Back to Work for GRAND-AM
By: John Singler - @JohnSingler2 on February 28, 2013 | 9:40 A.M. EST
Points leader Scott Pruett has his sights set on a victory in Saturday's inaugural GRAND-AM of The Americas in Texas. (Photo: GRAND-AM)
It’s been 32 days since the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series completed its portion of Daytona Speedweeks on Jan. 27.
No one’s turned a wheel in competition since. And as the 2013 schedule resumes this week in Austin, Texas, teams and drivers are heading into what could be called sports car racing’s version of the “Great Unknown.”
Saturday’s inaugural GRAND-AM of The Americas Presented by GAINSCO and TOTAL is a new race on an unfamiliar track, which poses a challenge for a familiar name atop the Daytona Prototype standings.
Five-time champion Scott Pruett is coming off a season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. With co-driver Memo Rojas, the Chip Ganassi Racing duo holds a three-point lead in the standings entering the second race of the season. Beyond that, not much is certain for Pruett regarding the weekend ahead.
“Nobody’s tested there,” Pruett said of the 3.4-mile Austin circuit, which hosted a Formula One race in 2012. “We don’t know about gears. We don’t know what we’re going to want on aero setup, how much downforce, how much drag. There’s no understanding of exactly what we’re going to be dealing with when we get there until we get on the track Thursday.”
There is testing scheduled today and more practice Friday before qualifying later that afternoon. And actually, there was some off-season activity at the Circuit of The Americas.
Jordan Taylor, who co-drives the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing entry, helped shake down the factory-backed American Le Mans Series Corvette on the Austin course in December.
“It was surprisingly difficult on how technical it was,” said Taylor, who joined co-driver Max Angelelli in running second to Pruett and Rojas in the GRAND-AM season opener at Daytona. “It seemed difficult to get up to speed and get a rhythm. Having done that (test), I’m more confident that we won’t have to waste a lot of time getting to learn it this week.”
What Pruett, Taylor and the 30 other DP drivers on the preliminary entry list will need to learn and understand are the latest engine specifications from GRAND-AM. The modifications have yielded an increase in RPM for Chevrolet, a decrease for Ford … with BMW, the manufacturer that powers Pruett’s Riley chassis, remaining at 7,000.
But the reigning three-time DP champion says he won’t get lost in all the technical details of those changes.
“It’s the political game and unfortunately, we (BMW) tend to be on the short end of the stick,” Pruett said. “I thought things were getting well-balanced and now they’re askew, again. We’ll see what we have to deal with this weekend.”
Politics aside, Pruett says he’ll enjoy this trip to the Lone Star State.
“We’re looking forward to going to that area of the country. Austin is a beautiful city and I’m anxious to get onto that new racetrack,” Pruett said. “We watched the Formula One race there last year and it looked fantastic. I can’t wait, especially coming off a win in Daytona. I’m ready to go racing again.”
GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series teams will open practice Thursday at Circuit of The Americas, with qualifying scheduled for 6:20 p.m. (ET) on Friday. Motor Racing Network will have live coverage of Saturday’s inaugural GRAND-AM of The Americas Presented by GAINSCO and TOTAL at 3:45 p.m., with live streaming at MotorRacingNetwork.com.