VIR: Friday practice report

ALTON, Va. (October 3, 2003) -- The Doran-Lista Racing No. 27 Toyota Doran JE4 led the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series field during the opening day of practice for the VIR 400 at Virginia International Raceway. Bill Auberlen turned the ...

ALTON, Va. (October 3, 2003) -- The Doran-Lista Racing No. 27 Toyota Doran JE4 led the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series field during the opening day of practice for the VIR 400 at Virginia International Raceway. Bill Auberlen turned the fastest lap of the day, clocking a 1:46.351 lap at 110.690 mph during the morning session.

"Technically, we're making some gains. The team knows where they want to be and they've got ideas of how to get there, and they're doing a great job of getting there. They keep giving me a car that's consistently very good. I'm quite happy," said Auberlen, who has teamed with Didier Theys in the No. 27 Daytona Prototype for its first three races.

"It's getting to be very fun to drive the Daytona Prototype. It was difficult in the beginning at Watkins Glen, but now, with the aerodynamics set up right, I can just horse it around like any other car and have fun doing it. I think we've had a great shot to win every weekend -- we've just had little gremlins messing us up. We were fast in every race, but just little things set us back. Now we're here again, we just need to do the best we can. I know the team is good, if I don't mess up too bad we should be OK."

The other Doran JE4 in the field this weekend, the Chevy-powered No. 54 entry of Bell Motorsports, turned the second-quickest lap of the day with its 1:47.101 lap at 109.915 mph in the morning, while the points-leading No. 58 Red Bull Porsche FABCAR of Brumos Racing was third fastest with a 1:47.709 lap at 109.294 mph during the afternoon practice.

The Scuderia Ferrari of Washington No. 33 Ferrari 360GT, which currently leads the GT point standings, was fastest in its class and the Acxiom Grand Touring division. Cort Wagner put together a 1:52.220 lap at 104.901 mph at the wheel of the Ferrari in the morning session.

The GTS points-leading Heritage Motorsports No. 48 Mustang was at the front of its class during practice. Tommy Riggins turned a 1:52.388 lap at 104.744 mph during the morning practice.

Pilgrim Testing with Bell Motorsports GM Corvette factory driver Andy Pilgrim is back with the Bell Motorsports No. 54 Chevy Doran JE4 team this weekend. The team was impressed with Pilgrim's input in setting up the Daytona Prototype, and invited him back to join the team this weekend. It is still undecided if he will run in Sunday's VIR 400, or if regular drivers Terry Borcheller and Forest Barber will go it alone.

Sasco Lends Marcus a Hand The Marcus Motorsports team returned from Mont-Tremblant to find that its race shop in ruins. High winds from Hurricane Isabel knocked trees through the shop's roof, exposing the interior to the six-inches of rain that followed. When Dunlop tire distributor Sasco found out that Marcus had no place to prepare the No. 69 BMW M3, it opened up its facility at VIR's Raceplex to the team.

Theys, Huisman Get Together Belgium Didier Theys and Dutchman Patrick Huisman had a meeting of the minds at the end of the morning practice session after the two drivers got together on the track. The Doran-Lista Racing No. 27 Toyota Doran JE4 sustained right rear damage when the G&W Motorsports No. 8 BMW Picchio DP2 got into it shortly after exiting the pits.

While corners reported that the Doran JE4 hit curbing, bumping it into the Picchio, Huisman admitted that he was distracted while talking on the radio and did not see the Doran. Neither of the cars sustained major damage from the incident.

Carrying on a Tradition Simon Gregg will drive a bright orange Corvette in the GTS in this weekend's VIR 400, co-driving the No. 40 entry with Kenny Wilden. Simon's father, the late Peter Gregg, won the first two IMSA Camel GT races at VIR, driving tangerine orange Porsches fielded by Brumos Racing.

"That's coincidental," Simon said of the color. "Our car was painted in Derek Bell's colors, Gulf orange, for the Rolex 24 At Daytona." Gregg and Wilden were joined by Derek and Justin Bell in the 2003 season opener, with Justin Bell posting the fastest qualifying time.

Gregg and Hurley Haywood won the first-ever IMSA Camel GT race, held at VIR in 1971, in a Porsche 914. The following year, the duo won here in a Porsche 911. Gregg, who wanted to become Porsche's U.S. factory team, painted the cars orange -- Ferdinand Porsche's favorite color -- in hopes of attracting his attention. Several years later, Bob Snodgrass painted the cars American red, white and blue, a paint scheme repeated on the No. 59 Brumos Porsche Fabcar Daytona Prototype driven by Haywood and J.C. France.

Both of the winning Porsches from 1971 and 1972 are on display in front of the Pagoda in the Paddock, courtesy of Brumos Racing.

Davy Jones Back in Sports Car

Veteran sports and Indy car racer Davy Jones returns behind the wheel this weekend in the G&W Motorsports No. 12 Nissan-powered Lola. "It feels great to be back. It's a new car for the team, it's new for both Robert Prilika and myself. The track is new for me, so we've got a steep learning curve. But it feels good to be back in a real race car. I've got a pretty good feel for the track after the nine laps I did today, and I'm anxious to get back out and learn some more. I feel I've got a good enough feel for the track where we can start working on the car more," said Jones.

Pen Pals To Visit VIR

The Marcus Motorsports No. 69 BMW M3 is carrying some new decals this weekend in an effort to help promote awareness about the Pen Pals program. Pen Pals is a unique partnership between Save Our Shelters and the Virginia Department of Corrections that places hard to adopt dogs and cats with carefully selected inmates for an intensive eight-week training program. Upon graduation, the dogs, which are house trained, leash trained and responsive to voice and hand commands, and socialized cats are placed for adoption.

In addition to the publicity provide on the Marcus Motorsports BMW, members of the Pen Pals program will be at VIR this weekend educating fans on the benefits of the program.

You Say It's Your Birthday

Forest Barber is celebrating his 51st birthday today at Virginia International Raceway. Barber is currently tied with his co-driver Terry Borcheller for the points lead in the Grand-Am Cup Series Grand Sport II driver standings and is seventh in the Rolex Series Daytona Prototype driver points. When asked what he would like for his birthday, Barber laughed and said, "two victories this weekend."

Also celebrating a birthday this weekend is Glenn Yee Motorsports entrant and driver Geoff Escalette today and G&W Motorsports driver Steve Marshall on Saturday.

Weekend Schedule of Events

Qualifying for the VIR 400 will be held on Saturday, October 4 at 1 p.m., prior to the Grand-Am Cup Series 3 Hours of VIR at 3 p.m. The green flag will fly on the Rolex Series VIR 400 on Sunday, October 5 at 12:30 p.m.

The VIR 400 will be broadcast on a same-day tape delay on SPEED Channel, with the three-hour broadcast starting at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, October 5.

For more information on the VIR 400, contact VIR at 888-RACE099 or visit the track's website at www.virclub.com.

-garra-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Didier Theys , Andy Pilgrim , Justin Bell , Patrick Huisman , Terry Borcheller , Hurley Haywood , Simon Gregg , Derek Bell , Tommy Riggins , Davy Jones , Forest Barber , Steve Marshall , Robert Prilika , Geoff Escalette , Bob Snodgrass , J.C. Fra , Peter Gregg , Cort Wagner