Grand Am – Miami Grand Prix – Preview
Few Similarities

It’s a 3.00 pm start on Saturday for Round 2 of the Rolex Series, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. With 12 races to go after this one, it’s set for the longest GA season so far. As Scott Pruett puts it, “there really are no similarities with Daytona.”

This is going to be a flat-out blast for two and three quarter hours – at least while the yellow flags aren’t flying. “It’s going to be 100% every lap,” reckons Brian Frisselle in the #8 Rx.com Doran, “so it should be pretty exciting for me as a driver.”

DP numbers total 22, joined by 26 GT cars, 18 of them Porsches.

There’s no sign of any Multimatics in the line-up, or the Picchio, so the Chase provides the variety in the DP Class – which principally comprises nine Rileys, four Dorans, two Fabcars and six Crawfords.

The Ganassi Rileys have taken 12 of 13 pole positions since entering the series last year, but that’s partly a factor of Max Angelelli historically not starting the SunTrust Riley, and Andy Wallace not starting the CITGO Crawford. With 2004 Champion Pruett partnered by Luis Diaz, perhaps the #01 car will also play the (non)qualifying game: Diaz to start the race?

Perhaps Cort Wagner or Stefan Johansson will successfully go for the pole, or maybe the #66 Krohn Racing / TRG Riley? Papis and Bergmeister look as strong as any pairing in the race – along with Borcheller / Fittipaldi, McDowell / Gidley, Gollin / Bobbi and Donohue / Law.

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Additions to the field since the Rolex 24 are the #07 Spirit of Daytona Crawford (joining the #09) for Bob Ward and Roberto Moreno, the #25 Westernesse Racing Crawford for Chad McQueen / Dominic Cicero / John Bender (in full Gulf look-alike livery, not the carbon look of the test days), and the Southard Riley (replacing the Cegwa Fabcar), Shane Lewis having his first chance in a top-line car.

dailysportscar.com“It’s even better that I will be debuting the car in front of local fans and friends at Homestead,” says the popular Lewis. “I’ll get to turn the first ever laps in the car at a track I’ve come to call home. Very cool!”

As exciting as Papis against Magnussen last year? Unfortunately, there’s no Jan Magnussen this time, the #4 Doran not entered – neither are the third Ganassi Riley, the #20 Crawford, the third Brumos Fabcar, the two Multimatics, the Robinson Riley, the Newman Crawford and the Picchio.

Andy Wallace took advantage of the ‘warfare’ going on ahead of him to win R2 in 2004. Can he continue to make up for his partner’s relative lack of pace (in #2, not Daytona's desperately unlucky #20)?

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Leaving out the drivers not expected to be a factor later in the season, the top points scorers after Daytona look like this:
dailysportscar.com1 Max Angelelli / Wayne Taylor 35
3 Butch Leitzinger / EF-R 32
5 Andy Wallace 30
6 Stefan Johansson / Cort Wagner 28
8 Matteo Bobbi / Fabrizio Gollin 26
10 Luis Diaz / Scott Pruett 24
12 David Donohue / Darren Law 23
14 Jorg Bergmeister / Max Papis 21
16 Nic Jonsson / Tracy Krohn 20

GT sees four PTG BMWs taking on the 18 Porsches. RJ Valentine and Kelly Collins will share the #17 F1 Air M3, and Justin Marks and Tom Milner will co-drive the #16 car. Bill Auberlen and Joey hand drive #21, Chris Gleason and Ian James the #22.

“We had run a five-lug wheel fixing on our 2003 Speed World Challenge M3s and never experienced a problem,” comments Tom Milner Snr., of the problems experienced at the Rolex 24. “We did not think this season’s rule change requiring the move from centerlock wheels would cause an issue. Unfortunately, there was no way to identify the wheel studs as a problem until they failed.

“It has been a very busy three weeks since Daytona. The start of a BMW Team PTG M3 is a BMW-supplied bare chassis and roll-cage, not a large check for a turn-key racing car. Of course, that gives us great control of the finished product, but the hours required to finish the new M3s, plus repairing and readying the No. 21 and 22 cars, required a 110% effort from every member of our staff. We began the run for the championship last season at Miami and we will have to do the same thing this year.”

The likely GT rivals are the following 911s:
#36 TPC Randy Pobst / Miachael Levitas
#65 Auto Gallery / TRG Marc Bunting / Andy Lally
and the reunited Craig Stanton and David Murry, in the #80 Synergy Racing Porsche. They won the SGS Class here a year ago. Are they both driving the #81 Synergy car too?

Colin Braun and Brad Coleman are still together, two-thirds of the 16 year olds squad at the Rolex 24, but in #64 now.

"I learned how to be smooth and consistent at Daytona,” commented Colin Braun. “I know that is always a good thing and will help me now that I can focus on going quick at Homestead.” Are these two going to be genuine contenders soon?

Team boss Kevin Buckler has been very busy since Daytona (read… Kevin Buckler has been very busy since the day he was born). One week after the Rolex 24, his staff moved to new, 17,000 sq. ft. premises, at Petaluma, California. This huge facility houses the team's professional race shop, club racing shop, a triple bay to accommodate race transporters, corporate and team offices, shipping and receiving, Adobe Road Wines cellar and tasting room, a fitness room and the Princess Room, a play area designed for he and Debra Buckler’s three daughters.

Buckler finished fourth in class at this Miami event last year, but isn't listed to drive this week. Perhaps he's finally tired? Sorry, Ed's mistake: the #66 The Racer's Group Porsche was third in GT last year.

 

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