay out of trouble and not get caught up in anything. I do believe we definitely have a package that could be running out front."

How do you balance between going for the win and pacing yourself to save the car for the entire race?

"This is all about teamwork. I'm sure we are going to have the engineer, David Brown, and Jeff Hazell, in our ear the whole time, when the green flag drops to the checkered, to not take any changes, just stay out of trouble and to make sure we have good pit stop, routine pit stops, to not do anything different than you do every time you go out and test. It's all about balance. You need to think 24 hours and not 2 hours when it comes to speed. We need to make sure we have a car to race with when there are two or three hours to go of the 24 hours. That's when it's really going to matter to have a car where you have saved brakes, gearbox, engine, the whole car still in good shape then you are in a good position to go racing and have a fantastic result. So I think experience, both on the pit stand and also behind the wheel with the drivers, is going to be very important this year with the field and we have a very experience driver line-up. Ricardo Zonta, who is obviously extremely successful in anything he drives, from Formula 1 cars to endurance races with Peugeot is now with us. Darren Turner has a proven track record with two Le Mans wins in the GT1 class the last two years. All the guys are very experienced. We are not the youngest crowd out there but we have a lot of experience between us. We've all been winning races and championships so we know what it takes to win races and also endurance races. As I've said, we have a fantastic crew behind us that are prepping our cars. We are ready! We feel very fortunate to be a part of this Krohn Racing team in 2009 again and to be able to go out there and compete and hopefully compete for victories and the championship."

What do you enjoy the most and dislike the least about a 24 hour race?

"I really enjoy the challenge of how the car runs for 24 hours. The technology has come so far these days that endurance races have almost turned into sprint race. The equipment is so good and the cars are normally so well prepped that you can go hard the whole time. But if you do that, you will jeopardize a lot of other things and will probably run into some kind of issue like running into someone or where you don't keep enough attention to what is going on around you. It's just a huge challenge. To be able to do that with a first class team and have everything set up for you is fantastic.

The least thing I like is that I don't get to sleep. All race car drivers are probably pretty lazy and we like to sleep. And that's one thing we don't really get to do too much during a 24-hour race. You actually start much earlier with driver's meeting and autograph session. We have the easy jobs compared to the rest of the team. The crew guys are the ones that really do a fantastic job. They are up early in the morning. They can't sleep during the night because there is always something going on. They always have to be on top of their game. At least as a driver you can go back to the motor coach, get something to eat, lay down for a few hours and relax. You close your eyes and you don't really sleep, but at least you get to rest your body and that's nothing the crew guys get to do. They are the real troopers here. The drivers have the easy job and the crew guys are the ones that do the tough part."

Will we see you on the podium at the end of the 24 hours?

"Of course, I would like to say yes, but there is a long journey to get there. I do believe we have the package and the talent and skill to get there. As I said before, you need a bit of luck and everything going your way. If that's the case and we run a clean race without having any mechanical issues and clean, good, scheduled pit stops through the race, I definitely think that the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford-powered Proto-Auto Lola has a very good chance to be standing on top of that podium at the end of the 24 hours next weekend!"

RICARDO ZONTA, Driver No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Lola:

Krohn Racing had a successful test this month. Do you feel you have the car to beat at this year's Rolex 24 race?

"I hope so. I think we are in quite a good position for the race because of things we learned last year. It will be very similar. At a 24-hour race it is more important for the reliability of the car than the high speed of the car."

How tough is the competition going to be this year?

"I think with the tires the cars are going to be closer on lap times than last year. It will make the competition tighter because of the times."

What have you been doing to train and prepare personally for the race?

"In Brazil it is summertime now so I go to the beach and train quite a lot, I am running, swimming, surfing, and water skiing. That is keeping me fit for the race and the season."

DARREN TURNER, Driver, No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Lola:

Krohn Racing had a very successful test this month. Do you feel with the advancement of the Proto-Auto Lola chassis and the new Roush-Yates Ford that you have the car to beat at this year's Rolex 24 race?

"We have a very competitive car, if it's the car to beat only time will tell. Certainly we have seen good pace, but more importantly the car is very strong over a whole stint, which is a most important ingredient."

How tough is the competition going to be this year and why?

"That's what is so great about Daytona 24 hour...there are at least a dozen cars that could all take the victory. OK, some are more favored to do this than others, but the races isn't between only a few strong teams and cars. The competition is very strong, which makes it all the more exciting."

With your endurance racing experience, how do you balance between driving hard for the win and pacing yourself to save the car for the entire race and your teammates?

"That maybe the main difference between Daytona and say Le Mans. Le Mans is very much a race to push the car as hard as you can from lap 1 until the end. Whereas Daytona you have to protect the car to make sure it's still strong at the end of the race. I believe Daytona is harder on the cars than most 24-hour races."

What do you enjoy the most and what do you dislike about a 24 hour race?

"What is there not to like about 24 hour races?! I love the fact you get so much time behind the wheel and the challenge of being fast over such a long time. It's more of a mental challenge to keep the pace throughout and not make mistakes."

What makes the Daytona Rolex 24 race so special?

"The nature of the circuit makes it so different from any other 24-hour race. Having to deal with traffic on the banking and being three wide, running inches from the wall is a great experience...especially for drivers who don't encounter banking during their normal racing season. Also the chance to win a Rolex is always going to be a good incentive!!!!"Will we see you on the podium at the end of the 24 hours? "Bloody hope so!!!!!"

DAVID BROWN, Krohn Racing Team Manager and Engineer:

Krohn Racing had a successful test this month. Do you feel you have the car to beat at this year's Rolex 24 race?

"I feel we have put ourselves in a position to compete at the front.We are among several strong teams who are able to win the race. The race is not just about speed. Reliability, serviceability, pit-work, race management from the drivers and the team and a certain amount of good fortune are required to win the race. There are only so many things we can do in preparation and the rest we will have to deal with as situations arise, but at least we have covered much of the ground necessary to put ourselves in contention. I know the whole team is looking forward to the race,the team have made a lot of progress with the Proto-Auto Lola and we are keen to demonstrate this."

How tough is the competition going to be this year?

"It's going to be an intensely competitive event. There are several strong teams,all of whom can win, and you never know in the Rolex 24 what will happen at the end."

Your drivers think it takes the right combination of preparation and luck to win a 24 hour race.What are your thoughts?

"It is not unusual to suffer at the hands of others during this race. It's grueling for the drivers. The conditions are variable and often hazardous in the night, but our drivers know to keep out of trouble and if misfortune intervenes then we are prepared to deal with whatever the race throws at us."

-credit: kr

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Krohn Racing