Rolex Series Makes Second Trip South of the Border with Entry List Full of Championship Contenders DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 28, 2006) -- When the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve made ...
Rolex Series Makes Second Trip South of the Border with Entry List Full of Championship Contenders
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 28, 2006) -- When the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve made its inaugural trip to Mexico City for the season finale last November, the championship battle was all but decided. With the Daytona Prototypes and GT machines traveling back to Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez this weekend--March 4 at 4:15 p.m. ET, tape delayed on SPEED, 8:00 p.m. ET--for this season's second race, the title chase couldn't be more wide open.
Last month's Rolex 24 At Daytona winners--Casey Mears, Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon--are atop the Rolex Series point standings, but with obligations in other series, will not make the trip to Mexico. With the Rolex 24-winning No. 02 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley absent this weekend, teammates Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri Jr. are the de facto Daytona Prototype points leaders, and look to maintain the lead with a strong showing this weekend. The duo teamed with Champ Car World Series drivers Justin Wilson and A.J. Allmendinger to finish second in the Rolex 24 in the No. 60 Flight Options Lexus Riley for Michael Shank Racing.
The No. 60 machine of Negri and Patterson leads a strong two-car effort for the MSR operation. The team's No. 6 Graydon Elliott Capital/Mears Motor Coach Lexus Riley, which led 33 laps early on in the Rolex 24, should be near the front again this weekend, as 2003 Champ Car champion Paul Tracy joins regular pilot Mike Borkowski in the Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing with MSR machine.
A team looking to rebound in Mexico City is the defending Daytona Prototype champion No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley. The 2005 championship-winning duo of Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor clinched the crown at the circuit last fall, but after teammate Emmanuel Collard made contact with a spinning GT machine just before the six-hour mark of the Rolex 24 left the No. 10 Pontiac unable to continue--relegating the champs to a 29th-place class finish--the SunTrust team has an uphill battle in front of them if they want to repeat.
Brumos Racing will bring a pair of Daytona Prototypes to Mexico City, looking to re-establish their winning ways from years past. The No. 58 Red Bull Porsche Fabcar--co-driven by Darren Law, David Donohue and Sascha Maassen to a fourth-place overall finish in the Rolex 24--will undoubtedly be a contender south of the border. Regular teammates Law and Donohue have each won in Rolex Series competition and should be considered among the favorites. The second Brumos Racing entry, the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar, will again be shared by sports car legend Hurley Haywood and JC France.
The Mexican fans will assuredly have a lot to cheer about, as a pair of hometown heroes look to capture the victory in front of the expected sellout crowd. Mexican Luis Diaz, paired with 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion Scott Pruett, were just 16 laps shy of a victory in last year's race at Mexico City, but a late pit stop for fuel dashed the hopes for the crowd favorite No. 01 CompUSA/Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley, which led 62 of the 90 laps. The duo is back together in 2006, looking to avenge their misfortune from a year ago.
Adrian Fernandez, another Mexico City native and likely the biggest Mexican racing star, didn't fare well in his Rolex Series debut in last month's Rolex 24, as contact with another machine relegated his No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley to a 26th-place Daytona Prototype finish. Fernandez and Brazilian teammate Mario Haberfeld look to get back on track at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, and will have the backing of the crowd.
The duo that benefited the most from the No. 01 machine's misfortune last November was Michael McDowell and Memo Gidley. The Finlay Motorsports pair claimed their first Rolex Series overall victories in the 2005 season finale, leading 28 laps after starting from the pole position. The duo looks to return to victory lane aboard the No. 19 Playboy/Uniden/Palms Ford Crawford after switching from BMW power and Riley chassis at the end of last year. The second Finlay Motorsports entry--the No. 28 Make A Wish/Z-Line Designs Ford Crawford--will be co-driven by team owner Rob Finlay and Canadian Michael Valiante.
Krohn Racing has also entered a pair of Daytona Prototypes in the 250-mile event around the 2.518-mile, 16-turn circuit. Switching from Pontiac to Ford power, the No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Riley--which was driven to a fifth-place overall finish in the Rolex 24 by car owner Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson, Jorg Bergmeister and Colin Braun--will be joined by the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley this weekend. Krohn and Jonsson will pilot the No. 75 machine, while Bergmeister and Braun will share the No. 76 machine.
Two teams with high hopes heading into the year that experienced terminal mechanical problems in the Rolex 24 At Daytona are Cheever Racing and Howard-Boss Motorsports. Team owner Eddie Cheever and co-driver Christian Fittipaldi teamed with Patrick Carpentier to lead 74 laps in the twice-around-the-clock-classic, but mechanical problems with two hours remaining eliminated the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve Lexus Crawford from contention. Cheever and Fittipaldi will look to rebound this weekend.
The No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford for Howard-Boss Motorsports garnered plenty of pre-race attention at the Rolex 24, as the all-star duo of Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace was joined by 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Tony Stewart. However, a series of mechanical issues throughout the race didn't allow the team or car to get in a consistent rhythm, finishing 15th in class, but never in serious contention for the lead. Leitzinger and Wallace will share the machine throughout the season, and starting this weekend, will begin their push for the 2006 title.
Five teams featuring past Rolex Series class race winners heading to Mexico City are: Scott Maxwell sharing the No. 5 Essex Racing Ford Crawford with James Gue; Doug Goad co-driving with Larry Oberto in the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Racing Pontiac Crawford; Milka Duno sharing the No. 11 CITGO Racing by SAMAX Pontiac Riley with Marino Franchitti; Chris Bingham and Randy Ruhlman in the No. 40 Preformed Line Products/Coyote Pontiac Riley for Derhaag Motorsports; and Terry Borcheller and Harrison Brix in the No. 77 Kodak/Sirius Ford Doran for Feeds The Need/Doran Racing.
A handful of cars are looking to break through with their first overall victories this weekend, including: Brian Tuttle and Jonathan Cochet in the No. 0 SAMAX Pontiac Riley and the No. 7 SAMAX BMW Riley for Tuttle Team Racing; Shane Lewis and Randy LaJoie in the No. 3 Whelen Engineering/TrueChoice Motorsports BMW Riley for Southard Motorsports; Burt and Brian Frisselle in the No. 8 GlycoMax Porsche Doran for Synergy Racing; Paul Gentilozzi and Tomy Drissi in the No. 50 Rocketsports Ford Crawford; Alex Figge and Ryan Dalziel in the No. 89 Playboy/Vonage Pontiac Riley for Pacific Coast Motorsports; and Alex Gurney and Bob Stallings in the No. 99 GAINSCO Insurance Pontiac Riley for GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing.
In the GT category, a total of 13 machines will make the voyage to Mexico City. Headlining the class is a pair of Pontiac GTO.Rs for TRG, as the No. 64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R is the defending race winner and the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R clinched the 2005 GT team title on the track in November. The No. 64 Pontiac will be shared by Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins this weekend, while Marc Bunting, Andy Lally and RJ Valentine will pilot the No. 65 machine. A third TRG entry, the No. 66 Comfort Systems USA/Johnson Commercial Development Porsche GT3, will be shared by Steve Johnson and Robert Nearn.
Tafel Racing is also fielding three machines this weekend. The No. 72 NEC/Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3, which started from the class pole in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, will again be shared by Robin Liddell and Wolf Henzler. Team owner Jim Tafel and Andrew Davis will co-drive the No. 73 NEC/Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3, and Eric Lux and Charles Espenlaub will pilot the No. 74 Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3.
David Murry and Leh Keen, each with past Rolex Series class victories, team up in the No. 80 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3, looking to rebound from their 22nd-place class finish in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Spencer Pumpelly, part of the Rolex 24 winning team for TPC Racing, joins Synergy Racing this weekend in the No. 81 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3, but a co-driver has yet to be announced.
The No. 05 Alhadeff Motorsports/Motul/GRW.com.mx/enVista/OMP BMW M3--which was put on the class pole by Bill Auberlen in the season finale last year--returns this year for another run at the race win. Auberlen co-drove with Gene Sigal to a runner-up finish in the race last November, but returns this year with Matthew Alhadeff as his co-driver. Sigal will co-drive the No. 04 Motul/GRW.com.mx/enVista/OMP BMW M3 with Peter MacLeod for Sigalsport.
A third BMW M3 will also compete this weekend, as Adam Pecorari, Matt Connolly and Tom Weickardt will share the No. 21 P1 Groupe BMW M3 for Matt Connolly Motorsports. The final two GT machines--entered by SAMAX--will both have an opportunity to compete for the race win. Robert Bell and Martin Jensen will share the No. 17 SAMAX Porsche GT3 while Canadians Greg Wilkins and Dave Lacey will co-pilot the No. 71 SAMAX Porsche GT3 for Doncaster Racing.
The weekend kicks off with Rolex Series practice on Thursday, March 2 at 2:00 p.m. ET. Round 2 of the 2006 Rolex Series schedule will take the green flag on Saturday, March 4 at 4:15 p.m. ET, and will air on SPEED at 8:00 p.m. ET the same day.
As with each of the races on this year's Rolex Series schedule, live timing and scoring from all on-track activities will be available at the official website of Grand American Road Racing Association, www.grandamerican.com.
Mexico City Fast Facts
WHO: Grand American Road Racing Association
WHAT: Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve
WHERE: Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez (2.518-mile, 16-turn road course)
Round 2 -- Rolex Sports Car Series
250 miles, 2