SCC: Daytona: Round one preview

Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Era Begins at Daytona with 16 Manufacturers Making Up 106-Car Field DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 24, 2007) -- The first race of the 2007 Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series season will take the green flag on ...

Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Era Begins at Daytona with 16 Manufacturers Making Up 106-Car Field

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 24, 2007) -- The first race of the 2007 Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series season will take the green flag on Friday, January 26 at 2:15 p.m. ET and is sure to bring action-packed racing to the 3.56-mile, 14-turn Daytona International Speedway road course, as more than 100 cars comprised of talented road racing pilots are entered in the Fresh From Florida 200.

With KONI signing on as the title sponsor of the series this past off-season, a new era begins for the Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) class machines heading into the 12-race slate in 2007--the most in the series' seven-year history. Bookended by a three-hour race at Daytona and twin six-hour enduros at Virginia International Raceway in October, the 10 races making up the balance of the schedule have been lengthened to 400km this season.

A bevy of all-start talent will help kick off the 2007 motorsports calendar in the Fresh From Florida 200, starting with defending ST class champions Will Turner and Don Salama. The duo will jump into GS competition in this season, sharing the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3. Two-time Rolex Series class champ Bill Auberlen also returns to Turner Motorsport in 2007.

Canada's David Empringham, the 2005 GS class titlist, headlines a fleet of pilots for Blackforest Motorsports at Daytona. Empringham is joined on the team by fellow countryman Alex Tagliani, a Champ Car World Series veteran, among others. Blackforest will have a total of six Ford Mustang GTs in the GS class.

Road racing stalwart Boris Said also returns to KONI competition in 2007, albeit with a new team. Said, who helped then-teammate Anders Hainer score the GS championship in 2006, joins upstart Kinetic Motorsports this season. Kinetic will field BMWs for Rolex Series regulars Nic Jonsson, Colin Braun and Tracy Krohn.

Other notable drivers scheduled to compete in the KONI Challenge opener include two-time Rolex Series class champion Andy Lally, defending Rolex 24 At Daytona GT class winners Randy Pobst (Race Prep Motorsports) and Spencer Pumpelly (Marcus Motorsports), 2005 Rolex Series GT class champ Craig Stanton (BGB Motorsports), Grey's Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey (Hyper Sport) and former Olympic downhill skiers Phil and Steve Mahre (Team Centurion).

A new title sponsor, more races and longer events are just part of the draw in the KONI Challenge Series. With the chance to battle wheel-to-wheel against wily veterans and starry-eyed newcomers, the competition couldn't be more balanced. Proof of the parity lies in the entry list of the season opener, as the 106 teams entered will be representing 16 different manufacturers. In total, 61 GS cars and 41 ST machines are expected to compete.

Porsche will be the most-represented marque Friday at Daytona, as 27 KONI entries will carry the sports car legacy of the German manufacturer. Including in the bunch are 16 Porsche 997s and 11 Porsche 996s.

BMW will have the second-largest contingency in the Fresh From Florida 200, as 23 of the 106 entries look to build on the GS and ST driver and team championships captured for BMW by Turner Motorsport in 2006. The BMW fleet will include the M3, 330ci, 330i and Z4.

A litany of American automakers will also be represented, with Ford (14), Chevrolet (6), Pontiac (3) and Dodge (3) all fielding multiple entries. The defending ST class manufacturer champion Acura is back in 2007 with 11 entries, as is 2005 ST champ Mazda with 10. Four Nissan 350Zs, two Hyundai Tiburons, a Honda Accord, a Volkswagen GTI and a Mini Cooper S round out the impressive field.

The first practice session for the KONI Challenge Series Fresh From Florida 200 will take place Thursday, January 25 at 11:45 a.m. ST class qualifying is set to start Thursday at 5:00 p.m., directly followed by GS qualifying. The green flag for the Fresh From Florida 200 will drop on Friday, January 26 at 2:15 p.m. ET.

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Kinetic Motorsports , Turner Motorsport