Grand-Am Teams Test at VIR Alton, Va., (July 28) -- VIRginia International Raceway's 3.27-mile circuit has been busy recently, as a number of teams from the Grand American Road Racing Association's Rolex Sports Car Series have been testing in ...
Grand-Am Teams Test at VIR
Alton, Va., (July 28) -- VIRginia International Raceway's 3.27-mile circuit has been busy recently, as a number of teams from the Grand American Road Racing Association's Rolex Sports Car Series have been testing in advance of the VIR 400 scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 1-3.
Brumos Racing tested for two days last week, July 21-22, with driver David Donohue putting the No. 58 Red Bull Porsche/Fabcar through its paces. This week, Crawford Racing was on hand July 27-28 with two cars, the No. 2 Boss Snowplow Pontiac/Crawford and the No. 20 Citgo Pontiac/Crawford, with driving duties handled by Andy Wallace and Milka Duno along with guest driver Rob Dyson. Also attending the Crawford test was the Silverstone Racing team, with Chris Hall and Larry Huang sorting out their No. 39 Georgia Tech Pontiac/Crawford.
For Donohue and the Brumos squad, this has been a trying year. Their competition has increased from three to 16 cars in the fast-growing Daytona Prototype class, and their racing luck has not been as good as hoped. Donohue currently sits in 11th place in the drivers championship after six of 12 rounds, with a best finish of fifth place in the recent race at Daytona International Speedway.
The team spent the two days at VIR working on chassis development, mainly focusing on aerodynamic improvements.
"We're just trying a bunch of A-B tests," Donohue said. "We're not really massaging the car as much as we are making changes to see what the results are. Hopefully it will point us in a direction to make more significant changes."
The Fabcar chassis was the first introduced to Grand-Am competition, in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in early 2003, and the Brumos team has had to contend with trying to develop the car during race weekends as well as watching newer chassis come along with the advantage of more pre-production development time. Fabcar owner David Klym was on hand for the VIR test, and Donohue said that while Klym took a big risk to be the first Daytona Prototype manufacturer, he is busy trying to catch up with the newer chassis.
"David Klym was really under a lot of stress to build the first car," Donohue said. "He was rushed by Grand-Am to get this thing out there on the racetrack to prove to people it was a real thing. Dave was behind the biggest eight-ball of all, making the first commitment and getting the first car out. He's got to be able to make adjustments to the chassis to be able to compete."
The two-day VIR test was helpful for Brumos, though, according to Donohue.
"We're making a lot of progress," he said. "Brumos Porsche never lays down and says mercy."
For the Crawford team, a trip to VIR is only a two-hour drive from their headquarters near Charlotte, N.C. According to team owner Max Crawford, his team has faced a similar situation this year to that faced by Brumos last year.
What started out as a one-car, three-race schedule for the Boss Snowplow car and Andy Wallace, the team quickly developed into a two-car, full-schedule team with the arrival of Milka Duno and sponsorship from Citgo.
"Progress has been a little slow," said Crawford, "because we weren't really ready for all this. We've done quite a lot of testing. We've thrown ourselves into the deep end with a brand-new car, brand-new team and a new driver, so it's been interesting."
Crawford indicated the team's purpose in testing at VIR was two-fold.
"We've come here to help Milka understand and learn the track," he said. "We've also come here with some new aero pieces to try, and VIR's a very good place to test in that respect because it has high-speed corners and straightaways. VIR's good in every respect, because it has a little bit of everything."
Wallace, who co-drove a previous-version Crawford to victory in the inaugural Rolex Series race at VIR in 2002 with Chris Dyson, is very complimentary of the Southside Virginia facility.
"I came to VIR in 2000 for the first time," he said, "and from the first lap of this place I've been singing its praises ever since. I'm fully converted. This is one of the best tracks we have. It's fantastic. We have high-speed and low-speed corners, there are direction changes at high speed and those are all the things we need because we're trying to do some aero experiments on the car. We've learned an awful lot of things. I always want to come back here and do more things."
For the Silverstone Racing team, admittedly one of the less well-funded outfits in the Rolex Series, the rapid growth of the series has been more than they expected.
"When we went to Daytona at the start of the season," said Chris Hall, "We were right up there with everybody else in terms of lap times. Now, with all these new cars, the level of competition has increased dramatically and the top teams are doing constant development that we simply cannot afford. For example, the Crawford chassis that we're driving is four or five developmental steps behind the car that Andy Wallace is driving. That's one of the reasons we came here with the Crawford team, to get some help from them in terms of updates. They've been great to work with."
The Rolex Series' Daytona Prototypes will be joined by the GT and SGS classes of production-based cars for the VIR 400, which should provide a grid of approximately 40 cars for the 400 km/three-hour event. Also competing during the weekend will be the popular Grand-Am Cup street-stock series, with Porsche and BMW club racing filling out the undercard.
Advance tickets for the weekend will be available either over the telephone or online, priced at $40 for a three-day Super Ticket (including a complementary race program) and single-day tickets for Sunday priced at $30. At the gate, three-day Super Tickets (with program) are priced at $50, with single-day tickets priced at $10 (Friday), $20 (Saturday) and $40 (Sunday). For advance ticket sales, call 1-888-RACE099 ext. 116 (American Express®, Discover®, Visa® or MasterCard®) or purchase your tickets online at www.virclub.com with Visa® or Mastercard®. VIR is a family-friendly facility, where children 12 and under are admitted free with a paying adult. Spectator camping is available.