Mexico City: GM Racing preview

First Rolex Series Sprint Race For Lowe's Fernández Team Adrián Fernández Returns to Hometown of Mexico City with Teammate Mario Haberfeld to Attempt First Sprint Race of 2006 Rolex Series INDIANAPOLIS - After running their debut race in...

First Rolex Series Sprint Race For Lowe's Fernández Team

Adrián Fernández Returns to Hometown of Mexico City with Teammate Mario

Haberfeld to Attempt First Sprint Race of 2006 Rolex Series

INDIANAPOLIS - After running their debut race in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series (the Rolex 24 At Daytona), open-wheel racing veteran Adrián Fernández and former British Formula 3 champion Mario Haberfeld head to Mexico City with their new team, Lowe's Fernández Racing. The team, one of nine entering Pontiac-powered Daytona Prototypes in the Mexico City race, looks forward to the event: last year's Rolex Series race in Mexico was well-received by fans and again promises to be successful as this year's event will be run in conjunction with NASCAR's popular Busch Series. Mexico City is also Adrián Fernández's hometown, and he's excited about racing in front of what should be a large following.

"Mexico City is still home to Adrián and he's very excited about returning, especially to race," said Tom Anderson, the team's co-owner. "His mother and father still live there and he has a lot of fans there. He's coming back to a big welcome and he's always thrilled to race in Mexico City."

Fernández will share the #12 Lowe's Fernández Racing Pontiac Riley Daytona Prototype (DP) with Haberfeld in the Rolex Series' second event in Mexico. He'll also drive the #57 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS in the Busch Series race on March 5. Fernández's primary focus, however, will be on the Rolex Series where he and Haberfeld plan to enter the remaining 13 races. Their #12 Pontiac ended up 26th in last month's Rolex 24 At Daytona endurance race due to damage caused by an accident but qualified seventh for the race and ran as high as third, proving that the team can compete with some of the top ones of the series.

"We didn't finish well at Daytona because Scott (Sharp) was involved in an incident unfortunately, which caused a lot of damage to our car," said Fernández, who also fields teams in the Indy Racing League with Sharp as one of his drivers. "It took an hour to repair it but the damage caused the engine to overheat; that was it. We got some great experience there and we had some practice time recently at Homestead so we're catching up. I think we have the potential to have a good season."

Fernández claims his team entered into the Grand American Rolex Series because the series was growing and racing was very competitive. Although the team bought their Pontiac Riley late in 2005, they were able to get a car from Riley Technologies by December 30, only a week prior to Daytona test days. They chose a Pontiac/Riley combination partly because they saw how well that type of car performed in 2005; #10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley drivers Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli took team and driver championships and helped Pontiac win the manufacturers championship.

What the team wasn't looking forward to were new rules for 2006 stating that all 5.0L-engined vehicles were to add 75 pounds of ballast weight to their chassis. This decision affected all Ford, BMW and Pontiac-powered race cars competing in the DP class of the Rolex Series. Many of Pontiac's drivers noted after the season opener at Daytona that their cars are now at a disadvantage to other cars with smaller-displacement engines such as Porsche or Lexus. Seeing as Grand American will constantly review competition adjustments throughout the year, the larger-displacement cars may still have success later in the season.

"Grand American is pretty good about keeping their six manufacturers in balance," said co-owner Anderson. "I think there's parity amongst the manufacturers in this league and as long as the sanctioning body is proactive in keeping it that way we'll be satisfied with the decisions they make. We believe that the series is moving in a forward direction and we're glad to be involved."

Pontiac's two TRG GTO.Rs (competing in the GT class of the Rolex Series) are coming off a second-place finish at Daytona. The #65 TRG GTO.R of Andy Lally, Marc Bunting, R.J. Valentine and Johnny O'Connell finished second in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Lally and Bunting will again drive the car at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez where they found success last year. They finished fourth at this track (with a heated battle for third place and the GT driver championship which they missed by only one point). The sister car of Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins - co-driven last year by Jan Magnussen - took first place here last year at the same race. Both cars performed well at Daytona in January and are promising to give as good a showing as last year (four wins and a team championship). The GTO.Rs' performance this season will soon be enhanced by the arrival of a third car campaigned by Pacific Coast Motorsports; their debut race in the season has yet to be determined.

-gm racing

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Paul Edwards , Mario Haberfeld , Jan Magnussen , Adrian Fernandez , Johnny O'Connell , Wayne Taylor , Kelly Collins , Andy Lally , Max Angelelli , Tom Anderson , R.J. Valentine , Marc Bunting