Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series December Testing At Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 9, 2009) – Two dozen GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 teams came away from a two-day test at Daytona International Speedway impressed with the Pirelli tires they will be using in 2010 competition. Their season begins with the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 30-31.

A primary reason for the two-day session was to allow Rolex Series competitors the opportunity to have their first test with the 2010 Pirelli tire. Many competitors said they were pleased, overall.

“Perfect!” said Max Angelelli, driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara.

“The tires are great!” said Bill Auberlen, testing the No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 for the first time. “We ran entire stints, and a stint-and-a-half, and we virtually lose no lap time. I think Pirelli knew what they wanted to do, and they achieved it. Everyone’s all smiles.”

“I’m really surprised; we’ve got a gain here,” said Mike Shank, owner of the Nos. 6 and 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Rileys. “We’ve got a tire here that we can double stint – minimally – at night.”

Shank also feels the tires will be a plus in the upcoming Rolex Series sprint races.

“In the sprint races, when we only have to add fuel, we’ll be able to keep a set of tires on the car,” Shank said.

Shank’s cars were among the leaders throughout both two-day sessions, which ran virtually incident free.After finishing second in the 2006 Rolex 24, winning the pole in 2008 and consistently running near the top, coming close is no longer good enough.

“It owes us,” he said. “We’re going to get it. We’re going to get it.”

Reminded that his cars have been fast throughout the two-day test, Shank said, “That’s getting a little bit old. We want to translate this into something good this year. We’ve proven that we can go fast in the practice and test sessions at least a hundred times.”

Shank said his program is not totally set for 2010, but he was happy to have AJ Allmendinger testing in the car in preparation for the Rolex 24, as well as Mark Patterson and John Pew. He was also happy with another addition to his lineup for this test – Ricky Taylor.

“Ricky has been the surprise of this test for me,” Shank said. “He is doing really well. He’s not that far off of Michael (Valiante), and Michael is trying real hard. I was pleasantly surprised with Ricky, and besides, he fits in great with the other guys.”

Ozz Negri, however, wasn’t surprised with his new teammate.

“Ricky is not a surprise for me,” Negri said. “I know he’s a good driver, and I know there is a huge potential.”

While the Shank cars were among the quickest on Wednesday – along with Scott Pruett in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates BMW Riley, Angelelli and Brumos Porsche Riley driver David Donohue – Negri said speed was not the goal on the second day of the session.

“The car is very quick,” Negri said. “Today we were working on race setup and our endurance, working on things like our brake package.”
Times at the test were unofficial and not recorded.

Allmendinger Happy With Offseason Work
After winding up a strenuous NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule at Homestead-Miami Speedway less than three weeks ago, AJ Allmendinger was happy to be back in a race car Wednesday at Daytona International Speedway.

“I hate the offseason,” Allmendinger said. “I want to be racing.”

Allmendinger tested in the No. 60 Ford Riley, joined by Negri and Pew. Valiante, Taylor and Patterson tested the team’s No. 6 entry.
“I never got to do the December test here before, and I’m real excited about it,” Allmendinger said. “I love being part of Mike Shank Racing. This will be my fifth year doing it, and I’m real excited. We always have a car that can go out there and win. I just love driving for Mike. He’s a great guy and he’s a lot of fun being around, and that’s why I show up every year. I was going to be out here anyway doing the PRI show’s go-kart race Thursday in Orlando, and Mike called me and asked if I wanted to test here on Wednesday. I said, ‘Heck yes.’

“I love GRAND-AM, I love the series and I love driving the Daytona Prototypes,” Allmendinger continued. “They’re a lot of fun. It’s definitely a lot different. It takes about 8-10 laps to get back into form and know where to brake. But I enjoy it, and being able to do the December test will make it a lot easier coming back in January. This will help me a lot. I’ll be able to come back in January, jump right back in the car and it will be like I was in it all year.”

Allmendinger’s best Rolex 24 finish was second in 2006, when he co-drove with Negri, Patterson and Justin Wilson.

“We know how prestigious this race is,” Allmendinger said. “I’m real excited to be with Ford on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series side, and running here gives me the chance to keep building on that relationship. Now, all we need is to get a little luck on our side. We’ll have two cars right up in the top three or four, and now we need to pray to the racing gods for a little luck.”

Haywood: 2010 Will Be His Last Rolex 24
Hurley Haywood came up about five seconds shy of winning his sixth Rolex 24 At Daytona this past January, and ended the 2009 campaign in Gatorade Victory Lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

So he’s carrying plenty of momentum into the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona – which he confirmed Wednesday will be his last drive in the event he’s won a record five times.

“I’m certainly going to try my very best,” Haywood said. “We’re going to have a strong car and a strong driver lineup. Winning would be a nice way to close my career, believe me. I’ve already stated this is going to be my last Rolex 24. It would be a great way to cap a great career.”

Haywood will team with 2009 Rolex 24 winners Darren Law and David Donohue in the Rolex 24, sharing the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley. The team has a technical alliance with the new No. 9 Action Express Racing Porsche Riley of Joao Barbosa and Terry Borcheller.

Johnston Pleased With First Daytona Test
Englishman Derek Johnston has been waiting to drive at Daytona International Speedway since he learned he won the inaugural Rolex 24 Driver Challenge presented by Sunoco. He won a funded drive in the Rolex 24 and testing after tallying the highest point total in four British racing championships.

“It was absolutely brilliant to go out there for the first time yesterday,” said Johnston, the British Radical Series champion. “I was a little nervous at first and was a little slow on the first lap, but I gradually gained confidence and picked it up.”

Johnston tested in the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Porsche Coyote, along with driver/coach Guy Cosmo and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Paul Menard. The team is also fielding a brand-new No. 90 Porsche Coyote for 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice, Antonio Garcia and Menard. Rice and Garcia were part of the winning lineup in the 2009 Rolex 24.

“It wasn’t as bad as I thought,” Johnston said. “What made it really good was I already had an understanding of knowing what the car would do from my test last month at Virginia, so I didn’t have to start from scratch.”

It was the first time in a Daytona Prototype for Menard, who won two Rolex Series GT races for Spirit of Daytona in a Corvette in 2002.

“I’ve got a lot to learn about the braking in the Daytona Prototype,” Menard said. “It seems all the speed is made up in how hard you attack the corner, how hard you can push the brake power. The car stopped really well and has good power. It’s real quick from what I’m used to. It’s a learning curve, but a lot of fun.”

Jonsson Happy with Ford Lola
Nic J

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