DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – While rain slowed the second day of November Rolex 24 At Daytona testing at Daytona International Speedway, Rolex Sports Car Series teams still got plenty of track time as they prepared for the grueling twice-around-the-clock challenge on Jan. 26-27.
On Wednesday, rains slowed the morning session of the test but teams were able to get a handful of laps before heavy rains hit the Speedway around 10:30 a.m. The No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP with driver Christian Fittipaldi was fastest among Daytona Prototypes, turning an unofficial lap of 119.284 mph while Ben Keating in the No. 66 TRG Porsche topped the charts in the GT class with 112.568 mph.
In the first afternoon session, Action Express Racing’s Joao Barbosa was fastest with a lap of 115.777 mph while Andy Lally in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche, the defending GT class winners in the Rolex 24, had a quick lap of 115.762 in the GT class.
In the final session of the day, the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP and driver Max Angelelli posted the fastest lap of the entire two-day test session with a speed of 126.743 mph. In the GT class, Brumos Racing was fastest with an unofficial lap of 116.569 mph.
Defending champions: For Michael Shank Racing, arriving at Daytona International Speedway for this week’s test session was a new kind of experience.
After winning the historic 50th anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona earlier this year, owner Michael Shank and driver Ozz Negri reflected on the victory while driving into the Speedway on Tuesday morning for the first day of testing.
“I actually paused going up through the tunnel in Turn 4 just thinking about how cool it was to drive out of here winning the race and now driving back in as champions,” Shank said. “It just pushes us harder to be more organized, get the car better, get our strategies better and not change some things that worked. I’m all re-energized. I’m not afraid of defending. I think we can do it.”
Said Negri: “It was an interesting feeling when I parked the car and was walking in (to the garage). The thought that the last time I was here – the time that I left the track – I had just won the 50th Rolex 24. It really gave me the chills. This place is so special.”
But when Negri reached the hauler in the garage, his mindset quickly changed to defending the victory in the prestigious sports car race.
“The moment I stepped in the trailer, that thought about the victory here was gone,” Negri said. “My thought and focus was 100 percent into what is 2013. It will be the toughest (Rolex 24) by the way the teams are forming with the driver lineups. I’m pretty sure next season will also be one of the toughest seasons.”
During this week’s test, Negri and co-driver John Pew tested the No. 60 Ford Riley. Shank is once again looking at a two-car effort for the Rolex 24 and knows that defending their Rolex 24 win will be no easy task.
“I think defending is tough, especially a 24-hour race where the variables are just all over the place and we have had it all happen in the past,” Shank said. “But I’m not afraid of it. We have a manual on how to win this race now. I’ve got a 10-page thing. Drivers sit down and all get handed a packet – all eight from both cars. If you do ‘X’ and you’ll get ‘X.’ That’s the bottom line. If we stick to that bible, we have the opportunity to do it again.”
Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge update: Italy’s Ivan Bellarosa, the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge winner, took his first laps around Daytona International Speedway’s road course during this week’s test session.
Bellarosa, a competitor in the SPEED EuroSeries, won the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge this year and has secured a coveted driver’s seat with a to-be-determined Daytona Prototype team in the 51st anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge is a competition between racers in selected Sunoco-fueled championships in Europe. The driver who accumulates the most points wins a fully-funded race seat in a Daytona Prototype in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the prestigious season-opening event for the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.
During the test, Bellarosa shared driving duties on the No. 58 Action Express Racing Porsche Riley with fellow countryman and 2002 Rolex 24 champion Max Papis.
“He came here with an open mind,” Papis said of Bellarosa’s test session. “He did exactly what we asked and got better and better until he set his fastest lap with about a half a hour to go (on the first day).
“He focused on working with the engineers, driving the car, finding a driving style that will suit the car and learning about traffic. So far, he would be ready to race the Rolex 24 tomorrow morning in terms of speed but we still need to work a little bit on what it’s going to take to be prepared with 40 other GT cars. I don’t see that being problem.
“So far, he proved why he won the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge.”
The next GRAND-AM open test session for the 51st anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona will be the Roar Before The Rolex 24 on Jan. 4-6.
In addition to the testing sessions during the Roar Before The Rolex 24, there will be fan forums, pit stop demonstrations and tech talks scheduled for all race fans.
Tickets start at $15 and are available at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
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.