Grand-Am Road Racing press release
GRAND-AM Cooldown Lap: Daytona
Roar Before the Rolex 24
Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012
The buildup for the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona – the most anticipated race in the history of American sports car racing – continued Sunday with the conclusion of the Roar Before the Rolex 24, a three-day test at Daytona International Speedway.
Competitors in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge enjoyed ideal weather conditions throughout the Roar, with Sunday’s sessions running incident- free. Teams now have until Thursday, Jan. 26, to fine tune for the 2012 season opener.
Max Angelelli ran the fastest lap of the three-day session on Sunday morning with a lap of 126.712 mph in the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette DP co-driven by Ricky Taylor and Ryan Briscoe. The new Corvette DPs took the top five places at the test, with the two Action Express cars following the SunTrust team.
Ferrari came away with the quickest laps in the GT sessions. Guy Cosmo led Sunday’s testing with a lap of 117.216 mph in the No. 03 Patron Tequila Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am. Toni Villander led the class at the test, running 117.321 mph on Saturday in the No. 63 Risi Competizione entry.
Billy Johnson turned the fastest lap of the weekend in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport (GS) class on Sunday with a lap of 1:56.984 (109.533 mph) in the No. 61 Roush Performance Ford Mustang. Charles Espenlaub turned the second quickest lap of the day in the No. 48 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 (109.289 mph), followed by Bill Auberlen in the Turner Motorsport BMW M3 (109.187). All three times were posted in the Sunday’s morning session.
Jeff Mosing was fastest in Street Tuner, turning in a lap of 2:06.959 (100.945 mph) in the No. 56 RACE EPIC/Murillo Racing BMW 328i also in Sunday’s morning session. Cory Friedman, of Autometrics Motorsports, and BimmerWorld Racing’s Seth Thomas rounded out the top three with laps turned in the weekend’s first two days.
A total of 117 cars participated in the three-day Roar. Joining the 14 Daytona Prototypes in the Rolex Series were 46 cars from the GT class. The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge had a total of 57 cars, 35 in Grand Sport and 22 in Street Tuner. Additional cars are anticipated for the Rolex 24 weekend.
Spirit of Daytona had the second gear break in its new No. 90 Corvette DP early in Sunday morning’s session. The team replaced the gears and put the car back on track, only to discover that there was a crack in the casing that led to an oil leak, putting the car out for the remainder of the session.
Action Express Racing faces a triple learning curve for the 2012 Rolex 24. In addition to the new Corvette DP bodywork, the 2010 Rolex 24-winning team also has a new engine (Earnhardt Childress Racing Chevrolet) and a new chassis (Coyote). Team director of team operations Elton Sawyer said the biggest challenge at the Roar has been working with brake temperatures.
APR Motorsport brought four different cars to the Roar – in three different classes. The team is debuting in the Rolex Series with the No. 51 Audi R8 GRAND-AM. The team also runs the No. 41 Audi S4 in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport class, and has two cars in Street Tuner, the proven No. 171 Volkswagen GTI and the new No. 181 VW Jetta GLI. The Alabama-based team is looking to bring seven cars to the Rolex 24 weekend, including six for the GRAND-AM 200 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge opener.
Bill Lester has been added to the lineup of the No. 18 Muehlner Motorsports Porsche GT3 for the Roar and the Rolex 24. Lester, a former regular in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, made GRAND-AM history in 2011 by becoming the first African-American competitor to win a Rolex Series race. Co-driving with Ricky Taylor, he won at Virginia International Raceway in the No. 88 Autohaus Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro and finished second in the GT championship, losing by only two points.
Sarah Cattaneo tested in her new ride with Mitchum Motorsports. She drove in both of the team’s No. 60 and 62 Lucas Oil/Makita Power Tools BMW 328i. Cattaneo won at New Jersey Motorsports Park in 2011 and finished fourth in the Street Tuner championship.
Aaron Steele had his first test in the U.S., sharing the No. 6 Mitchum Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro with Tim Bell. The British driver won the first Sunoco GRAND-AM 200 Challenge, outpointing drivers in six European series to earn a ride in the 2012 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series opener, a contest that mirrors the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge for the Rolex Series.
“Speed is not really important in this test. We wanted to have everything ready to make sure it was prepared for the race. We did go out for one fast run. We trimmed the car down, took away downforce, put on new tires and then I was able to run an absolutely clean lap. It was like a qualifying lap – we put everything we had on the table. I’m not sure if anyone is going to go faster (in Rolex 24 qualifying), certainly not me. If it’s cooler, that time can be beaten, but if it’s hotter – no.” – Max Angelelli, No. 10 SunTrust Corvette DP, on setting the fastest lap of the weekend
“Last night was my first time ever driving at night. Man-o-man, what a time! It was like a bunch of animals out there. Guys were everywhere – even driving through the grass. I was thinking, ‘Hey guys, this is only a (expletive) test.’” – Brian Johnson, No. 50 50+ Racing/Predator/Alegra
“The Rolex 24 is a lot of fun. I hope to do it until I quit racing. I like to see all the drivers from the other kinds of racing, and to get to hang out with all of Chip’s drivers. The biggest difference this year will be traffic. There are a lot of GT cars here, and that’s going to be the biggest challenge in this year’s race, but I can deal with that.” – Jamie McMurray, No. 02 Target/TELMEX BMW/Riley
“This car performs very well in the brake zones and entry to the corners. Our biggest issue is putting the power down. We have no traction control and stability management like they do in Europe, so that’s what we’re working on. We’ve made a lot of progress, but the Rolex 24 is right around the corner. We’ve had some really good support from the Audi factory. I’m sure we’ll get it figured out. This car is a proven winner and its reliability is without question.” – Ian Baas, No. 51 APR Motorsport Audi R8 GRAND-AM.
“I predict we will have one of the closest finishes in Rolex 24 history. I’ve been looking at the time chart, and there is no one with a clear advantage over everyone. We’re going to see 24 hours of everyone pushing to the limit. The key will be not making any mistakes, and dealing with traffic will be more important this year than in the past. I’ve been coming to the Rolex 24 since 1996, and I think yesterday’s crowd was the biggest I’ve ever seen here for testing – the race track was filled with fans.” – Max Papis, No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP
“Obviously, the SpeedSource team knows how to get things done for the Rolex 24. I’m very lucky to be on a team at this level. It would be real nice to walk away from here with a Rolex.” – Marino Franchitti, No. 70 Mazdaspeed Mazda RX-8
“When you bring out a brand-new car, you worry about parts falling off or mechanical issues. But we’re happy to say nothing like that has happened here. The new car is in real good shape. We made a few changes this morning and it made a drastic difference with the way the car handles. We’re still learning, but we’re very happy with the test. It’s a good car, we’re very happy with the Roush-Yates engine and it’s steadily getting better and better.” – Jeffrey Earnhardt, No. 15 Rick Ware Racing/Poynt Ford Mustang GT.
Coming Up: The 2012 Rolex Series season opens with the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Jan. 28-29. Opening practice and qualifying will be held on Thursday, Jan. 26. The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season-opening GRAND-AM 200 highlights the Friday schedule.