RAIN • PRE-RACE – HISTORY AND COLOR • TV COVERAGE

Flash! It just started raining as I was about to post this…not heavy or hard…yet. And it’s 71 degrees F/21.66C.

There are waves of activity going on in the garages and around the track before the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Early on the queues began for fans awaiting their turn for autographs from the drivers of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16.  The sun rose at 7:20 am over the far grandstands and it was a stunning rosy sight. The clouds soon covered over, but it wasn’t that cold. The cloud cover held in the heat and it’s been in the sixties all morning. Still no rain or thunder showers, although there was one failed feeble attempt at a spritz.

The first wave in the garage was early arriving teams scuttling around setting up and getting ready. The second wave was race guests, poseurs, fans, white-garbed flag marshals and race officials, and others. By the time the third wave arrived, one took his/her life in hands trying to walk in the garages because of all the hustling pit and race carts, golf carts and other motorized vehicles. The garage was full of tours, groups being led around while the mysteries of the race garage were unveiled. All very colorful, noisy and busy.

1968 Rolex 24 Hour winner - Porsche 907 longtail coupe with drivers Vic Elford of England; Hans Hermann of Germany, Jochen Neerpasch of Germany, Jo Siffert of Switzerland and Rolf Stommelen of Germany. Photo by Mark Weber

1968 Rolex 24 Hour winner - Porsche 907 longtail coupe with drivers Vic Elford of England; Hans Hermann of Germany, Jochen Neerpasch of Germany, Jo Siffert of Switzerland and Rolf Stommelen of Germany. Photo by Mark Weber

On the track were various historic racing cars doing Milestone laps, the Twenty-Four Minutes of Daytona historic race, and other track activities. The Heritage event had an impressive list of cars on track, some actual 24 Hour winners and others perhaps race cars but not winners. That’s still being researched.

AT 8 am the official Rolex 24 grid was released. The three Daytona Prototypes which didn’t qualify are gridded in numerical order, No.2 Beyer Racing Chevrolet Crawford, No.95 Crown Royal/NPN BMW Riley and No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley in positions 13-15. The GT class will start thirty-seconds later. Beyer Racing changed an engine after qualifying which technically means it has to start at the back of its field – going from P13 to P15. However, since BOB STALLINGS wants his car to start last, we’ll see. Stay tuned.

There are 44 not 45 cars on the grid. Missing will be Sigalsport No.08 Ferrari F430 Challenge GT. The beleaguered car made a few laps in final qualifying and would have started last of the field. It has officially withdrawn for mechanical reasons. Drivers ROGER YASUKAWA and owner GENE SIGAL will drive in the No.52 Wil Mar Racing Ferrari F430 Challenge, replacing FILLIP MARCHINO and JAY WILTON. All four drivers hail from Los Angeles CA.

The race starts at 3:30 PM EST and runs for 24 hours, with 16 hours of live coverage on SPEED TV in the United States. SPEED has coverage planned for other countries, but details aren’t known at this point. Grand-Am has international TV partners which include Network 10 in Australia, SPEED Latin America and ESPN International. In the UK Eurosport, which broadcasts on the Sky cable and satellite platform, has eight million viewers and is broadcast in another twenty countries across and around Europe, providing 28 million viewers the good fortune to watch the race. Eurosport will air six hours – two at the start, two in the middle and two and the end. As Eurosport is a multi-sport channel, it has to compete with a dozen other high-profile sports.

DELIBERATE, STRATEGIC AND WANTING TO WIN

The second Rolex 24 on-track day at Daytona International Speedway for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask 16 had sparser participation, mostly by design. A veteran race engineer said that unless there’s a problem which needs on-track attention, many teams opt to use the first Friday practice time to finish changing into race mode with new engines, transaxles, gears, etc. Most aren’t in need of the second qualifying session and even if they did, some just plan on starting at the back of their respective field. The session most opt for is the last practice before the race.

Friday 27 cars turned out for the first Rolex 24 practice. Eight GT cars qualified in the second session, while the three not-yet qualified Daytona Prototypes did not go out at all.

LUCAS LUHR/No.95 Crown Royal/NPN Racing BMW Riley DP hit the wall and had to be towed in, necessitating the qualifying session to be used for repairs. Team Owner and starting driver,  SCOTT TUCKER, said whether he started thirteenth or fourteenth was not really relevant, given the circumstances, and would have no effect at all on his race.

No.2 Beyer Racing Chevrolet Crawford DP suffered from a fried clutch by one its newer drivers, which had to be repaired during qualifying, with the team opting to also do its engine change as well. Beyer’s car did run the final practice, but lost five laps in the pits due to faulty spark plug wire.

No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley DP deliberately chose not to qualify, wanting to start last.

Thirty-eight cars ran the final practice, and most of the other seven wanted to save their new race trim and car.

For those three Grand-Am DP’s who did not qualify, it is up to Grand-Am to determine their qualifying order. On the preliminary Rolex 24 Starting Lineup, the three are listed in numerical order.

The starting drivers in each of those cases are the drivers who would have qualified the car – DANE CAMERON for No.2; Tucker in No.95; and ALEX GURNEY for No.99.

GAINSCO owner, BOB STALLINGS, said his driver lineup is simple: Gurney, JIMMIE JOHNSON, JIMMY VASSER, and JON FOGARTY. Repeat as necessary. The crew estimate that the drivers stint/pit stop schedule will last about an hour, give or take – maybe 45 minutes or 75 minutes. It hasn’t been determined yet if there will be double stints for the drivers. But the order stays.

Team 95 & 55 BMW Riley DP. Photo by Mark Weber

Team 95 & 55 BMW Riley DP. Photo by Mark Weber

Tucker runs two cars for the Rolex 24 – No.55 and No.95. All the drivers met the media Friday morning. RICHARD WESTBROOK of England, who is in the No.95 car said this was his first time in a DP, after having driven GT’s. “I don’t have to spend as much time looking in mirrors.”

Tucker thinks the race will be faster with fewer DP’s. Luhr said it is not normally a big deal handling all the GT cars. “If you get hit in the rear, you deal with it. We had our come together already so it won’t happen in the race.”

Two of the Tucker’s eight-driver lineup are previous Rolex 24 winners – EMMANUEL COLLARD in 2005 and CHRISTOPHE BOUCHUT in 1995. Bouchut said it is impossible to contrast/compare the fields in 1995 and now. It’s always a pleasure to race a winning car. It’s important to win.”

PHOENIX AROSE

Twenty-seven of the 45 entries for the 2010 Rolex 24 at Daytona took to the track Friday morning for a 45-minute practice at Daytona International Speedway. It was warm, sunny and bright. The schedule calls for twenty-minutes of Qualifying and then final practice at noon EST for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask 16. Then they’re done for the day.

HURLEY HAYWOOD/No.59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley Daytona Prototype, five-time winner at the 24 Hours of Daytona, was fastest in the morning practice session.

No.23 Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3 GT. Photo by Mark Weber

No.23 Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3 GT. Photo by Mark Weber

MARTIN RAGGINGER/No.23 Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3 was the fastest GT driver, in sixth place. This was his first foray back on track since his big crash Thursday morning which necessitated all day and night to repair. Obviously, it’s working well now.

The Grand-Am qualifying rules call for the Thursday qualifying to set the top twenty in each category, Daytona Prototype and GT. For the remaining grid positions, a second, twenty-minute qualifying session for all Rolex Series cars is run Friday. For the GT’s, the top twenty have to rest on their times, while the two who have yet to qualify, will vie for P21 and downward. Also, any other GT who qualified twenty-first or lower can try to better its position. In the DP class, only 12 cars qualified, so the remaining three will be running for the bottom three slots.

Of the cars not on course, many are being taken apart and put into race trim. Others may choose not to run the car any more to save it for the race and avoid problems. One car still thrashing to get ready for qualifying was No.95 Crown Royal/NPN Racing BMW Riley DP. It will be qualified by owner SCOTT TUCKER. The sister car, No.55 was qualified sixth by CHRISTOPHE BOUCHET. Tucker and Bouchet are listed as drivers on both cars, as they are going for the points. The sister car, No.55, was having its race engine installed during the Friday morning practice.

The Phoenix arose from the ashes overnight. The No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley DP was repaired by 3-4 am Friday morning, depending on with whom one spoke. The engine and trans axle were removed to cut out the broken frame. It was replaced and welded in place – hours of welding. Then the race motor was installed and removed more than once, to double check that everything was straight and square. Finally, the gear box was installed and lined up. Last night the car was on set up tires. For the Friday morning session, practice tires were used.

No.99 GAINSCO Chevrolet Riley DP Friday am. Photo by Mark Weber

No.99 GAINSCO Chevrolet Riley DP Friday am. Photo by Mark Weber

Throughout the process, driver JIMMIE JOHNSON was on site helping and watching. He did whatever was needed. His motor home was parked close by. Many of the NASCAR drivers have already moved their motor homes into the designated area, in preparation for NASCAR’s Speed Week.

Also present to the end Thursday night-Friday morning were BILL FINGERLOW, hired Thursday afternoon by BILL RILEY of Riley Technologies to oversee the restoration project, and GERRY JOLES, from GM Racing, whose speciality is engine calibration and mechanics.

As Johnson’s accident occurred in the first Thursday practice, JIMMY VASSER had not yet driven the car. Owner BOB STALLINGS said Friday morning the driver lineup for practice is first to put Johnson back in the car as he was the last driver, and then Vasser, followed by team regular driver JON FOGARTY. Hopefully ALEX GURNEY will also drive the car.

One car yet to be on course is Sigalsport No.08 Ferrari 430 Challenge GT. It has had all kinds of mechanical issues. The team was awaiting car parts from Italy, which arrived just two days ago, and then missing bits and pieces, bolts, etc. The parts are all metric so they aren’t easy to locate. The team tried to get on track for Night Practice and got all the way to the pit lane and something wasn’t right, so they returned to the garage. Friday morning the team was still working on the car. One driver was in the car, and another – ROGER YASUKAWA, was suited up with ear pieces and all. However, it was not to be. They still hope to qualify.

Pirelli is set for all kinds of weather this weekend. There are 10,000 tires on site, 3,000 being rain tires. A Pirelli spokesman said the two tire issues Thursday were due to debris for the No.10 Sun Trust Racing Ford Dallara, and for the GT car it was tire rub on the body.

NITE PRACTICE

DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley Daytona Prototype pipped A.J. ALLMENDINGER/No.6 Michael Racing Ford Riley DP in the waning laps of Night Practice for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. MSR has been dominant in all the practice sessions for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16, missing the DP pole position on the last lap by 0.419 seconds. Third overall in the dark was Franchitti’s sister car, No.01. As soon as each session is complete, the Grand-Am live timing and scoring instantly reverts from individual driver transponder information to team listing.

Thirteen of the 15 DP’s took to the track for at least one lap. Besides No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley, there was another DP in the garage, but for a better reason. Brumos Racing sat out the two-hour session to do an engine change for the race, and to get into race trim. This car won the race last year. No.9 Action Express Racing Porsche Riley, a sort of sister car to Brumos, ran a lap and came in to perform routine engine and drive train change for the race.

SpeedSource marches on! The No.70 Mazda RX-8 was again fastest in Night Practice, thirteenth overall of the 41 cars on course. TRG/Flying Lizards Porsche GT3 was second fastest, in P14, followed by Corsa Team PR1 BMW M6.

Twenty-eight of 30 GT cars were on course. No.23 Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3 Cup is still working on repairs after a huge hit in morning practice while MARTIN RAGGINGER was driving. No.08 Sigalsport Ferrari F430 CH hasn’t been on track at all this weekend.

No.2 Beyer Racing Chevrolet Crawford DP missed Qualifying. It had been hit by a GT car in morning practice and was being repaired, but did get out for Night Practice, finishing eleventh overall. No.95 Crown Royal/NPN BMW Riley had a similar story, being hit in the nose in the first practice. Owner SCOTT TUCKER said it was cosmetic with some internal damage. The team beavered away and finally got out near the end of Night Practice, sixth fastest overall.

no7-night-practice1

No.7 Starworks Motorsports BMW Riley DP in Night Practice, edging No.40 Mazda RX-8 GT. Photo by Mark Weber

BILL LESTER/No.7 Starworks Motorsport BMW Riley DP didn’t plan on causing a black flag, but did. An axle broke and the car had a small fire. It was towed in, the damage wasn’t too bad and Lester was unhurt.

Friday’s schedule calls for Rolex 24 practice at 9 am EST, with the last Qualifying round at 11 am, and final practice at noon. The rest of the afternoon is devoted to Grand-Am activities and the 2.5 hour-long race for the race for the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. There is a fair number of Rolex Series drivers doing double duty in that race.

PRESS SNOOP: ROLEX 24 – 5 SOURCE THE SPEED • PHOENIX UPDATE-JIMMIE JOHNSON JET SETTER

GT Pole -No.69 Mazda. Photo by Mark Weber

GT Pole -No.69 Mazda. Photo by Mark Weber

JEFF SEGAL/No.69 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 set a new qualifying track record in garnering the GT pole position for the 2010 Rolex 24 at Daytona with a lap of 1:49.282/117.274 mph/188.731 kph. Segal pulled that lap out of his helmet on the last lap of the fifteen-minute qualifying session. He knocked off his sister car, No.70 driven by SYLVAIN TREMBLAY. Segal later said “I can’t remember the last time when Sylvain wasn’t on the pole for the Rolex 24″

Jeff Segal on high banking. Photo by Mark Weber

Jeff Segal on high banking. Photo by Mark Weber

As for his pole effort, Segal said “Qualifying is all about getting the right draft and we did.”

Starting next to Segal will be teenager JORDAN TAYLOR/No.30 Racers Edge Motorsports Mazda RX-8. He had been fastest until the last lap.

Jordan was shooting to make it an all-Taylor family pole situation after his father’s team garnered the DP pole. Father/Team owner WAYNE TAYLOR and older brother RICKY are co-drivers in No.10 Sun Trust Racing Ford Dallara, along with PEDRO LAMY.  And Jordan almost made it. This would have been the first pole for the college student, who just might be one, if not the, youngest driver this weekend.

GT Pole car. Photo by Mark Weber

GT Pole car. Photo by Mark Weber

The top three GT qualifiers were Mazdas.

The second Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8. No.41 was fastest in the second practice for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16, but no one is sure which driver claimed the honor.

The latest news from the saga of what I call The Phoenix (GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing No.99 Chevrolet Riley Daytona Prototype) is: the car will be on the track Friday morning. The team has made great strides and overcome many obstacles, logistical and otherwise, to find a solution and effect it to restore the badly damaged  sports car.

Riley Technologies was recently acquired by Sea Star Group, and BILL RILEY is now President of it. Riley Technologies has 24 cars this weekend including ten Daytona Prototypes, eight Rolex GT cars, and six Camaros in the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, which has a field of 81 entries.

Bill Riley shut down his Rolex Series DP team at the end of last season, which made Team Manager BILL FINGERLOW redundant. Fingerlow was already at the track having meetings with several people. Riley saw him and when the Phoenix problem arose, Riley called Fingerlow and hired him on the spot to oversee the repairs to the DP.

Phoenix Rising-Bill Fingerlow strategizing. Photo by Lynne Huntting

Phoenix Rising-Bill Fingerlow strategizing. Photo by Lynne Huntting

As soon as Riley determined that the car needed a new rear bulkhead (not brain), he ordered one to be constructed at his shop in Mooresville NC. The part was two hours into being built when JIMMIE JOHNSON’s jet flew from Daytona to NC. The new part and a jig to hold it flew back and arrived at the track during Night Practice. The welding will be done at the track, rather than off site as previously indicated. The team requested and was granted hardship permission to continue working on the car after the garage closes Thursday night.

ANGELELLI CLAIMS FIRST ROLEX 24 POLE AND NOT WORRIED ABOUT RAIN

MAX ANGELELLI/No.10 Sun Trust Ford Dallara Daytona Prototype has the pole position for the 2010 Rolex 24 at Daytona. His lap was 140.681/127.283 mph/204.843 kph. He upset the streak that Michael Shank Racing had in the first two practice sessions for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 at Daytona International Speedway.

This is Angelelli’s first Rolex 24 pole and his second in the Rolex Series. He won the 2005 Grand-Am prototype category championship.

Angelelli said he “was pretty confident” in Qualifying. It was his last lap that set the pole. “I know the car was good.  It is important for us to start on pole. Good for morale, and the prestige. Every magazine has a photo of the pole sitter. And we wanted it. Now that the car has been developed (after last year’s debut of the Dallara chassis), we can concentrate on setups and going fast. Being on the pole definitely is an advantage. We can’t change the car for the race now (strategy wise). We know it could rain before or during the race, but we’ve setup for what we expect to be a dry finish. I’m not going to worry about the weather because there’s nothing I can do about it.”

OSWALDO NEGRI/No.60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley DP is starting on the front row. He said “we have a good driver lineup. We’re not giving up seat comfort in the car.”

Third through fifth qualifiers were No.6 MSR Racing, and the two Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Rileys – No.01 and No.02.

The top three DP’s are Fords. Second through fifth have Riley chassis. The front row drivers feel the Daytona Prototype field of 15 cars has quality not quantity for this year’s race – a very good field.

Twelve of the fifteen DP’s qualified. Not going out was the late entry No.2 Beyer Racing Chevrolet Crawford; one of the two Crown Royal/NPN Racing BMW Rileys-No.95; and No.99 GAINSCO Chevrolet Riley, which crashed earlier in the day.

The latest news from GAINSCO owner BOB STALLINGS is that the chassis was not twisted. There are two cracks in ‘the brain’ which exists on a removable part in the car. That has been removed and new parts will be welded in. To do this, Riley Technologies in North Carolina will send the new part and a jig to hold it during the welding process. Stallings said the work will be done at a nearby shop in Daytona.

After Angelelli got out of his car and was receiving congratulations, one of the first to give Angelelli a high five was Stallings. He did the same for team owner, WAYNE TAYLOR, along with a congratulatory hug.

The DP Qualifying record is still held by last year’s pole sitter and winner, DAVID DONOHUE/Brumos Racing at 1:40.540/127.472 mph/205.146 kph. His teammates were ANTONIO GARCIA, DARREN LAW and BUDDY RICE. Donohue and Law are still together in No.59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley DP. Garcia and Rice are running this year with No.90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Porsche Coyote with co-drivers DARREN MANNING  and PAUL MENARD.

Law/Brumos Racing qualified seventh and Rice/Spirit of Daytona will start tenth.

MICHAEL VALIENTE/No.6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley Daytona Prototype was the fastest in the second practice.

It was 64 degrees F/17.77 C for the 3:45 PM EST qualifying session.

JIMMIE JOHNSON CRASHES • GAINSCO DP COULD BE NAMED PHOENIX

The  saga is changing even as we speak regarding the damaged No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley Daytona Prototype at the Rolex 24 at Daytona for the Grand-Am Rolex Series Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16

NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, JIMMIE JOHNSON, crashed Thursday morning at Daytona International Speedway during the first Rolex 24 practice. He hit the tire wall in ‘The Kink’ after being cut off by a GT car which evidently didn’t see Johnson coming flat out at 85-88 mph. Johnson let off and the car got away. The 90-minute session was ended ten minutes early. Team Owner BOB STALLINGS said Johnson was OK – a little sore and  bruised, and “I’m sure he’s not feeling too good; but Johnson needed no treatment.”

The latest word from the team is that the No.99 car can and will be repaired and on track Friday, an about face from an hour before when it was announced GAINSCO would be bringing in the sister No.98 car from the Dallas shop.

However, the back half of the No.99 car has been cut off. The complete rear assembly has been removed and is on its way to the Riley shop in North Carolina for rebuilding. The chassis from the driver compartment forward is here at the track and being worked on feverishly by the crew. Johnson’s fleet of aircraft is facilitating the speedy transports and logistics are falling into place.

Owner, BOB STALLINGS, originally said the No.99 car was irreparably damaged, undrivable, with a twisted chassis. The original plan was to get the sister car, No.98, from Dallas, get it to Daytona and them refresh it with usable No.99 parts. Stallings said that he was 90 percent sure the No.98 car would be ready to start the race.

Riley chassis are the chassis of choice for ten of the 15 Daytona Prototypes in this year’s race. Stallings said most Riley chassis builders were at Daytona working with their customer cars. GAINSCO has the only Chevy Riley combination.

In Grand-Am, the Team Points go to the car number. Once a car is entered and has run on track, that number can’t be replaced with another chassis (essence of the car). So, this would have meant that the team would have to enter another car, No.98, which would receive the Rolex 24 points. A Grand-Am official opined that in all probability – had that scenario played out – that the Rolex 24 car would also run at the next race in Homestead.

In Grand-Am, the Driver Points stay with the driver regardless of what car he (or she) races.

Stallings said the No.98 car was older but has a good history. It won the 2007 Grand-Am championship, set records which still hold – most poles, most front row stars and wins in a season. In 2008 it was raced at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with JIMMY VASSER and CRISTIANO ad MATTA, who led during the race.

Stallings wasn’t happy at the point of the original press conference at noon. “We made our determination to get the other car 20 minutes ago. Since we’re the only Chevy Riley here and our car is just a little different from any others, we thought it best to bring our other car here rather than try to get parts from other Riley teams. Most of the Riley chassis builders are here at the track with their customers, It was a pretty big setback. But, “It is what it is. All the drivers feel badly, and Johnson is no exception. It’s all part of racing. The #98 car is a good solid sports car, and has its own personality.”

Stallings didn’t think it made any difference that Johnson hadn’t been at the Rolex test earlier this month. “Johnson usually gets up to speed by his sixth lap. This day he was already quicker in three or four places by his fifth lap. The ‘Kink’ is one of the Daytona places for physical activity. It was just one of those things.”

When asked why a second or backup car wasn’t brought to the race, it was pointed out that backup cars are specifically not allowed in Grand-Am Rolex. It’s a cost containment issue. Most teams don’t bring a second car. For GAINSCO it would mean another truck, because the current two-car truck is loaded with car parts. “We don’t have the budgets they do in NASCAR. They’re racing with cubic dollars and we’re racing for thrills. In our case we bring lots of car parts rather than a second car. A 24-hour race is essentially ten races in one. After one race, our car looked like it spent ten hours in Baghdad.”

SUNNY ON TRACK AND CLOUDY IN GARAGE

BRIAN FRISSELLE/No.6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley Daytona Prototype was fastest  Rolex 24 at Daytona driver Thursday morning at Daytona International Speedway in the first practice for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask 16. What a mouthful! His best time was 1:41.098/126.768 mph/204.013 kph. All fifteen DP’s were on track, with varying degrees of success. Several were in the garage during the session. No one was hurt during practice, which was shortened to eighty minutes after the last incident.

Forty-two of the forty five entries were on track, with three GT’s showing no time. The fastest GT was DAVID HASKELL/No.70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8, running a 1:50.009/116.499 mph/187.486 kph. Several GT’s were also in the garage.

NASCAR four-time Sprint Cup Champion, JIMMIE JOHNSON was driving No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley DP when he hit the tire wall in the horseshoe. Johnson was unhurt, and the damage to the car has not yet been determined. He was running fourth overall at the time, near the end of the session, which then was checkered ten minutes early.

GT driver, MARTIN RAGGINGER/No.23 Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3, said he had no brakes and backed into the Turn Six tire wall. There appeared to be severe damage to the Right Rear of the car, which would require some dismantling to determine extent. At the time the car was in the garage, being examined by a pacing team owner, ALEX JOB, another driver offered a comment. JACK BALDWIN said “We’re in trouble right now.” The car is being taken off-site for tear-down evaluation and repairs if possible.

Young RICKY TAYLOR was congratulated by his No.10 Sun Trust Racing DP crew for keeping the Ford Dallara under control and off the wall when the Right Rear tire blew. There appears to be minimal damage to the car.

TRACY KROHN/No.75 Krohn Racing Ford Lola DP had problems with the rear suspension and brought the car in, so the crew could check. The entire back half of the car was taken off.

Team Owner KEVIN DORAN brought in his No.77 Doran Racing Ford Dallara DP so the team could practice brake changes in the race. They were busy working on the Left Front and Right Rear when last observed.

Godstone Ranch Team Motorsports/Team MBR co-owner LEIGHTON REESE was not a happy camper about the condition of his GT Corvette after it was towed in. The car had been parked on course by SCOTT RUSSELL on its out lap when the car had master cylinder problems. The car damage came from the tow truck, said Reese.

JIM BRIODY/No.21 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R had clutch adjustment problems while on track and brought in the car for work. This race weekend was put together very recently by MATT CONNOLLY, who is running two other GT cars this weekend – No.19 MCM/Black Flag Racing Corvette, and No.20 Porsche GT3.

This weekend is Briody’s fifty-first 24-hour endurance race, of which he’s won 21. He’s still aiming for a podium finish at the Rolex 24. For many of Briody’s races in a variety of series, including Trans-Am, his wife PAT BRIODY was his crew chief and engine builder, winning the TA Crew Chief of the year Award. Briody did win last weekend’s 24-hour endurance race in Dubai, driving a BMW Turbo Diesel with car owner COR EUSER of Holland, and American drivers TOTO LASSALLY and HAL PREWITT.

Briody’s co-drivers this weekend are also experienced. GABRIO ROSA of Italy has run 24 24′s, and young SPENCER TRENERY of Berkeley CA lost count but estimates he’s run 26 round the clock races.

The second practice is Thursday afternoon at 1:30 PM local time. The weather bright, sunny and working on warm. The flags are gently waving in the breeze. The high is forecast for 67 degrees F/19+C.

ROLEX RELAX

The entry list for this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona has the promised 44 cars, and there could be at least one more by Thursday morning for the first official practice of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16.

Rolex 24 DP Class Photo by Mark Weber

Rolex 24 DP Class Photo by Mark Weber

It’s Wednesday and the cars have all posed for their class photos on the front straight at Daytona International Speedway.

The weather was bright and sunny, albeit a bit on the chilly side – mid to upper fifties with a brisk breeze. In Australia, it would be “fresh.” But, in the words of driver, PATRICK LONG/No.77 TRG/Flying Lizards Porsche GT3 Cup, “It’s not snowing!” The forecast is for increasing warmth Thursday and Friday and then cooler on Saturday with chances of rain. Sunday is set to be cloudy. We’ll see.

Rolex 24 GT Class Photo by Mark Weber

Rolex 24 GT Class Photo by Mark Weber

To the outsider, it seemed like a low key set up day in the Rolex garage. Teams were setting up shop, going through the Tech Shed for the obligatory Scrutineering process in an orderly fashion – DP, GT and the 81 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge cars. There were some drivers on campus, relaxed and under the radar. It was a good day for chatting.

The current Entry List shows 14 Daytona Prototypes, but there is a fifteenth car in the garage, which has already cleared Tech. What Beyer Racing hasn’t yet done is to officially enter. According to the team, the bright orange Chevy Crawford has five drivers – owner JARED BEYER, along with DANE CAMERON, ROMEO KAPUDIJA, CORT WAGNER, and a German driver, JEAN-LUC – surname unknown. The car is an ex Finlay car.

One of the two Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates cars has had a driver change since the earlier Rolex 24 test. Testing the No.01 BMW Riley at the Roar Before The 24 was MARINO FRANCHITTI of Scotland, brother of 2009 IRL and Indy 500 Champion, DARIO FRANCHITTI. However, Marino just signed on with Patron Highcroft Racing to run its factory Honda ARX-01c for the three endurance races in the 2010 American Le Mans Series; and he will be testing at Sebring with the Highcroft team Sunday, while his brother is racing with Ganassi at Daytona.

It was an easy choice for Ganassi Team Manager, MIKE HULL, to hire MAX PAPIS of Italy to fill the seat. Papis won the 2004 Grand-Am Championship with the Ganassi team, and ‘Mad Max’ has two Rolex victories – 2000 and 2002. The lanky Italian will co-drive with another tall topper, JUSTIN WILSON of England, and the car’s season-long drivers, SCOTT PRUETT of Auburn CA and MEMO ROJAS of Mexico.

The Ganassi team has three consecutive Rolex 24 wins, 2006-2008, and the No.01 car (with Pruett, Rojas and JUAN PABLO MONTOYA of Colombia) lost by a hair last year – 0.167 seconds to Brumos Racing’s Porsche Riley with American drivers DAVID DONOHUE, DARREN LAW, and BUDDY RICE, along with ANTONIO GARCIA of Spain. JPM is driving the No.02  sister car this weekend, with co-drivers SCOTT DIXON of New Zealand, Franchitti and NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, JAMIE McMURRAY of NC.

Hull and the Ganassi team was featured in Wednesday’s local Daytona Journal by GODWIN KELLY, who wrote, among other things, of the team’s Rolex 24 check list. Last year there were 490 items on the list. Hull said this weekend the list is down to below 400. Everyone on the team, from drivers to caterer and transport drivers, contribute to the list. Tuesday after the race, the team debriefs and works on the list for next year. “It’s a collaborative team effort,”  said Hull.

Trivia – In the early seventies, Hull used to race Formula Fords in Mexico against GUILLERMO ROJAS, father of Memo.

Thursday is a long day for the Rolex Series, with two practice sessions, qualifying to set the  top twenty cars on the grid in each class, and night practice.

GURNEY & PUMPELLY FASTEST LASTEST, BUT MAX THE AX AND KEEN FASTEST OVERALL • MAZDA MAKES IT HAPPEN

ALEX GURNEY/No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley Daytona Prototype had another fastest session Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway for the Grand-Am Rolex Series Roar Before The 24. His Sunday lap was 1:41.319/126.492 mph/203.569 kph.  The 2009 Rolex Series champion was also fastest Friday afternoon.

SPENCER PUMPELLY/No.71 TRG Porsche GT3 was the fastest GT car Sunday afternoon, at 1:39.700/116.828 mph/188.016 kph. His teammates are TIMO BERNHARD of Germany; ROMAIN DUMAS of Switzerland; TIM GEORGE Jr of NYC; and NASCAR 2000 Sprint Cup Champion, BOBBY LABONTE of NC.

Thirty-seven cars were on track in the 43 degree F/6.111 C weather. In the morning session, 34 cars braved the chill.

Fastest overall for the weekend was MAX ANGELELLI, aka Max The Ax, driving No.10 Sun Trust Ford Dallara DP. His 1:40.466 was set in the first session Friday morning. LEH KEEN/No.41 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 was the fastest GT car all weekend at 1:49.214 in Saturday’s Night Practice.

JIM JORDAN, Mazda Alternative Marketing Manager, made it happen for two up and coming drivers. As part of the Mazda commitment to its Driver Development Ladder, two drivers from the Atlantic Series (Cooper Tires Present the Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda) were on track in the final session Sunday. They drove No.40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8. Atlantic Champion, 18-year old JOHN EDWARDS of Cincinnati OH turned 20 laps to end the day. Prior to that, Swiss Miss, SIMONE De SILVESTRO drove the car. She was the only female driver all weekend.

Each young driver won four Atlantic races in 2009, with the other four of the 12-race series won by JONATHAN SUMMERTON of Florida. Edwards won the series and De Silvestro was third in the standings.

The Rolex test opportunity was put in motion a month ago. De Silvestro said this was her first time in a closed-cockpit car. She had a blast. The GT car was “bigger and lazier. It handled well. Mazda did a great job with the car and the Dempsey team prepped the car well.” With help from her sponsor, Stargate, she had a recent test with the HVM Indy Racing League team which went well and she has hopes of running the 2010 IRL season.

Edwards was all excited when he got out of the car. He said he’d been at Daytona all weekend just soaking it in. He and several other drivers – including JOEL MILLER – were making the rounds looking for Rolex rides. Dempsey Racing has a full roster already. Edwards said the sports car “was very different than an open wheel car. The brakes are harder to apply, but the GT had good grip and power.”

For 2010 Edwards is looking at the Indy Lights Series, and maybe other series – about which he cannot talk.

According to a Grand-Am official, it’s expected the Rolex 24 field will number approximately 44 cars. The race starts Saturday 30 January through Sunday 31 January 2010.