The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series cars and stars have taken to the Daytona International Speedway road/oval course in preparation for the 50th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The three-day test, The Roar Before The Rolex 24, puts the newly re-bodied Daytona Prototypes on the race track with GT race cars and there are separate practice sessions for the Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge competitors, all tackling the 3.56-miles of twists, turns and portions of the oval track at DIS.
The new Riley Technologies DPG3 MKXVI made its debut alongside the new Corvette DP, each one of the third generation Daytona Prototype coupes vying to be best in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series this year.
On the first day of running, the No. 10 SunTrust Chevrolet Corvette was quickest at 1:41.407, followed by the two Action Express Racing Corvettes, the No. 5 bettering the No. 9; there were five Corvette Daytona Prototypes leading the first day of running with the No. 2 Ganassi BMW/Riley sixth quickest.
"We've been testing a lot of the aero bits," said Ricky Taylor, driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette DP, "and found a lot of little things that have improved our new Corvette. I'm not worried about banging doors with anyone. The car is really strong and I feel good about running it in the Rolex 24."
In GT it was the No. 57 Chevy Camaro beating all comers at 1:49.494, with the No. 17 Porsche GT3 second and the similar No. 26 Porsche GT3 third.
The Corvette Daytona Prototypes continued to rule the roost after two days of hard running, while the reigning champions, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates had trouble. The four-time Rolex 24 winner driven by Scott Pruett, was hit from behind while passing a GT car during the final, 90-minute night session. The BMW/Riley went into a barrier and sustained front suspension and left-rear damage, forced to withdraw from the remainder of the test without sufficient spares on hand.
"I had just passed a GT car and he hit me in the rear and I spun," Pruett explained. "That put me into the guardrail and tires. It's definitely a little setback. Normally we'd just throw new parts back on it and get back out there, but since this is a new car, we're going to take it back to the shop and take our time getting a good look at everything. We'll take advantage of a bad situation and learn from it."
The No. 5 Action Express Corvette took top spot on Saturday at 1:41.338, followed by the No. 10 SunTrust Corvette and the second, No. 9 Action Express Corvette. The GT field scrambled a bit with the No. 63 Risi Competizione Ferrari leading all comers at 1:49.239, ahead of the No. 66 Porsche GT3 and the similar No. 17 Porsche GT3.
Risi Competizione with American Canadian Racing, after completing two days decided to withdraw from the final day of testing. With few teething problems in five sessions, the team decided to call it a day. "It was our fist time with this Ferrari 458 Italia Grand-Am car and we found just a few small problems with the grip level and traction, mostly I think because of the tire compound which is new to us," said Giancarlo Fisichella. "As usual, when racing in America there's a fantastic atmosphere and I feel great about being here."
Risi Competizione photoEnlarge Photo
Mazda racer/team owner and actor Patrick Dempsey was able to test the No. 55 Multimatic Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race car on Friday and was very enthusiastic about the experience. "I have to thank Mazda for letting me drive it; I hope I can run a few races in the car this season," Dempsey said. "Aston Martin has a lot of history - you think of James Bond when you get out of the car. I think I'll wear a fireproof tuxedo with a bow tie the next time I drive it," he joked.