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Switch to Riley & Scott Complete, TRV Team Is Ready for Rolex 24 This Weekend at Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 26 - Getting its new car sorted out has been a challenge, but the Toledo, Ohio-based TRV Motorsport team is set for this ...

Switch to Riley & Scott Complete, TRV Team Is Ready for Rolex 24 This Weekend at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 26 - Getting its new car sorted out has been a challenge, but the Toledo, Ohio-based TRV Motorsport team is set for this weekend's Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona at Daytona International Speedway, America's premier sports car endurance race.

The TRV team has five drivers this year. Returning in 1999 is young hotshot Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J. (whose parents live in North Palm Beach, Fla.), and of course team owner and Can-Am stalwart Tom Volk of Blissfield, Mich. Added this year are Trans-Am veteran R.J. "Dick" Valentine of Braintree, Mass., and World Sports Car veteran Paul Debban of Malibu, Calif. Ready to step in if necessary is Indy 500 veteran Lyn St. James of Indianapolis and Daytona Beach.

One big plus the team has this year is that all of the drivers on its '99 roster have competed in this event at least once in the past. Schroeder and Debban are making their second Rolex 24 start; Volk is making his third appearance in this race; Valentine has a dozen Rolex 24 starts on his resume, and St. James is a past divisional winner of this event.

The team also has a new car, as its dependable Kudzu is for sale and that car's Chevy engine has been installed in a Riley & Scott. The car is painted TRV's familiar yellow and black and still carries the No. 95 and the decals of sponsors Supreme Exhaust System Products (a producer of superior automotive aftermarket products), Purity Farms (a leading producer of bacon and other pork products) and LCF Associates (a top professional investigations firm).

Unofficially, the TRV team was 15th fastest out of the 64 cars that participated in a three-day test at Daytona earlier this month. It was 14th fastest of the 20 cars in its class, Can-Am, the top division in the race. The team's best lap was run at an average speed of 117.190 mph around the 3.56-mile road course, which incorporates the 31-degree banked turns of the 2.5-mile trioval superspeedway and a non-banked infield section.

With one exception, all the other Riley & Scotts at the test used Ford engines instead of Chevys. Joining the TRV team on the "Bowtie Brigade" for that chassis manufacturer at the test was the No. 9 Can-Am car of George Robinson, Jack Baldwin, Irv Hoerr and Jon Gooding.

"We had a lot of bugs to work out at the test; that happens anytime you're sorting out a new car," said Volk. "It's been frustrating, but we should be in pretty good shape now."

Complying to the USRRC's new air restrictor rule has been especially challenging.

"Kinetics out of Detroit is preparing the engines for both of the Chevy Riley & Scotts, but the Daytona test earlier this month was the first time the Chevys had ever run with air restrictors," Volk explained. "The Fords and the Ferraris have run in Europe with them, and they have about a six-month lead time over the Chevys in their development. In fact, some of the data that we obtain at Daytona this weekend will be used for further development work prior to the Sebring race in March. Our team's engineer, John Greene, is even helping to do some of that design work."

Volk added that he expects the Ferraris, Fords and even the other Chevy team to qualify better than TRV does this weekend. "They have the budget to run in sprint trim up until the race, but our philosophy is to run the same gearing, engine configuration and shift points in practice and qualifying as we're going to run in the race," he said.

"We don't worry about qualifying in a race this long; we just concentrate on our race set-up," he elaborated. "That strategy worked last year, too, as we were eighth-place overall and fifth in class until our ring and pinion let go just a few hours before the finish, and we still finished seventh in class."

The testing challenges have been one thing, but the TRV team had a real scare during the off-season when crew chief Mike Madden suffered a heart attack the day after the team returned from its test at Moroso Motorsports Park in mid-December. Luckily Madden came through the heart attack and the subsequent operation just fine and is even working a few hours a day at the shop in Ohio, but the team will miss him at Daytona this weekend.

Continuity is important. Schroeder, who like St. James is trying to put together an Indy Racing League program, competed with Volk all last year. St. James was added to the TRV team for the long-distance races of Daytona, Sebring and Watkins Glen in 1998. Debban drove with the TRV team in a three-hour race at Daytona in 1996. Valentine is making his first start with this particular team, but he has a wealth of experience behind him, including more than 100 Trans-Am starts.

This race is particularly meaningful to Valentine because seeing it for the first time in 1975 was what lured him into the sport initially. Less than four months later he drove in his first SCCA regional race, and he's still going strong 24 years later.

One thing all the Rolex 24 drivers will enjoy this weekend is the track's new, state-of-the-art lighting system that is being used for this race for the first time. Previously when night fell the headlights on the cars were the primary illumination, but last year a new lighting system was installed at Daytona so that the July 4 Pepsi 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race could be run at night.

The entire track won't be bright this weekend, however. To keep the flavor of the race, just 20 percent of the track's perimeter lighting system will be turned on at dusk this Saturday night during the Rolex 24, and it will stay at that level until the sun rises again Sunday morning. This only affects the areas that the grandstands flank, however. There is no change to the infield portion of the road course, which remains dark except for the race cars' headlights.

Progress or not, there is nothing quite like the tradition of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, and 1999 marks the 37th running of this classic. It is sanctioned by the United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC). Like NASCAR Winston Cup and the Daytona 500, the USRRC's biggest race of the year is also its first race of the season.

Last year the TRV team, which competes with primarily an all-volunteer crew against factory-backed teams with much bigger budgets, finished an incredible seventh in the Can-Am class in this race. It did even better at the Exxon Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring, coming in fourth in class. The real highlight of the season, however, was the third-place finish in class that Schroeder and Volk recorded in a shorter race at Homestead, Fla., last May.

The tentative schedule for this weekend shows practice sessions for the TRV team on Thursday at noon and 2:15 p.m. Qualifying for the pole and front row is set for 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Another practice session is on the docket at 3:45 p.m. before the night practice session at 6 p.m.

Friday's schedule shows practice at 10 a.m. and final qualifying at 2:30 p.m.

There is a half-hour warm-up session slated for 9 a.m. Saturday before the start of the Rolex 24 at 1 p.m. Then it's the long grind of 24 hours of competition, with all the teams hoping that they'll be around for the finish at 1 p.m. Sunday.

"Just finishing is an accomplishment, because this event is brutal," Volk noted. "And it's not a case of wishing that nothing will go wrong, because something always does go wrong in an event like this. The real question is, 'Will we be able to fix what happens, and how long will it take us to fix it?' "

ESPN2 will cover the start and the finish live with broadcasts on Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday from 7 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

A 90-minute highlights show is also scheduled for ESPN the following Saturday night, Feb. 6, at 12:30 a.m.

All times are Eastern Standard.

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Series GT
Drivers Jeret Schroeder , Jack Baldwin , George Robinson