Homestead Test Round Up - DP

With a new logo announced at Homestead yesterday - “The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve is the proper and official name of the series and should be used in all first references. Acceptable second references include the Grand-Am Rolex Series or the Rolex Series” – Grand-Am is getting set for 2007. Grand-Am is always hyphenated. Grand American should no longer be used.

The second day of the test typically saw faster times than on Tuesday, and fastest of all was, as on Tuesday, Michael Valiante in the #19 Finlay Crawford. He set a 1:13.884 on Wednesday afternoon, 26 thousandths faster than Max Angelelli, with Alex Gurney third quickest.

In GT, Robin Liddell and Tafel Racing’s #72 Porsche was almost a second faster than anything else. GT report to come.

Typically, Grand-Am’s test day material concentrates on the NASCAR drivers, such as Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.

“It’s been a blast,” said Jeff Gordon. “Yesterday, I was pretty excited just to be able to drive a car that performs like this on a road course. It’s a lot of fun. Obviously, with our track record in the Cup series on the road courses, I like the road courses. I think Wayne Taylor’s team and Max, they’ve just been fantastic to work with. They taught me a lot and I’m having fun.”

So lots of “fun” to be had – particularly if your regular ride is so cumbersome, presumably. Several more drivers from both NASCAR and open-wheel racing, are expected to announce their plans to compete in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the coming weeks.

Back to the front of the times in testing, and Michael Valiante said that “we’re really starting to get a handle on the car. The engineers and crew guys have been working so hard this year, and the speed is really starting to show. This is the perfect way to end 2006, and it gives us a little momentum heading into next year."

It was no surprise to see Max Angelelli second fastest, nor Alex Gurney third. Patrick Carpentier was fourth quickest, Tommy Erdos fifth in the Cheever Crawford and Andy Wallace sixth in the Howard Motorsports Crawford – so three Crawfords and three Rileys in the top six.

No, it wasn’t Tommy Erdos fifth – despite being listed on every time sheet, he didn’t travel to Florida. The third potential Cheever entry was being prepared for next month’s action, and didn’t appear – so it was presumably Christian Fittipaldi who was fifth quickest in #51.

Third quickest Alex Gurney commented that “we’ve made major gains since our last test, and I’m just stoked about the way the car’s handling. Kyle (Brannan, team engineer) and the guys have used the off-season well. We’re once again fast right out of the box with the GAINSCO car. But the competition’s really tight and tough at the top of the field, just like last year. We’ll have to scrape for every tenth if we want to win.”

“There’s definitely a big effect (running without traction control) on this track, because it requires traction control more than a lot of others,” said team mate Jon Fogarty. “I think it’s very cool to drive without it, because it’s another problem you’ve got to solve behind the wheel. It will shake some people out, because it takes a different toolset to drive without it. Rain races will be very interesting, too.”

Best times are typically set on new rubber, but the Howard Motorsports Crawford only used four of the available six sets, and Andy Wallace was “really, really pleased with our speed”. Wallace was right up there on Wednesday morning – third fastest, less than a tenth behind Carpentier in #11 Riley, but the Crawford was on worn rubber, not new tyres. The #20 car didn’t fit fresh rubber in the hotter, afternoon session, when the quickest times were set, all on fresh Hoosiers.

At Brumos, with its two Rileys, it seems that Roberto Moreno and Joao Barbosa will race with #59 car with its regular pair. Despite the ECU business settling down at this test, Brumos lost another engine at Homestead, following its dramas at Daytona last month. David Donohue / Darren law finished up seventh quickest.

Alex Job Racing problems centred around fitting Joerg Bergmeister in the car (above). Cutting back the dashboard made it better, but still far from ideal, for the tall German champion. All that cockpit space, and he still doesn’t fit…. The #23 Crawford Porsche was eighth fastest, ahead of Bill Auberlen in the Sigalsport Riley BMW and Oswaldo Negri in the #60 Shank Riley.

Chip Ganassi’s car was mainly used to try out Mexican partners for Scott Pruett, and was 11h quickest.

Memo Gidley in the lone Doran (only non Riley / Crawford at the test) was 13th, behind the factory Riley.

Down in 18th was the Canadian AIM Autosport Riley Lexus, a former Ganassi car, with Mark Wilkins joined by the Frisselle brothers.

“This is our first time running the five-liter Lexus and the new Bosch system, so we just wanted to get down here to work out the bugs so we can be ready to get down to business at Daytona in January,” said team manager Ian Willis.

One spot higher was the Rob and Chris Dyson Crawford. “Our priority for this test was to get Rob (Dyson) back in the car,” said Rob Dyson's son. “It’s been four months since he last drove, and he did a super job. He kept getting his lap times lower and lower. I think he’ll be in good shape by Daytona. Technically, we were evaluating this new Hoosier tire, and we learned quite a bit on the first day here. Now, we’ve got a good ‘cookbook’ going into Daytona. Really, we’re just getting back to driving the Daytona Prototype and the Pontiac Crawford. It was a pleasure, and I believe we’re going to be very competitive at Daytona this year.”

The next test will be the big one – at Daytona, January 4-6. No doubt by then there will be a whole host of additions to the driver line-up, from other categories.

GT round up to come.

Best Times Over The Two Days
1 19 DP Finlay Motorsports Rob Finlay / Michael Valiante Crawford Ford 1.13.884
2 10 DP SunTrust Racing Wayne Taylor / Max Angelelli / Jeff Gordon Riley Pontiac 1.13 910
3 99 DP Gainsco/ Bob Stallings Racing Alex Gurney / Jon Fogarty Riley Pontiac 1.13.929
4 11 DP SAMAX Motorsport Milka Duno / Patrick Carpentier Riley Pontiac 1.14.007
5 51 DP Cheever Racing Tommy Erdos Crawford Porsche 1.14.116
6 20 DP Howard Motorsports Andy Wallace Crawford Pontiac1.14.159
7 58 DP Red Bull/ Brumos Porsche David Donohue / Darren Law Riley Porsche 1.14.345
8 23 DP Alex Job Racing Patrick Long / Jorg Bergmeister Crawford Porsche 1.14.389
9 05 DP Sigalsport BMW Bill Auberlen / Matthew Alhadeff Riley BMW 1.14.400
10 60 DP Michael Shank Racing Mark Patterson / Oswaldo Negri / Sam Hornish Jr Riley Lexus 1.14.490
11 01 DP CompUSA Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates Scott Pruett Riley Lexus 1.14.524
12 91 DP Riley Motorsports Jim Matthews / Marc Goossens Riley Pontiac 1.14.610
13 77 DP Doran Racing TBA Doran Ford 1.14.654
14 59 DP Brumos Porsche Hurley Haywood / JC France Riley Porsche 1.14.657
15 7 DP SAMAX Tom Kimber-Smith Riley Pontiac 1.14.785
16 6 DP Michael Shank Racing Henri Zogaib / Ian James / Paul Tracy Riley Lexus 1.15.017
17 16 DP Howard Motorsports Chris Dyson / Rob Dyson Crawford Pontiac 1.15.164
21 61 DP AIM Autosport Mark Wilkins Riley Lexus 1.15.198
19 39 DP Cheever Racing Christian Fittipaldi Crawford Porsche 1.15.247
20 12 DP RVO Motorsports Roger Schramm / Jack Baldwin Riley Pontiac 1.15.630
21 84 DP Robinson Racing George Robinson / Shane Lewis Riley Pontiac 1.15.906


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