While the new Corvette Daytona Prototype continued to top the speed charts at Daytona International Speedway, one of the new stars of the GRAND-AM Rolex Series GT division made its mark on the second day of the Roar Before the Rolex 24. The new cars are part of the buzz and excitement for the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, with several thousand fans taking advantage of ideal conditions to witness the final test for the Jan. 28-29 classic.
The Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am – a car built specifically for Rolex Series competition – topped three of Saturday’s five sessions. Toni Vilander led the second session with a lap of 117.321 mph in the No. 63 Risi Competizione entry he shares with Olivier Beretta and Andrea Bertolini. Anthony Lazzaro was quickest in session three, running 116.564 mph in the No. 69 AIM Autosport/Team FXDD Ferrari he shares with Emil Assentato, Jeff Segal and Nick Longhi. Beretta led night practice with a lap of 117.133 mph.
The Corvette DP swept the top four places in Daytona Prototype, led by a lap of 1:41.126.468 mph in the No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP co-driven by David Donohue and Christian Fittipaldi. He was followed by Max Angelelli, who ran 126.387 mph in the SunTrust Corvette DP co-driven by Ricky Taylor and Ryan Briscoe, and Joao Barbosa, 126.468 mph in the No. 9 Action Express Corvette DP he shares with JC France, Terry Borcheller and Max Papis.
Defending race winner and reigning DP champion Scott Pruett had a scare early in final 90-minute night session. The four-time Rolex 24 winner was tagged from behind while passing a GT car, turning Pruett around and into a barrier. The No. 01 TELMEX/Target BMW/Riley also driven by Memo Rojas, Graham Rahal and Joey Hand sustained front suspension and left-rear damage. Due to not having enough spare parts for the new Riley DPG3, the TELMEX Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates team withdrew the car from the remainder of the test.
Fall-Line Motorsports topped the charts for the second consecutive day in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge GS class with Bryan Sellers posting the day’s quickest lap of 1:57.476 in the No. 46 BMW M3. Fall-Line has posted the two fastest laps of January Test Days with Charles Espenlaub turning in the weekend’s fastest lap (1:57.279) Friday in the No. 48 BMW M3. Billy Johnson was third fastest with a lap of 1:57.540 in the No. 61 Roush Performance Ford Mustang.
Seth Thomas turned the day’s fastest lap in ST with a lap of 2:07.578 in the No. 82 BMW 328i.
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 concludes Sunday with a pair of sessions for both series. The Rolex Series will practice from 10:15 a.m.-noon and 2:30-3:30 p.m., while the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge is on track from 9-10 a.m. and 1:15-2:15 p.m.
The 2012 Rolex Series season opens with the 50th Anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Jan. 28-29.
News And Notes
-Michael Shank Racing announced that open wheel young guns Gustavo Yacaman (Colombia), Jorge Goncalvez (Brazil), and Felip Nasr (Brazil) will join NASCAR regular and GRAND-AM race winner Michael McDowell in the team’s No. 6 Ford/Riley. Nasr is the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge champion winner, capturing the 2012 British Formula 3 championship to earn a DP ride in the Rolex 24
-CJ Wilson Racing withdrew its No. 03 Mazda MX-5 following a Friday afternoon incident. Bruce Ledoux damaged the right side of the vehicle in a high-speed impact exiting the Chicane. Team principal Jason Saini said that Ledoux was OK and the car is fixable, but the vehicle will not be ready in time for January’s GRAND-AM 200. Saini said the team will have a new car ready for the season opener, and may rent a second car for the race. Owner C.J. Wilson, who will pitch for the California Angels in 2012, attended Friday’s testing but did not drive.
-After running near the top of the speed charts in the opening three Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Sessions, Garth Nixon was collected in two separate incidents Saturday afternoon that left the No. 44 Nixon Motorsport Mazda Speed 3 badly damaged. Nixon purchased the car from Team Sahlen and ran the 2011 season finale. Accompanied only by crew chief John Earl, the Waxhaw, N.C. driver made the trip to Daytona “as a marketing exercise to show we have a competitive team and car.” He’s hoping to have the car repaired for the season-opening GRAND-AM 200 on Jan. 27.
-More than 1,000 members of the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of America camped at Daytona International Speedway throughout the weekend, and visited with teams and drivers throughout the test.