DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., -- The Roar Before The Rolex 24, the three-day test session for the 48th Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 30-31, kicked off on Friday at Daytona International Speedway.
More than 40 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series cars and close to 60 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge cars tackled the twists and turns of Daytona’s road course in preparation of the 2010 twice-around-the-clock challenge on Jan. 30-31.
The first day of the Roar Before The Rolex 24 was highlighted by some driver-team announcements including the team that Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge winner Derek Johnston will drive for in the 2010 Rolex 24.
In addition to winning the Radical Series championship in his native United Kingdom, Johnston turned in a higher average score (based on finishing position, pole positions and fastest race laps) than 97 other contestants in four British championships to capture the inaugural Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge in 2009.
His prize is a funded seat in a Daytona Prototype in the 2010 Rolex 24 and it was announced on Friday that he will be behind the wheel of the No. 77 Doran Racing Ford Dallara with Memo Gidley and Fabrizio Gollin.
Johnston, who participated in the December Rolex 24 test at Daytona, was thrilled to know the team that he will drive for in the North America’s most prestigious sports car race. But he was also just happy to be at Daytona International Speedway.
Because of delays due to snow at London’s Heathrow Airport, Johnston said his trip from the United Kingdom took 40 hours.
“This place is just how I remember from being here last,” Johnston said. “It’s awe inspiring and a really cool place. (The Challenge has) been talked about a lot back home and throughout all the racing community and everybody is real envious of the fact that I’ve got this seat. These guys are going to try real hard to be here in 2011.”
Dempsey At Test: Dempsey Racing driver and Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey wasn’t able to make the December tire test for the Rolex 24 due to television commitments but he is in attendance for this weekend’s Roar Before The Rolex 24 behind the wheel of the No. 40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX–8.
Dempsey, getting ready for his third Rolex 24 start, participated in a news conference and previewed his 2010 Rolex Series season where he and his Dempsey Racing team have collaborated with Team Seattle on a two-car effort.
“The 24 has tremendous history,” Dempsey said. “It’s always very special and you really want to do well here. To win here, it’s like winning at LeMans, at Sebring, finishing one of those great endurance races and certainly the watch is an important thing to have on your wrist. You want to win and you want to do well here. It’s our big event of the season. Everyone around the world knows the value of this race.”
Fastest of the day: The No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara with drivers Wayne Taylor, Max Angelelli, Ricky Taylor and Pedro Lamy was the fastest in the Rolex Series on the first day of testing with a speed of 127.566 mph turned in the morning session. Patrick Long posted the fastest time in the GT class in the afternoon with a lap of 1:49.961 (116.550 mph) in the No. 67 TRG/Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche GT3 co-driven by Jorg Bergmeister, Seth Neiman and Johannes van Overbeek.
The Roar Before The Rolex 24 continues on Saturday with more testing sessions, fan forums, pit stop demonstrations and tech talks.
Tickets for the Rolex 24 At Daytona are on sale, along with the rest of Speedweeks events. To purchase tickets, go online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by call 1-800-PITSHOP. Stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter (www.twitter.com/disupdates) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/DaytonaInternationalSpeedway)
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