DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The preparations have officially begun for the 51st anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 26-27.
Twenty Rolex Series cars including eight Daytona Prototypes and 12 GT class entries kicked off the two-day November Rolex 24 At Daytona test session on Tuesday at Daytona International Speedway.
The Daytona Prototype teams in attendance included the defending Rolex 24 At Daytona champions Michael Shank Racing, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, Action Express Racing, Wayne Taylor Racing, Team Sahlen and Spirit of Daytona.
Among the GT class teams were defending Rolex 24 class winners Magnus Racing, AIM Autosport Team FXDD with Ferrari, Stevenson Motorsports, Brumos Racing, TRG, Marsh Racing, Alex Job Racing, Park Place Motorsports and Racers Edge Motorsports.
In addition, an American Le Mans Series P2 fielded by Conquest Racing was turning test laps and is expected to provide data as an initial step in evaluating the potential class structure of a unified series in 2014.
On the speed charts, Alex Gurney led the morning session in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette with an unofficial lap of 125.985 mph. Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette led the second session in the early afternoon with an unofficial lap of 127.063 mph.
In the third and final session in the late afternoon, Joao Barbosa put the No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette on top again with a lap of 126.473.
Fastest of the entire day in the GT class was Frank Biela in the No. 52 Audi of America Audi R8 with an unofficial lap of 117.629 mph.
Taylor brothers: Ricky and Jordan Taylor of nearby Apopka are shaking down their new 2013 Rolex Sports Car Series rides for the first time during this week’s test session.
Jordan Taylor, who is a two-time GT class winner in the Rolex Series with Autohaus Motorsports, has joined his father’s team Wayne Taylor Racing as the new co-driver on the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette with Max Angelelli.
He replaces his brother Ricky, who after three successful seasons at Wayne Taylor Racing recently signed to co-drive the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Chevrolet Corvette.
“Just hearing him on the radio is weird,” Jordan Taylor said of working for his father Wayne. “Coming into the pit box and seeing him there . . . I’m use to seeing him at night at dinner but not at the track listening to my debrief. It’s cool to have him there and there’s no better person to have than my dad to ask for advice.”
In his three seasons at Wayne Taylor Racing, Ricky Taylor earned 10 poles and seven Daytona Prototype victories driving with Angelelli.
He’s thankful for the pre-Rolex 24 test sessions as he forms chemistry with the Sprint of Daytona team.
“It’s nice to come here in November and get to know the team and get in the car and get up to speed and really make yourself comfortable for the race,” Ricky Taylor said. “The guys have been awesome, just really welcoming and making everything easy for me. I had a couple of laps (in the morning session) there and getting up to speed.
“It’s weird looking at the 10 car out there but it’s such a cool opportunity for me. I can’t wait to get going. (Spirit of Daytona) was so strong last year. I’m just really looking forward to this year.”
GAINSCO/Bob Stallings announcement: Owner Bob Stallings announced his driving team for the 2013 season and the Rolex 24 during the lunch break on Tuesday.
Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty will compete for the season-long championship in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Chevrolet Corvette while Memo Gidley and Darren Law will round out the driving team for the Rolex 24.
“We’re real excited about having four very fast, very experienced drivers driving the world’s fastest Corvette,” Stallings said. “Hopefully this year we can put that thing on the top edge of the podium.”
GAINSCO’s best finish in the Rolex 24 was a second-place finish in 2008 when Gurney and Fogarty were joined by Jimmie Johnson and Jimmy Vasser.
“I think this is the main prize,” Gurney said of the Rolex 24. “It’s been a difficult race for us over the years. We’ve learned a lot. We’ve come in a few times gun blazing and run into trouble quite a bit. We put a lot of thought into it and learned over the years and hopefully we’re in a good place now. I think in order for the championship to turn out well, you have to finish this race. With this lineup I’m super excited about it. All these guys are fast and experienced and tend to stay out of trouble. I think we’ll be in good shape come January.”
“One of the things that was important to me coming to the (Rolex) 24, I was not going to get in a car that wasn’t competitive,” Law said. “Obviously this program I would say is one of the top teams, top-run cars in the series. I jumped at the chance.”
Sports car testing on the 3.56-mile road course concludes on Wednesday. A section of the Oldfield Grandstands will be open free to the public with access available through the lobby of the Daytona International Speedway ticket office.
Fans will also be able to watch the testing action through a Daytona International Speedway Track Tour. For a complete tour schedule and pricing, visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/tours
The Rolex 24 At Daytona, the kick-off event to Budweiser Speedweeks 2013, showcases the world’s best drivers competing against each other lap after lap for 24 hours on Daytona International Speedway’s challenging and demanding 3.56-mile road course.
Two-day tickets for the Rolex 24 At Daytona start at $35 and are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Fans can follow sports cars on Twitter at GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series (@RolexSeries) and the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge (@SUNOCO_UK). Fans can also stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest for all the latest news all season long.