Competitive Season On Horizon For Continental Tire Challenge

Preview Of The Grand Sport Class

While BMW held the upper hand in both the Grand Sport and Street Tuner classes during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 testing, solid competition in both classes is expected for the season-opening Daytona Rising 200 on Jan. 24 and the remainder of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season.

This week, we take a look at what to expect in the Grand Sport class.

Returning veteran Bill Auberlen led the three-day test with a lap of 1:56.451 (110.055 mph), unofficially beating Jade Buford's year-old GS track record of 1:56.512 (109.997 mph), set last year in an Aston Martin Vantage. Auberlen returns with Paul Dalla Lana in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3, while Michael Marsal and Tom Kimber-Smith provide a solid pairing in the team's No. 97 entry.

Fall-Line Motorsports tested a pair of BMWs at the Roar. Trent Hindman, who came on strong at the end of last year, is teamed with John Edwards in the No. 46, while Shelby Blackstock and Ashley Freiberg are in the No. 48. All four drivers took turns leading sessions in their respective cars, which were second and fourth fastest in the final Roar results. Drivers for the team's third entry are yet to be announced.

Rum Bum Racing tested its No. 13 Porsche 997 for returning champions Matt Plumb and Nick Longhi, but the team took its old BMW M3 out of the mothballs and that car was actually faster, with Hugh Plumb co-driving with 15-year-old Kaz Grala.

While BMW ended up on top, Ford, Nissan and Aston Martin were all near the lead in different sessions during the Roar.

Phoenix American Motorsports will have two Ford Mustangs, including the No. 32 for Andrew Aquilante and Kurt Rezzetano, with the two drivers building both of the team's cars. Multimatic Motorsports returns to Ford after two years of running Astons, including the returning pairing of Jade Buford and Scott Maxwell in the No. 15. Multimatic will partner with Miller Racing for the No. 158, with Ian James and Billy Johnson running the season in honor of the late Roger Miller, who drove that car last year for Dempsey Racing. Returning for Ford are Racers Edge Motorsports and Jim Click Racing.

Kevin Doran has a pair of fast Nissan 370Zs, the No. 14 for Brad Jaeger and BJ Zacharias, and the No. 41 for 2011 champions David Empringham and Jon Farano. Empringham, a three-time Daytona winner in the Continental Tire Challenge in addition to winning the DP class for the Rolex 24 in 2003, was fifth-fastest overall in the Roar.

Other GS contenders at the Roar include TRG, with a pair of Aston Martins for drivers including James Davison, who led a session and was third fastest overall; Automatic Racing is switching to one Aston Martin for Rob Ecklin Jr.; Rebel Rock and Bodymotion are running Porsche 997s; and Compass360 joins the class with a Subaru WRX STi in addition to its multi-car effort in ST.

A number of teams opting not to test at the Roar also are expected to contend. Stevenson Motorsports will have a pair of Chevrolet Camaros with a solid driver lineup of Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis in the No. 6 and Matt Bell and Andy Lally in the No. 9. CKS Autosport will return with its Camaros and drivers Eric Curran, Lawson Aschenbach, Ashley McCalmont and Bob Michaelean. Tim Bell Racing is new on the scene, but should be an instant contender with Bell and a driver to be named in the No. 28 Nissan 370Z. Also new are the No. 18 AREHUCAS Rum Racing Camaro of Jason Montgomery and Steve Tarpley, and the No. 8 Mantella Autosport Aston Martin Vantage of Canadians Antony Mantella and DP veteran Mark Wilkins.

Next week: A look at the ST class, which already has a 35-car entry for the Daytona Rising 200.

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