Daytona Prototypes Prepare for Sunchaser 1000 at Miller Motorsports Park TOOELE VALLEY, UTAH (August 16, 2007) -- Four teams from the Daytona Prototype class of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series spent the past two days logging laps around...
Daytona Prototypes Prepare for Sunchaser 1000 at Miller Motorsports Park
TOOELE VALLEY, UTAH (August 16, 2007) -- Four teams from the Daytona Prototype class of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series spent the past two days logging laps around the 4.5-mile full course at Miller Motorsports Park. The teams were testing in preparation for the series' upcoming season finale, the Sunchaser 1000, scheduled for the weekend of September 14-15.
Taking part in the test were four teams, all of which utilize the Riley Mk IX Daytona Prototype chassis. They included the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac/Riley, co-driven by Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews; the No. 61 AIM Autosport/Exchange Traded Gold Riley/Lexus, co-driven by Mark Wilkins and brothers Burt and Brian Frisselle with veteran formula car, sports car and stock car ace Anthony Lazzaro on hand to assist; the No. 05 Team SigalSport/Luggage Express BMW/Riley with internationally renowned sports car star Bill Auberlen and Gene Sigal sharing the driving chores; and the No. 12 RVO Motorsports Pontiac/Riley of Roger Schramm and Justin Bell, former SCCA Trans-Am contender and son of the legendary five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell, with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series star Bill Lester added to the driving strength for the season finale.
The test was particularly helpful for the RVO squad, who are running a limited schedule this year and building a firm foundation for next year.
"We've done five races," said team owner Schramm. "It was our original intent to do all the races in the series this year, but after Mid-Ohio we decided that we really needed to focus more on developing our program rather than racing."
The time at MMP has helped the team, both in preparation for the upcoming race and the 2008 season, said Bell.
"This is actually living up to our expectations in terms of helping us move the car and the team forward," he said. "We didn't do the last three or four races because we needed to focus on testing, and we're now closer to the fast runners in testing times than we have been at other race weekends, so that's a good thing."
For Lester, who started out in sports cars before moving to NASCAR, it was a first acquaintance with the long, complex lap at MMP, but a fun one.
"I think it's pretty cool," he said. "Obviously there are a lot of turns, and it definitely takes a rhythm to be fast around here. I saw a little video footage of what it's like to go around here, and I got a chance to ride around here with (MMP Director of Racing) Mitch Wright, so that was very helpful. But you can't really appreciate it until you get out there and try to string a few corners together. I'm enjoying it."
The track is also new to AIM Autosport, which moved up to the Daytona Prototype ranks this year after excelling in formula-car series such as the Star Mazda Championship and Formula Renault. Wilkins echoed Lester's comments about the difficulty of learning the track.
"I just ran my first few laps here ever," he said, "and it's a lot of fun. We don't go to many tracks that are nearly this long, so it's a big learning curve for me. You have to be very careful when you're getting used to it, and just make sure that you take it a little conservatively and build up to it. But it's a lot of fun. The long, sweeping corners are a blast, and you've got every combination, which makes for a great racetrack. We hope this test will really help us in the last race of our season here."
For Brian Frisselle, the younger of the two brothers, it is a return engagement in Utah.
"It's always fun to come back to this track," he said. "It's a great track. I love driving here. It's a real challenge, being as it's such a long lap. When you have to put so many corners together to get a good lap, it's a real challenge for the driver. Even coming back after having raced here last year, it still takes time to get up to speed because there are so many corners, and to do a good lap you have to be spot-on everywhere."
Lazzzaro, who was brought in as a "hired gun" to give provide fresh insight into the car's handling, had to learn a new car and a new track at the same time.
"I just came in to help the team along with a fresh perspective, as far as what the car is doing," he said. "The car and the track are both new to me. We've made a lot of progress. If anything, it was reassurance for Ian Willis, who is the engineer on the car, that some of the things and the ideas that he's been thinking and doing are kind of backed up a little bit. The guys that they have driving the car are very good drivers, very quick drivers, but it's always good to get some input with a fresh perspective from someone with a lot of experience."
As far as the track itself is concerned, it has a new fan in Lazzaro.
"I love this track," he said. "The facility is just unbelievable. I really, really like it. You can look at the length of the lap, at 4.5 miles, and you know it's going to be difficult. It just requires everything you've got from the team, car and driver. I can't wait to get a chance to come back here and race on it."
The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race will take place on Saturday, September 15, and will be the second-longest race of the season at 7.5 hours. Other series racing during the weekend will include the KONI Challenge Series, SIRIUS Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Cup Series, BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda, Formula TR Pro Series, SCCA Spec Miatas and the season's final "Magic of Miller" Celebrity Race
Tickets for the Sunchaser 1000 are reasonably priced from $25 per day and up, and are available at the Miller Motorsports Park Welcome Center or online at www.ticketmaster.com. For more information, call the track at (435) 277-RACE or visit the website at www.millermotorsportspark.com.
-credit: miller motorsports park