Rolex Roundup: Daytona Test Days - Day 2 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 6, 2006) -- Lap times continued to come down in the second day of Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve testing during Daytona Test...
Rolex Roundup: Daytona Test Days - Day 2
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 6, 2006) -- Lap times continued to come down in the second day of Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve testing during Daytona Test Days on Friday.
Leading the way was Max Angelelli in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley. Angelelli turned a best lap at 1:43.698 (123.560 mph), which was unofficially quicker than the previous Daytona Prototype track record on the 3.56-mile road circuit at Daytona International Speedway. Angelelli is sharing the No. 10 machine with his fellow 2005 Daytona Prototype co-champion Wayne Taylor, as well as Emmanuel Collard--with whom Angelelli and Taylor co-drove to the overall victory in the 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona--and Australian driver Ryan Briscoe.
For the second consecutive day, Andrew Davis held the top spot in the GT class. Davis ran a best lap at 1:53.028 (113.388 mph) in the No. 73 Tafel Racing Porsche GT3 he shares with Eric Lux, Charles Espenlaub and Graham Rahal.
RESURGENT PORSCHE POWERS TWO DAYTONA PROTOTYPES TO TOP FIVE
A pair of Porsche-powered Daytona Prototypes made their presence felt during Day 2 of Daytona Test Days, as Sascha Maassen turned in the fastest time of the day's final session and the second-fastest time of the test overall in the No. 58 Red Bull Porsche Fabcar for Brumos Racing, while Lucas Luhr clocked the second-quickest time of the session and the fifth-fastest time overall in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports Porsche Crawford.
Maassen turned a best lap at 1:43.698 (123.590 mph) in the car he is sharing with David Donohue, Darren Law, Ted Christopher, Hurley Haywood and JC France, which brought plenty of smiles in the Brumos Racing pit box.
"The Brumos team has won this race six times, and we intend to be there seven," said team owner Bob Snodgrass. "After the past couple of seasons of stumbling around 10th through 12th place, and really having very, very difficult times throughout the last couple of seasons, to come here and be quickest today is a huge accomplishment for us. We're using six drivers here this weekend, so what we're doing here is just using our car as a mule and testing the engine reliability. We're just trying to run every mile we can. We are and we're really thrilled."
While the Job/Emory team has encountered its share of issues throughout Daytona Test Days, the car has been plenty fast, as evidenced by Luhr's best lap of 1:44.133 (123.073 mph). Luhr--a Porsche factory driver--is sharing the ride with fellow factory pilots Mike Rockenfeller and Patrick Long.
"We have had a lot of small problems, really new car type things this weekend at Daytona," Job said. "We have experienced everything from small electrical issues, to power steering failure to a drive line issue yesterday. The times that we have posted is a result of actually very little running. This proves our theory about the combination of the Crawford chassis with the Porsche power. Patrick, Lucas and Mike have really come up to speed with the car and are giving us great feedback. I hope we are getting our small things out of the way this weekend and that we will be able to run trouble free for the race."
The Brumos and Job/Emory teams join the No. 8 Synergy Racing Porsche Doran of Patrick Huisman and Burt and Brian Frisselle as Porsche representatives in the Daytona Prototype class. Snodgrass believes that the strength Porsche has shown in early testing has been well-deserved.
"Porsche was the first manufacturer, to really, fully commit itself to this series," Snodgrass said. "When the Porsche Fabcar came out, initially, we were the first cars in the series. Porsche has steadfastly stood by us and we have been through a development program with Porsche Motorsport North America. That development program has yielded huge results in terms of a great powerplant, great flexibility of the engine, and a tremendous deal there.
"With the Fabcar itself, we have gone through a real serious evolution program on the car, all with the help of Porsche in Germany. We have had a serious dedication to staying with this program and staying with the Fabcar product. All along, we've had the belief that it's going to be a fantastic car, and today, we proved it is a great car."
NO. 99 GAINSCO/BLACKHAWK MACHINE QUICK; BUT TEST ENDS EARLY AFTER MORAN CRASH
After Alex Gurney posted the fastest time during Day 1 of Daytona Test Days, things were looking up for the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley team of Gurney, car owner Bob Stallings, Rocky Moran Jr. and Champ Car star Jimmy Vasser.
However, the team's fortunes took a downturn in the final session on Friday, as Moran spun and crashed hard in Turn 1. Moran was taken to nearby Halifax Medical Center following the incident complaining of neck pain, but a CT scan was negative according to Dr. Tara Wilson, who diagnosed Moran with a muscle strain in his neck. Moran was to be released from the hospital on Friday evening. The car had some damage to its rear and left side, as well as to its floor, which means that the team will be unable to participate in Saturday's final sessions at Daytona Test Days.
"We're obviously very disappointed that we're not going to be able to run tomorrow," Stallings said. "I only got a couple of laps in the car, but the real benefit here is that Rocky is in good shape. The car really protected him, because he backed it in there pretty strong, and he's fine. We're going to head home, regroup and get things fixed."
Despite the setback, Stallings remains optimistic for a good showing when he and the team returns for the Rolex 24 At Daytona on the weekend of January 26-29 based on what he saw during the first two days of testing.
"We've been very pleased by our progress this weekend," Stallings said. "I've been especially pleased by Jimmy Vasser. He got in the car, did one session, and was right on the money within six or seven laps. I was really happy about that. He's a really mature guy, and he wasn't pushing it. Rocky also was not pushing it, and he was doing pretty well himself. We're happy with the car."
FRANCHITTI BROTHERS RETURN TO DAYTONA IN SEARCH OF VICTORY
A year ago, IndyCar star Dario Franchitti joined Milka Duno, then-IndyCar teammate Dan Wheldon, and his brother, Marino Franchitti, for the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The foursome ran among the leaders for much of the race before Duno got involved in an incident prior to daybreak that ended their bid.
The Franchitti brothers have returned to Daytona for another shot at Rolex 24 glory, and have been testing the No. 7 CITGO Racing by SAMAX Pontiac Riley that they will again share with Duno as well as Irish driver Kevin McGarrity. As was the case last year, Dario Franchitti was quick to get up to speed in the Daytona Prototype and he holds the ninth-quickest time after two days of testing.
"It feels great to be back here at Daytona to be racing with my brother, my best friend, Kevin, and Milka in the car," said Dario. "It's really good. I couldn't be happier with it. I'm getting to grips with the car and the new surface here is a bit different as well. I've only done about 15 laps so far, but I'm getting the hang of it and enjoying it.
"The thing I've enjoyed this year is I've watched my brother learn throughout the year. From being about a second off last year to being absolutely bang on the same pace as me this year, it's quite interesting how he's really learned a lot in a year. That's been enjoyable. We're just having a blast. We're just out there having fun, and hopefully we'll have a good run in the race."
Like the rest of the drivers, Dario is impressed by the names and faces he has seen in and around the Daytona International Speedway garage area.
"It's kind of like the first day of school," he said. "There are all these car combinations you don't know, and you don't know who's in what car. You're kind of finding out who's quick and who's not. It means a lot to race against great drivers from all disciplines, whether it be IRL, NASCAR, Champ Car, touring car drivers throughout the world or sports car drivers throughout the world. It's great."
DALLENBACH LOOKING FOR OVERALL VICTORY IN ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA
Wally Dallenbach is a four-time GT winner of the Rolex 24, but he'd love to add an overall victory in the event to his resume. Come to think of it, the popular NBC broadcaster would like to do more racing in the Rolex Series.
"This is a race I would really like to win overall," Dallenbach said. "I've been coming to this event, off and on since 1983, and I still love it as much now as the first time I came here. I love road racing. It's always been my first love. I have one year left on this TV contract, and I'm really taking a serious look at competing in this series next year, full time. I enjoy this series, I enjoy the cars. It's very competitive. I'm still young enough -- I think I've got a couple more good years in me -- and I want to do some more driving."
CHAMP CAR STANDOUTS ALLMENDINGER AND WILSON COME TO GRIPS WITH DAYTONA PROTOTYPE
Since announcing their intentions to compete in the Rolex 24 At Daytona during the Hoosier Tire Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway last month, Champ Car teammates A.J. Allmendinger and Justin Wilson have been hard at work learning the No. 60 Flight Options Lexus Riley they are co-driving with Oswaldo Negri Jr. and Mark Patterson for Michael Shank Racing. Both drivers remain optimistic about their chances for victory, and have enjoyed their time in the Daytona Prototype thus far.
"I think the car is a lot of fun," Allmendinger said. "It really takes me back to being in Barber Dodge. It's like a bigger Barber Dodge race car. I'm having a lot of fun between just driving the car and dodging the traffic, so I'm really looking forward to the race itself."
One of the bigger challenges both drivers have faced thus far is the fact that they must share the car between themselves, Negri and Patterson. It is particularly an issue for Wilson, who must share the same seat with three other drivers, and is considerably taller than Allmendinger in particular.
"The biggest challenge is getting fitted in the car, with various sizes of drivers," Wilson said. "I'm the tallest at 6'3" and it's just tight. You have to make a few compromises to make sure that all four drivers can fit in, and we can all do the full distance."
"For me it's fine, because these cars are pretty tight in the cockpit," Allmendinger added. "The size difference between myself and say, Justin, isn't that big of a deal for me. It's going to be interesting. We need to work on the driver changes because we're a bit slow between me and Justin trying to crawl in and out of the car and get belted up. But if that's the biggest thing we've got to worry about, I'm not too worried. Everything's new, so it's exciting."
While Wilson has previously competed in sports car endurance races, this is an entirely new experience for Allmendinger, who has never raced a car with a roof or participated in a sports car endurance race. However, the 2004 Champ Car Rookie of the Year has found a somewhat unique way to familiarize himself with the concept.
"I have done endurance racing on my computer," Allmendinger said. "With the video games, I've got it down. I can easily sit in front of a computer screen and do 18 to 20 hours of driving, so I don't think this should be a problem."
Whether or not Allmendinger's computer training will pay dividends on January 28-29 remains to be seen, but both drivers are certainly looking forward to the challenge of competing in North America's premier endurance race.
"It's really cool when you get to look at, first, the Grand-Am side of it with guys like Andy Wallace, Wayne Taylor, Scott Pruett and Max Angelelli," Allmendinger said. "Those guys in their own right are amazing drivers. Then you take in the mix of Champ Car drivers and ex-F1 drivers, and there's so many different genres of drivers. A lot of NASCAR drivers will be here, and I'm really looking forward to that. It's kind of cool to walk around and see the faces that, typically, you only see on TV. For me, being fairly young and still new to my career, I've looked up to a lot of these guys. I'm excited for so many reasons to be in the race."
"I've watched the race the last few years and I've done sports car racing before," Wilson contributed. "It's just one of those races that's great to have on your CV. It's an extremely good event and it's very enjoyable to be here. As I was watching the races throughout last season, I was thinking, 'It'd be nice to be there and see some of my old friends and race against them.' You've got guys racing from all different championship categories, and they all meet up to do this one event. It's a big attraction to all the drivers."
FELLOWS GETS ACQUAINTED WITH DAYTONA PROTOTYPE
Ron Fellows' last drive in the Rolex Series was in the 2001, when he shared the overall victory with Johnny O'Connell, Chris Kneifel and Franck Freon -- in a team car to the Corvette driven by the late Dale Earnhardt.
"This is my first time back here in five years," Fellows said. "It's great to be back here. The garage area is unbelievable compared to five years ago. This has always been -- and always will be -- one of my favorite races. Heck, it's Daytona."
Fellows raced in the Rolex 24 six times, and he finished second overall in 2000 in addition to his 2001 victory. He will share the No. 40 Derhaag Motorsports Pontiac Riley with Justin Bell, Chris Bingham and Randy Ruhlman. The team changed the clutch on Friday, and picked up nearly three seconds in the final practice session.
"I can see how this can be real fun racing," Fellows said of his first experience in a Daytona Prototype. "There's obviously a lot of cars, and they are fun to drive. The downside for a new team and new driver is that it's so competitive. We've got a bit of a learning curve to go through to get the car to where we can be more competitive. But we made some solid gains today, so we're looking forward to Saturday."
GRAND-AM CUP SERIES TUNES UP FOR SEASON-OPENER AT DAYTONA
Blackforest Motorsports got off to a rough start in defense of its Grand-Am Cup 200 victory. Ian James, who shared the 2005 victory here with Tom Nastasi, crashed the No. 5 Mustang GT early in Thursday's opening session.
"I went out for five laps, and turned the fastest lap -- three-tenths faster than anyone else," James said. "I was turning into Turn 1, and found I had zero brakes. I hit the wall head-on at about 120 mph. That was a pretty hard hit, and I'm sore today."
James said the car sustained substantial damage, but added, "We'll be here with a car of some form." On Friday, James tested the No. 50 Blackforest Motorsports Ford Crawford Daytona Prototype he will share with Nastasi, Henri Zogaib and Chris Gleason.
While the No. 16 Champion Ford Racing Mustang GT of Brad Lehmann, Ian Lacy and John Olson topped combined Grand-Am Cup practice with a lap of 2:03.087 (104.121 mph) Blackforest was second-fastest with a lap of 2:03.310 (103.933 mph) in the No. 2 Mustang GT Driven by Terry Borcheller and Forest Barber.
David Empringham was 16th-quickest in the No. 4 Blackforest Mustang, 2:03.990 (103.363 mph), while new co-driver Valerie Limoges was within a second of her teammate.
"Valerie's been very impressive, she's been picking up in every session," James said. "She did quite a lot of testing for us, and she's up to speed in the car. Now, she's learning the tracks as we go along. All three of our cars have been atop the charts at some time in the session. That's very encouraging."
Running last year's Porsche 996, BGB Motorsports have been third and fifth quickest in Grand-Am Cup testing. Mikel Miller was third-fastest in the No. 83 Porsche he shares with Tim Traver, 2:03.371 (103.882 mph), while 2005 Rolex Series GT champ Craig Stanton was fifth in the No. 38 he co-drives with Mark Plummer, 2:03.416 (103.844 mph).
"Craig and I drove together last year at Barber when my former co-driver, Guy Cosmo, had a schedule conflict," Plummer said. "We're going to be together all year. We're a good fit. He brings a lot of experience to the team."
Synergy Racing had the fastest time for a new Porsche 997, with "guest driver" Patrick Long running a lap of 2:03.430 (103.832 mph) in Brent Martini's No. 81.