Grand-Am gears up for first race at Lime Rock
The Daytona Prototypes will make their first visit to historic Lime Rock Park in the Monday, May 31 running of the Memorial Day classic.
GRAND-AM held a successful test at the Lakeville, Conn., circuit on April 27, with 11 Daytona Prototypes and seven GT cars participating. Following the session, it was determined that the Rolex Series will use a 1.5-mile layout using the optional approach to the Uphill with the classic Downhill Turn, combining both classes in a two-hour, 45-minute race.
By the end of the day and on a dry track, Daytona Prototype drivers were turning laps in the 49-second range. Drivers in the GT class, which last visited Lime Rock in 2008 on the old course, clocked in at 53 seconds.
"A lap goes so quick here," said Memo Rojas (No. 01 TELMEX BMW Riley), testing the championship-leading TELMEX BMW Riley with Joey Hand. "The biggest thing I remember is that you have to stay on top of things the entire time. There isn't a lot of time to do things here."
David Donohue (No. 59 Brumos.com Porsche Riley) is happy to see the Daytona Prototypes becoming part of the Memorial Day Weekend habit.
"Lime Rock was one of the tracks I grew up on and a place my father (Mark Donohue) was really good at," said Donohue, sharing the car with Darren Law. "I'm definitely looking forward to coming back on Memorial Day and being part of that tradition."
Pruett, Rojas In Search Of Record Fourth Straight Victory
Scott Pruett (No. 01 TELMEX BMW Riley) and Memo Rojas will try to become the first GRAND-AM Rolex Series team to score four consecutive overall victories in the May 31 event at Lime Rock Park.
Pruett and Rojas hit several milestones when they won the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway. It was the 100th victory for Ganassi's Indianapolis-based operations (26 victories in GRAND-AM, 74 in Indy Cars. Since then, Scott Dixon added No. 101 when he captured the IndyCar Series event at Kansas Speedway.).
Pruett broke a tie with Terry Borcheller (No. 9 Action Express Racing Porsche Riley) as the leading class winner in Rolex Series history. All but one of his 26 victories have been in a Daytona Prototype. Also, Pruett and Rojas won their 12th victory as a driving combination, tying them with Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty (No. 99 GAINSCO Chevrolet Riley) atop that category.
Rojas is excited about returning to Lime Rock, a place he hasn't visited since 2000, when he raced in open-wheel cars.
Donohue, Brumos Have Had Success In New Classes At Lime Rock
When a new racing class is introduced to Lime Rock Park during Memorial Day Weekend and David Donohue (No. 59 Brumos.com Porsche Riley) is entered, his competitors better beware.
In 1996, when the North American Touring Car Championship appeared at the track for the first time, Donohue drove to victory in a Dodge Stratus. In fact, it was the first-ever NATCC race.
That weekend featured two rounds for the new series; Donohue was second behind Dominic Dobson in the second race. Darren Law-Donohue's current co-driver-drove a BMW in both races, finishing eighth and ninth.
"I was really lucky, because I got thrown right into the fire," Donohue said. "It was everybody's first Super Touring race, but I made fewer mistakes and cruised to victory despite a horrible start. I picked my way through the field and made a critical pass on Rod Millen coming down the hill. Everything worked in my favor."
Donohue won the NATCC title the following season.
Brumos Racing also scored a milestone at Lime Rock Park in 1991, when current Brumos team principal Hurley Haywood won the debut race in the IMSA Bridgestone Supercar Challenge in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche 911.
Hans Stuck won the 1993 Supercar Championship at the circuit, with Haywood finishing fourth. Donohue placed eighth in a BMW M5, and went on to capture the 1994 Supercar Championship crown.
Bomarito On A Roll, Takes Lead In MESCO Rookie Standings
Jonathan Bomarito (No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8), in his first season of GRAND-AM Rolex Series competition, has been mixing it up with the veterans of the production-based GT class. He opened the year with a victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the RX-8 co-driven by SpeedSource team principal Sylvain Tremblay.
Bomarito captured his first Rolex Series pole at Barber, and ran near the front in the most recent race at Virginia. As a result of the strong start, the 28-year-old from Monterey, Calif., leads the 2010 MESCO Building Solutions Building for the Future Rookie of the Year Award standings.
Dion von Moltke (No. 77 PR Newswire/South African Airways Ford Dallara) is second in the Rolex Series rookie standings with 73 points, followed by Todd Lamb (No. 30 IDEMITSU Mazda RX-8), 71 points. Also in contention is Gunther Schaldach (No. 97 Lala Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro), 60 points.
Assentato, Segal On A Roll In GT
A 16th-place finish in the Rolex 24 At Daytona was not the best way for Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal (No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8) to open the 2010 Rolex Series GT championship.
Despite that poor start, it has taken the duo only three races to capture the point lead. The pair followed up victories at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Barber Motorsports Park with a second-place finish at Virginia International Raceway, giving them 118 points.
Dropping to second with 115 points after a ninth-place finish at VIR were Rolex 24 winners Jonathan Bomarito and Sylvain Tremblay, while Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell (No. 57 BryanMark Financial/Vin Solutions Chevrolet Camaro) finished seventh at VIR, falling to third with 112 points.
By The Numbers
Some numbers to look at heading into the Memorial Day Weekend event at Lime Rock Park:
1.5 - Length of track, in miles, of Lime Rock Park
3 - Point lead in Rolex Series GT division for Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal
7 - Turns comprising Lime Rock Park
21 - Current Daytona Prototype lead by Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas (No. 01 TELMEX BMW Riley) over second place in points, Ryan Dalziel (No. 8 Starworks Motorsport BMW Riley)
26 - Number of victories by TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in Daytona Prototype competition
27 - Drivers who have led at least one lap in GT action this season
30 - Minimum time limit (in minutes) any driver must be in the car to obtain points
35 - Drivers who have led at least one lap in Daytona Prototype action this season
45 - Speed limit (in mph) on pit lane; GT car lead changes this season
62 - Record number of career Rolex Series podium finishes by Andy Lally
72 - Daytona Prototype and overall car lead changes this season
128 - Record number of career Rolex Series class starts by Darren Law
257 - Record number of Rolex Series GT class podium finishes by Porsche since 2000
338 - Laps led by the No. 01 TELMEX BMW Riley team in Daytona Prototype competition this season
1,011 - Laps completed by GT race winners this season
1,076 - Laps completed by Daytona Prototype race winners this season
Hand Does Double-Duty At Test; GA Drivers Hit Grand Central Terminal
Joey Hand did double-duty in the recent Rolex Series open test at Lime Rock Park.
In addition to testing the No. 94 Turner Motorsports BMW M6 he occasionally drives with Bill Auberlen and Paul Dalla Lana in the production-based GT division, Hand sat in with Memo Rojas in the TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racin with Felix Sabates BMW Riley.
"It was something I've worked on doing since I was 16 years old," Hand said. "I've talked to all the Ganassi guys since my Formula Atlantic days. Now, I can check that off my list. It's BMW-powered, and that really helped me get to test it. From driving it, it's a solid-running car."
The day following the test, Lime Rock Park and GRAND-AM did a special promotion at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
New York-based drivers Emil Assentato (No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8), Mark Ackley and Scott Panzer (No. 11 Strategic Occupancy Solutions Ford Mustang GT, in Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge), all Manhattan executives, as well as Northport, N.Y., native Andy Lally, represented their teams, all of which have sponsors located in New York City. Additionally, Michael Shank Racing's Daytona Prototype was on hand with drivers Ozz Negri and John Pew (No. 60 Crown Royal XR Ford Riley). Other drivers in attendance included Jeff Segal, Nick Longhi, Ted Ballou and Tom Nastasi.
The event was part of a promotion set up by Lime Rock Park to bring race fans to its GRAND-AM races on Memorial Day Weekend. Track officials passed out flyers for its Grand Central promotion; for $53, people can ride from Grand Central to Wassaic, N.Y., be shuttled to Lime Rock and enjoy the race. The track is the closest to New York City to host a GRAND-AM race.
Fans spent nearly seven hours checking out the cars. In addition to the Nos. 11, 60 and 69, also on hand was the No. 66 AXA Porsche GT3, owned by TRG.
"The volume of people going through Grand Central Terminal every day is massive, and putting the cars in front of them was productive," Lally said. "It was a great idea, and I expect several people we talked to will attend the Lime Rock race."
Marsh Racing (No. 31 Whelen Corvette) is among the hometown heroes on Memorial Day. The team is based in Old Lyme, Conn., not far from driver Sonny Whelen's home. Co-driver Eric Curran lives in Holyoke, Mass.
Of the 11 different track configurations being contested by Rolex Series competitors in 2010 (10 different facilities; Watkins Glen features two different track lengths - 3.4 miles and 2.45 miles), the 1.53-mile Lime Rock Park is the shortest track on the schedule.
Five different cars have won in Rolex Series competition this season - two in Daytona Prototypes and three in GT. Fourteen drivers have scored victories this season - six in Daytona Prototypes and eight in GT.
The last caution-free Rolex Series race came at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2007.
Up Next: Watkins Glen
There will be little time for rest following the upcoming races at Lime Rock Park.
Watkins Glen International is right around the corner, with the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen set for Saturday, June 5.
Rolex Series teams have three days for travel and setup before practice gets underway at 9:30 a.m. Friday, June 4, with qualifying that afternoon at 2:50.
The Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen continues a tradition dating back to 1968 when it takes the green flag at 2 p.m. (SPEED, live).
The weekend also includes a two-and-a-half hour Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race, taking the green flag at 10:15 a.m. Saturday.
Monday's Fan Activities
Memorial Day will be non-stop for GRAND-AM Rolex Series competitors, with practice, qualifying and racing all crammed into one day of on-track activities.
The drivers and teams will take time for the spectators, though. Fans are invited to participate in a free pit road Fan Walk from 1:15-1:45 p.m., to get a close-up look at all of the Daytona Prototype and GT cars, drivers and teams, moments before racing. Many of the drivers will be next to their cars signing autographs during this time.
At 11:30 a.m., fans can get a close-up look behind the scenes of a typical pit stop in a special demonstration by a Rolex Series pit crew.
Lime Rock Park will also be giving paddock tours, and raffling a hot lap for $5. Fan activities include karting and laser tag on the Midway.