Weather continues to be on the lips of everyone at Daytona International Speedway – however chapped and frozen they be. Friday Grand-Am held its first of three test days leading up to the Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance race for the Rolex Series Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Casket No.16. The morning 105-minute session was run in dry but cold (high forties F/6-8C).
All the teams with whom I spoke discussed the difficulty experienced by the drivers when going out on new/cold tires. It takes at least two laps to warm up the Pirelli racing slicks. Whenever possible the drivers ‘scrub’ the tires, trying to build up heat. So far I haven’t run into anyone who’s looking forward to Saturday’s promised inclement weather which might include snow and sleet. Pirelli didn’t bring any snow tires.
Thirty-three of the 42 entries were on track for the first session. The fastest lap of 1:40.466/127.566 mph/205.297 kph was driven by MAX ANGELELLI of Monaco in the No.10 Sun Trust Racing Ford Dallara. His co-drivers are team owner WAYNE TAYLOR-originally from South Africa and his American-born son RICKY TAYLOR, as well as PEDRO LAMY of Portugal.
SYLVAIN TREMBLY/No.70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 was the fastest GT car, at 1:50.222/116.274 mph/187.124 kph. The all-American driving roster includes JONATHAN BOMARITO, NICK HAM, and DAVID HASKELL.
The 2009 Rolex Series Champions, JON FOGARTY of Oregon and ALEX GURNEY of California spent much of their time in the pits for the session after a starter failed. They are the winningest driver duo in the Rolex Series, having won together two Rolex Series championships and 12 races, more than any other driver duo. The No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team switched from Pontiac to Chevrolet for its Riley chassis after Pontiac discontinued the brand. The team wanted to stay with GM. Fogarty and Gurney will be joined by four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, JIMMIE JOHNSON – who ran a Chevy for all four championships; and JIMMY VASSER. Both Jim’s are California natives.
The Chevy drivers have noticed the new car has a similar core but the engine is slightly different. Also different are the tech and aero. The nose is the most different. The old Pontiac had ‘twin nostrils’ in appearance. The new Chevy has a slightly more slippery nose, which is a perceived advantage.
The winningest driver ever in the Rolex Series is SCOTT PRUETT of California, who won the championship in 2004, 2006 and 2008 – each time with a different co-driver. They were MAX PAPIS of Italy, and two Mexican drivers, LUIS DIAZ and MEMO ROJAS. This year the team will run BMW’s as Lexus had discontinued its program and withdrawn from the Rolex Series for 2010. Pruett tested the car last month. He found the center of gravity different, and ditto for the weight displacement. The team is working on adjusting the balance.
The weather is such that drivers and crews are huddling and bundling, almost to the point of non-recognition.