O’Connell joins Riley-Matthews Motorsports for Rolex 24 Riley-Matthews Motorsports closed out the 2007 Rolex Sports Car Series season with a convincing win at Miller Motorsports Park, and the team is making strides towards getting 2008 off to a similarly fast start in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona
Johnny O’ Connell
Bill Riley confirmed on Tuesday that GM factory racer Johnny O’ Connell has signed on to complete the Riley-Matthews Motorsports driver line-up as the team prepares for the 46th running of the endurance classic at Daytona International Speedway. O’Connell, who won the 2001 event overall in a Chevrolet Corvette, will look to share a second triumph in 2008 with co-drivers Jim Matthews, Marc Goossens, and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
“We’re really excited about adding Johnny to our line-up for the 24,” said Riley. “He knows what it takes to win this race and even though he had never run in a Daytona Prototype before today, he was quick right out of pit box here in testing. Jim, Marc, and Ryan work really well together and obviously are a fast combination, so Johnny is going to fit right in.”
O’Connell, who competed in the 2007 edition of the Rolex event with a run to fourth in the GT class, got his first taste of Daytona Prototype action this week as Riley Technology teams from both the DP and GT classes got some crucial testing miles in at DIS in advance of January’s Test Days.
The Flowery Branch, Georgia resident enjoyed his first run in a Daytona Prototype during testing, and is looking forward to being part of a new chapter of success for the Pontiac-powered Riley combination.
“The trick to winning these races – the longer ones – is being smart,” said O’Connell. “You’ve got to have drivers that are quick but also don’t get into trouble. My boss at Corvette Racing has three rules – don’t hit anybody, don’t break anything and stay on the race track. If you can do that, you’re going to get a good result.
“Having won this race before, it’s one we all want, but there is a formula to doing things right. These guys definitely have the formula. It is a good group of guys that are very committed to winning this race. You need some luck, but these guys are definitely doing the preparation.”
With a long and impressive resume of multi-class racing to his credit, O’Connell also brings some perspective to the cockpit, with so much experience racing a GT entry among the faster prototypes, something that he feels will help him aboard the Riley-Matthews entry.
“It’s interesting, because when you’re running in the GT category you have the impression that these guys can do anything with these cars, and yet you’re in a race and get run into and all that kind of stuff. But now having driven one, I can see that you’re working hard, and those guys – there might be reasons why you’re running too fast because they’re not as nimble as the GT guys I think presume. You are right on the edge. The other thing is the tires. I think with Pirelli coming on board, it might make a lot better, safer situation for everybody. But it’s a neat car and a neat formula.”
In addition to their involvement with the Grand Am and the American Le Mans Series, Riley Technologies also build cars for the Rolex Sports Car Series, the USAC Silver Crown Series, and the Japanese GT Championship Series.
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