Allmendinger Runs Fastest DP Lap in a Dallara
Allmendinger was fastest in Saturday's second day of "Roar Before the Rolex 24" testing at Daytona International Speedway, running the day's fastest lap of 127.318 mph in the No. 6 Curb Records DP he shares with Michael McDowell and Justin Wilson. He also beat Scott Pruett's fastest speed (126.848 mph) from Friday.
"Since I'm only running in the Rolex Series once a year, I didn't know if I would remember what the DP felt like," Allmendinger said. "But when I got in the Dallara, it definitely had a different feel. It slips through the air with good speed, but I don't know if we can drive it on the edge like this in a 24-hour race."
Allmendinger later backed up his speed by posting the fastest lap of night practice (123.713 mph).
"AJ's a rock star," car owner Michael Shank said. "I've been telling people that for years."
Also leading DP sessions were defending Rolex 24 winner Ryan Dalziel, who ran a lap of 127.168 mph in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport BMW/Riley, and open-wheel star Scott Dixon, 127.263 mph in the No. 02 Target/TELMEX BMW/Riley.
Reigning five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson practiced in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet/Riley, joining two-time champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty for the fourth straight year. While Johnson finished second in the Rolex 24 on two occasions - most recently in 2008 - he hopes to join Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt as the only drivers to win both the Rolex 24 and Daytona 500.
"That would be something special," Johnson said. "I love this team and I love this series."
In the production-based GT class, Andy Lally ran a lap of 150.303 mph to lead the morning session in the No. 67 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup that co-driver Spencer Pumpelly drove to Friday's fastest speed (116.329 mph).Co-driver Wolf Henzler set the fastest lap in night practice (105.797 mph). Andrew Davis (116.025 mph in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche) and Dominic Farnbacher (115.879 mph in the No. 66 TRG Porsche) led the remaining sessions.
Sunday activities run from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. All-access tickets are $15 - free to Rolex 24 ticket holders - with admission located at either of the speedway tunnels.
NOTES: Frenchman Pascal Gibon escaped injury when his No. 00 Aten Motorsports Ferrari F430 Challenge caught fire in the East Horseshoe. "The damage from the fire looks a lot worse than it is," said team principal Tony Dowe. "It appears we had an engine issue but the damage isn't catastrophic, if we had to be racing next weekend - we would be there." ... Todd Snyder led Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge testing, running 108.289 mph in the No. 21 SOS Mustang GT. ... Actor/racer Patrick Dempsey unveiled a bright yellow Visit Florida on his No. 40 Mazda RX-8. Dempsey is looking to make his fourth Rolex 24 start, co-driving with Joe Foster, Charles Espenlaub and Tom Long. ... ModSpace is stepping up its GRAND-AM involvement, sponsoring a pair of Mazdas for 2011. The company will back the No. 26 MAZDASPEED3 in Continental Tire Sport Car Challenge Street Tuner competition, and the No. 36 Yellow Dragon Motorsports Mazda RX-8 in the Rolex Series GT category. ... Grand Sport driver Steve Miller (No. 41 TRG Porsche 911) was taken to nearby Halifax Health Medical Center for evaluation following a hard crash in Turn 1, during an afternoon session for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. He was later released.
Aten Ferrari Damaged in Practice Fire (Updated Saturday at 6:10 p.m.)
Frenchman Pascal Gibon escaped injury when the No. 00 Aten Motorsports Ferrari F430 Challenge was involved in a fire at the east horseshoe during Saturday's third practice session.
"We had really controlled the pace of the car to where we wanted to be on the weekend and were very happy with the progress to date," said team principal Tony Dowe. "The damage from the fire looks a lot worse than it is. It appears we had an engine issue but the damage isn't catastrophic , if we had to be racing next weekend - we would be there.
"Pascal Gibon was in the car at the time" Dowe continued. "He smelt some smoke in the car and stopped immediately when it happened. It will obviously take a bit of time and commitment to get the car back on track."
Scott Dixon won the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona in the No. 02 Target/TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Riley. Since then, the team's No. 01 TELMEX/Target rolled off two victories and two second-place finishes in the event, while the No. 02 has slipped out of the limelight.
"We always come here to try to win the race," Dixon said. "Obviously, Chip and the whole team has a pretty good record. Unfortunately, since 2006 (when he won) I don't even think we finished the race - maybe once since then. So the main goal is to keep the car in one piece and try to be there at the end - then try to win another race for the team."
The team had a strong Saturday in the 2010 Rolex 24. Montoya led at midnight, only to have the car retired moments later with mechanical problems.
"We're trying a few different things with the car, trying to get some consistency for the race," Dixon said of today's session. "Conditions are changing - it's pretty windy out there - but the main aim is to get some more front grip out of the car. Our power down is really good. I think both TELMEX/Target cars have been extremely fast throughout this test weekend. I'm pretty happy."
Surprise! Farnbacher Leads Third GT Session (Updated Saturday at 5:15 p.m.)
Dominic Farnbacher was pleasantly surprised to learn he posted the fastest time in Saturday's third GT practice session.
"I didn't even know I was first," Farnbacher said after learning his lap of 1:50.598 (115.879 mph) in the No. 66 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup led the session. Andy Lally led the morning sessioon in the team's No. 67 car, while Spencer Pumpelly was fastest Friday in the No. 67.
"The TRG guys work incredibly," Farnbacher said. "I've seen that in the past when I've been with other teams, and now I can see it live. They prepare the cars very well. Earlier the focus was on the No. 67 to do a good setup for the race, and now the eye was more on the No. 66 to do the same for that car. Obviously, it worked pretty well. I think we've got a good recipe to compete in the race. I thankful for TRG for making me to be a part of it."
Davis Leads Second GT Session (Updated Saturday at 3:45 p.m.)
Andrew Davis led the GT competitors in Saturday's second session, running a lap of 1:50.459 in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
"We've made a lot of changes from yesterday and from this morning," Davis said. "I'm really proud of the Brumos crew. They just don't stop. They made several big changes over the lunch break, and immediately I liked the car a lot better. It gave us what we were looking for, and we were able to gain a little speed. It's great to put the 59 up front again."
Ironically, the car Davis knocked off the top was the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro of Robin Liddlell - his former car and teammate.
Ganassi: 'Competition a Little Better Each Year Here' (Updated Saturday at 2:50 p.m.
Chip Ganasssi has built a solid resume in the Rolex 24, finishing first from 19996-98 and second the past two years by less than a combined 59 seconds. He's not resting on his laurels buy any means.
"You show up and you take a quick assessment of your competitors, and I'll tell you, you come back each year and the competition gets a little better each year here," Ganassi said. "It's going to be a challenge to maintain our record here."
Defending Rolex Series DP champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas share the No. 01 TELMEX/Target BMW/Riley with Graham Rahal and Joey Hand. Scott Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti and 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray share the No. 02 Target/TELMEX entry.
"We have drivers that have a lot of experience in other forms of racing," Ganassi said. "Maybe they don't have a lot of experience in this form of racing, but our work is making them aware of what they can expect, what they can't expect, and what they can look forward to in a 24-hour race. Let's face it, they have a lot of experience in the 24 hours, but maybe they don't know who the competitors are. We have a better view of racing them on an annual basis, and Scott and Memo can help them in that area."
Dalziel in Opening Afternoon Session (Updated Saturday at 2:35 p.m.)
Second fastest on Friday, Ryan Dalziel was quickest in Saturday's second session. He ran a lap of 1:40.780 in the No. 8 Starworks Corsa Car Care BMW/Riley he shares with Mike Forest, Colin Braun, Jim Lowe and Tomas Enge.
"We've had a good car all weekend," said Dalziel, overall winner of the Rolex 24 with Action Express in 2010 and second-place finisher for Starworks owner Peter Baron in 2007. "Actually, I think we're better on long runs than short runs. We don't have anything trick in the car. We're working on running our race pace, so I'm pleasantly surprised we're this quick at this point."
Bill Lester Set For Full Season WIth Autohaus Motorsports (Updated Saturday at 2:25 p.m.)
Bill Lester is looking for just a little luck as he joins Autohaus Motorsports in the No. 88 Camaro.
"We have a very strong lineup," Lester said. "I think the only think we're missing is luck, and we hope that's on our side this year.
"Obviously, the Camaro is very different from what I'm used to," added Lester, a veteran of Daytona Prototype, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and SCCA World Challenge competition. "I'm coming to grips with it and enjoying the experience."
Lester will be running with Jordan Taylor for the full GT season, with Johnny O'Connell, Matthew Marsh and Romain Ianetta co-driving in the Rolex 24.
"I had known who Jordan Taylor was, but I never met him before joining Autohaus," Lester said. "It's been great getting to know him. We have something in common - we're both engineers. Jordan is very analytical and thinks the way I think."
Hurley Haywood Happy to Be Back in GT (Updated Saturday at 1:50 p.m.)
Hurley Haywood first raced a Brumos Porsche 911 in the Rolex 24 in 1972, when he captured class honors with Peter Gregg. The following year they returned in a distinctive white, blue and red 911, and captured the overall victory - Haywood's first of five in the event.
For 2011, Brumos is returning to its GT roots.
"It's fun to drive a car that has so much history behind it," Haywood said. "I spent a long time in DP. That was great but it's fun to get back in a GT car."
"Andrew and Leh are really good together," Haywood said of his young teammates. "It's important for us as a company to have people young enough to appreciate our history, and young enough to learn what it means to drive for Brumos."
Porsche factory driver Marc Lieb will be the team's fourth driver for the Rolex 24.
Valentine Set For First DP Start Since 2003 (Updated Saturday at 1:45 p.m.)
RJ Valentine raced in the inaugural season of Daytona Prototype competition, when he drove in five races for Darius Grala's Cegwa Sport Lexus/Fabcar.
A lot has changed in the class since then, as the popular veteran is finding out as he's preparing to race in the No. 7 Starworks Xtreme Indoor Karting Ford/Riley.
"This car feels much better," Valentine said. "It's easier to drive. The team is great. Peter Baron is a lot of fun and gives you a good experience."
Brundle: 'I Feel Like I've Never Been Away' (Updated Saturday at 11:55 a.m.)
The last time Martin Brundle raced at Daytona International Speedway, he finished second in the Rolex 24 At Daytona co-driving Jaguar XJR-12 with John Nielsen and Price Cobb. In his only other appearance here, he won the 1988 classic for TWR with Nielsen, Raul Boesel and Lan Lammers.
"Wow, this track is a lot smarter than I remember," said Brundle, who will co-drive the No. 23 United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing Johnnie Wilker/FXI/UBS Ford/Riley with fellow Formula One veteran Mark Blundell, Zak Brown and Mark Patterson. "It's been more than 20 years since I've been here, and the track is a lot smarter than I remember. It's in really good condition. The banking and bus stop are superb.
"I feels like I've really never been away," added the 51-year-old Brit. "I feel like a young man again."
Brundle's Rolex 24 efforts were part of the late Tom Walkinshaw's Castrol and Bud Light Jaguar effort, managed by Tony Dowe - who is running the Aten Motorsports No. 00 Ferrari F430 this weekend. Brundle is hoping to get together with Dowe at the test.
"I was just watching some old footage during lunch of the year we won here in the No. 60 Jag with Nielsen," Brundle said. "The place really looks a lot different - it's looking really crisp now. This race will present the usual challenges of a 24-hour race. We've got to have a raceable car and watch traffic, put togehter a consistent package. We're not reinventing the wheel. I seem to be on the pace - I'm very happy about that."
Allmendinger Fastest in Opening DP Session (Updated Saturday at 10:55 a.m.)
It's one thing moving from a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stock car to a Daytona Prototype. For AJ Allmendinger, it's also a matter of learning an unfamiliar DP, as he is driving a Dallara this weekend for the first time.
No problem Saturday for the 2006 Rolex 24 runner-up, who is running for Michael Shank Racing in the Rolex 24 for the sixth straight year. Allmendinger ran a lap of 1:50.303 to take fast lap honors in the day's opening session in the No. 6 Curb Records Ford/Dallara also driven by Michael McDowell and Justin Wilson.
"None of us have ever driven a Dallara before," Allmendinger said. "We're getting used to it and working on it. Justin did a great job yesterday and got the car a lot better from where we started. We still have a lot of room to improve. The car's definitely fast - we've showed that - we'll keep working on it to make it better overall. Ford has a ton of horsepower, and we're excited about that. The tire was cool, but we know we're probably not the best car and we've got to keep working on it."
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Allmendinger was surprised how different the Dallara felt from the Riley he raced from 2006-10 despite not being in a DP for several months.
"It's a lot different," he said. "I didn't know, running this race once a year, if I would remember what it felt like but when I got in the Dallara it definitely had a different feel from the Riley. It slips down the air really good with good speed on the straightaways. It has good exit grip. We need to work on entry stability. They've gotten the car better from July, but we know for a 24-hour race we can't drive it on the edge like this. Michael and Justin will get a lot of time in the car this afternoon. All three of us are saying the same thing, which is a good thing, so we'll keep working on making it better.
Lally Leads Opening GT Session (Updated Saturday at 10:50 a.m.)
"We're all taking our turn," Lally said. "Scott and Wolf (Henzler) were quick yesterday, and I got in a good lap this morning - not quite as fast as Spencer's from yesterday, though. Yesterday I only ran a few laps shaking it down. When I got in today, I could tell that all the advances they had made made the car a lot more comfortable so I could get in a good lap. The car is really strong. We're really pushing it here to see what we've got, so when we come back here for the Rolex 24 we will be ready for it."
Lally also credited the engineering work of Horst Farnbacher, a Porsche veteran who is helping TRG for the first time this weekend.
Morning Practice Underway (Updated Saturday at 10 a.m.)
The first of four Rolex Series Saturday practice sessions is underway and will run until 10:45 a.m. Additional sessions will be held from 1-2:30 p.m., 4-5 p.m. and 6:30-8 p.m. (All ET). There are also a pair of Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge sessions from 11 a.m.-noon and 2:45-3:45 p.m.
Scott Pruett quickly went to the top of the charts - after leading both Friday sessions - but the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford/Riley with Michael McDowell currently at the wheel is now fastest, 1:40.661. The No. 67 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup leads GT with a lap of 1:50.303. Wolf Henzler opened the session for the team, with Andy Lally now at the wheel.
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