Krohn Racing Debuts New Lola DP Chassis
Krohn Racing will arrive at Homestead-Miami Speedway with its two new Proto-Auto Lola DP cars for the inaugural sprint race of the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season, March 27-29. After an extensive testing schedule with the new cars, the Krohn team and drivers are ready to debut them against the challenging Grand-Am Prototype field of 19 cars and 26 GT cars at the Gainsco Grand Prix of Miami.
Team owner/driver Tracy W. Krohn created Proto-Auto LLC with Lola Cars one year ago to build a Daytona Prototype chassis for Grand-Am competition. The car has been testing since December of 2007, inaugurating its first race this weekend.
Tracy may have to sit out the Homestead race due a family medical emergency. “Super-sub” Roberto Moreno is on standby as a back-up driver and will assist with practice this week. He will pair with Eric van de Poele in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola. Krohn regular Nic Jönsson and former Formula One hotshoe Ricardo Zonta will pair in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola, as they resume their chase for the championship.
Tracy W. Krohn, team owner/driver, No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola:
Homestead will be the debut of the new Proto-Auto Lola chassis. Is that an exciting moment for you?
“We’re very excited about finally getting to race this car. We’ve done numerous tests since the car arrived in December. We have been very pleased with its progress each time we’ve tested. It just keeps getting better. Now we are excited to see how it will stack up again the other competitors in a real race format.”
Talk about the progress over the numerous tests you’ve done with the new car.
“Well we have been pleased with the progression of the new Proto-Auto Lola because it has improved each time it’s been on the track. That’s what you want to see with a program like this. You want to see it keep moving forward. I’ve been very pleased with the progress each outing.”
You have Roberto Moreno coming to Homestead to substitute for you in case you miss the race. Tell us about that.
“I need to be with my mother in Texas this week while she has some tests run and to see if she requires heart surgery. The team will take care of things in Homestead and handle the practice and qualifying. If things go well I hope to be able to drive the race, if not Eric and Roberto will do the driving at this one. We brought Roberto in as he’s a very talented driver and is known for his ability to step in and substitute when needed. He hasn’t driven the new Proto-Auto Lola yet, but was out at the test in Homestead earlier this year checking things out.”
Nic Jönsson, driver, No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola:
You have been involved in the testing of the new Proto-Auto Lola. How has that been going?
“We had another two days of testing last week in Virginia and we are definitely making progress every time we go to the track and test. There’s always a lot of different items that have to be tested, and not just once or twice, but maybe sometimes three times to be able to make sure you have the reliability. The key thing with the new creation like this is to have reliability -- from a safety aspect, but also, of course, from a competitiveness standpoint, to make sure everything stays together. We start making progress on both of those ends, but also they were very good from the beginning. Also we are starting to understand the car a little better and to get more speed out of it. From all those aspects, testing has been going very well. We are going to see when we come down to Homestead this week if we have enough speed. We probably will still have to work on that but we will all be very interested to see where we are as far as the rest of the competition.”
How is the car to drive? Any main differences to the Riley?
“The Riley obviously is and was a very good race car. They had done a good job of building a solid, good car and easy to drive. The Lola has a little more high-tech and new technology in it. I think the layout of the cockpit is fantastic in the Lola and the designers used new thinking there. In comparison, I think the Riley was a good car to drive and maybe a little more forgiving than the Lola. The Lola is a little bit more like a single-seater with its features. The car reacts more on a single change to the set-up. With the Riley you had to change maybe two or three things or make a very big change to actually feel a difference. I think the Lola engineers have applied their single-seater experience to this Prototype here, as well to get a little more efficient car. They’ve been able to fine-tune the car a little bit more but that means that you obviously have to do more testing and do more on top of other things to get the most out of the car.”
Do you have any predictions or thoughts on the continued development of the new car over the course of this season?
“We’ve done quite a bit already and are making progress. I expect the car to get better and better every time we hit the track, especially the first half of the season. To come up with a brand new product like the Proto-Auto Lola, versus the Riley, which has five or six years under their belt, there will be growth. The changes Riley has made this year are basically bodywork and we all have new tires we have to run on this year. We have much more data to collect than the Dallara, Riley and Crawford. From that aspect, I expect we will be a little behind 8-ball, as far as that goes. But we have a very talented engineering staff and crew at Krohn Racing. We make big leaps in the right direction every time we go to the track. I’m very excited about it. I think we’ll have a very, very fast, good race car here in Homestead and I can’t wait to race it.”
Homestead is first sprint race of the year and you and Ricardo will start building towards a championship run. Your thoughts?
“It will be our first sprint race this year. I had the honor to race with Ricardo one race last year in Sonoma at Infineon Raceway. He’s a first-class, world-class driver. It’s great to have someone like him to work with. He obviously has a very good feeling for the car, very good feedback with the engineers and together, I think, we had a pretty strong package. Then you add the Krohn Racing support, along with the new Proto-Auto Lola and Pontiac engine, and I think it will be a very good, strong package this year. I can’t wait to get going. Hopefully we can go out there and show what the Proto-Auto Lola can do for Krohn Racing and have a very good season!”
Eric van de Poele, driver, No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola:
You have been involved in the testing of the new Proto-Auto Lola, so tell us how has that been going?
“So far things have been going very good because we have improved every time. It means that we are not yet reaching the maximum potential of the car. We are still discovering many items we can work on – chassis, point-of-view and aerodynamics. I wasn’t there for the last test in VIR, but have read the report and it looked like a good test also. I’m sure since the last test at Homestead the car has improved further. I’m really looking forward to going there to see where we are compared to the competition.”
How is the Lola car to drive, and compared to the Riley you raced at Daytona?
“The Riley was perfect at Daytona. We drove a car that had been developed that was good in all areas. But I think the Lola is a new generation of car. Definitely we get more downforce. The car is a little bit more viral. The direction is quicker, and everything is a little bit quicker.
I think the new cars are working a little more of a downforce car, so you have different springs and different stuff like this. It’s really good because I find the combination between power, downforce and grip is very good. Of course, we could have more power for more fun, but it’s already a good compromise. It’s really fun to drive.”
The car will continue to be developed over the course of this season. What do you see for its progress?
“The interesting thing is that we are going to race at different kind of tracks. We will see soon if the car is competitive on both a fast track and a twisty track. We will be discovering the car at different race track, which is interesting too.”
Homestead is first sprint race of the year. You are mostly considered an endurance racer. It will be the first race with just you and Tracy driving together. Your thoughts?
“This is my first race at Homestead. The championship is new for me also. I will see a little more how it works with the competitors. I know it is very tough. Personally, even if it doesn’t look like it, I prefer sprint races more than long distance races. I’m very interested about this length of races. We’ll see how we’re going to do with the strategy with Tracy and I. Following the two races we have done together -- at Daytona and Sebring -- Tracy had really perfect races. I don’t think there will be any problems to be in a short race together. I’m sure it’s going to be very good because it is going to be a very safe half of the race with him. Then we’re going to be in a good position and see what happens for the second part of the race. If it is Roberto who is my teammate, it will be the same. He is a pro and we will have no problems. Of course, it is going to be very hot. Physically it will be hot but I’m prepared for that.”
Ricardo Zonta, driver, No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola:
You have been involved in the testing of the new Proto-Auto Lola, how has that been going?
“The car has been very good to drive. We have tried many things on each of the testing session and it improves each time. David Brown, the engineer, has been working with us to get the most out of each session and make the car better. This is good. Now we want to see how we will do in the race.”
Homestead is first sprint race of the year. Are you looking forward to getting into the sprint format with just you and Nic paired together and working on your run for the championship?
“It will be good to start the sprint race format. Nic and I have been working together now and especially with the development of the new car. We are happy to race the Lola and work on championship points.”
David Brown, Team Manager, Krohn Racing:
You have been intricately involved in the testing of the new Proto-Auto Lola. How has that been going?
“It’s actually been going reasonably well. We didn’t run the Lola at Daytona but since then we’ve managed to get some testing in. Each time we’ve run we’ve learned a bit more and we feel we know more about the car now. We know enough to be able to go and race it now, so we’re ready to go racing and looking forward to it.”
The car will obviously continue to be developed over the course of this season. What do you see for its progress?
“The proof of the pudding is very much in Homestead. Going testing is one thing but being up against competition in the full heat and light of a competitive environment is the only way to tell what you’ve really got and how competitive you are. Obviously we’ll have to take every opportunity we get during practice sessions during the season and the one-day tests after the events to improve the car in the areas where we find weakness and where we find its performance shortcomings. Until we’ve really been up against the competition we’re not really sure which bits are going to be the biggest weaknesses.”
Homestead is first sprint race of the year. Are you looking forward to starting the sprint format races?
“Yes, very much. Daytona is a bit of a one-off. Your approach to it is very different. A sprint race is much more intense. You do have to compete every single lap. There’s no waiting around until a few hours from the end before you take more risks. You go for it right from the beginning by being competitive with the car, performing good pit stops and drivers changes and all that sort of stuff. It’s a real test of the car, and a real test of the team and the drivers.”
Roberto Moreno is a standby driver for Tracy. How did that come about?
“I know Roberto from many years ago when he was involved in Formula One. Our paths have crossed a few times since then in the Champ Car Series and when he was testing the Panoz Champ Car. He’s a guy who has got a great attitude. I think he’ll fit in very well with the team. I think he’s really looking forward to doing a bit of racing.”
The Krohn Racing two-car team finished fourth (No. 76 with Jönsson, Zonta and Darren Turner) and seventh (No. 75 with Krohn, van de Poele and Oliver Gavin) in the Pontiac Rileys at the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona in Grand-Am’s season opener in January.