CHAMPIONSHIPS CULMINATE LEXUS' RECORD-BREAKING SEASON IN GRAND-AM ROLEX SERIES COMPETITION Torrance, Calif. (September 25, 2008) -- Two championships, a Rolex 24 at Daytona victory and a host of records were among the many highlights for Lexus...
CHAMPIONSHIPS CULMINATE LEXUS' RECORD-BREAKING SEASON IN GRAND-AM ROLEX SERIES COMPETITION
Torrance, Calif. (September 25, 2008) -- Two championships, a Rolex 24 at Daytona victory and a host of records were among the many highlights for Lexus during the 2008 Grand-American Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype season.
Lexus-powered drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas took home the series driver's championship, while their Chip Ganassi Racing team garnered its third series title in the past five years to increase Lexus' championship haul to six since entering the series in 2004. Beginning with a dominating victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Lexus-powered cars went on to register six victories for the season -- the highest total by any manufacturer in the series.JAt Daytona, Lexus became the first manufacturer to win three consecutive Rolex 24 races in more than 20 years when drivers Pruett, Rojas, Juan Montoya and Dario Franchitti combined for a two-lap victory. The dominating win was indicative of Lexus' endurance excellence as the car led the final 101 laps and three hours and 19 minutes. Overall, the team led 252 laps, while Lexus-powered cars were in front for 286 of the 695 circuits. Over the manufacturer's spectacular three-year Daytona run, Lexus-powered cars have led 1,257 laps -- more than 60 percent of the laps run at Daytona during that span.
Other Lexus race wins came at Homestead, Virginia, the Watkins Glen six-hour event, the July Daytona sprint race and at Barber Motorsports Park. The Daytona sprint race was notable as the closest finish in series history when Pruett's Lexus powered past Alex Gurney's Pontiac down the front stretch on the final lap to win by just 0.081 seconds.
In wrapping up the driver's championship, both Pruett and Rojas registered historic feats in their #01 Lexus. For Pruett, it marked a record eighth American sports car championship, breaking the mark he previously held along with the late Peter Gregg. It's his second Rolex Series title with Lexus to go along with previous championships in IMSA GTO (1986, 1988), Trans-Am (1987, 1994, 2003) and IMSA GT Endurance (1986).
Pruett also was a part of three additional records during the season. With his victory at the Rolex 24 in Daytona, he became the first driver ever to register seven class victories in America's most prestigious sports car race. The long-time Lexus driver also extended his record for career Daytona Prototype wins to 20 -- all coming with Lexus power. Just as consistent as he is fast, Pruett also was part of an amazing streak that saw him finish in the top-10 in 29 consecutive races -- by far the longest streak in Grand-Am history -- before it was snapped in the rain at Watkins Glen.
For Rojas, his historic title wasn't celebrated by just himself and the team, but by an entire nation as he became the first Mexican driver ever to win a major championship outside of his home country. For the year, the Lexus-powered duo closed out the 2008 campaign 30 points ahead of their closest competitor.
As fine as of a season as it may have been for the drivers, it may have been even more magical for Chip Ganassi Racing - Lexus' flagship team since joining the series. It began at Daytona, where the team became the first in history to win three consecutive overall Rolex 24 races and concluded with the Ganassi squad becoming the first Daytona Prototype team to win three team championships. In between, Ganassi extended its Rolex Series record for team victories to 21.
The team's tremendous consistency is evidenced by its winning three championships with a different driver combination in each as Pruett teamed with Max Papis in 2004, Luis Diaz in 2006 and Rojas this season.
In addition to the Ganassi efforts, Southard Motorsports also fielded Lexus power for 13 events during the 2008 season with drivers Shane Lewis and Bill Lester. The team registered eight top-10 qualifying efforts and three top-10 finishes in a star-crossed season. The team was forced to miss the season finale in Salt Lake City after suffering heavy damage to their car in the penultimate round of the championship at New Jersey.
Lexus-powered entries have now won 23 races and 24 pole positions in 68 events over the past five seasons in which the manufacturer has served as an engine supplier for the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series.
The Lexus Daytona Prototype V8 powerplant is a 5.0-liter, race-modified version of the production engine utilized in the LS, GS and SC models. The 32-valve, DOHC, fuel-injected powerplant features an aluminum block and cylinder heads while producing 500 horsepower at 7000 rpm's. The engine is developed and assembled by Toyota Racing Development (TRD), U.S.A., in Costa Mesa, Calif.
The Rolex Sports Car Series will resume again next season at the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 25 with the Chip Ganassi Racing team looking to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive Rolex 24.
Lexus-Powered Records Set in 2008
- Chip Ganassi Racing becomes first team to ever win three consecutive overall Rolex 24 races
- Scott Pruett becomes first to register seven Rolex 24 class victories
- The #01 Lexus finishes in the top-10 in 29 consecutive races dating back more than two years
- Chip Ganassi Racing becomes first team to win three Rolex Series team championships
- Scott Pruett extends Daytona Prototype win record to 20 -- all with Lexus power
- Chip Ganassi Racing extends Rolex Series win record to 21 -- all with Lexus power
- Scott Pruett becomes first driver in American history to win eight major sports car titles
- Memo Rojas becomes first Mexican driver to win a major championship outside of Mexico
- The #01 Lexus wins the closest race in Grand-Am history by .0081 seconds in July at Daytona.