Champ Car contingent ready for Rolex 24
The Champ Car World Series will be well represented on the grid when the first major American auto race of 2008 gets underway Jan. 26-27 with the running of the 41st Rolex 24 at Daytona. No less than five current Champ Car drivers, one of its team owners, one of its promoters and the reigning champion of its primary development series will take part in the 24-hour sports car endurance race at Daytona International Speedway, the opening event in the Grand-Am series.
Hoping to start the year with a victory in the Daytona Prototype Class are Champ Car drivers Justin Wilson, Graham Rahal and Ryan Dalziel, as well as team owner Jimmy Vasser. Champ Car drivers Robert Doornbos and Jan Heylen will compete in the GT Class against Long Beach promoter Jim Michaelian, who will share a car with his son, Bob Michaelian.
Wilson, the 2007 Series runner-up, will share a Ford Riley entered by Michael Shank Racing with Rahal, who as a rookie wound up fifth in the 2007 Champ Car point standings.
Dalziel, a two-time runner-up in Champ Car Atlantics and a rookie in the 2007 Champ Car World Series, is entered in a Pontiac Riley by SAMAX Racing in the Daytona Prototype Class.
Vasser, co-owner of PKV Racing and 1996 Champ Car titlist, will pilot a Pontiac Riley in Daytona Prototype entered by Bob Stallings/Riley Matthews Racing. Vasser's co-drivers include reigning Grand-Am champions Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney. Vasser, Fogarty and Gurney all competed in Atlantics.
Following three days of testing this past weekend, Vasser's car was fifth fastest, the car of Wilson and Rahal was eighth fastest and Dalziel's car was ninth overall.
Vasser was pleased with the outing and likes his team's chances in the upcoming race.
"These were the first laps I have driven this year and my first time in the car since I drove with the team at Miller (Motorsport Park) in practice (in September)," Vasser said. "So it's good for me to drive. From a driving aspect, it's always good to get behind the wheel and knock a little of the rust off.
"I like to think that I haven't really made mistakes here and that I have been solid. Everybody needs to do their job in this race, hang in there and run competitively but consistently and I think that is probably why Bob Stallings brings me back for this race. I am fortunate to be a part of this team and the lineup. You look at the lineup with Jimmie Johnson involved now, it is a group of champions and any time you get a chance to be a part of that you should consider yourself lucky.
"At the end of the day you are dealing with professionals here and guys that put their head down and do their job and that's all that matters. I haven't seen this team waffle under pressure. If any pressure was going to come up it would have happened at Miller and they showed that they keep their cool."
In the GT Class, Doornbos, third in the final CCWS standings and Rookie of the Year in 2007, is entered in a Porsche GT-3 by Synergy Racing. Heylen will co-drive another Porsche GT-3 entered by Synergy. Michaelian & Son will share a Mazda RX-8 entered by Racers Edge Motorsports. Also scheduled to run a Mazda RX-8 will be Raphael Matos, the reigning champion of the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.
The car shared by the Michaelians was quickest in the GT Class while Matos' car posted the eighth quickest GT time. ChampCar.ws