FRIGID FLORIDA AND HOT DRIVERS
The drivers in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 went on track at Daytona International Speedway Thursday morning in freezing weather for the first Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona practice. All 51 entered cars were on a cold track with cold tires, but the session was uneventful for the most part. The sun came out and by the time the session ended, the bright sun started to thaw everyone and everything.
The No.31 Battery Tender Porsche GT3 GT car oiled the track, so full track cleanup was required, relegating cars into the pits for the duration.
The top time was set by one of the two Brumos Porsche Riley Daytona Prototypes, with drivers DAVID DONOHUE, ANTONIO GARCIA, DARREN LAW, and BUDDY RICE in No.58. It’s best lap was 1:41.107/126.757 mph on Lap 11. After leading for a while, Michael Shank Racing’s No.6 Ford Riley finished second overall, with A.J. ALLMENDINGER, IAN JAMES, JOHN PEW, and MICHAEL VALIENTE. Third overall and in class was Penske Racing’s No.16 Porsche Riley, driven by TIMO BERNHARD, RYAN BRISCOE, and ROMAIN DUMAS. This car is running Crown Royal as primary sponsor for this race, and as an associate for the remainder of the season. The sponsorship had been with Cheever Racing last season, but owner EDDIE CHEEVER has closed down his team.
Penske’s sister car, No.7, wasn’t officially withdrawn. It’s entered “just in case” – as a spare/parts car, but has not been on track – despite what early transponder problems would have us believe.
There are 14 Riley Daytona Prototypes running this weekend out of the 20 entered, and seven of them are the newest evolution car: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates No.01 Lexus Riley; Michael Shank Racing No.6 and No.60 Ford Rileys; Penske Racing No.16 Porsche Riley; Supercar Life Level 5 Motorsports BMW Riley; AIM Autosport Ford Riley: and GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley. Those seven teams running the original Riley are Ganassi’s other Lexus Riley-No.02; Beyer Racing No.13 Pontiac Riley; Allegra Motorsports BMW Riley; Victory Junction-Orbit Racing No.45 BMW Riley; and Brumos Racing No.58 and No.59 Porsche Rileys.
Farnbacher Loles Racing’s No.87 Porsche GT3 Cup car was the fastest GT car, with a time of 1:49.852/116.666 mph, in twentieth place. Driving this car are WOLF HENZLER, LEH KEEN, DIRK WERNER, and RICHARD WESTBROOK. The Farnbacher Loles team has more cars entered than any other teams – six, all the in GT category. Among some of the amazing stats for this enterprise: an international mix of 25 drivers and 80 crew members from 17 countries on six continents. The team will work a 40-hour day on Saturday and Sunday. Already the team has four championships, 20 poles and 44 podiums in four sports car seasons, including a Rolex 24 GT win.
Second in GT was Mastercar-Coast 2 Costa Racing No.52 Ferrari 430 Challenge with CONSTANTINO BERTUZZI; CASTELLANO, MAX PAPIS, LUCA PIRRI, and CORT WAGNER. TRG’s Porsche GT3 Cup car, No.67, was third in class, with drivers JORG BERGMEISTER, ANDY LALLY, PATRICK LONG, JUSTIN MARKS and R.J. VALENTINE.
The Racers Group has five GT cars entered. Lally also runs NASCAR with TRG. This year, after running Lally in the now named Camping World Truck Series and ARCA, TRG is moving up to the big time. It has entered MIKE WALLACE entered in No,71 TRG Chevrolet in the Daytona 500. Wallace has won three Daytona races – ARCA, the then Craftsman Truck Series race in 2000, and the then Busch Series July race in 2004.
Third overall in GT was SpeedSource’s No.70 Mazda RX-8 with drivers JONATHAN BOMARITO, NICK HAM, DAVID HASKELL, and SYLVAIN TREMBLAY.
There will be a second practice in early afternoon, before qualifying.