SCC: Laguna Seca: Friday practice report

Gurney Quickest in First-Ever Rolex Series Practice Day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca MONTEREY, Calif. (April 29, 2005) -- Practicing for his first-ever Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series race, Alex Gurney posted the fastest lap on the...

Gurney Quickest in First-Ever Rolex Series Practice Day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

MONTEREY, Calif. (April 29, 2005) -- Practicing for his first-ever Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series race, Alex Gurney posted the fastest lap on the opening day of practice for Sunday's Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (SPEED Channel, Live, 3 p.m. ET).

Gurney turned a best lap of 1:25.286 (94.468 mph) in the bright red No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley he shares with co-driver and team owner Bob Stallings to head a stout field of 53 cars to turn practice laps during Friday's sessions, and posted his best time in the second of the day's two Rolex Series practice sessions. While it was Gurney's first-ever practice day in a Daytona Prototype, the son of racing legend Dan Gurney has logged plenty of miles in other types of cars at the 2.238-mile road course on the Monterey Peninsula.

"Obviously it's a great start, (but) we're not sure how much it means," Gurney said. "We may be on a different tire strategy than some of the other teams. I want to thank Bob Stallings, it's his birthday today, he's my teammate, my team owner, and he's made sure I've been able to be in this position. We're still learning, but we're happy to have some speed. I'm not sure how many guys went through tires, but I'm sure we're close on times. Tomorrow, we're going to keep practicing driver changes and pit stops. It's a new race for everyone--the first time for all the teams at this track--so it'll be a learning experience for sure. We just hope to finish."

Clocking the day's second-fastest time and capping a triumphant return to Rolex Series competition was Brazilian Oswaldo Negri Jr. in the No. 60 MatlinPatterson Lexus Riley for Michael Shank Racing. Negri ran a best time of 1:25.683 (94.030 mph) late in the afternoon session to take the second position, and will be making his first Rolex Series appearance of the season after finishing 12th in the Daytona Prototype driver standings in 2004. He shares the No. 60 machine with series newcomer Mark Patterson.

"The car was unbelievable, and even though there was a ton of traffic and the tires weren't great, we still got a decent lap time in at the end of the session," said Negri. "I'm really excited to be back. Working with Mike (Shank) and his guys always boosts my confidence, and Mark has got up to speed right away. Dave Kanning has also just done a fantastic job engineering the car, so hopefully we can just keep improving for the race on Sunday."

While the top-two practice times came during the afternoon, the day's next three times were turned during the morning session. Leading the morning session and ending up third on the day was Stefan Johansson in the No. 02 New Century Mortgage Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley at 1:25.800 (93.902 mph).

Johansson's time topped the best lap turned in by his teammate Scott Pruett in the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley, who was second in the morning and fourth overall at 1:25.918 (93.773 mph). Local favorite Memo Gidley--from Novato, Calif.--was third in the morning and fifth overall in the No. 19 Make A Wish/Air Force Reserve/Commercial Defeasance BMW Riley for Finlay Motorsports. Gidley's best lap was 1:26.023 (93.659 mph).


With a pole position and a class victory in the Ferrari Maserati 400 at California Speedway early this month and a strong performance in today's opening practice session at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, it appears that the defending GT team champion BMW Team PTG has returned to its 2004 form.

Driving the No. 17 F1 Air BMW M3, Kelly Collins led a sweep of the top-four GT positions for BMW Team PTG in Friday practice for the Road & Track 250. The day's top-five times all came during the morning practice session, with Collins topping the charts at 1:33.146 (86.496 mph) on a track where the Californian has considerable experience.

"I am very familiar with Laguna Seca, so I am not surprised to be quick early in the weekend," said Collins, who recently celebrated his 40th birthday. "I know everyone will improve, but I hope we can keep BMW Team PTG on top. I'd still like to be the fastest tomorrow, but tomorrow is another day."

Running the second-fastest time of the day was two-time Rolex Series GT champion Bill Auberlen in the No. 21 BMW Financial Services M3. Auberlen--who took the pole position and the class victory in Round 3 at California Speedway alongside co-driver Joey Hand--turned a best lap today of 1:33.150 (86.496 mph). The defending GT champion was followed by Ian James in the No. 22 BMW Financial Services M3 at 1:33.546 (86.127 mph), and Tom Milner completed the top four in the No. 16 F1 Air BMW M3 at 1:33.666 (86.016 mph). TRG owner/driver Kevin Buckler was fifth in GT practice at 1:33.745 (85.944 mph) in the No. 88 TRG Porsche GT3 Cup.


Darren Law turned a best lap of 1:39.445 (81.018 mph) in the No. 6 Zoom Motorsports Porsche 996 to top the time charts in the opening practice session for Saturday's Grand-Am Cup 200 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Standing-in for regular driver Boris Said, who is competing in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend, Joey Hand was second-quickest in the No. 99 Anchor Racing BMW M3 with a best lap at 1:39.507 (80.967 mph). Michael McDowell completed the top three in the No. 60 Finlay Motorsports BMW M3 at 1:39.803 (80.727 mph).

Charles Espenlaub led a sweep of the top-two positions for the SpeedSource Mazdas in the Sport Touring (ST) class. Espenlaub's best lap of 1:44.841 (76.848 mph) in the No. 66 Mazda RX-8 to lead the class field, followed by team owner/driver Sylvain Tremblay in the No. 70 Mazda RX-8 at 1:45.053 (76.693 mph). Shane Lewis was third-quickest in ST at 1:45.180 (76.600 mph) in the No. 20 Mini Cooper S for Nuzzo Motorsports. A total of 69 cars turned Grand-Am Cup practice laps among the 71 on the entry list.


In a news conference earlier today at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, GM Racing announced that it has selected the California-based TRG to run the first of its two GTO.R race cars in the Rolex Series GT class. The team will take delivery of the cars in late May and plans to enter at least one in the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway on June 30. Handling the driving duties in one car will be Jan Magnussen and Paul Edwards, with 2005 GT championship co-leaders Andy Lally and Marc Bunting slated for the other machine-- The Daytona Prototype championship-leading No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley of co-drivers Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli debuted a new look today at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Gone are the black and yellow colors that sped to victory in the first two races of the 2005 season, and the car is now predominantly blue with red, orange and yellow graphics and the new SunTrust logo. The team uniforms have also been restyled to match the new color scheme with "Rolex 24 At Daytona -- 2005 Champions" featured prominently. The new look falls in line with SunTrust's recently-launched logo and branding effort.


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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Shane Lewis , Alex Gurney , Stefan Johansson , Jan Magnussen , Boris Said , Memo Gidley , Wayne Taylor , Bill Auberlen , Joey Hand , Kelly Collins , Dan Gurney , Kevin Buckler , Ian James , Andy Lally , Darren Law , Michael McDowell , Max Angelelli , Sylvain Tremblay , Charles Espenlaub , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Marc Bunting , Chip Ganassi , Bob Stallings , Michael Shank
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , SpeedSource , Michael Shank Racing