Da Matta, Rolex Series Competitors Return To Racing At Laguna Seca

Brazilian Cristiano da Matta will race for first time since testing accident in 2006

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 13, 2008) ? It?s been nearly two years since he?s raced competitively, but popular open-wheel champion Cristiano da Matta is set to make his return to racing Saturday in the 250, Round 5 of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, highlighting this weekend?s Monterey Festival of Speed at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (SPEED, 1 p.m. ET Sunday).

Da Matta will join Californian Jimmy Vasser ? a fellow Champ Car titlist ? in the No. 98 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley in the 112-lap, 250-mile race or two-hour, 45-minute time limit. The pair will be part of a two-car GAINSCO effort, joining Californians Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty. The defending Daytona Prototype champions won seven races in 2007 in the No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac Riley, but are still seeking their first victory this season.

Da Matta suffered severe injuries when he hit a deer in a Champ Car World Series testing accident in August 2006 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. After months of rehabilitation, da Matta was cleared to drive earlier this year, and tested with Bob Stallings? team in Dallas in March. This will be da Matta?s first race since the accident at Road America, and second career in the Rolex Series. Da Matta and Vasser have also won at Laguna in former Champ Car competition.

“I’ve had enough vacation, man,? da Matta said. ?It’s very nice to get back to work. I’ve actually been pumped for a long time, since I got back and first drove this race car.

“I like the track very much. It’s actually one of my favorites. If I could choose a track to get back into the car, I’m sure Laguna would be in the top three. It’s a special place for me. I know the track quite well. I’ve tested there; I’ve raced there in Champ Cars and Indy Lights and everything. I have no worries about the track.”

Meanwhile, his teammates Fogarty and Gurney look to get back to their winning ways at Laguna Seca. The pair finished second in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and are also looking for their first pole position of the season. Last year, Fogarty earned his first career Rolex Series pole ? the first of nine consecutive for the No.99 GAINSCO team ? and with Gurney landed sixth in the race.

The GAINSCO team leads a host of contenders looking to knock off the Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes? two hottest teams in the event. TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates is currently dominating the Daytona Prototype class, with Scott Pruett of Auburn, Calif. and Memo Rojas winning three of four races in the No. 01 TELMEX Lexus Riley. The duo opened the year with the team?s third consecutive triumph in the Rolex 24? joined by Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti ? and followed up with victories at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Virginia International Raceway. Their only defeat came at the hands of the No. 91 Bob Stallings/Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley of Jim Matthews and Marc Goossens. The Mexico City winners are riding a streak of three straight top-four finishes.

Defending race team winner No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford is being driven by Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand, both in their first season with the team. As both drivers also call California home ? Auberlen in Redondo Beach and Hand in Sacramento ? the pair hope to take the No. 23 back to victory lane.

Another former race winner, Max Angelelli, just hope the luck his and that of co-driver Michael Valiante?s turns better. Contact in three straight races have kept the pair from finishing in the top 10 after they opened the 2008 campaign fifth in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara at Daytona.

Other teams that have been running strong include the No. 2 SAMAX BMW Riley of Henri Zogaib and Ryan Dalziel, second-place finishers at VIR; the No. 7 Rum Bum Racing BMW Riley of Matt Plumb and Gene Sigal, who finished fifth in two of the last three races; and the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley of Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins, second-fastest qualifiers in the past two races. Other teams to watch include the two-car efforts from Michael Shank Racing, Krohn Racing, Brumos Porsche and Doran Racing.

Stevenson Looking For Third Straight Win

Shut out of the podium since its Rolex Series debut in 2003, Stevenson Motorsports has become the car to beat in GT competition. The team is enjoying a two-race winning streak, with Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis winning in Mexico City and VIR in the No. 57 Stevenson Automotive Pontiac GXP.R.

?There was no magic formula really,? Liddell said. ?I know it is clich

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