Phoenix: Thursday practice report

Weaver best Rice to lead UnitedAuto 200 opening day practice. PHOENIX (April 18, 2002) -- Englishman James Weaver bested hometown favorite Buddy Rice to clock the fastest time of the day during UnitedAuto 200 presented by azcentral.com practice...

Weaver best Rice to lead UnitedAuto 200 opening day practice.

PHOENIX (April 18, 2002) -- Englishman James Weaver bested hometown favorite Buddy Rice to clock the fastest time of the day during UnitedAuto 200 presented by azcentral.com practice sessions. Weaver piloted Dyson Racing Team's #16 Thetford/Norcold Ford-powered Riley & Scott to a 54.381 lap around the twisty 1.51-mile road course, while Rice clocked the second-fastest time of the day with his 54.710 lap in the #6 Miracle Motorsports Ford Riley & Scott.

Ralf Kelleners' 57.739 lap in the #8 Rand Racing Nissan Lola was the quickest in the SportsRacing Prototype II class, followed by G&W Motorsports' #07 Momentum Motorcars BMW Picchio with a 58.965 lap time. The Scuderia Ferrari of Washington #33 Girrad-Perregaux Ferrari 360 GT led the GT class with a 1:00.876 lap during the second practice session, while the Flis Motorsports #90 Corvette topped the American GT class with its 1:01.141 lap. Park Place Racing's #5 K&N Filters Saleen S7R was fastest in the GTS class with a 1:02.335 lap time.

Qualifying for the UnitedAuto 200 will be held on Friday beginning at 5 p.m.

Park Place Racing, K&N Filters Announces Collaboration
The #5 Saleen of Park Place Racing surprised everyone when it arrived in Phoenix carrying the livery of its GTS rival K&N Filters Racing. Rodney Mall, CEO for K&N Engineering, announced today that K&N will sponsor the Park Place Racing #5 Saleen S7R for the UnitedAuto 200. Mall also announced that he would co-drive with current Saleen driver Chris Bingham. The K&N Filters Ultima GTR will be entered at Phoenix, but will be used only as a back-up vehicle for the race.

"This opportunity presented itself and I thought it was one worth exploring," commented Mall. "We've worked hard to make the Ultima ready for competition and the car is ready to race and we will have it at Phoenix as a back-up car. The Saleen is an incredible car and this is an opportunity for two independent teams to explore other options." Those options could include partnering with Park Place Racing for other races.

Chris Bingham noted, "We're excited about teaming up with K&N Filters and Rodney. This is really a chance to take two teams with a lot of potential and make them better. We'll see how things go at Phoenix and have plans to talk more about our relationship following the race."

Intersport Racing Hopes to Repeat On Anniversary of First Win
Intersport Racing won its first-ever race last year in Phoenix in a thrilling late-race battle between Intersport's #37 Banana Joe's Judd-powered Lola and Dyson Racing Team's #16 Thetford/Norcold Ford-engined Riley & Scott. Both teams have returned to Phoenix for a rematch with slightly different driver lineups. Oliver Gavin made the thrilling pass of Butch Leitzinger for the win last season, but neither driver is back for this year's UnitedAuto 200.

This year Intersport team owner Jon Field will partner with Rick Sutherland in the Banana Joe's Lola, while two-time driver champion James Weaver teams with Chris Dyson in the #16 Dyson entry. "There are some really good cars in the field this weekend. We will have to see how things come together," Field remarked. "You never want to be too optimistic. We will definitely have our work cut out for us. I'll be very happy if we end up with a spot on the podium."

Three Teams Looking to Extend Winning Streaks
Three teams will try to extend their winning streaks during Saturday night's UnitedAuto 200. Rand Racing's #8 Nissan Lola holds the longest streak of any single car with four-straight victories to its credit in the SportsRacing Prototype II class. The streak started with the team's debut in Daytona last season at the Finale and includes a class win and third-place overall finish at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Nextel 250 and Grand American 400.

Doran Lista Racing's #27 Judd-powered Dallara holds a three-race overall winning streak. The Dallara picked up its first win at the Rolex 24 and went on to capture the Nextel 250 in Miami and Grand American 400 in Fontana.

Flis Motorsports has a four-race American GT winning streak between its pair of Corvettes. The team's #09 Corvette won the season Finale and the Rolex 24, while the #90 Corvette has captured the last two AGT victories in Miami and Fontana.

Looking for a Miracle in Phoenix
The #6 Miracle Motorsports Ford-powered Riley & Scott made its debut in Phoenix last year with a disappointing last-place finish due to oil pressure problems. This season the team has returned to the desert with CART Toyota Atlantic champ Buddy Rice joining team owner John Macaluso to post a serious threat for the overall win.

Rand Debuts Second Car
Rand Racing debuted its second SportsRacing Prototype II entry today. The #7 Nissan Lola took to the track with Nic Jonsson and Marino Franchitti joining team owner Bill Rand. The new car could be the biggest threat to the #8 Rand Lola's four-race winning streak.

New GT Rule Changes Should Tighten the Field
Several changes were made in the GT class rules regarding restrictor size and weight requirements last week in an effort to balance the field. The BMW M3 V8 restrictor size has increased from 29 mm to 30 mm, and the Ferrari 360 GT had its restrictor changed from 30.8 mm to 32.0 mm. The Ferrari also now has the option of fitting an aftermarket gearbox from the list of approved models in the 2003 Daytona Prototypes regulations.

Several changes were put in place for Porsche machines. The 2002 model had its minimum weight reduced from 2550 lbs. to 2450 lbs. The 2000 and 2001 model year Porsches got an air restrictor change. Single restrictors changed from 43.1 mm to 45.0 mm, and twin restrictors changed from 30.8 mm to 32.0 mm. The 2000 and 2001 Porsches are also now allowed to re-weld the unibody seams and add additional roll bars. Headers and exhaust systems are now free on all Porsche models with a maximum 110 dba noise level. The 5.5-inch clutch has now been approved for all Porsche models, as well.

Briody Switches Vettes
After racing with ACP Motorsports at the start of the season, Jim Briody has moved over to the #90 Corvette of Flis Motorsports. He will partner with Paul Menard, who made his Rolex Series debut with the American GT victory at the Grand American 400 in Fontana.

New Class, Same Battle
Darren Law and Terry Borcheller fought for the GT class points lead for nearly the entire 2001 season, and this year the two are at again, but this time in the SportsRacing Prototype II class. Last year Borcheller drove a BMW, chasing Law in his points-leading Porsche, but this year has seen a switch. Borcheller now leads the points in his Nissan, with Law in pursuit in a BMW.

American GT Points Race Heats Up
The American GT team standings hold the closest points race of the Rolex Series. The top-four teams are separated by less than 10 points. Flis Motorsports #09 Corvette (95 points) holds a one-point lead over its #90 Corvette (94), while ACP Motorsports (90) and Morgan Dollar Racing (88) remain within striking distance.

Friendly Law
Darren Law is on his way to becoming one of the nicest household name in his hometown of Phoenix. The 2001 Rolex Series GT champion is one of only a few local celebrities featured in the Friendly Pontiac, GMC, car dealership television commercials. The dealership commercial featuring Law will air throughout the entire month of May on all local Phoenix stations and several cable channels.

Phoenix International Raceway will host the UnitedAuto 200 presented by azcentral.com, April 18-20. Tickets are available online at www.phoenixinternationalraceway.com or by calling 602-252-2227. Additional information about the Rolex Sports Car Series and Grand-Am Cup Street Stock Series can be found online at www.grand-am.com.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Dyson Racing