For teams preparing for the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 28-29, 2012, the final test event -- the Roar Before the Rolex 24 – got underway today at Daytona International Speedway after the fog that had blanketed the area burned off to leave behind sunshine and comfortable temperatures in the high 60s. With ideal conditions the 57 well-tuned sports cars – 14 Daytona Prototypes and 43 GT cars – exited the pits and entered the road course on the first of the three practice days.
The big news in the GT class are the new entries from Ferrari and Audi. The iconic Italian marque from Maranello has built the 458 Italia Grand-Am specifically for the Rolex Grand-Am Sportscar Series and it has caught the attention of motorsports enthusiasts from around the world. The Grand-Am version of Audi’s R8 looks very much like its street legal R8, but with modified suspension and a 5.2 liter V10 engine.
Audi R8 GrandAm
Courtesy of new and more aerodynamic body work, the Daytona Prototypes fresh off the production line are drawing rave reviews. One team in particular, the Spirit of Daytona, was particularly pleased that theirs was the first of the five Corvette DP cars to be delivered. The early delivery allowed the team to participate in all of the test events, put extra time into race preparation and has given them an additional shot of confidence.
“I’m really delighted to be driving with Antonio Garcia (Spain) and Richard Westbrook (England) in the new Corvette DP,” said Oliver Gavin (England). “I think this is an extremely exciting time to be in Grand Am and driving a Corvette in that series [Rolex Sportscar Series which consists of 13 events beginning with the Rolex 24 At Daytona].”
Another team anticipating a solid finish is Michael Shank Racing’s #60 Ford Riley DP. While only taking possession of their new car two weeks ago, their impressive driver lineup, consisting of John Pew (North Palm Beach, Fla.), Oswaldo Negri Jr. (Miami, Fla.), A J. Allmendinger (Denver, Colorado) and Justin Wilson (England), gives the team the confidence that they have the right combination of factors for a podium finish.
“It’s good to be back with Michael Shank,” said A.J. Allmendinger who made his name in the Izod IndyCar Series and is a regular on the NASCAR circuit. “We finished second in 2006 with Justin and Ozz and I have also had some good runs with John, so I feel really good about our team of drivers. I’m really excited about this year’s prospects. We’ve got a really good car so I think we have a good shot this year.”
“The guys worked very hard to get the car ready,” said Negri who was getting email updates from Shank while on vacation in Brazil. “We’ve been trying to get this team back together for a few years. I think that we will be the team to beat for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.”
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