Daytona Prototype Testing Day 2
November 12, 2008 | 3:35 P.M. EST
Busch, Briscoe, Bernhard Test for Penske
Penske Racing brought a pair of brand-new Porsche-powered Riley Daytona Prototypes to the Grand-Am November Test Days at Daytona International Speedway, driven by NASCAR champion Kurt Busch, three-time 2008 IndyCar Series winner Ryan Briscoe, and Timo Bernhard, the team's co-champion in the American Le Mans Series.
Penske Racing finished third overall in the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona, driven by Busch, Briscoe and Helio Castroneves in a joint effort with Wayne Taylor Racing. For January, Penske Racing is going with the teams that have been a dominant force in the ALMS, winning the past two LMP2 titles with Berhard and Romain Dumas at the wheel.
Dumas tested a single Porsche Riley at Daytona during October Test Days. For November, Bernhard was joined by drivers from the respective Penske Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup and IndyCar Series teams.
"It's exciting to be driving a Porsche engine," Busch said. "It's got a different RPM range. It's really just getting our feet back under us and learning what the Grand-Am Rolex Series cars are all about. This is a good time of year in NASCAR. You know you're almost done, and looking forward to the fun. Not that Cup racing isn't fun - this is more fun driving in the Rolex 24."
Busch also enjoys the opportunity to interact with other branches of Penske Racing.
"The first step in the Rolex 24 is to surround yourself with a good team, and the Penske team is very qualified," Busch said. "All the crew guys, all the team officials that make calls, it's exciting for me to be part of something this strong. I know I'm the weakest link and I've got the most homework to do."
This will be Busch's third attempt at the Rolex 24. Busch debuted in the event in 2005, finishing 27th in a Ford Multimatic co-driving with Scott Maxwell, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch.
"It's a treat to get in the sports cars," Busch said. "I'm learning more and more about the chassis manufacturers and the engines. It's a change of pace, obviously, but at the same time, it's an opportunity to gel with the Penske team. This year I have the opportunity to do it with Timo and Romain, and we're going to be competing with Helio and Briscoe, where I was with those guys last year. It's a unique balance and chemistry change."
It's such an exciting race - the perfect way to start the season off," Briscoe said. "Pretty much, every driver from all sorts of series from all over the world come to race in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. It's always very competitive and a lot of fun. This year, with Kurt Busch and Helio (Castroneves), we got a third place. That was awesome. Coming back with the full Penske Racing operation behind us, we hope we can better that."
Briscoe said the preparation for the 2009 event is a major change from the 2008 Rolex 24 - Penske Racing's first time in the enduro since 1973.
"We've got more time to prepare this time around," Briscoe said. "Last year it was a late decision, and everything was put together very quickly. We had all the help and information from Wayne Taylor Racing, and they helped us get the car prepared. It was great to partner with Wayne Taylor Racing. This year, Penske Racing is getting serious about it and running it themselves."
Bernhard has a winning record in the Rolex 24. After winning the GT class in 2002, he repeated the class victory while winning overall in 2003, joining Kevin Buckler, Jorg Bergmeister and Michael Schramm in the TRG Porsche.
Bernhard also has one Daytona Prototype race at Daytona under his belt, finishing eighth overall for TruSpeed Motorsports in 2007, sharing the No. 47 Porsche Riley with Charles and Rob Morgan, along with B.J. Zacharias.
"I'm glad I'm here for this test," Bernhard said. "Yesterday I got a good impression of the Daytona Prototype again - the last time I drove a DP was in 2007 at the Rolex 24."
This past January, Bernhard was part of the Farnbacher Loles Racing effort, finishing 18th overall and eighth in GT in the No. 87 Porsche GT3 with Dirk Werner, Pierre Ehret and Dominik Farnbacher. Since then, he won overall for Penske Racing in the 12 Hours of Sebring among four victories, sharing the No. 7 Penske Porsche RS Spyder with Dumas. Over the past two seasons, Bernhard and Dumas won 12 races and two championships.
"I have had a lot of success with Penske Racing the last three years," Bernhard said. "The Rolex 24 is still a tough challenge. So far, it's looking good. I'm very happy I can do the test and get an impression of everything. We still have to wait and see what we will be doing this season."
Notes from the Paddock
Wednesday morning's test was held under heavy cloud cover, with several scattered showers and even brief periods of sunlight. The most serious Daytona Prototype incident came when Brian Frisselle lost a tire in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley and spun in the banking. The tire came apart and damaged some bodywork, although Frisselle kept the spinning car off the wall. The team's initial assessment was that the damage was cosmetic, and hopes to have the car ready for the 1 p.m. afternoon session.
John Farano spun in the No. 51 AIM Autosport Ford Riley, while Antonio Perez hit a curb and damaged the splitter on the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley. Inaugural Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller - still seeking a regular ride - helped test the No. 59 entry with JC France, Joao Barbosa, Darren Law and Perez. Five-time Rolex 24 winner Hurley Haywood was not at the test. David Donohue is here but is not driving, still recovering from shoulder surgery.
While Beyer Racing has done all of its racing and testing to date with a Crawford, it will be running a Pontiac Riley in the Rolex 24 on loan from Wayne Taylor Racing. The car finished fifth in the Rolex 24 and third in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen last year.
Among the drivers seeking an opportunity to race in the Rolex 24 is three-time overall winner Butch Leitzinger. January was only the third time he missed the race since 1988. Among the drivers not testing was Kyle Petty - in between NASCAR races in Phoenix and Miami - but he has a full-day's test scheduled for the near future in West Palm Beach, Fla.
BRIAN FRISSELLE (No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley) - "I just lost a tire at the entrance to turn four on the banking and had a bit of a moment. I had about a two-second warning, then it completed delaminated and exploded. Luckily, we went spinning down the straightaway and not into the wall. When the tire came apart, it did some rear-end bodywork damage. I didn't hit anything, though."
MAX ANGELELLI (No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley) - "Yesterday we did not touch the car all day long, we just put miles on it. Today, finally, we started working on the car, and you could see the results. Just give us time to work on the car and we'll be on top."
ROGER SCHRAMM (No. 12 and No. 20 RVO Pontiac Riley) - "We've been struggling with a lot of little issues we hadn't expected, but I think we're making some progress. Our plan is not to run two cars in the Rolex 24. We expect to run one car, and we would most likely do most of - if not all of - the series next year. I missed this year because of a skiing injury. I'm still recovering from it, but we're making progress. I feel good in the car."
CHRIS FESTA (No. 16 Forsythe Racing) - "The DP is a fun car to drive. It moves around a lot, but it's not so uncomfortable to drive where you feel like you're hanging on for dear life. It's a good balance of sliding around and grip that really makes it enjoyable to drive. Over 24 hours, the cars are real durable so you can really drive them hard and race them hard the entire race, which makes it a lot of fun."
RICKY TAYLOR (No. 13 Beyer Racing Pontiac Riley) ' "Yesterday we got in a lot of laps. I did pretty much the entire morning and afternoon session. Then we put Jared (Beyer) in to get some laps during the night. The whole team is doing an impressive job with the new car. I haven't driven this car in a year (he finished fifth in the car in the 2008 Rolex 24 under the No. 10 SunTrust colors), and I had forgotten what it felt like, but as soon as I went out for the first lap it all came back to me. It's definitely a nice car to drive. The whole Wayne Taylor Racing team did a lot with the preparation, so that when we finally got the car in the Beyer shop, it was pretty much race ready. We just had to do the normal at the track engineering. We were third quickest in one of the sessions yesterday, so it's looking good."
JARED BEYER (No. 13 Beyer Racing Pontiac Riley) - "I like the Riley. It's a lot different. It's a lot better car. The Riley is a lot easier to drive, it's a lot smoother and I think it's a better developed car."
MEMO GIDLEY (No. 77 Doran Racing Ford Dallara) - "It's nice to get the 77 car out there. It's been a while since we last ran. It's good to go through the motions again. We haven't run a heck of a lot, but the car feels pretty good right now. Everything's still up in the year for our partners and the length of the season for us. Kevin's putting it together right now."
JOAO BARBOSA (No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley) - "Today we didn't go out much - it started to rain as soon as we got on the track. But, it's looking good. Yesterday we were looking good. We'll still have three more days in January. We had the rain last January, and we did fine. All the crew does a great job, so I'm not worried about the rain."
JEFF WARD (No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Porsche Riley) - "It's got a lot of torque in the motor. I'm still trying to look at the track while I'm accelerating. The rev limiter comes on quick when you're not focusing on it - I'm still concentrating on where the track's going. It will take a while to get comfortable, for sure. This feels a lot different from anything I've driven."
Krohn Has New Car and Engine, Same Driver Lineup
One Rolex Series team has already announced its driver to the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Krohn Racing will return with the same three-driver lineups as the 2008 Rolex 24 - although they be in a new car-engine combination.
Regulars Nic Jonsson and Ricardo Zonta will team with Darren Turner in the No. 76 Ford Lola, while Oliver Gavin rejoins Tracy Krohn and Eric van de Poele. All of the drivers were at the two-day session with the exception of Zonta, who tested here in October when the team ran approximately 1,800 miles.
"Doing the Rolex 24 for the first time this year was a good experience, and my first experience in Grand-Am racing," said Turner, who won the past two GT1 titles in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Aston Martin in addition to racing British touring cars. "I absolutely loved it, and I was going to do everything I could to come back here for 2009. Thankfully, Krohn gave me the opportunity to come back. Now, with the Ford engine, and seeing what was achieved by the Ford guys here last year - it's a fantastic engine, very strong - it's nice to be back in the car. We're running through our programs to make sure we're in good shape for the race."
"It's different from everything else I've driven for the rest of the season," Turner said. "I'm used to 300 horsepower and front-wheel drive. Now, I'm back to 500-some horsepower and rear-wheel drive. It's taken me some time to get readjusted to the car and to get used to the Daytona circuit as well - it's very different from what I'm used to. I'm able to get plenty of time in the car at this test, and I'm able to get myself back into the situation. It's working out very well."
While the 2008 Rolex 24 was Turner's first experience in the Rolex Series, Gavin was one of the pioneers of the series. Gavin raced a SRP prototype in the inaugural 2000 season.
"This series has changed quite a lot, and the cars have changed significantly," said Gavin, a factory Corvette driver. "The competition has gotten strong and stronger. There are some fantastic teams in it now, with Krohn Racing, Penske, Ganassi, SunTrust - the strength and depth is really there. You've got to work extremely hard to win a race now. We're working to find more speed in the car and find more reliability, and it's coming together nicely. It's nice to have the same group of drivers together again, because we all worked together very well last year. It should be a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to it."
Gavin also faces a period of adjustment getting back into the Daytona Prototype.
"It's always different from the usual Corvette that I drive," Gavin said. "This is rear engined and the layout is more of a traditional race car. I'm enjoying it, being back and working with all of the guys on the team. It's a good package, a good group of people and a great team - and I think that was reflected in the results here last year, when we were the only team in the field that had two cars in the top 10. That was fantastic."
Alegra Test Includes da Matta, Dalziel
Alegra Motorsports is testing the No. 22 Gatorade/TodayMD Porsche Riley for Cristiano da Matta, Ryan Dalziel, Chapman du Cote, Jean-Francois Dumoulin and Carlos de Quesada. The latter two were part of the winning GT effort in the 2007 Rolex 24, with the team running two events this past season in its new Daytona Prototype.
"Coming from GT, this team is actually very focused on the important things and they really want to do it," said da Matta, the 2002 Champ Car titlist. "It looks good, and it feels good to me. Obviously, it's not an easy situation to get something right now for next year, but I'm ready for the full season. If I get a chance, I'm going to take it."
De Quesada said he is close to announcing his plans for the 2009 Rolex 24.
"So far, it's going well," de Quesada said. "We're testing to see where we are at and trying to determine what our lineup will be for the Rolex 24. I feel by the race we'll be in good shape. Our plans are still a work in progress. We're secured for the Rolex 24 and for the remaining endurance events of the season. We're just trying to lock in the remaining events for the year."