GT Testing At Daytona Day 1
November 11, 2008 | 2:29 P.M. EST
Bump Sends Forest into Spin, First Testing Incident
Mike Forest's first laps at Daytona International Speedway in the No. 32 PR1 Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R were among those he'd rather forget.
Just 13 minutes into the opening session Tuesday, Forest hit a bump in the chicane on the 3.56-mile track and spun, though the native Edmonton, Alberta, driver kept the car from hitting the wall. The car suffered slight right front damage, though the crew quickly made repairs when the car returned to the garage area.
"Not the way to start the day," said Forest, who has since moved from Edmonton to Colorado Springs, Colo.
Forest is entered to participate in the test with Thomas Merrill and Al Salvo, both California drivers.
Lux Excited to Be Back at Daytona
Eric Lux was excited to be back at Daytona International Speedway, he said Tuesday morning before getting in the car.
Lux will drive the Nos. 86 and 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3s during the two-day test. Lux won once in 2008, driving with Leh Keen, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
"Any opportunity where we're allowed to test, we like to take advantage of it, especially when there are new cars, new bodywork and new tires involved. For a race as big as the 24 hours, we'll definitely take advantage of any preparation we can. Farnbacher Loles always brings great cars, but with so many new things, this will be a very useful test. I'm looking forward to the 24."
James Back in Old Colors for Test
Ian James has spent several years with the Blackforest Motorsports stable, and this week, he's back with Tom Nastasi and the No. 15 Ford Mustang GT.
A regular on the Rolex Series circuit for multiple seasons, James moved into the Daytona Prototypes fulltime in 2007 after showing speed in the GT class. James returned to run and assist the Blackforest team in preparing the Ford Mustang during the November Test Days. He said he's entering an 11th season with the team.
"They're kind of like family," James said, "and they needed a hand, so I came down to test the car.
"The car's running pretty good. I think we were only off the fastest time this morning by about a tenth of a second. The car has great potential; it just needs a bit of massaging."
James competed in the Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes with Michael Shank Racing, and won his first overall race in the season finale Sept. 20 at Miller Motorsports Park in the No. 6 Ford Riley he shared with Raphael Matos and John Pew. The Epsom, England, native now living in Phoenix, Ariz., is still making his plans to run fulltime in Rolex Series competition in 2009, but will at least be running the Daytona Prototype at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"I'm still working on stuff for the full season," James said. "Hopefully we'll be back."
Zanella Among Quartet Testing in Matt Connolly Motorsports Machine
Mexican driver Santos Zanella was one of three drivers in the No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R during Tuesday's testing.
During February's 24 hours of Mexico in his hometown of Puebla, Zanella won the race in his class and finished second overall. He started racing in February 2007 and will complete his second season of competitive driving later this year in a 500-kilometer race. Zanella, who operates a car dealership in Puebla, was happy to test the car, though mentioned it was much different than any racecar he had driven in the past.
"The seat was very small, so they had to cut the seat in order to make it bigger for me," Zanella laughed. "It's very different than what I am used to. It's traction is in the rear instead of the front, and you have to be very careful with the throttle because it is very soft. Hopefully, when I get back out, I can better my time."
Zanella drove with Pepe Montano in the Turismos de Resistencia, the Mexican Touring Car championship. Montano suggested Connolly's operation to Zanella, who is seeking now to run the top 24-hour race in the United States, the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
"We're planning on running in January," Zanella said.
Also running for the stable this week are Jeff Altenburg, a former SPEED World Challenge champion, veteran team driver Ryan Phinny, and Romeo Kapudija, who last competed for Hyper Sport.
Quotes from No. 64 JLowe Racing Porsche GT3 Drivers Lowe, Pace
Jim Lowe: "We started working on this race for '09 about 15 minutes after the checkered flag dropped for the last one. First, we drove a lot, with the focus on longer stints, double stints, endurance at speed. The next component was deciding what we were going to do and who we were going to do it with. Then execute early. That's why we have our whole driving team and everybody we need to be involved with for the '09 effort already together. It's the only approach I know to apply to something. Disorganization makes me anxious, nervous and uncomfortable. The two times we've been here, we were third and fourth, so we're going in the right direction. We have comfort, familiarity, the right people, the right team and the right setup. We'll control as many variables as possible, then hope for a little bit of luck when it comes race day."
Jim Pace: "It's Daytona, and one of the things that makes Daytona attractive to international drivers all around is the fact that this race is a team effort. It's not about who's braking the latest at turn one or making that classic pass that everybody remembers years later. It's about putting the right team together, everybody running steady, planning it well, executing it well. And if you do it the best, they give you a watch!"
SpeedSource Tests 10 Drivers in Tuesday's Affair
SpeedSource and the team's No. 70 Mazda RX-8 has dominated in the Rolex Series at Daytona International Speedway as of late, winning the last three GT races including the 2008 Rolex 24.
The team brought both of its cars and 10 drivers to Tuesday's test, including seven drivers listed to contest the No. 70. Rolex 24 winners Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham participated in the test, and will be joined in the Rolex 24 by David Haskell. Vying for the fourth seat are four drivers - all Mazdaspeed Motorsport Development Ladder Drivers - including three who have never competed in the 24-hour class before.
Ben Devlin, Joel Miller and Jason Saini would like to put the Rolex 24 on their resume, while Jonathan Bomarito participated in the race in 2005 in a Daytona Prototype. Bomarito, Devlin and Miller are all open-wheel veterans - Miller has never competed in a closed-top car before this test - while Saini is a sports car veteran in Mazda Miatas and MX-5 Cup cars.
Whoever earns the seat will earn it, Ham said.
"That's a marquee seat right now, that drive and that car," Ham said. "We have to live with these people for a month or two. We have to know that they're going to do what we want them to do. It's a big decision. So far, they've all done an excellent job, and no problems."
As for the test, Ham was happy with the car's performance so far.
"It's gone excellent so far," said Ham, who finished tied for third in GT points with Tremblay. "We were a little ways off with handling this morning, but we worked hard in the first session. The car is fast, handling very well and is drivable, and that gives us a lot of confidence. We cycled through a lot of drivers for the fourth seat this afternoon for the fourth seat, so everything's been going very well so far."
Meanwhile, the team's No. 69 Mazda RX-8 was tested by Jeff Segal, Nick Longhi and Emil Assentato. Segal spent a lot of time in the car, and he hopes to be in the car fulltime in 2009.
"We're still working on that for right now," said Segal, who won with Longhi and Assentato at Watkins Glen International in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen.
"Testing is going well. We're working on it. There's an announcement that should be forthcoming following this test. I'm also working on something for the KONI Challenge Series, ideally with Automatic Racing. I've spent a lot of time with them, and we've come a long way."
Quotes from JLowe Racing's Tim Sugden, Driver, No. 64 Porsche GT3
Tim Sugden: "For me, Daytona is so special. It's such an iconic race. Ever since I was a kid, I heard about Daytona, so it's so special to come here and race. I'm a great lover of Rolex watches. I've always wanted to have a Daytona [Rolex], so years ago, I put my name on the list and waited and bought myself a Daytona. But I never want to wear it because so many of my friends have won the proper stainless-steel Daytona here, so if I wear the one that I bought, I'd just feel like a fake! So I keep it in the drawer ... and I desperately want to win one."
Quotes from Farnbacher Loles Racing's Seth Ingham and Ron Yarab Jr., Drivers, No. 86 Porsche GT3
Seth Ingham: "The biggest difference is the quickness of the car. The Porsche GT is a much slower-reacting car than the prototype. So, coming from formula cars and prototypes, it's taken me awhile to adjust to the difference in quickness. Learning braking and re-learning Daytona in a Porsche is a big deal, so the more laps I can do, the better."
Ron Yarab: "Last year, my goal was to make it to morning. This year, my goal is to make it to night. We'll see where we're at when the sun comes up and then try to race. "I do a ton of physical conditioning. I do a 10K every Wednesday and Sunday, then I do pilates on Tuesdays and Thursdays, then do the elliptical [trainer] the other two days and take one day for mental preparation. I do the physical conditioning so I won't have to worry about it during the race. Since I'm not in the car all the time, I have to expend my energy mentally to make it work. I started after my dirt-track season was over, at the end of September."