Franchitti, Dixon And Law Never Slow Down

Daytona Beach, FL – Even though much of the United States is cold and snowy, the weather and racing action have been hot and heavy in Florida throughout January. The 2009 action started off early with Rolex test at the Daytona International Speedway followed by the 47th anniversary edition of the 24-hour race. A day later the American LeMans Series kicked things off with its winter test at the venerable Sebring International Raceway.

For dirt-track fans, the O’Reilly All Star Circuit of Champions kicked off its 2009 season at the Ocala Speedway with a scheduled three-day event. The series then moves to the nearby Volusia Speedway Park for three more races as part of the 11-night Alltel DIRTcar Nationals. Included on the impressive program are the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars, Late Models and Big Block Modifieds along with the UMP DIRTcar Modifieds and Late Models.

IndyCar Series champions Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, Rolex24 co-winner Darren Law and others were among the drivers seeing action at Daytona and Sebring. “I have been home just two days since January 1,” Franchitti said at Sebring. The Scotsman was nursing bruises and aches sustained in the Rolex race. “I had a problem with my right leg during the race and since I use it for the throttle and to brake, my right-side hurts. Also, my right elbow area is bruised,” he said. “The 24-hour race is rough and everyone that steps into a car knows it will be a long day and night.”
Dixon admitted he takes awhile to wind down from a 24-hour race, particularly if you don’t win. Franchitti and Dixon along with Alex Lloyd were hoping to bring their Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Racing team its fourth consecutive Rolex24 victory but they came up short, with the two-car team finishing second and fifth, respectively.

The Dixon-Franchitti-Lloyd car came home fifth after overcoming a few problems and their sister car with Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas finished second, just a few car lengths behind the victor. The winning margin was a mere .167 seconds, for the closest finish in the Rolex24 history and the top four cars were separated by only 10.5 seconds.

“If you have a bad race, you won’t dwell on it,” Dixon said. “I got a lot of sleep Sunday night and Dario (Franchitti) and I flew to Sebring Monday morning.” Dixon pilots a Cessna 400 and finds flying to be a very relaxing medium. “Flying gets you away from everything else, and once I get into the air, it feels so good.”

While the Indy champions were frustrated with the race’s outcome, they congratulated the winning Brumos team. “The Brumos team did a great job and they were worthy winners,” Franchitti said. Regarding the engine differences, he added, “Our Lexus was out-powered. If they (Brumos) want to swap engines, we will accommodate them. The Porsche engine definitely has an advantage, but that’s not the only reason they won.”

However, Montoya wasn’t as complimentary, which has caused a minor flap between the winning team and Montoya. “I drove my butt off, but if you had asked us before the race if we had a chance to win, I would 100 per cent say no,” Montoya uttered. “I knew if the Porsches didn’t have any problems, they were going to beat us.”

David Donohue, who took the checkered flag first in the Brumos Porsche, believed his team’s hard work and perseverance paved their way to victory. During a post-race radio interview, Donohue expressed his displeasure with Montoya’s remarks.

“David (Donohue) got a little upset, which is understandable,” Law said. “Montoya should have been more gracious and said, ‘Great job and great win.’ We fought hard and we won it. We earned this one.’

Law was thrilled with the victory but didn’t have time to celebrate due to his Sebring commitment. “The Rolex24 was the best win I’ve ever had, as it is one of the three biggest endurance races in the world, so it was huge for me.”

Comparing the Daytona Prototype to the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, he said, “The car cars are immensely different. The DP is very stiff and has a level platform while the RSR moves around a lot, and it takes a lot more work to control.”

Dixon and Franchitti also noted the differences between cars. “There’s a lot of difference,” Dixon said. “The DPs roll through the corners slowly. The LMP2s (driven previously) have a great deal of downforce and corner speed, even more than the IndyCars, so the LMP1 should be faster.” For the Sebring enduro, Dixon will co-drive one of two new Acura LMP1s with Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud.

In the second Acura LMP1, Franchitti is teamed with Scott Sharp and David Brabham and he, too, quickly took notice of the car differences after taking the wheel at Sebring. “The Grand-Am rules are technical and they keep technical innovation to a minimum,” he said. “The ALMS car is one of the most technically advanced ones in the world. They are like what IndyCars and Champ Cars once were.”

The outcome of the Rolex24 electrified those who watched, as it set records for the closest outcome ever by two, three and four-car finishes. As the competition heats up for the 57th anniversary edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring, the historic race may well have the same outcome.

For Franchitti and Dixon, they believe the Daytona and Sebring races provide a jumpstart for the challenging IndyCar Series season. The Series opens in the streets of St. Petersburg the first weekend of April.

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