Sleet And Cold Doesn’t Stop Grand-Am Test In Daytona

Orlando, FL (January 12, 2010) – Race fans it’s that time again to kick off the race season which most consider officially starts with the Rolex Daytona 24.

This year appears to be another great one with a great driver line up. Drivers from all forms of racing and champions from all over the world will want to be wearing a Rolex watch in Daytona’s legendary victory lane. Drivers such as Jimmie Johnson, Juan-Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Jamie McMurray, A.J. Allmendinger, Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay are just some of the drivers that are expected to be participating.

It’s a shame that Team Penske is not coming back to the Grand-Am as they are focusing on their IZOD IndyCar program by adding Will Power full-time as a third team car to Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe. Team Penske is looking to improve on the NASCAR program too with Kurt Busch leading that group. As ever, Chip Ganassi is back and wanting another Rolex.

The Ganassi gang brings another great line up for the race with a new BMW engine. Scott Pruett said he really likes the new engine and it seems to have a different power band and they had to see what it needed.

The three-time Grand-Am champions has partnered with Dinan-BMW as the new manufacturer of its 2010 Daytona Prototype and its longtime partner TELMEX will once again return as the primary sponsor of the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley with co-drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.

In addition, the three-time Rolex 24 At Daytona winners (2006, 2007, 2008) will again run a two-car effort for the 48th running of the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona, featuring eight drivers representing some of the best talent the motor racing world has to offer. Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas will unite with IZOD IndyCar driver Justin Wilson and Marino Franchitti to form the lineup in the #01 TELMEX/Target Dinan-BMW Riley, while Team Target IndyCar pilots Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti will join Team Target NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Juan Pablo Montoya and Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammate Jamie McMurray in the #02 Target/TELMEX Dinan-BMW Riley. (Hat-tip Ganassi media)

The legendary Brumos team was back to defend their win with a new driver line up adding Butch Leitzigner and Raphael Matos and don’t forget Hurley Haywood going for his sixth win. Hurley said he was not going to do much driving, but Darren Law said once he gets in car, there is no getting him out.

The big secret that was revealed Friday was Scott Tucker’s BMW-powered Level 5 race team has their own super team with a great driver line-up with Lucas Luhr from Audi and Sascha Massen who is returning to the Grand-Am Series. Also let’s not leave out open wheel stalwarts Sebastien Bourdias, Ryan Hunter-Reay. Add FIA GT2 champ Richard Westbrook and you have an impressive driver line-up. Scott Tucker came here to the Roar before the Rolex 24, a three-day test session at Daytona International Speedway to take a Rolex home in February.

The weather was the biggest setback for the teams they had to deal with cold weather and then on Saturday, snow, sleet and rain made a mess of things in the morning. However, the teams got to practice driver changes in the garages with the heaters on full-tilt, where you felt you were in Wisconsin, not Florida. Amusingly, Chip Ganassi said if the teams had snow tires they would be out there getting ready for the race.

Angelelli, Ragginger Top Final Day of Practice

By Grand-Am Media

Daytona Beach, FL (January 10, 2010) – Max Angelelli and Martin Ragginger led their respective classes Sunday at Daytona International Speedway in the final day of the Roar Before The Rolex 24, a three-day GRAND-AM sanctioned practice session leading up to the Jan. 30-31 running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Angelelli ran a lap of 1:40.888 (127.032 mph) in the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara to lead the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Daytona Prototype class, while Ragginger was fastest in GT with a lap of 1:49.627 (116.906 mph) in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing/ Foametix/Battery Tender Porsche GT3.

Following two days of unseasonable cold temperatures – with Saturday morning’s session scrubbed due to sleet and icy conditions – Sunday practice was run under sunny skies with temperatures in the mid 40s (degrees Fahrenheit). The Rolex Series sessions ran incident-free, with the only stoppages for minor spins, debris and a blown engine.

Scott Maxwell and Ryan Eversley led the three-day testing for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, which opens its season at Daytona on Friday, Jan. 29, with the Fresh From Florida 200.

Angelelli also won bragging rights as favorite to claim the Rolex 24 pole (qualifying set for Thursday, Jan. 28), turning a lap of 1:40.466 (127.566 mph) in Friday practice. Quickest overall in GT was Leh Keen, who ran 1:49.214 (117.348 mph) in the No. 41 Dempsey Racing/Team Seattle Mazda RX-8 during Saturday night practice.

However, Angelelli said winning the pole was not a priority for the SunTrust Racing team, which won the 2005 race with Angelelli, Wayne Taylor and Emmanuel Collard. Co-driving with Angelelli this year will be Wayne and Ricky Taylor and Pedro Lamy.

“I want to win the race – we want to win the race,” Angelelli said. “That’s the only thing that counts. We were very happy with this test. We were very happy with the car. Everything was perfect.”

The co-owner of the two-car Dempsey Racing program was happy overall.

“We had a good weekend, and we learned a lot,” said Patrick Dempsey, team co-owner and driver of the No. 40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8. “We have a few things we still have to take care of, but we will be back strong. This is the first time we’ve been together as a two-car team, and our chemistry is working real good. We’re having a great time.”

Michael Valiante was second fastest Sunday with a lap of 1:41.182 (126.663 mph) in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley shared by AJ Allmendinger, Brian Frisselle and Mark Patterson. Alex Gurney led Sunday afternoon’s session with a lap of 1:41.319 (126.492 mph) in the No. 99 GAINSCO Chevrolet Riley that will be shared in the Rolex 24 by Jon Fogarty, Jimmy Vasser and four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.

Spencer Pumpelly led Sunday afternoon GT practice with a lap of 1:49.700 (116.828 mph) in the No. 71 TRG Porsche GT3 co-driven by Tim George Jr. and Bobby Labonte.

“We’ve been making the car better in every session, and making it more drivable to make it consistent through a run,” Pumpelly said. “Getting to run with Tim George Jr. and Bobby Labonte – along with Porsche factory drivers Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard – in the Rolex 24 is a dream come true. I can’t wait.”

Second in the combined test was Scott Dixon in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates’ No. 02 Target/TELMEX BMW Riley, followed by Valiante, Scott Pruett in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates’ No. 01 TELMEX/Target BMW Riley and Christophe Bouchut in the No. 55 Level 5 Motorsports/Supercar Life Racing BMW Riley.

Keen, Ragginger and Pumpelly were trailed in GT by Jorg Bergmeister in the No. 67 TRG/Flying Lizard Motorsport Porsche GT3 and Sylvain Tremblay in SpeedSource’s No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8.

Maxwell ended the weekend with the fastest Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport (GS) time, 1:59.215 (107.503 mph), in the No. 16 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT. Maxwell, teaming with fellow 2008 driving champion Joe Foster, set the time during Saturday’s afternoon session. Maxwell also won the 2005 championship, the last full season for Multimatic in Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge competition.

“It went well beyond our expectations,” said Maxwell of the new Boss 302R model, which was painted up to mirror the Bud Moore-owned Mustang that competed in the 1970s. “The car is very competitive, and we’re happy with the program. There is still more room for improvement, but long-term I think it’s going to be a strong car. We’re not going away thinking everything’s rosy, but it’s a good start.”

Dean Martin led the final practice session of the day in the No. 52 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT, clocking in at 1:59.280 (107.445 mph), only .065 seconds behind Maxwell. Martin’s 2009 co-driver Ken Wilden, who won last year’s title, was second quick in Sunday’s afternoon session and third overall at 1:59.399 (107.338 mph) in the No. 59 Belesta Ford Mustang GT.

Overall, eight cars lapped the track under two minutes. Fourth was Todd Snyder on Saturday afternoon at 1:59.710 (107.058 mph) in the No. 11 CMA Motorsports Ford Mustang GT, while the only car other than a Mustang – the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 – finished fifth with Joey Hand behind the wheel Sunday morning at 1:59.724 (107.046 mph).

In the Street Tuner (ST) class, Eversley led Compass360 Racing’s efforts nearly all weekend, and was rewarded with the top time of 2:09.074 (99.292 mph). Eversley drove the No. 75 Skunk2/J.C. Concrete Honda Civic Si with rookie Zach Lutz; the quick time came Sunday morning.

“We had a great weekend,” Eversley said. “This was the first time Zach and I had been in the No. 75 machine, and the first time he had driven a front-wheel car and at Daytona, and we were within a half second of each other. It was our first time with (Compass360) as well; everyone was great to work with. Each day, all of our cars were in the top five, and several times 1-2-3. My lap came in a tow; I got a really big tow from a Mustang all the way around the banking. Now, I’m really looking forward to the race and seeing how things go.”

Compass360 was also represented in second by Lawson Aschenbach, who chimed in at 2:10.078 (98.526 mph) in the No. 77 Skunk2/Hondata Honda Civic Si on Saturday afternoon. The team’s No. 76 Skunk2/Hondata Honda Civic Si was also sixth.

The next three fastest times all came Sunday morning. Third was Owen Trinkler in RSR Motorsports’ No. 196 Cruise America/4-Winds RV Mini Cooper S at a time of 2:10.148 (98.473 mph). James Clay was fourth in the No. 80 BimmerWorld BMW 328i at 2:10.272 (98.379 mph), while fifth was Todd Buras in the No. 51 Irish Mike’s Volkswagen Jetta at 2:10.426 (98.263 mph).

The test featured the return of the Audi S4, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, with the Subaru Impreza WRX STI and MAZDASPEED3 making their GRAND-AM sanctioned debuts. Overall, 56 different cars participated in the test.

Practice for the Rolex 24 begins at 10 a.m. On Thursday, Jan. 28, followed by qualifying at 3:45 p.m. Friday’s schedule includes final Rolex 24 qualifying and the Fresh From Florida 200 race for the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. The Rolex 24 takes the green flag at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. SPEED’s live coverage will begin at 3 p.m. And last until 10 p.m., and will resume Sunday at 7 p.m. And run until 4 p.m.

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