first view Orbit Racing driver Mike Fitzgerald shared his local knowledge with co-drivers Joe and Jay Policastro as the trio set the fifth-fastest GT time during the first practice for the Rolex Sports Car Series race at Phoenix International ...
Orbit Racing driver Mike Fitzgerald shared his local knowledge with co-drivers Joe and Jay Policastro as the trio set the fifth-fastest GT time during the first practice for the Rolex Sports Car Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. Fitzgerald set a lap time of one minute 4.086 seconds on the 1.51-mile infield road course, then turned the No. 44 Classic Industries Porsche 911 GT3 RS over to the Policastros, who are racing at Phoenix for the first time.
"It was a challenge!" Joe Policastro exclaimed. "It's something I've never been used to - it's almost as flat as a pool table out there. There's hardly any banking at all and you really have to back off in some spots, which is not normal. It will take some time to get used to it and we need to get the right gear ratio, but I think we're doing okay."
Orbit team owner Rodger Hawley and The Racer's Group owner Kevin Buckler started their professional race careers together, after meeting at Phoenix International Raceway in 1993. They joined forces to compete in their first pro race together in 1994, were both hooked on the sport and continued to build teams that are now at the top of the GT ranks.
"Phoenix was my gateway to professional racing," Hawley recalled. "That's when we first started to get serious. Before that, we were just putting numbers on the cars, waxing them and going out there. When we started coming to PIR, we were exposed to people who were more serious than us and we got our ass kicked. We decided we better figure this game out.
"We started doing well here and we wanted to do a professional race, but the learning curve was pretty serious. We showed up in t-shirts and jeans; we had no idea what to be concerned about. Ignorance is truly bliss at a race track. Surprisingly, we did very well and that gave both of us a real hunger to go forward."
Mike Fitzgerald lost the 2003 Phoenix race "by about a foot". He hopes his wife Jennifer and young son Alex will bring luck at his home track this year. Alex, age 3, has attended only one race - at Road Atlanta in 2003 - and Fitzgerald won. Alex also watched the Rolex 24 at Daytona on television, when Fitzgerald helped Orbit Racing to the GT victory and second overall. The youngster will be at Phoenix on Saturday, so the pressure is on.
"He thinks I win every race, so we can't let him down," Fitzgerald said.