Grand-Am Test Day 1 Notebook Twenty-four cars were on hand for the first of three days of Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 testing at Daytona International Speedway, as teams and drivers earned nearly nine hours of quality track time at the 3.56-mile track.
The test, which will be the final time teams will use the 2008 Pirelli P Zero tires, ushered in several new teams and many drivers who are hoping to compete in their first Rolex 24 At Daytona in January 2009. There was only one incident, as AIM Autosport's Billy Asaro hit the wall in Turn 3 with the No. 11 Ford Riley, causing bodywork and mechanical damage.
Tuesday's schedule will mirror that of Monday's, with practice from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. (with two one-hour breaks) and Wednesday's practice from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. No official times will be available during any of the three test days.
Krohn Racing Returns to Ford Power in 2009
Krohn Racing is testing at Daytona International Speedway with the same car and same drivers that ran with the team in 2008, with one big change. The team is returning to Ford engines, which it last ran in 2006, when Jorg Bergmeister captured the Daytona Prototype championship.
Nic Jonsson tested the lime green No. 75 Ford Lola on Monday, and is expected to be joined by Tracy Krohn and Ricardo Zonta on Tuesday. Jonsson and Zonta finished eighth in the 2008 Daytona Prototype championship, co-driving the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola.
"The decision to run Ford was made a couple of weeks ago, to go with a different powerplant for the '09 season, switching from Pontiac to Ford," Jonsson said. "I think we saw last year that the Ford powerplant was strong. We definitely struggled last year, not just with the car, but with the powerplant. We've done everything we can on our part to get the best engine at the back of our ProtoAuto Lola, and now it's up to us to get the car fine-tuned to where we can win some races next year and run for the championship."
While the 2008 season was spent developing the Lola chassis (after running the Riley in the Rolex 24), Jonsson does not expect the engine switch to pose a problem.
"This year was spent learning the ProtoAuto Lola chassis, I think we've made a lot of progress with the Lola chassis" Jonsson said. "We still have some to come. But I think the engine is a sorted item. John Maddox with Roush Yates Engines is doing a great job with that powerplant. We ran the powerplant in '06 when we won the championship the first year out with Krohn Racing, and I think it's going to prove itself to be the best and the right choice for us to go with."
Krohn will test the car for a half-day on Tuesday, with Jonsson and Zonta doing half a day Tuesday and a full day on Wednesday. Van de Poele will be at the next Daytona test, Nov. 11-12.
AIM Autosport Tests Second Car with Farano, Asaro
AIM Autosport was the most improved team in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Daytona Prototype paddock in 2008. Mark Wilkins and Brian Frisselle won two races and two pole positions while scoring 10 top-10 finishes and placing sixth in the final team standings in the No. 61 Exchange Traded Gold Ford Riley.
For 2009, the team is looking to add a second car for selected races, the No. 11 AIM Autosport Ford Riley for Canadians John Farano and Billy Asaro.
"This is an ex-Krohn car, chassis No. 11," said team manager Ian Willis. "We converted it to a Ford engine. John Farano is no stranger to Grand-Am - he raced a few times in a GT class Mustang - while Billy Asaro drove for us 10 years ago in Formula Ford, and went on to race as high as the British Formula 3 championship.
"Both John and Billy will be running in selected races, probably six in total this year, including the Rolex 24. Probably David Empringham will be the third driver in the Rolex 24, and we're talking to a few other people."
Both drivers were pleased with their initial outings in the new car, but the team will have some work to do before Tuesday morning, as Asaro was involved in an incident during the final half hour of testing. He hit the wall in Turn 3, and the car sustained some bodywork and mechanical damage.
"I love the Daytona Prototype," said Farano, who drove a Ford Mustang GT in three races in 2008. "I haven't had much seat time yet, but we'll get there. I think it's going to be great. I've known AIM for some time, and I wanted to drive this car to be part of the faster group."
Farano also raced in the Ferrari Challenge, winning a 2007 race at Mont-Tremblant in Quebec and finishing fourth in the championship. Asaro raced for AIM in Formula Fords in the late '90s, before moving to Europe, where he worked his way up to participating in British Formula 3 in 2003. He's been working in the family business since then.
"We tested the Daytona Prototype a couple of weeks ago at Shannonville in Ontario," Asaro said. "It was a really good test. We did competitive times, and the car is great. I know the AIM guys and we work well together. The guys are good."
Cosmo, Three Motorcycle Stars Test for Spirit of Daytona
Three motorcycle legends tested together for the first time Monday at Daytona International Speedway, preparing for a probable run in the 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Ricky Carmichael, Scott Russell and Jason Pridmore are spending three days taking turns behind the wheel of the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Porsche Coyote - and are enjoying every minute of the process.
"I'm pretty excited to come back," said Carmichael, a five-time winner of the Daytona Supercross By Honda. "Obviously, I'm not as nervous. There were some things I needed to improve on from the minimal laps I had last time (during Open House in September). I did a little bit better from last time, and I'm still trying to learn and get a good evaluation. It was much smoother today. When we apply a little more speed to it, we'll be ready to go."
Carmichael spent the season racing in the NASCAR Camping World East Series, and is preparing to run the next two years with Kevin Harvick Inc. in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
While Carmichael's only prior outing in Grand-Am was at Open House, Scott Russell has been a regular in the paddock throughout the season - helping with spotting while learning about four-wheel racing.
"I feel a lot more comfortable every time I come here and get in the car," said Russell, the first five-time winner of the Daytona 200 By Honda. "I've still got a lot to work on as far as lap times go, and getting smooth in the car. But it's coming around, and I'm enjoying it. I've improved a second and a half this time from the last test. I'm still quite a ways off, but that's a good sign if I can knock off a little more every time I get in."
Pridmore's lone test in a car was with Spirit of Daytona recently in Savannah, Ga. Monday's session was his first here in Nomex instead of leathers.
"This is so much different being on a bike around this place, and it's going to take a lot getting used to," said Pridmore, a two-time supersport 750 winner here. "The hardest thing for me is the idea of being strapped in and not being able to move around a lot. We've got a lot more freedom on the bike. Still, the lines and stuff aren't really that drastic. We're running the old Daytona course that we raced back in the day, and it felt like home again."
Joining the two-wheel legends at the test was Guy Cosmo, who was the Spirit of Daytona's regular driver in 2008.
"This is a real fun process," Cosmo said. "These guys are new to this kind of road racing, and they're new to racing on four wheels, but the interesting part to me is that they're champions, absolutely masters at their craft and what they do. So, their process of adapting to four wheels and this car and these tires is really impressive, because they're not rookies."
Racers Edge Motorsports Brings Four Drivers to Test
Jon Mirachi's No. 30 Mazda RX-8 has four drivers testing in this week's October Test Days, including two teenagers who have raced together in the car previously.
Dion von Moltke, a freshman at Florida International University, and Jordan Taylor, a high school senior from central Florida, competed at Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park together and finished 13th. They average about 17.5 years between them.
Another young driver, Dane Cameron, is also competing with Racers Edge this week. Cameron, who turned 20 last week, competed in the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series this season and is a former Star Mazda champion with Atlantics experience.
Together, their ages don't add up to that of Doug Peterson, who at 58 years old rounds out the lineup. A native of Bonita Springs, Fla., Peterson began racing 10 years ago, and since has won in the SCCA Runoffs and competed in Star Mazda, Ferrari Challenge and World Challenge. He also has one prior Rolex 24 At Daytona star.
All four are hoping to compete in the Rolex 24 in January, which would be the first starts for von Moltke and Cameron in the 24-hour classic.
Mirachi will enter his third season in 2009 fielding cars, and next season will be the second for Racers Edge with a Mazda RX-8. The New Jersey native, who has moved his operation 30 minutes southwest of Daytona Beach in Deland, Fla., hopes to put together a two-car effort in next year's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.
Through Monday's first five hours of testing, Mirachi is encouraged by his drivers' times. Taylor, also driving with Beyer Racing in a Daytona Prototype, got in the car for the first time just before 3 p.m.
"At this stage, working toward the Rolex 24, I'm very happy," Mirachi said. "One interesting thing is that, the three drivers we had out (first), all of them have been within two tenths of a second of each other, from fastest to slowest. So that's encouraging that everyone is that consistent."
Automatic Racing Tests Bosch ABS System
Automatic Racing's No. 09 Imported Car Store/Land Air BMW M3, which finished third in the 2008 Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS) point standings, tested a Bosch ABS system during Monday's test.
Jeff Segal, who drove all 10 races in which the No. 09 competed during the 2008 season, and Dave Russell combined to test the car for about an hour, or one fuel load, at the request of Bosch. It was the first time a KONI Challenge car had tested the system, which is a device in which many racecars in Europe use.
"We ran a tank of gas; that was the plan," Russell said. "It was solid; it worked well."
Notables Make Appearance on First Day of Testing
Several drivers made rounds during Monday's test session. Shane Lewis and Bill Lester, who competed together for Southard Motorsports in 2008, walked the garage area, throughout the day. Michael Shank and driver Oswaldo Negri Jr. both spent Monday afternoon watching practice; Michael Shank Racing, Shank, Negri and the team's two Ford Rileys will be back to participate in the November Test Days in two weeks.
Ryan Dalziel, who competed in the season finale with Michael Shank Racing, was also walking through the garage area, as was James Gue, who finished second in the KONI Challenge Series point standings and former Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller.