Major Announcements for 2005 Highlight Lexus Grand American Champions Weekend FONTANA, Calif. (October 31, 2004) -- As the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series 2004 campaign winds down with today's Lexus Grand American 400k, the past two days...
Major Announcements for 2005 Highlight Lexus Grand American Champions Weekend
FONTANA, Calif. (October 31, 2004) -- As the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series 2004 campaign winds down with today's Lexus Grand American 400k, the past two days at California Speedway have been filled with major announcements for the 2005 season.
In addition to Saturday's 2005 Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup Series schedule announcements, many teams used the final race weekend of 2004 to share their plans for next year. What follows is a recap of many exciting developments:
THE RACER'S GROUP ANNOUNCES FOUR-CAR ROLEX SERIES EFFORT
On Saturday, 2003 Rolex 24 At Daytona overall winners The Racer's Group announced plans to field four entries in the 2005 Rolex Sports Car Series, including a pair of Crawford Daytona Prototypes. The team will also continue to field a pair of Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars in the Rolex Series GT category.
"I couldn't be more thrilled to make this announcement today, as this marks the dawn of a new era for our company and a fresh new challenge," said team owner Kevin Buckler--who was also one of the drivers during the team's 2003 Rolex 24 triumph. "We've had a great deal of success in the 10 years our company has been in business, and a long and fruitful relationship with Grand American. We look at our expansion to the Daytona Prototype class as a new opportunity to showcase the business model and the abilities of our mechanical and professional teams to the world, and to demonstrate to other prospective Rolex Series teams that it is a viable place to come do business."
The team has designed a fully-integrated and comprehensive sponsorship, marketing and branding program, with a centerpiece of four, identically-liveried cars under side-by-side transporters. The team plans to announce its engine, driver and sponsor lineups in the near future for the 2005 season, and will announce its program for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in November.
"Right now, the possibilities are numerous and we want to wait a few more weeks to make sure that the chemistry of these partnerships is just perfect," Buckler said. "We're looking to strengthen our partnerships with Grand American, Crawford and Porsche with our 2005 program, and we'll do so by preparing relentlessly, racing hard and providing value for our sponsors on and off the track."
MEARS AND BORKOWSKI JOIN MICHAEL SHANK RACING FOR 2005
Michael Shank Racing owner Mike Shank announced Saturday that the team will campaign the Mears Motor Coach-liveried Pontiac Riley for drivers Paul Mears Jr. and Mike Borkowski in the 2005 Rolex Sports Car Series. The team completes its first season of Daytona Prototype competition today with Oswaldo Negri Jr. and Burt Frisselle driving the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Doran.
"We are excited to be announcing that we will be competing the full 2005 season with Mike and Paul," Shank said. "The Riley Pontiac combination has shown itself to be a strong package this season and we are looking forward to getting familiar with the Riley chassis and beginning to prepare for next season.
"My long-standing relationship with Toyota and Lexus is important to me. (Car builder) Kevin (Doran) has built an excellent race car and provided phenomenal support all season, so I am working on keeping that side of our program together for next season. Hopefully, we will have something positive to announce about that in the near future, as we would like to continue our Lexus Doran program as well."
After opening the 2004 season with a Ford Multimatic package, Mears and Borkowski switched to a Pontiac Riley combination midway through the year. The cars were previously prepared by SpeedSource.
"Mike and his guys do a great job, and have shown that week-in and week-out this season," Mears said. "It's going to be an exciting partnership, and I look forward to seeing the results that it yields."
MICHAEL BAUGHMAN RACING MOVES UP TO DAYTONA PROTOTYPES
After competing in the Rolex Series Super Grand Sport (SGS) class throughout 2004, Michael Baughman Racing announced on Saturday that it will step into the Daytona Prototype category for 2005. The team will field a Pontiac-powered Crawford chassis for team owner/driver Michael Baughman and co-driver Bob Ward.
"We have been racing with this group of professionals (at Grand American) for several years now and they have clearly demonstrated time and again that they are in the business of elevating sports car racing in North America to a height never before reached," Baughman said. "We wanted to continue working with them and expand our involvement in the series so that we both enjoy the rewards of the phenomenal success the Daytona Prototype has become. We see no reason to expect anything but continued growth and market visibility for the class."
The team plans a full-season effort for 2005, and will expand its driver lineup for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. The team anticipates taking delivery of the new car within the next few weeks.
"Shakedown runs will come November 15," Baughman said. "We certainly expect to participate in the Homestead test days (November 30-December 2)."
The team has competed in Grand American events for the past several seasons, and Baughman and Ward co-piloted the No. 47 Porsche GT3 Cup in the SGS class this season. The team also fielded the No. 46 Chevrolet Corvette in SGS, as well as a pair of Pontiac Firebirds in the Grand-Am Cup Series. All of those cars are currently for sale.
MARGRAF RACING WITH NOLTE ASSOCIATES JOIN THE DAYTONA PROTOTYPE RANKS
Margraf Racing along with Nolte Associates announced on Friday that the team will compete in the full 2005 Rolex Sports Car Series with the No. 31 Pontiac Riley. The team is making its Daytona Prototype debut this weekend with Mike Borkowski and car owner George Nolte sharing the driving duties.
"This is definitely the place we want to be," said team owner Bill Margraf. "The Rolex Series is developing into an extremely competitive series. It has lots of momentum and its only going to get better."
With experience in various racing formulas in the United States, Nolte gets his first taste of Daytona Prototype competition today. Nolte and Associates is a 400 person civil engineering company and is headquartered in Sacramento, Calif. It is one of the largest civil engineering firms in the western United States with offices in California, Colorado, Utah and Mexico.
"This is the best motor racing decision I've ever made," said Nolte. "The cars are a blast to drive. Every time I go out onto the race track, I come in with a huge grin. I'm looking forward to my first race at Fontana and finalizing my co-driver for the 2005 season."
Based in Auburn, Calif., Margraf Racing is owned and managed by Bill Margraf. The team was founded 22 years ago and maintains a state-of-the-art racing preparation facility. Over the years, Margraf Racing has furthered the racing careers of drivers such as 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice, Champ Car driver Oriol Servia, 2005 Daytona Prototype driver Memo Gidley and Olympic champion skiers Phil and Steve Mahre among many others.
FINLAY MOTORSPORTS SIGNS ON FOR 2005 ROLEX SERIES WITH NEW DAYTONA PROTOTYPE
Finlay Motorsports--which fielded a program in the Grand-Am Cup Series in 2004--announced on Friday that it will move into the Rolex Series Daytona Prototype category for the 2005 season with a new BMW-powered Riley chassis. The car will be driven by 2004 Star Mazda champion Michael McDowell and Champ Car veteran Memo Gidley.
"This is a monumental year for motorsports," said team owner Rob Finlay. "In recent memory, no other series has generated such a huge amount of interest and expectation in its infancy. We're thrilled to be a part of it and allow others to enjoy it as well."
To that end, the team also announced a unique program to provide racing enthusiasts with an opportunity to be an intimate part of the action. Ten Motorsports--which is owned and operated by Finlay Motorsports--is pioneering a concept called "fractional motorsports membership." Individuals or corporations may become team members with full benefits for a fraction of the costs needed to fund a racing team, and no commitment to the overall team management. Pit access, team and driver meetings and marketing rights are only a few of the benefits that members will receive.
"We're giving racing aficionados an opportunity to truly experience the thrill and excitement of being a member of an auto racing team, without the enormous cost and time commitment necessary to produce a winning team," Finlay explained.