Rolex Roundup 2005-11-18

Rolex Roundup -- November 18, 2005 News, Notes & Quotes from the Grand American Road Racing Association DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (November 18, 2005) -- Close and exciting competition on the race track throughout the 2005 Grand American...

Rolex Roundup -- November 18, 2005
News, Notes & Quotes from the Grand American Road Racing Association

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (November 18, 2005) -- Close and exciting competition on the race track throughout the 2005 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series translated to the best season yet in terms of race fans passing through the turnstiles.

The Rolex Series season saw an increase in attendance of 20 percent in 2005, with Daytona International Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Barber Motorsports Park, Watkins Glen International and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course reporting strong gains this year. However, the largest crowd to see the Rolex Series came south of the border for the season-ending La Gran Final de la Serie Rolex Sports Car at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

Representatives from race promoter OCESA have reported that nearly 112,000 fans turned out to see the Rolex Series in its inaugural two-day visit to Mexico City. Attendance during Friday's practice and qualifying sessions was an impressive 43,751, while 68,184 Mexican race fans came out to support countryman Luis Diaz in the No. 01 Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley for a two-day total of 111,935.

"We knew that Mexican fans are passionate about motorsports, and we saw that first hand with good crowds throughout our two days in Mexico City," Grand American President Roger Edmondson said. "It is important to remember that this was the first time many of these fans have seen the Rolex Series. Those fans saw an exciting show on race day, with Luis running up front in the Daytona Prototype and a nail-biting finish in the GT championship. This was only the beginning and we feel strongly that--just as most of our established promoters saw significant increases in their attendance this year--we will see an even larger crowd the next time around in Mexico City."


When looking at the final numbers from the recently-completed season, it becomes obvious that the 14-race 2005 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series was the best yet for the six-year old series.

The 2005 average of 45 starters per race shattered the previous record of 40 established in 2001. The Daytona Prototype category continued its growth as a 22-car average field for 2005 marked the first Rolex Series season to see more than 20 Daytona Prototypes per race. The reworked GT class was also strong in 2005 with an average of 23 race cars per event.

In the case of the 2005 Rolex Series season, quantity equaled quality with close and exciting racing at every turn. The season featured an average of 9.5 lead changes per race, with a Rolex Series record of 44 lead changes during the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and a total of five races featuring 10 or more lead changes. There were 38 different drivers that led at least one lap in 2005 and an average of six different leaders per race, and the driver who led the first lap did not go on to win the same race at any time this season.

Exciting finishes were commonplace in the Rolex Series, as 10 of 14 races were decided by 10.5 seconds or less, with seven margins of victory inside 3.9 seconds. Outside of the Rolex 24 At Daytona--which had an 11-lap margin of victory--and the Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca--which finished under full-course caution--the average margin of victory in 2005 was just 4.3 seconds. The 2005 season also featured the closest finish in Rolex Series history at California Speedway, where Scott Pruett beat Max Angelelli to the stripe by 0.096 seconds.

The seven different overall winners in 2005 established a new Rolex Series record, topping the previous record of six established last year. Leading the way were No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley co-drivers Angelelli and Wayne Taylor who claimed five victories, followed by No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley teammates Pruett and Luis Diaz with three wins.

Butch Leitzinger and Elliott Forbes-Robinson won twice in the No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford for Howard-Boss Motorsports, while their teammates in the No. 2 CITGO Pontiac Crawford--Andy Wallace, Milka Duno and Jan Lammers--earned a single victory in the 6 Heures du Circuit Mont-Tremblant. Others with one victory include Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen winners Nic Jonsson and Tracy Krohn in the No. 67 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley, Jorg Bergmeister and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 66 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac Riley in the 250 at Phoenix International Raceway, and Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell, who co-drove the No. 19 Make A Wish/Air Force Reserve/Commercial Defeasance BMW Riley to their maiden Rolex Series triumph in La Gran Final de la Serie Rolex Sports Car at Mexico City for Finlay Motorsports.

Perhaps the most impressive stat from the 2005 campaign was the fact that--for the first time in Rolex Series history--the Daytona Prototype championship-winning No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley completed all 2,050 laps and 6,047.388 miles.


With the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show set to make its debut at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando from December 1-3 and the 2005 Rolex Champions Banquet slated for Orlando's World Center Marriott on Wednesday, November 30, it stands to reason that Grand American will be well-represented at PRI.

The Grand American Road Racing Association will join many other Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup suppliers with a display at the world's largest auto racing trade show. Grand American will also host a news conference on Thursday, December 1 featuring 2005 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype co-champions Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli, as well as an official unveiling of the new Spirit of Daytona Racing Pontiac GTO that will compete in the Grand-Am Cup Series in 2006 and an announcement of Synergy Racing's 2006 Daytona Prototype plans. In addition to these announcements, numerous other Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup cars and teams will be part of the promotional mix at PRI.


Grand American Road Racing Association President Roger Edmondson will be among the featured speakers at the sixth annual Sports Business Journal Motorsports Marketing Forum in New York City. Edmondson will step to the podium at the New York Marriott East Side on Tuesday, November 29 alongside many other movers and shakers within the motorsports industry. Later in the week, Grand American Director of Competition Mark Raffauf will participate in a similar roundtable forum as part of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Motorsports Engineering Symposium at the PRI show.


Porsche Motorsport North America recently announced that its new six-cylinder, 3.8-liter Daytona Prototype engine will power four cars in the top Rolex Series class beginning with the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Brumos Racing--which fielded a pair of Fabcars powered by 3.6-liter Porsche engines in 2005--will again run its familiar No. 58 and No. 59 machines with the new Porsche engine.

Co-drivers in the No. 58 will again be David Donohue and Darren Law, with the legendary Hurley Haywood and JC France set to share the team's No. 59 machine. The team will utilize the brand-new Fabcar Evolution chassis. As was announced in October, Porsche will also take over as the new powerplant in the rear of the No. 8 Racing Doran. The team has yet to announce its drivers for the 2006 season.

Joining the Daytona Prototype ranks for at least the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona will be Alex Job Racing with a brand-new Crawford chassis. The Florida-based team will also announce its driver lineup shortly, and all four teams will participate in the Rolex Series two-day open test at Homestead-Miami Speedway on December 5-6.


Team Seattle, the charitable racing group that raises funds for the Seattle Children's Hospital, recently announced that it will once again partner with Synergy Racing for the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona on the weekend of January 26-29.. To date, Team Seattle--which was founded by Don Kitch Jr.--has donated a total of $1.8 million to the hospital.

Kitch and six other Team Seattle drivers recently tested with Synergy Racing at Daytona International Speedway. In the 2006 Rolex 24, Kitch will be joined by co-drivers Dave Gaylord and Chris Pallis, all of whom competed in the 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona. New to the team for 2006 will be Will Diefenbach, brothers Ken and Wes Hill and Chris Pennington. An eighth driver will be announced at a later date.


The dramatic conclusion of the 2005 Ferrari Maserati 400 at California Speedway is one of three motorsports moments to be nominated for the Los Angeles Sports Council's Greatest Moments of 2005. In Round 3 of the 2005 Rolex Series, No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley driver Scott Pruett beat Max Angelelli in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley to the stripe by a series-record 0.096 seconds to earn his and co-driver Luis Diaz's first victory of the season.

Joining Pruett on the ballot are Toyota Atlantic Championship standout Katherine Legge, who became the first woman to win a major open-wheel race in North America with her victory at Long Beach in April and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series rising star Kyle Busch, who became the youngest winner in NEXTEL Cup Series history with his triumph in the SONY HD 500 at California Speedway on Labor Day weekend.

Fans may vote online for their favorite L.A. sports moments of 2005 by visiting Voting ends on December 5 and the winners will be featured in a 90-minute awards presentation at 8 p.m. PT on Sunday, December 11 to be televised on KCAL-9.


On Thursday, MAZDASPEED Motorsports announced that it will continue its partnership with South Florida-based SpeedSource, Inc. to produce a Mazda RX-8 for competition in the Rolex Series GT class. The car will make its competition debut during the 2006 Rolex Series season, and is based on a tube-frame jointly developed by SpeedSource and two-time Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Constructor champions Riley Technologies. The car will be powered by Mazda's three-rotor 20B rotary engine.

"Mazda has always been a leader in both amateur and professional motorsports," said MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Manager Steve Sanders. "Developing a Grand-Am GT-legal car is the next step in expanding our already successful Grand-Am program. Expanding our support to competitors interested in racing the RX-8 at the next level is a logical extension of our motorsports program."

Coordinating the development for SpeedSource is team owner Sylvain Tremblay. As a driver, Tremblay co-drove the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 to its second consecutive Grand-Am Cup Series Grand Sport (GS) team championship with David Haskell, who earned the 2005 Grand-Am Cup GS driver championship. The duo also earned the GS manufacturer's title for Mazda. Tremblay sits atop the Grand-Am Cup Series all-time class winners list with 20 career class wins.


Officials from Spirit of Daytona Racing announced recently that the team has expanded its program for 2006 to include a Pontiac GTO in the Grand-Am Cup Series. The team will continue to field its Pontiac-powered Crawford Daytona Prototype next year.

"Our goals are two-fold," said team co-owner Troy Flis. "On one hand, we will create a program which is a stepping stone for individuals wanting to progress into the Grand American Rolex Series. The other is to offer a competitive and professional environment for the sportsman driver looking to have fun while vying for a podium finish. We have put a lot of research into the development of these race cars and are able to use our resources from the Daytona Prototype program to assist with the Grand-Am Cup program."

The team will test its GTOs throughout the off-season in preparation for the 2006 Daytona Test Days at Daytona International Speedway on January 4-7.


GM Racing announced earlier this week that Pontiac GTO.R race cars that made their successful debut in the 2005 Rolex Series GT class are now available for customer sale. Identical cars to the No. 64 and No. 65 TRG Pontiac GTO.Rs that claimed four GT class victories in the second half of the 2005 Rolex Series season will be deliverable by December 16, 2005 and will be available for Daytona Test Days.

"The Pontiac GTO.R has firmly established itself as a strong competitor in the GT class of the Rolex Series," said GM Racing Director Mark Kent. "After entering the series mid-season, the two TRG cars scored four wins, three additional podium finishes and two poles in eight races. We're now offering this winning car to teams at prices comparable to those of other GT class race cars--which means significantly less than comparable professional standard race cars in other series. The Grand American concept and rules not only provide extremely close and competitive racing, but also enable us to offer this GTO.R package as the basis of a remarkably cost-effective race season for a professional team."

A complete vehicle--excluding engine management and data system--will be offered to customer teams for $275,000 with a required spares package (suspension, body and driveline components) for an additional $100,000.


State and local officials from throughout Virginia gathered at Virginia International Raceway on Thursday for the groundbreaking of the Virginia Institute for Performance Engineering and Research (VIPER). Synergy Racing hosted the ceremony to break ground on the state-of-the-art vehicle dynamics testing facility to be constructed in the VIR Raceplex next to the team's headquarters.

Among the officials on hand for the event was Virginia House Delegate Danny Marshall, who is also a co-owner of Synergy Racing and an occasional driver, as well as VIR co-owner Connie Nyholm. Speakers included Virginia Commerce and Trade Secretary Michael Schewel, as well as representatives for the Institute for Advance Learning and Research, Halifax County, Virginia Tech, U.S. Congressman Virgil Goode's office, and Old Dominion University.


In a more accurate representation of the types of vehicles that compete in the class, the Grand-Am Cup Series Sport Touring class will now be known as Street Tuner... Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup Series "sprint race" lengths will remain two-hours and 45-minutes and two-and-a-half hours, respectively, in 2006... No. 19 Make A Wish/Air Force Reserve/Commercial Defeasance BMW Riley driver Memo Gidley kick-started his off-season by participating in Southern California's famed "Love Ride." Gidley joined Paul Jr., Paul Sr. and Mike Teutul of American Chopper fame, Tonight Show host Jay Leno and Academy Award-winning actor Peter Fonda among 20,000 motorcyclists on the one-day ride. The 22nd annual event benefited the Muscular Dystrophy Association and victims of Hurricane Katrina.


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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , Alex Job Racing , SpeedSource