Denmark's Jan Magnussen – the Formula One, Champ Car and sports car veteran who co-drove the SunTrust Racing machine to victory at Laguna Seca and to the pole position at Infineon Raceway in six appearances with the team last season – returns for this year's 24-hour classic Jan. 27-28 to join regulars Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli, and NASCAR star Jeff Gordon, who will be making his first career Rolex 24 appearance. Magnussen is a two-time class winner with the Corvette factory team at both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Petit Le Mans sports car events. It will be his first Rolex 24 with the SunTrust team.
"Jan is a fantastic choice and, quite frankly, the obvious choice to complete our driver lineup for the Rolex 24, given his proven success with the SunTrust team and his history with General Motors as a factory driver," said Taylor, who in November announced the formation of Wayne Taylor Racing to continue carrying the SunTrust Racing banner in Rolex Series competition. "Jan did a great job for us in limited duty last season. He won the race with Max (Angelelli) at Laguna Seca, and he fits in very well with what we have going on here for the Rolex 24. He's really, really quick and he doesn't make mistakes, which is precisely what you want out of your drivers for an endurance event like this. He definitely knows the mindset it takes to get through a 24-hour race, and he's a proven winner."
Magnussen, who arrives in Daytona from Denmark this evening, will join his SunTrust Racing teammates for the latter sessions of this week's test, which began this morning and concludes Saturday afternoon.
"If I could choose any team to race with at the Rolex 24, my first choice would most certainly be the SunTrust team. So, in that regard, I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity this season." said the 33-year-old Magnussen. "On paper, it's a brand new team, but in reality, with all of the key players involved, it has the potential to be the winning team again this year, like it was in 2005. I am very much looking forward to being a part of the effort and hope that together we can bring home a win."
After finishing third in last year's Grand-Am Rolex Series championship – despite an abrupt exit from this season-opening event after being involved in a multi-car accident in the fourth hour – Taylor, Angelelli and his newly formed team hope to start 2007 more like 2005, when they won convincingly here with co-driver Emmanuel Collard, then went on to take the series title with five wins, 10 podiums, and no finish below sixth in 14 Rolex Series races. That memorable run came on the heels of a second-place finish in the series championship for the SunTrust team.
Last year's championship chase for SunTrust Racing came down to the season finale outside Salt Lake City. Taylor, Angelelli and their SunTrust teammates combined for the race win at Laguna Seca, runner-up finishes at Virginia, Birmingham (Ala.) and Watkins Glen (N.Y.), and top-five runs at Phoenix, Mid-Ohio, the July race here at Daytona, and Sonoma (Calif.).
If today's opening practice sessions are any indication, the outlook is certainly promising for the SunTrust team as Angelelli started the day with the fastest lap around Daytona's 3.56-mile road circuit in the morning session. Angelelli's lap of 1 minute, 44.976 seconds (122.085 mph) topped a timesheet that features 28 fellow Daytona Prototype-class cars and 68 entries altogether. He finished with the fastest lap of the entire day during the 60-minute final session, that being an effort of 1:44.357 (122.809 mph).
"Yeah, we're a new team on paper, but there is a lot of experience within our organization," Taylor said. "Perhaps more important than that, there is a lot of motivation to do well right off the bat. We have one of the best driver lineups in one of the most competitive fields this series has ever seen. And by the looks of things this first day of testing, we're definitely headed in the right direction."