Despite some feeble attempts at misting, for the most part the weather remained dry, overcast and cold at Daytona International Speedway for the three-day Grand-Am Roar Before the 24 Rolex Series test. Seriously cold. The smart ones were sporting ski masks, balaclavas, stocking caps and hand warmers inside their gloves and pockets.
The afternoon session got off to a very slow start with only a handful of cars on track for a while. Eventually 38 of the now 41-car entry list turned a time. Overall 40 Rolex Series cars were on track Friday.
JON FOGARTY/No.99 GAINSCO Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley Daytona Prototype was the fastest in the afternoon session, with a time of 1:41.761/125.942 mph/202.684 kph. However the morning lap of 1:40.466 set by MAX ANGELELLI/No.10 Sun Trust Ford Dallara was fastest overall for the day.
The fastest GT driver was PATRICK LONG of FL in No.67 TRG/Flying Lizards Porsche GT3, turning a fast lap of 1:49.961/116.550 mph/187.569 kph. Long’s lap was also the fastest GT overall for the day. His teammates all are or were affiliated with the Flying Lizards American Le Mans team: JORG BERGMEISTER of Germany, and two Northern California drivers, JOHANNES van OVERBEEK and Flying Lizards Team Owner, SETH NEIMAN. Neiman was recently named Motorsportsman of the Year by the Motor Sports Press Association (of Northern California). The Flying Lizards team is based at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma CA, and TRG was based at the track also before moving to larger quarters in nearby Petaluma CA.
It’s easy to spot which transporter in the paddock belongs to Rolex Series GT owner, actor PATRICK DEMPSEY aka Dr. McDreamy. It’s the truck with the gaggle of media outside waiting for interview. The affable, agreeable and amenable actor/racer/owner did serial TV interviews, and willingly signed autographs for the fans who bought tickets for the test. Dempsey will also be part of the Fan Forum Saturday where fans meet the drivers, get autographs, etc.
Others participating in the Fan Forum, besides Dempsey’s teammates, include Fogarty, Gurney, LYN St. JAMES and HURLEY HAYWOOD.
Dempsey Racing has two GT Mazda RX-8 cars. Dempsey has co-drivers in No.40: JOE FOSTER of GA, CHARLES ESPENLAUB of FL and SCOTT MAXWELL of Canada. In the sister No.41 Team Seattle car, the drivers are JAMES GUE of GA, LEH KEEN of South Carolina; DAVE LACEY of Canada and Team Seattle founder, DON KITCH of WA. The full season drivers are Foster and Espenlaub in No.40 and Gue and Keen in No.41. Keen won the 2009 Rolex Series GT championship. Foster and Maxwell won the 2008 Koni Challenge and then moved to the 2009 Rolex Series GT class.
Running the two teams this season will be veteran MICHAEL GUE, who worked with Dempsey Racing when it went to last year’s Le Mans 24 Hour race. Dempsey is very high on Gue’s administrative and engineering skills, and also thinks the young Gue is a good up and coming driver.
Last year team owner/driver PATRICK DEMPSEY had talked about looking at NASCAR as another venture. This year Dempsey acknowledged that step isn’t in his near future plans. He first wants to grow and build the two-car Rolex Series program he has going. Take one step at a time.
Dempsey doesn’t know how many races he’ll actually get to run this year, again taking it one race at a time, working around his shooting schedules. If a good movie comes along, he’ll take it. And he has his ongoing starring role as Dr. McDreamy on TV’s Grey’s Anatomy.
Saturday’s schedule calls for three Rolex Series practices, morning, afternoon and Night Practice. Should be interesting considering the weather forecast for snow, sleet and ice. Not to mention rain.