GT Testing At Daytona Day 2
November 12, 2008 | 3:34 P.M. EST
Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R Hits Wall
In the first incident of the day, Santos Zanelli hit the wall in the No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R. The car sustained light front-end bodywork damage, but Zanelli has not seriously injured. The incident brought out a stoppage in action for about 20 minutes.
Davis, Stevenson Motorsports Getting Comfortable
Rolex Series GT runner-up Andrew Davis said this week's test has given his Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R team a good opportunity to get accustomed and comfortable with several things, including the new Pirelli P Zero tires.
Davis returns for his second season with the team, co-driving with Scotsman Robin Liddell. The pair finished nine points behind Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards in the 2008 GT point standings.
"Basically, we're trying to one, get comfortable on the new Pirelli tire, and also run through a lot of things that we want to improve on for next year, so we can make a good run at the championship," Davis said. "Right now, we're making good progress, and everybody's working really hard to make the changes. That's what testing is about. It's nice to be down here."
Running in different conditions - under sunny skies Tuesday and in the rain Wednesday - was favorable by Davis, who said in his eight previous Rolex 24 starts, the weather has never stayed the same throughout the entire 24 hours.
"The weather conditions have been different between yesterday and today, and that was good," Davis said. "Yesterday, clear skies and warm track temperature, and to have the night practice in the same conditions was good. I think today, with the cloud cover and the humidity, that makes it better, because we can see how the car and tires react in different conditions. It's always good when the weather cooperates like that."
Holtom Says Georgian Bay Corvette Continues to Get Faster
Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Street Tuner (ST) champion Jamie Holtom said the Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette continues to progress as he and co-driver Eric Curran seek to run their first 24-hour race together in the car.
Holtom and Curran participated in last month's test at Daytona International Speedway, and both were back at the track this week to improve and progress the Corvette. A Corvette has not won the Rolex 24 since Flis Motorsports took the AGT class victory in 2002.
"Drivers are never happy," Holtom said, "but slowly but surely we're making the Corvette faster and faster. It would be pretty naïve for us to think we could come into this series, the Rolex Series, and be that fast right away. We're working on it. And we're making the right decisions, changing the car for the better. Every time I get in the car, we go faster and faster."
Holtom and Curran competed in two Rolex Series races together in 2007, but did not make a Rolex Series start in the Corvette in 2008. Curran ran the Rolex 24 with Farnbacher Loles Racing in January, and Holtom is seeking his initial Rolex 24 start.
Yellow Dragon Tests Tuesday; Team Satisfied with Lap Times
The newest team to the Rolex Series GT paddock this weekend, Yellow Dragon Motorsports brought its No. 36 Mazda RX-8 to Daytona in hopes of making a strong debut. Sylvain Tremblay of SpeedSource, a veteran racer of the RX-8, tested the car Tuesday, and Chris Festa was scheduled to test the car Wednesday before the car suffered a failed oil pump, which could not be repaired at the track.
"At the end of the day, we've had a great testing session," team owner Jack Smith said. "It's been a good demonstration of the car's ability to run a reasonable, competitive lap time, and we're very satisfied with the way things have come out."
Smith made the jump to the Rolex Series for the first time starting in 2009. He has brought along veteran crew chief Phil Creighton and engineer Rosalina Manfrinato to help progress the car and put together a solid package when it takes to the track for its first competitive laps in January's Rolex 24.
"We're a new team, but we've been here and done this before," Smith said. "We've looked at this series for a couple of years - I didn't just do this on a whim one afternoon - and looked at different cars. I've raced Mazdas at the amateur level for 25 years and I know how Mazda supports its race teams."
Cameron, Racers Edge Mazda Showing Consistent, Reliable
Open-wheel veteran and 20-year-old racer Dane Cameron returned to Daytona International Speedway this week to drive the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Mazda RX-8 with Doug Peterson, Dion von Moltke and Jordan Taylor.
Cameron, a veteran in the Star Mazda and Atlantic ranks, had never participated in any form of on-track competition at Daytona before last month's October Test Days, and is only running a GT car for the second time after logging laps in October.
"It's a pretty impressive place," Cameron said of Daytona. "You don't really get a respect for how steep the banking is here until you get your first run on it. It's a pretty cool place."
Cameron, whose only Rolex Series start came in 2007 at Miller Motorsports Park in a Daytona Prototype owned by Chip Ganassi Racing, said all of his co-drivers have been close in times so far, therefore showing consistency in a car team owner Jon Mirachi will field for the second straight season.
"Everyone is still very close together in terms of time, which is good," said Cameron, who also competed in two KONI Challenge Series races in 2008. "Nobody is struggling by any means. If we can make everything happen for the 24-hour, I think we should have a pretty good car. So far, it's been super reliable, basically the five days we've been running it now. I think it should be a good package, and SpeedSource showed last year the Mazda is very strong here and how reliable it is in winning the race. Hopefully we can finish on the podium here in January."
Peterson is the only driver signed to run fulltime for Racers Edge in 2009. Cameron said he was close to signing a deal to run fulltime with Peterson, while von Moltke is expected to compete in the endurance races for the Deland, Fla.-based team.
"We're still working on things right now," Cameron said, "but we're just trying to take it one day at a time. We're just trying to make the car faster and better. We're definitely close on something for the 24-hour, and we'll just see what happens for the rest of the year.
Autometrics Car "Running Really Good," According to Friedman
The No. 14 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche GT3, with drivers Jack Baldwin, Claudio Burtin, Cory Friedman and Mac McGehee, hasn't been on the track much during the two-test November Test Days, but it's for a good reason.
"(The car's) actually running really good," Friedman said. "We're thrilled with the balance of the car, and the car is handling great. The new tires and car are working together very well. To be honest, we're not really running the car much because we don't need to do much to it. We're just trying to save time on the car because things are tuned in pretty well."
Autometrics has run well at Daytona and won the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen in the past, and with a strong driver lineup for the Rolex 24, Friedman believes the team will do well in the 2009 edition of the race.
"Jack Baldwin has a ton of experience, and I think we're going to try and get a Porsche Junior driver to run with us," Friedman said. "I think we have a pretty solid team."
The team ran a handful of races in 2008 and is poised to run a similar schedule in 2009, with the Rolex 24 being the focal point. The Rolex 24 may also see a second Autometrics car on the grid.
"We're working on the details of that now," Friedman said. "We've been talking to some people this weekend, and we have a second car basically waiting for people to drive it. We're trying to work a deal out, and hopefully by the January Test Days, we'll have a second car."
Wright Motorsports Expected to Compete Regularly in 2009
BJ Zacharias had been trying to get Phillip Martien to compete in the Rolex Series throughout the 2008 season. Martien, who has finally made the jump to the Rolex Series, expects to run seven to eight races in 2009 with Zacharias in the No. 33 Wright Motorsports Porsche GT3.
"The Rolex Series is a great series," Martien said. "I've met a lot of great people within the series, and looking forward to running. The fact that NASCAR bought Grand-Am gives us even greater opportunity to obtain sponsors for the season."
Martien started racing three years ago in PCA events and eventually ran in five SPEED World Challenge Series in 2008. But Martien wanted something different; he wanted more track time and someone to coach and teach him, and eventually move up in the results.
That's where the Rolex Series comes into play. With longer races and "a reliable coach" in Zacharias, the native Parisian Martien, who moved to Baltimore, Md., to start a construction company, figures to reach his goals in motorsports. And the duo, Zacharias said, should contest for top-five finishes throughout 2009.
"Obviously we're just going to try and take it one race at a time, starting with the 24-hour," Zacharias said. "It will be Phillip's first 24-hour race. We're really excited about this program. We actually got one of the first 2009 Porsche 997s. We rolled it out of the transporter during the first session, we were happy with the times. We're really playing catch-up with a lot of the guys who have run on the Pirellis in the past. We're just taking little steps at a time. Now, I think we're heading in the right direction."
The team will be joined by Larry Schumacher for the Rolex 24, and are hopes of a Porsche factory driver to join them for the season opener as well.
Despite Cutback, Banner Racing Still Ready to Defend Title
Despite the economic struggles in the U.S., which is severely affecting car manufacturers, Banner Racing will still field the No. 07 Pontiac GXP.R for Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards during the 2009 Rolex Series GT season to defend its championship, team owner Leighton Reese said.
And instead of dealing with the pressure as a team owner/driver, Reese has selected only to deal with the pressure of an owner next season.
"Those guys are going to defend the championship," Reese said. "We think we've got a good package. We are only running one car at Banner Racing next year. I wouldn't say that I've retired; I'm just not driving now. We're just going to optimize and maximize on one car, and hopefully we can put our rivals down one more time. We're obviously expecting a fierce fight from the Mazda guys, the Porsche guys and the other Pontiacs."
Reese said Daytona is not the best track for the Pontiacs because "we just don't have the speed the other cars do." Still, he believes the Rolex 24 could be a springboard to the team's second straight championship.
"We're not as slow as we thought we'd be," Reese said. "We're not running record times, but against the guys we're usually running against, we're doing okay. Daytona is always a struggle for the Pontiacs. So far, the new tires have worked out well for us, and right now, we're just trying to do some reliability testing. The only way we're going to win this race is to go the distance; we're not going to win it on speed. But we've got close a couple times in the past, second in 2007 and leading before we crashed at midnight. We're just going to have to wait and see."
As far as the economic concerns, Reese said he is confident in Pontiac and Detroit.
"We're optimistic it's all going to work out okay," Reese said.