STEALTH TALENT

The Grand-Am Rolex Series schedule for the Roar Before The 24 test session is back on schedule in Frigid Florida at Daytona International Speedway. And I can talk truthfully about the weather, despite the protests of The Friends of the Daytona Chamber of Commerce. The temperature barely reached 37 degrees F/2.777 C before dropping back to sub-freezing.

Practices Four and Five for the endurance sports car ran on time and without incident.

Canadian MICHAEL VALIENTE, who hails from the home of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver British Columbia, was fastest for Practice Five, in No.6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley Daytona Prototype. His time was 1:41.237/126.594 mph/203.733 kph. His co-drivers are NASCAR Sprint Cup driver A.J. ALLMENDINGER-back for his fifth straight Rolex run with MSR; MARK PATTERSON; and BRIAN FRISSELLE.

ROBIN LIDDELL of England – which is suffering from terrible weather – was the fastest GT driver. No doubt Liddell is glad he’s in Florida where it’s been relatively dry … so far. His fast time was 1:50.565/115.914/186.545 kph. He co-drives No.57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R with JAN MAGNUSSEN and ANDREW DAVIS.

One team running is under the radar with two cars and only two drivers named on the Entry List  – Level 5 Motorsports BMW/Riley DP. The listed drivers are CHRISTOPHE BOUCHET of France and Team Owner, SCOTT TUCKER of Kansas. Tucker said for the 24 Hours of Daytona race he will run the two BMW’s with eight drivers and at least one of other six is here – American RYAN HUNTER REAY.

The crew uniforms are sporting Ferrari patches. The Crew chief said there were plans to run Ferrari’s, but there wasn’t enough preparation time before the race.

The drivers for the two race cars will be: ex-Formula One/Champ Car driver, SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS of France (who is not here this weekend due to a conflict); EMMANUEL COLLARD of France; and SASCHA MASSEN of Germany. The drivers for the other car will be RHR – who said he is close to finalizing details to complete the full 2010 Indy Racing League season with Andretti Racing; LUCAS LUHR of Germany; and RICHARD WESTBROOK of England. Tucker and Bouchet will be listed on both cars for the race.

Grand-Am rules say that the qualifying driver must start the race, and for a driver to be listed on two cars he (I say he as there are no females listed this weekend) must start the race in one car. I take this to mean that Tucker and Bouchut would each have to qualifying the two cars and start the race before swapping cars.

Bouchet won the 1995 Rolex 24 race overall – the first year he ran the race,  and won overall in the 1993 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is his fifth Rolex 24.

Collard was the 1995 overall Rolex 24 winner, and he won the 2008 12 Hours of Sebring in a LMP2 – not the top prototype class.

Maassen has run nine Rolex 24 races.

Tucker is the 2009 SCCA National T1 Champion driving a Ferrari 430 Challenge car. While running the SCCA Nationals he also ran the Ferrari Challenge Series, winning ten races. He  barely lost out on that championship, by five points, the equivalent of one position over the entire season.

Westbrook is the 2009 FIA GT2 champion, (despite ballast being added to his car due to successful performance) and twice Porsche Supercup winner (2006 and 2007). This is his third Rolex 24 race.

Near the end of Night Practice Level 5’s No.55 car spewed fluids and the black flag was thrown. The session resumed with nine minutes remaining.