New Car New Crew For Penske
October 29, 2008 | 2:16 P.M. EST
Penske Racing returned to the Rolex 24 after a 35-year absence this past January, running a Pontiac Riley in conjunction with Wayne Taylor Racing. Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Kurt Busch teamed to finish third in the team's only Daytona Prototype race to date.
This week, the team unloaded a new Riley, powered by a Porsche flat-6 engine, in hopes of coming away with a victory in the 40th anniversary of its 1969 Daytona triumph. Romain Dumas, a four-time participant in the Rolex 24, was the team's lone driver throughout the three-day session. Working on the car was the crew that raced this season in the ALMS. Patrick Long was at the test but did not drive.
"None of these guys worked on last year's 24-hour car," said John Erickson, general manager of Penske Racing's road racing team. "Last year we did all that with the IRL guys, and for this test, we're using guys who were with the ALMS car."
Penske Racing's involvement with the event now known as the Rolex 24 At Daytona dates back to the inaugural Daytona Continental in 1962, when team owner and founder Roger Penske raced a Cooper-Climax T-61 Monaco. The following year, Penske finished second overall behind Pedro Rodriguez. The 2009 Rolex 24 marks the 40th anniversary of Penske's victory in the event, with Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons winning in 1969 in a Chevy-powered Lola T-70. Prior to January, it last raced here in 1973.
"It's going fine," Erickson said. "The car is performing well, we're just getting comfortable with it and the guys on the team are getting used to working on this car. It's a bit different from the Spyder, and it's going real well. The engine is going good, the car's good; it's just getting more comfortable and sorting through a few things."
Dumas won two championships in the DHL Porsche RS Spyder, teaming with Timo Bernhardt to win 12 races. Over his career in that series, he has 23 victories, 19 poles and 42 podium finishes.
"The 24 Hour race at Daytona is very important," Dumas said. "I had the chance to win twice in the 24 hour races at Nurburgring (Germany, 2007, 2008) and Spa (Belgium, 2003, 2004) already in Europe, but this is the only 24-race in America. I hope to have a good result this year, for sure. It's the best team here and we are new, but we want to do well."
Dumas raced in the Rolex 24 four times, finishing on the GT podium on two occasions. He was part of the TRG team that finished 11th overall and third in GT last January, co-driving with Spencer Pumpelly, Tim George Jr., Bryan Sellers and Emmanuel Collard in the No. 67 Porsche GT3. He also finished 10th overall and third in GT in 2002, running a Porsche 996 for Freisinger Racing with Ni Amorim, Stephane Ortelli and Hans Fertl.
He also raced a Daytona Prototype in the Rolex 24 on two occasions. In 2007, he finished 18th overall and 12th in class in Alex Job Racing's No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche Crawford, co-driving with Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister. He was part of the No. 59 Brumos Racing lineup in 2005, joined by Hurley Haywood, JC France and Timo Bernhard.
"The Daytona Prototype is completely different from the P2 car," Dumas said. "Overall, it's quite nice. I'm surprised. It has less downforce and less grip, but we have good power and it's cool to drive. Concerning the chassis, it's our first test so we have to continue to work on it.
"This is a big race with a lot of big drivers," Dumas concluded. "That's why we want to perform well. It's a long race. I hope with our good team and our good crew, we can make a difference. It's the same crew, same team, same mechanics. We kept all the crew of my No. 7 car from American Le Mans together. We know each other very well, and that's why I hope we continue the success."