VARIATIONS ON A THEME

Mixed classes race cars
Photo by Mark Weber

No.69 SpeedSource Ham Sandwich

No.69 SpeedSource Ham Sandwich.
Photo by Lynne Huntting

Several things many drivers mentioned, when paraded through the Daytona International Speedway Media Center – aggressive driving, littered track, and problems with right rear tires.

To a man, all drivers had comments on the driving skills of others out on the track in the early hours of the 49th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Most of the drivers were from the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype class.

The comments ran the gamut from polite and diplomatic to downright colorful. All expressed surprise that drivers were being that aggressive so early on and so consistently.

SCOTT PRUETT/No.02 Ganassi Racing BMW Riley DP didn’t mince words. He started right in. “It’s crazy out there, people going off everywhere. I’m running cautious. It’s so crazy so early – why? I don’t really understand. It’s common for some new drivers to try and proof themselves. But they’re running aggressive for no reason. There have been six or seven spins, cars running into other guys in the Bus Stop (turn). I’ve had to dodge spinners and over-drivers. It’s been pretty hectic already.”

Regarding the tire situation, he said “We have to address of right rear camber, noticed it at the test. new tire and new surface, a bit more wear. ”

Pruett was impressed at the full Media Center, more than he’s ever seen for the 24 hour.

DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.02 Ganassi Racing said after his first stint “It was absolute madness at the start. Why is it so crazy so early. There is some aggressive driving out there. No one is leaving anyone any margin. Even the experienced guys aren’t, and some guys don’t know what they’re doing. I have to do some pretty strange moves to get past cars. It’s pretty intense. We’re going to earn our money tonight. There’s more carbon on the track than ever seen two hours into the race.

We had the problem, same as 99, with right rear. It’s heat and it’s not just us. The car handles better now, after we changed the camber.

“Our problem stems back to last year. BMWs engines pulled back to manipulate the speed of the others. They took 100 rpm from us. It’s frustrating to have other cars pull away from us on the front straight.

No.10 Sun Trust Racing Chevrolet Dallara.

No.10 Sun Trust Racing Chevrolet Dallara.
Photo by Mark Weber

MAX ANGELELLI/No.10 Sun Trust Racing Chevrolet Dallara said “I was surprised with myself, the 45 (Pole Sitter Flying Lizards Porsche Riley DP) was extremely fast. This is why I said to myself’I have to be patient. The 45 was extremely fast. There was no way for me to get around him. He had a good top speed. And tried at the beginning, the first two, three laps, but then I gave up. But, it’s 24 hours.”

Angelelli denied being more cautions to avoid jeopardy for his co-drivers. “No, I’m actually pretty relaxed when I’m first because I’m leading the race, I command the race.”

Angelelli said it was hot in the car, which had been set up for colder weather.

ALEX GURNEY/No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Chevrolet Riley said he had an issue with the right rear tire. We had been debating something on our setup, and I think we were a little too aggressive with the way we set up the cambers, maybe the bars, things like that. Maybe we just missed it a bit. I think we saw the No.02 blew a right rear, so the track, for whatever reason is putting a load into that butt end.

Gurney wasn’t as concerned about the early aggressive driving. “It is just the usual deal. I feel like it is that way every year here.

JIMMY JOHNSON/No.99 GAINSCO said the car was having some unusual brake problems. “I need to pump it multiple times or it will go to floor. It’s disappointing to have issues early, but other teams have had problems. A well placed caution will help us to fix our problem.”

“The last four or five laps I had two moments and I couldn’t get the pedal back while braking, horseshoe and Turn Five. I felt that might be coming when I got out. I had to be more aggressive in pumping the pedal and it was fading when I got out.

While Johnson was speaking, the monitor was showing his team in the garage thrashing away on the car.

GT cars

GT cars.
Photo by Mark Weber

Regarding the wild and crazy driving and whether it compared to a NASCAR Sprint Cup race, Johnson said “It’s tough in these cars for several reasons. One, you’re not sure who’s in the car ahead. After you yell and scream a few times on the radio, they say, ‘Well, that’s so and so’ and I don’t really know these guys well enough to understand what that means, but I can tell in the inflection in m crew chief’s voice a few times that I should be expecting that from a few guys. And the other thing, it is so hard to not just turn someone around and get rid of then. With theCup car, you can do that easily. These cars, it will end your day. So, I had to stop myself a few times. And after two or three times of being there and getting copped — I’m like, ‘Man, if you were in a Cup car you’d be sitting there back in right now I miss that aspect of Cup cars. If KEVIN HARVICK was in one of these, I think he would just run ‘em over.”

It’s tough to get upset between the two classes. I can’t imagine what it must be like; it is a full time job for GT’s staying out of the way. DP cars multiple laps down were racing harder than need be and hit GT’s in their quest.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/No.02 Ganassi Racing BMW Riley DP hit RICKY TAYLOR/No.10 Sun Trust Racing Chevrolet Dallara. Taylor came into the garage for damage repair. Driver change. Angelelli went out, and told the team via radio the car was fine.

Taylor said “I got stuck behind the No. 99 car for awhile, just trying not to take any risks. I got into a little bit of a dice with (Juan Pablo) Montoya and I was on the outside of him, pretty conservatively, I just felt a big hit on the side. I gave him plenty of room. I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Regarding aggressive driving, Taylor said “A couple of drivers, but for the most part everyone is good. I don’t think anybody meant to do anything or anybody meant to block me or anything like that. I think that he just might not have known I was there. He was trying to pass a Porsche and I was already there and maybe he didn’t see me or something.”
When JPM pitted, there was a driver change with JAMIE MacMURRAY taking over. Montoya immediately went to his motor coach, with no comment.

NIC JONSSON/No.76 Krohn Racing Ford Lola said “There is a lot of debris out there. It’s amazing at how much people are racing already. wheel to wheel and parts are flying off the car. There have been four or five cautions and a lot of damage back in the garage.

Someone commented that it seems the drivers went to a sports car race and a NASCAR race broke out.

There were few more cautions early on. I don’t know why – maybe the new pavement was catching people out. It has more grip, I brake later. People go out on cold tires and spin.

The track in the line is quite good. They’re trying to keep it clean. I’ve had no trouble with a specific class. I’ve been lucky so far in not hitting or being hit.

Jonsson hasn’t had any right rear tire issues. “We have a new tire this year (Continental.) We tested last year, but this is a different tire. Maybe we haven’t had not enough miles on the tires to understand the issues. Too low tire pressure puts stress on the inside of the tire. On the roval, you can’t use traditional camber as the car heats up and can’t stand the load.”

BRENDAN GAUGHAN/No.67 TRG Porsche GT said, six hours after the start of the race that “It’s still wild and crazy out there, with GT cars banging on each other. This was six hours after the start.

No.99 GAINSCO

No.99 GAINSCO.
Photo by Lynne Huntting

No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing spent a long time in the garage working on the brake issues.

No.69 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 driver, NICK HAM, said two cars made a Ham sandwich out of him. One car, he said, was No.48 Paul Miller Racing Porsche GT3 which then hit another car and Ham was caught in the middle. There are mechanical as well as cosmetic damages to repair.

No.43 Team Sahlen Mazda RX-8 was in the garage, with not much going on. A crew member said the driver, owner JOE SAHLEN, just came in. He’s going back out. A Couple of the tires were being observed but not much else.

Meanwhile several stalls down in the GT garage, No.81 DragonSpeed Ferrari 430 Challenge GT was having all sorts of things checked. One crew member said he thought it might be wheel bearings. In that stall was at least one Team Sahlen member.

A PR spokesman for Continental Tires – the official (spec) tire of Grand-Am, said he was told by the company that the camber issue is with camber settings the teams used. Continental doesn’t give recommendations, but does provide feedback.

The wrong camber, I’m told, means there is too much heat on the shoulder of the tire, which causes problems.

Another issue has been the tire pressure. The Continental spokesman said No.02 was running lower than the approved tire pressure, 18 pounds rather than 22 pounds. Cars can start out cold with pressure too low.

Another explanation for the tire problems could be debris or contact, said the Continental spokesman.

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