Alex Gurney
Alex Gurney

Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series driver, ALEX GURNEY/No.99 GAINSCO Bob Stallings Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype, was the fastest driver overall Friday for the first of three days in the Continental Tires Sports Car Festival Powered by Mazda. Gurney turned a 1:21.285/99.118 mph. He was marginally faster than points leader SCOTT PRUETT/No.01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley DP, at 1:21.657/98.666 mph. Points leader Pruett had led the morning session. Third fastest in the afternoon was RYAN DALZIEL/No.8 Starworks Ford Riley DP.

Gurney said ““I think the car was pretty good. We have been in this position before, so it strangely doesn’t feel that good actually; the car has been fast on Fridays a lot and now we just have to seal the deal, but so far so good. I think maybe some of the Fords may have a little bit more down force than they have been letting on.”

The Rolex Series is one of five groups running this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the three-day Continental Tire Sports Car Festival.

Seven of the ten Rolex Series DP drivers were fastest in the afternoon. Three teams had faster cars in the morning: No.90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP, and No.5 and No.9 Action Express Corvette DP.

In the GT Category, the top three fastest overall times were set in the morning. In the afternoon session, OLIVIER BERETTA/No.63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 was fastest at 1:28.031/91.522 mph, followed by EMIL ASSENTATO/No.69 AIM Autosport Ferrari 458-1:28.192/91.355 mph; and ERIC FOSS/No.73 Horton Autosport Porsche GT3 Cup. Foss is the nephew of BRUCE FOSS, Continental Tires Product Manager.

While the radar gun screen on top of the Start-Finish bridge may show speeds upwards of 140 mph for the Rolex cars, that is for just the sector between the bridge and Turn One. The best overall time is for the 11-turn, 2.238-mile elevated road course.

Fourth through tenth in the Rolex Series DP class were: COLIN BRAUN/No.7 Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley; MAX ANGELELLI/No.10 SunTrust Racing Corvette DP; JOHN PEW/No.60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Ford Riley; ALEX POPOW/No.2 Starworks; PAUL TRACY/No.5 Action Express Racing; RICHARD WESTBROOK/No.90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP; and DARREN LAW/No.9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP.

The GT category was hotly contested, with the top driver changing positions at least five times. The final fastest Friday afternoon driver was JOHANNES van OVERBEEK/No.03 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari 458, followed by OLIVIER BERETTA/No.63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458; and BILL AUBERLEN/No.94 Turner Motorsports.

Other top GT drivers during the session were Beretta and teammate ALLESSANDRO BALZAN; DANE CAMERON & WAYNE NONNAMAKER/No.43 Team Sahlen Mazda RX-8; and ERIC FOSS/No.73Horton Autosport Porsche GT3 Cup. Foss is the nephew of BRUCE FOSS, Continental Tires Product Manager.

Gurney is the son of the legendary DAN GURNEY and comes from Irvin CA. Van Overbeek comes from Oakland CA, and his father, NICHOLAS, races SCCA Club Racing and also vintage racing. Nicholas ran the recent Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with Johannes on site as crew and moral suport.

Continental Tire Bridge

Tire manufacturers are one of the variables to be considered in the 2014 unified sports car series. American Le Mans has an open-tire policy, with four tire manufacturers – Dunlop, Falken, Michelin and Yokohama. Grand-Am has Continental Tires for both the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Series. BRUCE FOSS, the go-to tire guy in the Grand-Am Series, said the current contract is through 2013, with a two year extension option. Foss has no idea yet how this new series will shake out, tire wise; but said the next few months will be intense as he – and many others – think crucial components need to be in place before or by the start of the year. The Powers-To-Be at the Wednesday Sports Car Future announcement made reference to baseline testing next year with the two current series, which will run separately in 2013. Foss thinks the 2013 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona will be a good start for such tests.

ED BENNETT, CEO, Grand-Am, said Wednesday “On the tire specifications, I think that’s going to be part of the process. There’s a lot of tire partner relationships. We have been fortunate to have the relationship with Continental, ALMS has a relationship with multiple tire manufacturers, all great companies. That will be very high on our list to study as we enter this process together.”