This was an Indianapolis Motor Speedway undergoing a sports car makeover courtesy of the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, featuring a total of 105 cars for the first of two test days serving as preparation for GRAND-AM’s July 27 IMS debut.
The drivers of those 105 cars dealt with ambient temperatures slightly over 100 and track temperatures close to 150 during six practice sessions – three per series. They collectively attacked a 2.534-mile road course that utilizes a portion of the speedway’s famed 2.5-mile oval but is more distinguished by its 13 turns.
Envision the sizzling, surreal scene: Sports cars on open-wheel racing hallowed ground, zipping around in a clockwise cadence. It was very different for this historic race track. And for the drivers – many of whom were spending their first day at the Brickyard – it was significant to say the least.
Especially for drivers like Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, co-drivers of the day’s fastest car, the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette DP. They led the first and third Rolex Series practices in the Daytona Prototype class. With Gurney at the wheel, the No. 99 set fast lap late in the third session – 107.534 mph (1 minute, 24.833 seconds).
Gurney, son of open-wheel/sports-car great Dan Gurney, is a two-time GRAND-AM Rolex Series champion, having won both titles with Fogarty. This year, he’s trying to do something his father surprisingly never did: win at Indy.
“Obviously it was a really good day," Gurney said. “The times are close [throughout our sessions]; we did some good work on the setup and got through a few good changes … so far so good. It is incredibly hot so we never ran any long runs, so that is still the giant question mark and maybe Saturday we will work on that."
Added Fogarty: “It is pretty hot but I feel good. It was fairly productive and the car is comfortable to drive. We are going to have changing track conditions Saturday and probably for the race but we seem to be in a good spot. Not chasing ourselves too much will allow us to branch out, experiment a little Saturday and hopefully make more improvements.
Ryan Dalziel wants to win at Indy as well, for a couple of reasons. He and co-driver Enzo Potolicchio have already captured class victories in the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans. An Indy triumph would complete an unreal major title sweep. Also, Dalziel’s team, Starworks Motorsport, is currently second in the North American Endurance Championship presented by VISITFLORIDA.com. The NAEC, a new three-race competition that started at Daytona and continued at Watkins Glen, ends with the Indianapolis event.
Dalziel was one of those first-time Indy visitors on Friday, despite an open-wheel background.
“Anyone who comes up through open-wheel, it’s always one of their dreams or goals to get to Indianapolis," said Dalziel, whose No. 8 Duncan Ford-Riley was seventh-fastest on the day. “I’ve already crossed off two big ones in one year, at Sebring and Le Mans."
Also Friday, in the Rolex Series’ production-based GT class, the No. 88 Autohaus Chevrolet Camaro of Jordan Taylor and Bill Lester had the day’s fastest GT lap, 99.492 mph (1:31.690). The No. 88 led the second session with that effort.
The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge sessions were led – in the Grand Sport class and overall – by the No. 61
07/06/12 Having the words “Gurney" and “Indy" in the same headline just looks good, doesn’t it?
Especially when the headline prefaces a report on a chart-topping speed.
That’s the situation at GRAND-AM’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway test, after this morning’s first Rolex Series practice for the July 27 Brickyard Grand Prix. The No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette DP co-driven by Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty had a fast lap of 106.257 mph (1 minute, 25.852 seconds). The production- based GT class was led by the No. 57 Stevenson Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro co-driven by Robin Liddell and John Edwards, after a fast lap of 98.357/1:32.748 on the 2.534-mile road course.
UP AND RUNNING AT INDY: The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge had the honor of going onto track first on Friday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with the initial practice session of the two-day GRAND-AM test. When the hour-long run was complete, the No. 61 Roush Performance Ford Mustang co-driven by Jack Roush Jr. and Billy Johnson topped the charts in the Grand Sport class and overall, with a fast lap of 91.638 mph (1 minute, 39.548 seconds) on the 2.534-mile road course.
The best Street Tuner effort was 87.365/1:44.417 by the No. 31 i-Moto Mazda Speed 3 co-driven by Pierre Kleinubing, Jayson Clunie and Tom Dyer.
As of Thursday morning, ninety-five teams had confirmed test entries – 30 from the Rolex Series and 65 from the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. The total is expected to top 100, clear indication of excitement throughout the GRAND-AM industry.
“This turnout is not surprising; everyone in both of our series recognizes the significance of this Indy debut, not only in terms of GRAND-AM but sports car racing in general," said Mark Raffauf, GRAND-AM’s managing director of racing operations.
“The excitement for this debut actually started building way back in 2009, when we first tested at Indianapolis and started fully exploring the possibility of a race. Three years later all the exploration, negotiation and good old-fashioned hard work by GRAND-AM and Indianapolis Motor Speedway is paying off and now, we’re closing in on a landmark event."
The GRAND-AM Rolex Series will compete in the Brickyard Grand Prix at 4:10 p.m. ET on Friday, July 27 (SPEED, live); the three-hour race on the 2.534-mile road course serving as the final round of the inaugural North American Endurance Championship presented by VISITFLORIDA.com. The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge will race earlier that afternoon in a two-and-a-half-hour race at 1 p.m. GRAND-AM’s two races are part of a weekend that also includes the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ debut at Indy on July 28 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ 19th annual 400-mile Indianapolis event on July 29.
This weekend’s test is free to the public, with viewing areas including the South Terrace grandstands located in front of the IMS Hall of Fame Museum, the Turn 2 Viewing Mounds and a designated area along Fifth Street.