Sears Point: Thursday practice report

Angelelli Leads First Practice Session for Sonoma 250 at Infineon Raceway SONOMA, Calif. (August 24, 2006) -- Under perfect weather conditions for the first-ever Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve ...

Angelelli Leads First Practice Session for Sonoma 250 at Infineon Raceway

SONOMA, Calif. (August 24, 2006) -- Under perfect weather conditions for the first-ever Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve practice session at Infineon Raceway, defending Daytona Prototype champion Max Angelelli posted the quickest lap in preparation for Saturday's Sonoma 250 (SPEED, August 27, 3:00 p.m. ET).

In the closing seconds of the two-hour practice session, Angelelli posted a best lap at 1:30.100 (100.688 mph) in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley to top the time charts. The lap was slightly quicker than the best lap turned by Angelelli's co-driver, Jan Magnussen, who led the session until Angelelli's last-minute flyer. Angelelli--who has finished inside the top-four positions in his last eight Rolex Series feature races--is hoping to keep his Daytona Prototype championship hopes alive in the Sonoma 250, the penultimate round of the 2006 Rolex Series schedule.

"The car obviously is very good," Angelelli said. "Jan and I, we are the fastest, so it's pretty good for both of us. I hope this weekend is not going to be like the other weekends where we are always the fastest on the pre-practice and we end up second after the race. We need to win this race and we need to be the fastest after the race as well."

Also turning in a quick lap late in the session was Canadian standout Michael Valiante in the No. 5 Make A Wish/Z-Line Designs/Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford. Valiante's best lap of 1:30.163 (100.618 mph) was good for second-quickest on the day. He and co-driver/team owner Rob Finlay head into the Sonoma 250 looking for their first career Rolex Series victory.

"The Make-A-Wish/Z-Line Designs car rolled off the truck and was decent right away," Valiante said. "We put Rob in the car at the start of the session to get him some seat time and he did a great job. If it weren't for traffic at the end of the session we would have been P1 for sure. Although I lived here for two years, this is only my second time driving the track on a race weekend. It's great to be back in Sonoma. Infineon is a great facility and the scenery is incredible. I think this will be a good weekend for the Finlay Motorsports team."

Californian Alex Gurney was third with a lap at 1:30.206 (100.570 mph) in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley. Gurney started from the pole position in the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen two weeks ago and led throughout his stint behind the wheel, but he and co-driver Jon Fogarty--who hails from nearby Portola Valley, Calif.--are still searching for their first win in Rolex Series competition.

"We are pretty encouraged," Gurney said. "The track felt a bit different than it did in testing, but that seems to be the norm these days. I think we've found a good balance on the GAINSCO car, certainly something we can work with. We wanted to go to fresh tires at the end, but ran out of time. There's quite a bit left. We think we will give our competitors a hard time this weekend."

Daytona Prototype points leader Jorg Bergmeister was fourth in the session, running a best lap at 1:30.367 (100.391 mph) aboard the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley. Bergmeister is co-driving the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley with Sweden's Nic Jonsson. Bergmeister currently holds a 29-point lead over Angelelli, 415-386, in the driver standings and will wrap up the championship this weekend if he departs Sonoma with a lead of 36 points or more.

Butch Leitzinger completed the top five with a lap at 1:30.548 (100.190 mph) in the No. 4 The Boss Snowplow Pontiac Crawford. Both Leitzinger and his Howard-Boss Motorsports co-driver, Andy Wallace, have previous experience on the 2.52-mile Infineon Raceway circuit, but they head into Saturday's race looking to earn their first Rolex Series victory of the season. The top-nine Daytona Prototypes turned laps within one second of Angelelli's best time.

HENZLER PACES THURSDAY PRACTICE SESSION AT INFINEON

No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 co-driver Wolf Henzler posted the fastest GT class practice lap time Thursday afternoon at Infineon Raceway with a time of 1:39.356 (91.308 mph) in Tafel Racing machine he will share with co-driver Robin Liddell this weekend.

Henzler and Liddell come into the Sonoma 250 weekend just 11 points behind No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R co-drivers Andy Lally and Marc Bunting in the current driver standings (442-431). The No. 72 Porsche duo was victorious in their last trip to northern California, winning May's U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

"This is pretty much a must-win situation," said Henzler. "I have a little bit of experience on the track, so I'm familiar with its turns. With only two races to go, we need to be as fast as we can, and we know that anything can happen."

Lally was second-fastest in the No. 65 machine with a lap time of 1:40.438 (90.324 mph). Lally and Bunting have scored four GT class victories this season, including back-to-back wins at Daytona International Speedway and Barber Motorsports Park heading into this weekend.

"We were pretty close right off of the trailer with our setup," Lally said. "We have a few small issues, but it is really nice to be this close to really good in the first practice session. The (No.) 72 car did a really good lap. I'm not sure if we are going to be able to match them on a hot lap this weekend. We are focused on the race and making no mistakes."

Paul Edwards was third-quickest in the No. 64 TRG/iRise Pontiac GTO.R with a lap time of 1:40.653 (90.131 mph). Edwards and co-driver Kelly Collins are just 28 points behind the No. 72 duo in the standings, very much alive in the championship hunt. The TRG operation, based in nearby Petaluma, Calif., is also the defending GT team champion.

"We seem to be battling the track a little for traction," Edwards said. "I hope some of that will come with some more rubber being laid down by qualifying tomorrow. We really did not have that problem at Barber, which is a similar type track. The (No.) 72 car popped a good time off very quickly. We have tomorrow to get it dialed in, we are not that far off."

Andrew Davis was fourth on Friday's speed chart, posting a lap at 1:40.659 (90.126 mph) in the No. 73 NEC Porsche GT3 he shares with team owner Jim Tafel. David Murry rounded out the top-five in the No. 80 Shoes For Crews Porsche GT3 he co-drives with Leh Keen, a lap at 1:41.401.

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Krohn Racing