Grand-Am Rolex Series October Test at Daytona - Day 3
After three days of the October Test Days at Daytona International Speedway, Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 drivers and teams will focus their efforts on next month's two-day test Nov. 11-12 on the 2009 Pirelli tires.
Twenty-four cars were on the grounds Monday morning, and several cars spent all three days on the track in conditions and temperatures seen more regularly during the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The test was the final time teams were using the 2008 Pirelli P Zeros.
Only three incidents interrupted the three-day test, including two involving AIM Autosport's No. 11 Ford Riley and another involving the No. 55 LevelFive Motorsports BMW Riley. Drivers of both cars were not injured, and neither car was severely damaged.
Overall, teams earned 26 hours of track time. Krohn Racing was one team that took advantage of the time, logging more than 1,700 miles, equivalent to 478 laps. The winning car in the 2008 Rolex 24 turned 2,474 miles. There were no official times posted for any day of the test.
Penske Racing returned to Daytona International Speedway with a new car and a crew new to the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 for this week's October Test Days in preparation for the Rolex 24 At Daytona from Jan. 24-25.
Penske Racing returned to the Rolex 24 after a 35-year absence this past January, running a Pontiac Riley in conjunction with Wayne Taylor Racing. Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Kurt Busch teamed to finish third in the team's only Daytona Prototype race to date.
This week, the team unloaded a new Riley, powered by a Porsche flat-6 engine, in hopes of coming away with a victory in the 40th anniversary of its 1969 Daytona triumph. Romain Dumas, a four-time participant in the Rolex 24, was the team's lone driver throughout the three-day session. Patrick Long was at the test but did not drive.
"None of these guys worked on last year's 24-hour car," said John Erickson, general manager of Penske Racing's road racing team. "Last year we did all that with the IRL guys, and for this test, we're using guys who were with the ALMS car."
Penske Racing's involvement with the event now known as the Rolex 24 At Daytona dates back to the inaugural Daytona Continental in 1962, when team owner and founder Roger Penske raced a Cooper-Climax T-61 Monaco. The following year, Penske finished second overall behind Pedro Rodriguez. The 2009 Rolex 24 marks the 40th anniversary of Penske's victory in the event, with Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons winning in 1969 in a Chevy-powered Lola T-70. Prior to January, it last raced here in 1973.
"The 24 Hour race at Daytona is very important," Dumas said. "I had the chance to win twice in the 24 hour races at Nurburgring (Germany, 2007, 2008) and Spa (Belgium, 2003, 2004) already in Europe, but this is the only 24-race in America. I hope to have a good result this year, for sure. It's the best team here and we are new, but we want to do well."
Dumas raced in the Rolex 24 four times, finishing on the GT podium on two occasions. He was part of the TRG team that finished 11th overall and third in GT last January, co-driving with Spencer Pumpelly, Tim George Jr., Bryan Sellers and Emmanuel Collard in the No. 67 Porsche GT3. He also finished 10th overall and third in GT in 2002, running a Porsche 996 for Freisinger Racing with Ni Amorim, Stephane Ortelli and Hans Fertl.
He also raced a Daytona Prototype in the Rolex 24 twice. In 2007, he finished 18th overall and 12th in class in Alex Job Racing's No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche Crawford, and was part of the No. 59 Brumos Racing lineup in 2005.
"The Daytona Prototype is completely different from the P2 car," Dumas said. "Overall, it's quite nice. I'm surprised. It has less downforce and less grip, but we have good power and it's cool to drive. Concerning the chassis, it's our first test so we have to continue to work on it."
Fittipaldi Joined by Italian Costa in Rolex Test
Forsythe Racing made its first foray in the Rolex Series this week, participating in the October Test Days. Young Italian Alberto Costa participated in the three-day session, joined by Cheever Racing veteran Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 16 Pontiac Coyote. Forsythe Racing race engineer Mike Pawlowski ran the test for team manager and technical director Tom Brown.
Coyote is restructuring for 2009, with team principal Eddie Cheever working with Forsythe and Spirit of Daytona Racing to build a development program for the new Daytona Prototype chassis.
"This is very nice," said Costa, who tested with Cheever a year ago but has yet to race in America. "I like this kind of car very much, the driving style is a little different from the formula cars but it's more exciting because the type of track is different with the banking, the car is bigger. I like it, but I have to improve, and I learn another kind of driving style."
The Rolex 24 will be a new form of racing for Costa, whose background is racing open-wheel formula cars in Europe, in races of 45 minutes or less. But he's looking forward to the challenge.
"I like this type of racing because the concentration is at the maximum level all the time," Costa said. "I think that the 24-hour will be even more difficult because you can't relax for only one minute.
Cheever is impressed with the 21-year-old Venetian.
"He's learning the type of car, which is the first thing, and he's confirming a lot of work being done with Christian," Cheever said. "As we continue to work, he will improve to go in that direction. He's very consistent. He's here again because he had a good test here last year, and we're trying to bring more Italian drivers and more Italian interest to the Rolex 24 At Daytona. He is a good choice."
Fittipaldi enjoyed his experience working with Costa at the test.
"He's very young and this is his first experience with these cars over here," Fittipaldi said. "He has a lot to learn, but he has the talent and I'm pretty sure he will be able to pick it up quickly."
One month after the end of the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 campaign, Brumos Racing is already hard at work, looking to continue the momentum it built through the latter half of the season and carry it over to the 2009 championship.
For that reason, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based team brought both of its Porsche Rileys to Daytona International Speedway to test, working all three days in the October Test Days.
The team's No. 58 Porsche Riley finished fourth in the Daytona Prototype team standings. After a slow start, David Donohue and Darren Law finished the year with 10 straight top-10 finishes, including three runner-up results and two thirds. Law came with a few hundred yards of winning at Montreal, running out of fuel in sight of the checkered flag.
The Brumos No. 59 leapfrogged past its teammate in the season finale to grab third in the final points. While they did not score a podium finish, Joao Barbosa and JC France placed fourth in five of the final seven races.
"We had quite a bit of top fours, but we couldn't really make the next step on the podium," Barbosa said. "With the consistency of the team and the results we showed the latter half of the season, we were able to reach the third position in the championship, which was the best podium we could get."
Barbosa split time in both cars, joined by Law in the No. 58. Donohue, on the mend from shoulder surgery, did not attend the test. Joining Barbosa and France in the No. 59 was Hurley Haywood, a five-time Rolex 24 winner who drives in the endurance races.
Both Brumos cars were near the top of the unofficial speed charts Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, the team concentrated on pit stops, getting a head start in that area for the 2009 Rolex 24.
Farnbacher Loles Brings Three Cars to Test
Farnbacher Loles Racing veterans Bryce Miller, Leh Keen and Eric Lux were on hand during this week's October Test Days at Daytona International Speedway to drive the Nos. 86, 87 and 89, with several other drivers taking laps around the track during the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 test.
Miller, who has spent one-and-a-half seasons with Farnbacher Loles, spent time in the car all three days of the test. Keen drove the car on Monday and Tuesday, while Lux was in the car Monday before returning to Jacksonville, Fla., for college classes. Keen and Lux gave Farnbacher Loles its only Rolex Series GT victory in 2008, when they outlasted the inclement weather at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
A runner-up in last year's Rolex 24 At Daytona, Miller was excited to return to the car for the first time since the season finale at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. With temperatures in the high 50's and low 60's, which are temperatures usually encountered during the race, Miller said the weather was ideal in preparing for the race.
"It's very good," Miller said. "It came in very favorable conditions. Everything is working very well. It's very quality track time. At any given moment, the number of cars out there, it's not very crowded. There aren't a lot of cars out there, so there aren't any long lines, holdups, interruptions. Teams are using the time to their advantage. We're able to make a lot of changes and take the car back to the garages. We can focus, drive and enjoy it."
The cars ran without trouble until Wednesday morning, when Bryan Sellers lost control of the No. 89 Porsche GT3. The Centerville, Ohio, driver spun in Turn 5 but did not hit the wall. He limped back to the pits with a busted radiator and broken splitter. Sellers had done three laps in the car previous to the spin.
One driver who had never tested a Rolex Series car - or for that matter ever been to Daytona - was London, England, native Ed Pead, who got two hours of seat time Tuesday in the No. 89 machine. Pead is a veteran of the Porsche races in England and most recently drove in Asian Formula 3 competition. He was on hand to see if the Rolex Series was in his future plans.
Other drivers at the test were Daniel Graeff, Ron Yarab Jr., Jim Pace and Seth Ingram.
Orbit Racing's Test Not Limited to Daytona Prototypes
Orbit Racing's Daytona Prototype program isn't the only program the team is keeping tabs on during the October Test Days for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 at Daytona International Speedway.
Two Porsche GT3s, the Nos. 7 and 34, were on hand for testing all three days at the track, with a host of drivers getting seat time. In the No. 7 were Omar Rodriguez and Hiram Cruz, while Lance Willsey, Pat Iannucci and Josh Hurley piloted the No. 34. Only Iannucci and Hurley, both in their early 20s, tested the No. 34 on Wednesday.
Iannucci, a student at Florida Atlantic University, is a former Stars of Karting standout whose only action outside karts was in a Porsche test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He said he was "skipping a few steps" but quickly grew accustomed to the larger length of course and higher speeds as well as the move to a full-bodied car.
Hurley has competed in the Volkswagen TDI Cup, where he won the 2008 championship, and was a data engineer for Fountain Motorsports, which runs in the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Street Tuner (ST) class. He also was a late bloomer in the sport, having started racing when he was 17 years old. He is now 23.
Baldwin to Compete with Autometrics in 2009 Rolex 24
Legendary racer Jack Baldwin will suit up for next year's Rolex 24 At Daytona at Daytona International Speedway driving for Autometrics Racing and the team's No 14 Foametix Porsche GT3.
Baldwin was on hand with Claudio Burtin in this week's October Test Days for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 and was happy with the car's performance.
"The car is really good and we had such a good first test we decided there was no need to put any more time on it," said Baldwin, who won his class in 1984 in a Mazda RX-7.
The team's lineup at this point includes Baldwin, Burtin, Cory Friedman and Mac McGehee. Friedman and McGehee participated in last year's Rolex 24 with Autometrics.
Terra Firma Outfit Tests at Daytona
Terra Firma Motorsports made its Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 debut at the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona with Ron Zitza, Gary and Mark Jensen and Jordan Taylor, sporting a Porsche GT3.
On Monday and Tuesday, the car was back, with Zitza, Gary Jensen and Joe Evans in the No. 17 Porsche GT3, which sports the eyes of actor Steve McQueen on the rear bumper. Terra Firma did not test on Wednesday.
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