GRAND-AM Cooldown Lap - November Daytona Test Day 2 Several GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge teams completed a two-day test at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday in preparation for the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona.
An early rain shower prevented most teams from participating in the first two hours of Thursday's test, but the sun came out by 11 a.m. ET and shone brightly for the remainder of the day, allowing teams to continue working toward the start of the 2012 season. This was the second GRAND-AM-sanctioned test since the 2011 season wrapped up at Mid-Ohio in September, with two more scheduled prior to the start of the 2012 campaign. Lap times were not published.
Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge driver Jack Corthell of Cape Canaveral, Fla., was involved in the only incident of the day in the No. 89 Ranger Sports Racing Porsche 997 when he impacted the barrier in the chicane at the end of the backstretch. Corthell was transported to a local hospital for evaluation and was later released.
Brian Johnson, lead singer for AC/DC, was all smiles late Wednesday after breaking the "50 barrier" by running a lap in the 1:49 range at the wheel of the 50+ Racing/Predator's No. 50 BMW/Riley. Thursday, Johnson got down to 1:48 laps, "Slowly, but surely chipping away." Johnson and co-driver, Byron DeFoor will be joined by former winners Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Jim Pace and Carlos de Queseda at the Rolex 24.
While Spirit of Daytona driver Antonio Garcia made headlines Wednesday for turning the first laps in the new Corvette Daytona Prototype, the GM driver returned to the Chevrolet-powered Coyote he piloted last season for an afternoon test session. The team used the newly re-numbered No. 09 DP to test new aerodynamic pieces.
The No. 8 Starworks Motorsports Ford/Riley team made repairs from the lone incident Wednesday afternoon and was able to get the car back on track for Thursday's afternoon session. The team worked to repair splitter and nose damage as a result of the accident which occurred in the chicane late in Wednesday's test. Enzo Potolicchio, who was involved in the Wednesday incident, was able to improve his time in Thursday's session.
James Gue and Gunnar Jeannette were busy throughout the two-day test dialing in the new Ford Focus ST-R, which will make its competition debut in the 2012 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Gue estimated the development program to be one-third complete and is confident the front-wheel drive car will be among the frontrunners in the Street Tuner (ST) class come the season-opening GRAND-AM 200 at Daytona.
"We won't be able to test our new Riley Gen 3 Daytona Prototype until December 19, but this is still a very important test for us. We're working on all mechanical stuff, doing a lot of things that we haven't run before. That way, when we come back here in December, we can concentrate on working on our aerodynamic package." Michael Shank, owner of the No. 23 Michael Shank Racing Ford/Riley.
"My first time coming up on the banking was such a feeling - just unbelievable. I had a big smile on my face. I thought the car would have less grip, but it was easy to push it right out of the box. I came here 15 years ago and did the tour and watched Daytona 500 practice, but this is my first time here in the paddock." British Mini Challenge Cup Champion Chris Knox, testing the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro.
"We went out on slicks and the track actually had quite a bit of grip because there were no puddles out there. We had some brake pads we needed to break in and it was the perfect time because there was nobody out there. I think we're really developing a great program. We're off to a great start and Brian (Johnson) and Byron (DeFoor) are really coming along as drivers. We're a lot farther along than I thought we would be at this point." Elliott Forbes-Robinson, driver of the No. 50 50+ Racing/Predator Performance BMW/Riley
"The competitiveness of the Rolex Series, and especially in the GT category, has been remarkable over the last five or six years. Last year was a knockdown, drag out battle that came down to the last lap of the last race of the season. I think it's going to be even more competitive and more difficult to win next year because of all these manufacturers that are starting to get involved and other teams that are coming in. I certainly welcome those challengers coming in. It shows health in the series and in the GT category, so I'm really excited about that, but you've got to start working. All those that aren't here, I hope they are working, because we certainly are." Andrew Davis, No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche GT3
"Having been in the Continental Tire series for five or six years now, I think right now, definitely the place to be is in ST. You see a lot of manufacturer involvement with Ford, Kia, Mazda and a lot of the other manufacturers. There are some really good drivers and really good cars and you saw last year how big the fields were. I want to race wherever the most competitive class is, and I think this going to be probably one of the most competitive classes next year." James Gue, No. 15 Ford Racing/Multimatic Motorsports Ford Focus ST-R
"It's a big challenge to bring a car that's had the following that this car has had to the track and do the initial shakedown in front of everybody. There was a lot of pressure on my guys that this go smooth and everything was perfect. We ran a ton of laps. I'd say we ran through five or six sets of tires, and the car did everything that we asked it to do. The car ran so well that we actually had the opportunity to tune on it a little bit, which we never expected to have the time to do. We got a lot further ahead this week than we were anticipating. We're really excited to be a part of this because we believe this car is a game changer. We're going to keep pushing ahead and hopefully we'll have these Corvette Daytona Prototypes 1-2-3." Troy Flis, owner/team manager No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette Daytona Prototype
The next activity for the Rolex Series will be a two-day test at Daytona International Speedway on December 6-7. The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge will join the Rolex Series at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test at Daytona International Speedway on January 5-8.
The 2012 Rolex Series opens with the January 28-29 50th anniversary running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The Continental Tire Sports Car challenge season opens with the GRAND-AM 200 at Daytona on Friday, Jan. 27.