Rolex Series Ready For Six-Hour "Sprint" in 6 Heures du Circuit DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 17, 2005) -- After three-straight "sprint race" barnburners, the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series heads north of the border to Le Circuit...
Rolex Series Ready For Six-Hour "Sprint" in 6 Heures du Circuit
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 17, 2005) -- After three-straight "sprint race" barnburners, the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series heads north of the border to Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant for Saturday's 6 Heures du Circuit Mont-Tremblant (SPEED Channel, Live, 11 a.m. ET).
Since the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, the margin of victory in Rolex Series events has not exceeded 1.198 seconds in 250-mile races at Homestead-Miami Speedway, California Speedway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Included in the run was the closest finish in Rolex Series history when defending Daytona Prototype co-champion Scott Pruett drove his No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley across the finish line just 0.096 seconds ahead of Max Angelelli in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley to secure his first victory of the season.
That triumph served as a catalyst of sorts for Pruett and co-driver Luis Diaz, as the duo went on to take its second-straight triumph in the Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on May 1. The back-to-back victories allowed Pruett and Diaz to come roaring back into the Daytona Prototype title chase, as they trail Angelelli and his co-driver and car owner, Wayne Taylor, by 10 points (130-120) with four of 14 races in the books.
With victories in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Grand Prix of Miami and no finish lower than fourth thus far in 2005, Angelelli and Taylor have gotten out of the gates quickly in their pursuit of the Daytona Prototype title. They will need to continue to keep the pressure on this weekend, however, as Pruett and Diaz lead a host of talented drivers and teams in hot pursuit.
One year ago, the 6 Heures du Circuit Mont-Tremblant proved to be a turning point in the Daytona Prototype title chase. In that race, Pruett and then-co-driver Max Papis earned their first Daytona Prototype victories--as well as the first Rolex Series victory for CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing and Lexus--and opened the floodgates for the remainder of the season as they went on to collect three more victories on their way to the championship.
Meanwhile, Angelelli and Taylor encountered mechanical problems early on in the race that relegated them to a season-worst 13th place class result. Those lost points may have made the difference in the Daytona Prototype championship chase, as Taylor wound up 10 points shy on the final points table. Surely, Taylor and Angelelli will be looking for vindication this year.
While this weekend's race distance will be significantly longer than each of the previous three events, the ever-increasing competition and reliability of Daytona Prototype race cars will likely force the teams to maintain a "sprint race" mentality despite the six-hour format. While the CompUSA and SunTrust teams have been the only ones to stand on the top step of the podium through the first four races, plenty of others have shown the ability to run up front and are poised for breakthrough victories at any time.
Butch Leitzinger and Elliott Forbes-Robinson, co-drivers of the No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford for Howard-Boss Motorsports, have been frontrunners throughout the 2005 season as evidenced by their three second-place finishes in four races. Both drivers have plenty of experience and have what it takes to visit victory lane.
A little bit of bad luck seems to be all that has gotten in the way of the Krohn Racing/TRG squad's chances at victory. Jorg Bergmeister has started the team's No. 66 Pontiac Riley in the top-three positions in each of the past two races only to have contact with other cars remove him from victory consideration. He will be rejoined once again this weekend by Christian Fittipaldi for a formidable 1-2 punch. Likewise, the No. 67 Krohn Racing/TRG pairing of Nic Jonsson and car co-owner Tracy Krohn has produced two top-five finishes from four starts, and is ready to move onto the podium.
Another team to watch will be the No. 2 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford trio of Andy Wallace, Milka Duno and Jan Lammers. In the Rolex 24, Wallace and Lammers ran at or near the front for 22 hours--more than three-times the length of the 6 Heures du Circuit Mont-Tremblant--on their way to a third-place result in the No. 20 CITGO machine they shared with NASCAR star Tony Stewart. Likewise, the No. 2 machine was in contention well past the halfway point with Duno, Indy Car stars Dan Wheldon and Dario Franchitti, and Dario's brother, Marino Franchitti. The Duno, Wallace and Lammers combination may prove to be just the ticket for victory on Saturday.
Pontiac currently leads the Daytona Prototype engine manufacturer standings and brings a stout lineup to Canada in addition to the aforementioned SunTrust, Krohn/TRG and Howard-Boss teams. Among those looking to help Pontiac add to its lead are the No. 54 Kodak EasyShare Bell Motorsports duo of Terry Borcheller and Ralf Kelleners. The 2003 Daytona Prototype champion and Kelleners head to Mont-Tremblant--where Borcheller finished on the podium with a third-place performance last year--on the heels of a third-place run at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The No. 6 Mears Motor Coach Pontiac Riley of Michael Shank Racing has also finished on the podium in 2005, and the driver lineup of Mike Borkowski, Duncan Dayton and Canada's own Kenny Wilden should be a formidable trio on race day. Spirit of Daytona Racing brings a pair of Pontiac-powered Crawfords, with Bob Ward, Roberto Moreno and Henry Zogaib sharing the No. 07 Waste Services Inc. machine and Doug Goad and Stephan Gregoire in the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona/Spiralz Custom Jewelry Crawford. Jim Matthews and Guy Smith, who share the No. 39 Jim Matthews Racing Pontiac Riley for Orbit Racing, have also run up front this season.
While Pruett and Diaz remain the only Lexus-powered winners thus far in 2005, they certainly aren't the manufacturer's only hopes for a repeat win in Mont-Tremblant. The No. 02 New Century Mortgage Lexus Riley driving tandem of Cort Wagner and Stefan Johansson has been quick throughout the early stages of the season and are hungry for a victory.
The same can be said for Doran Racing's No. 77 Crown Royal Special Reserve Lexus Doran pair of Italian drivers, Matteo Bobbi and Fabrizio Gollin. While their best result so far was a fifth-place run in the Rolex 24, Gollin and Bobbi have each qualified on the front row this season and have shown the speed to run with the leaders.
Completing the lineup for Lexus is the No. 15 DLGL/HRIS Software Lexus Riley of CB Motorsports and drivers Chris Bingham, Hugo Guenette and Jacques Guenette Sr. Bingham has had success in other Rolex Series classes previously, while the Guenettes--who hail from Quebec--will be looking for strong results in their home province.
Also not to be overlooked is a strong entry of BMW-powered Daytona Prototypes. Michael McDowell and Memo Gidley have run at or near the front of the field throughout 2005 in the No. 19 Make A Wish/Air Force Reserve/Commercial Defeasance BMW Riley and appear to be poised for a run at the podium. Likewise, the No. 8 Rx.com/Synergy Racing BMW Doran of Burt and Brian Frisselle and the Southard Motorsports No. 3 PAP-Parts/OZEXE BMW Riley in the hands of Shane Lewis and Darius Grala have also led races this season.
Brumos Racing's pair of Porsche-powered Fabcars have enjoyed previous success at Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant. David Donohue and Darren Law will share the team's No. 58 Red Bull-sponsored machine, with sports car legend Hurley Haywood and JC France slated for the No. 59 Brumos Porsche. Essex Racing's No. 5 Speed Secrets Ford-powered Crawford completes the Daytona Prototype lineup with drivers Joe and Justin Pruskowski and Canadian Ross Bentley.
The chase for the GT championship has also heated up, as Craig Stanton has taken over the class points lead after four of 14 races by eight points, 114-106, over Marc Bunting and Andy Lally. This weekend, Stanton will share the No. 80 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 Cup with longtime co-driver David Murry and Mae Van Wijk. If the Synergy trio is to grow or maintain Stanton's points lead, however, they're going to have to overcome a strong challenge from a three-car assault from BMW Team PTG.
After taking the class victory in each of the last two races and sweeping the GT podium at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the BMWs appear to be firing on all cylinders. Two-time GT champion Bill Auberlen--who was part of the driving lineup in both of the team's 2005 victories--will join RJ Valentine and Kelly Collins in the No. 21 F1 Air BMW M3 this weekend, while Auberlen's regular co-driver, Joey Hand, moves over to share the No. 16 F1 Air BMW M3 with Tom Milner and Justin Marks. Boris Said returns to the team and will share the third PTG entry with Chris Gleason and Ian James.
Another GT team to watch will be Bunting and Lally in the No. 65 Auto Gallery/TRG Porsche GT3 Cup. The duo knows what it takes to win championships, as they proved by winning the Super Grand Sport (SGS) crown last year. While they lost the class points lead with an 18th place run in the Road & Track 250, there's little doubt that they will return to the GT podium. Bunting and Lally will be joined on the two-car Auto Gallery/TRG team this weekend by Dave Master and Marc Bullock, who will share the No. 63 Porsche GT3 Cup.
Other strong Porsches in the field include all four TPC Racing entries, as well as three from Team Sahlen, two from Sigalsport and one each from Autometrics Motorsport, SAMAX, Tafel Racing and Eurosport Racing. Returning to Rolex Series competition this weekend will be the No. 33 Ferrari of Washington Maserati Trofeo of Jeff Segal and Joao Barbosa, while Kris Szekeres, Mike Weinberg and Frank Del Vecchio will co-drive the No. 23 Pontiac GTO for Horizon Motorsports.
The weekend schedule gets underway on Thursday afternoon with testing for both Rolex Series classes from 12:00 Noon until 4:00 p.m. ET. On Friday, the Rolex Series GT machines will be first on-track at 9:30 a.m. for a 30-minute exclusive session before the Daytona Prototypes join the session from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. The Daytona Prototypes will then get the track to themselves for their own 30-minute session that will conclude at 11:30 a.m. At 1:00 p.m. the GT machines return for another 30-minute practice, followed by a Rolex Series "all-skate" from 1:30 to 2:00 p.m. and another Daytona Prototype only session from 2:00 to 2:30 p.m. Friday's schedule draws to a close with GT qualifying from 2:45 to 3:00 p.m. and Daytona Prototype qualifying from 3:15 to 3:30 p.m.
Saturday's race day schedule will see the Rolex Series on-track for a 15-minute warm-up session from 9:30 to 9:45 a.m. ET, followed by Round 5 of the 14-race 2005 Rolex Sports Car Series, the 6 Heures du Circuit Mont-Tremblant at 11:00 a.m. The race is subject to a six-hour time limit.
SPEED Channel will provide live television coverage of the race beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, May 21. Live coverage throughout the weekend will also be available on the official web site of the Grand American Road Racing Association, www.grandamerican.com.