Thursday afternoon there were a series of ‘firsts’ for the Grand-am Rolex Series Sports Cars at Daytona International Speedway, ramping up for Saturday’s 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race.
The top eight Daytona Prototypes provisionally broke the existing track record of 1:40.540/127.472 mph set by DAVID DONOHUE in 2009. Pole sitter JORG BERGMEISTER/No.45 Flying Lizards Porsche Riley Daytona Prototype turned a 1:48.009/118.113 mph. He was running a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR engine with no restrictors, from Porsche North America in Santa Ana, CA. This is the first foray into the DP class for Flying Lizards, who have entered the Rolex 24 in the past, but in the GT class. The team, based at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma CA, runs the ALMS Series and Bergmeister and co-driver PATRICK LONG are the 2010 ALMS GT champions. Bergmeister has won overall at the 2003 Rolex 24 in another team’s Porsche 911; and GT class wins in 2002 and 2009.
Bergmeister’s teammates are a trio of California boys, PATRICK LONG SETH NEIMAN and JOHANNES van OVERBEEK
Bergmeister said he was used to running the engine and said it was the best engine for this race. He conceded that having the pole “For the race outcome it doesn’t mean anything.” But it does bring bragging rights – “especially for us as a new team to show how good we are.”
Bergmeister had wanted to come in when he ran what he felt was his fastest lap, but the team told him to stay out, and that was the lap which set the pole.
MAX ANGELELLI/No.10 Sun Trust Racing Chevrolet Dallara DP was second in Qualifying, 0.034 seconds behind the tall German, after leading himself for quite a few laps. Angelelli was fastest overall for the weekend in the practice sessions leading up to Qualifying. His best time was 1:40.340/127.726 mph. The Sun Trust team is running a Chevrolet, which is getting involved in the Rolex Series for the first time since its inception in 20000. Previously GM had run the Pontiac brand, until it was discontinued. Angelelli was quite pleased with the new car. “We’re looking forward to this season. This Chevy-powered car – we’re going to be fast.”
SCOTT PRUETT/No.01 Chip Ganassi Racing BMW Riley DP, 2010 DP and OA Champion, was third overall.
There’s a reason the initial qualifying times are called provisional. The cars all have a mandatory post-qualifying scrutineering session, and this is where the illegalities cause cars to lose their qualifying time and start the race at the end of the class.
ANDY LALLY/No.67 TRG Porsche GT3 was the fastest GT car, seventeenth overall. He was one of five GT’s who eclipsed the existing track record of 1:49.282/117.275 mph. Lally was sharing the front row with teammate, DOMINIK FARNBACHER/No.66 TRG Porsche 911 GT.
However post inspection found Lally’s car to be illegal and he will start the race at the back of the GT class, which is also the end of the line. According to DAVE SPITZER, Grand-Am VP of Competition, Lally’s car had the ‘rear wing mounted too far to the rear.”
Lally didn’t see it that way and was clearly angry after tech. Initially his official comment was “No Comment.” Later, he said the measurement was only one millimeter. Lally did say on the record that “I will say the car was right and I feel bad for my crew who worked so hard.”
Lally had been fast all day, overall, in the Practice sessions.
In the end, TRG thought they had the GT front row locked up and they didn’t. Lally was only able to stick it out in the Media Center a very few minutes, before he had to jump into his Continental Tire Challenge Series car (No.10 Kinetic Motorsports Kia), where he qualified eighteenth in the Street Tuner class, fifty-first overall. The field has 58 entries.
Lally said he had a perfect lap and knew teammate Farnbacher would be his closest competitor.
DOMINIK FARNBACHER/No. 66 TRG Porsche ended up being the pole sitter. He said he had had no luck or draft, and couldn’t find anyone to play with him. Farnbacher said he had a problem with tire. always had to brake early to prevent lockup. However, it came out pretty well in the end, a faster lap than expected.
Farnbacher said cars will hardly have any problems with drive shafts this race, as the track is so smooth. We should see cars last better without incidents. The race will run lots smoother, overall The track is still green but actually had a lot of rubber for qualifying.
Farnbacher had originally been scheduled to ride in another car, but it didn’t work out and Buckler offered him a ride. “Maybe some spirit helped me make the right decision.”
In the GT class, three other cars besides the two TRG Porsches broke the GT qualifying record of 1:49.282/117.275 mph: for the first time. “We have not had one issue with or Camaro – so, so far, so good for a 24-hour event.” The other two were CRAIG STANTON/44 Magnus Racing Porsche GT3 and NICK TANDY/No.17 Burtin Racing Porsche GT3.
The two Level 5 cars, No.95 BMW Riley DP and No.55 BMW Riley DP opted not to qualify. Team Engineer, JEFF BRAUN, said “It is what we feel is the best way to win this race. We don’t care about where we qualify we care where we finish.”
When asked to rate the new track surface at DIS, both Angelelli and Bergmeister gave it high marks. Angelelli said it was “smooth. He could go anywhere he wanted because it’s so smooth and beautiful.”
Bergmeister said “the track transitions better, much later brake points, and overall very nice job.” He also agreed with all that Angelelli said.
The weather was partly cloudy at 58 degrees F/14 C for DP qualifying, and 61 degrees F/16C for GT qualifying.
The day was relatively uneventful. Some cars stopped with mechanical woes, one started a grass fire, and there was one body contact. Safe and sane.