Motorcycle Stars Mettle In Rolex 24
January 26, 2009 | 3:15 P.M. EST
The two-wheel trio drove the No. 09 AMA Pro Racing/Spirit of Daytona Porsche Coyote Daytona Prototype race car in the 47th annual running of America's premier endurance race and overcame more than their fair share of trouble to finish the day-long race that is held on the 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway. Although the all-star riders are well familiar with Daytona from success in the Daytona 200 by Honda and the popular AMA Pro Supercross events held on the grass within the track's tri-oval, the Rolex 24 represented an entirely new challenge.
The car the team drove was a Porsche Cayenne V8 powered Coyote Daytona Prototype entered and prepared by the Spirit of Daytona team that is headquartered just a few miles from the legendary racing facility known as the "World Center of Racing." The three motorcycle veterans were joined by experienced sports car driver Guy Cosmo who, along with team owner Troy Flis, helped them through the ups and downs and various nuances of major league sports car endurance racing. Their advice was taken to heart and came in handy for the motorcycle riders who encountered just about every type of pitfall that a 24-hour sports car race can throw at a team and its drivers.
In fact, an argument can be made that of all the teams that actually finished the 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona - less than half of the 49 race cars that started - no team overcame more adversity than the No. 09 AMA Pro/Spirit of Daytona entry. This included the only major fire of the race that happened in the team's pit stall just before Noon on Sunday, less than four hours from the finish. Russell was strapping into the car to start his next shift after Cosmo had just exited when something went wrong.
"Guy had just exited the car and was over the wall," said Russell, a five-time winner of the Daytona 200 by Honda. "I had my arms through the shoulder belts and I smelled it (fuel) instantly. They took the deck lid off and it flamed up. I dived out and luckily I wasn't strapped in."
While Russell and his teammates thought the fire was the end of their race, the hard working Spirit of Daytona team had other ideas. Despite the spectacular looking incident, that produced a huge cloud of smoke and mostly fire-fighting chemicals, the No. 09 was back in the race less than an hour later. The team raced until the finish and ultimately took the checkered flag 11th in the Daytona Prototype class (23rd overall) after starting 13th.
"It was a good experience and I really enjoyed it," said Russell. "I can't say enough about the hard work that the crew put in, not only getting us back from the fire, but in the months leading up to the race."
The 2009 AMA Pro Road Racing season will begin at Daytona the first weekend in March. The weekend will be highlighted by the first Daytona 200 by Honda under the lights, Friday, March 6, for the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike division. The Daytona kick-off will also feature AMA Pro American Superbike competition and races for additional AMA Pro Road Racing championships.