in Rolex Series’ Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway
Angelelli has two wins at VIR; Werner, Miller look to defend GT race win with separate teams
Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante haven’t had the start they’ve wanted to in the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 season. In three races this season, Angelelli and Valiante have only one top 10 and failed to finish last Saturday’s Mexico City 250 after an accident midway through the race.
However, the two seek to resuscitate their 2008 campaign in Sunday’s Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway (SPEED, Noon on Sunday, May 3) in Alton, Va., round four on the Rolex Series circuit, which begins at 1 p.m. ET. Angelelli teamed with Jan Magnussen to win last year’s race at VIR, one of several split-class Rolex Series races in 2007 and one of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing team’s two wins (Montreal the other).
This season, problems have plagued the 2005 championship-winning Daytona Prototype team in all three races. Electrical problems kept the team from contesting for the Rolex 24 At Daytona win, though three of the four drivers led the race en route to a fifth-place finish.
Then, back-to-back incidents in the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami and the Mexico City 250 dropped the team out of top-10 finishing positions. The Mexico City incident – caused when contact between Angelelli and Matt Plumb in the No. 7 Rum Bum Racing BMW Riley sent both cars into the Turn 14 outside wall on Lap 44 – eliminated both cars, who which battling for third position.
With 14th- and 18th-place finishes in consecutive races, the SunTrust Racing team – which switched to the Dallara Chassis bodywork starting with the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami – must fight for victories in order to stay alive in its championship aspirations.
“As far as I see it, we just need to go to every race and try to win every race,” said team owner Wayne Taylor following Mexico City. “What can I say? I’m disappointed about what happened (Saturday)…Somebody ran into Michael at (Homestead). Now, to be taken out two races in a row, that hurts.”
Last year at VIR, Angelelli took the lead from Max Papis on Lap 53 and never looked back. Angelelli and Taylor also teamed to win at VIR in 2004.
“VIR is a track where the SunTrust team has always run up front and has been very competitive,” Angelelli said. “I’m very confident going there with our new Dallara. We will try to keep going and try to shoot for a good setup like we’ve always had on race day at VIR. One of the reasons we’ve always been very good is that we’ve also been very good on strategy at VIR.”
Daytona Prototype point co-leaders – No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas – have two wins and a second-place finish in their three starts in 2008, and lead the point standings by 16 over Mexico City winners Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews (102-86) in the No. 91 Bob Stallings/Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley. Defending series champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty are 17 points behind Pruett and Rojas after finishing fourth at Mexico City in the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley.
Werner, Miller Set to Defend VIR Race Win, But Not Together
Defending Rolex Series GT champion Dirk Werner hopes to defend his VIR win last season and close a small gap in the GT driver standings. Werner is back in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3, a car identical to the one which he co-piloted to last year’s VIR 400 triumph with then co-driver Bryce Miller. Miller, in turn, is hoping to close on Werner in the standings in the No. 66 Marquis Jet/Mitchell Rubber TRG Porsche GT3 he took over for this season.
Werner is coming off a third-place finish at Mexico City with Pierre Kaffer, who scored the team’s first pole in almost a year. This weekend, Werner will team with Dominik Farnbacher, the same driver Werner battled for the lead in last year’s VIR race.
“At VIR, Dominik and I were very good last year and I think if we team together, we have a very good chance to win the race,” Werner said. “VIR is one of my favorite U.S. tracks. It has a lot of fast turns, a lot of turns where you need to have courage to drive fast, so it's really a driver track. Compared to last year, we need to see where we are because we have the air restrictor, so that gives us a disadvantage compared to last year. I'm really looking forward to the race – I think we'll have a good chance to win.”
Werner is in a three-way tie for third in driver points with Rolex 24 GT co-winners Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham, who finished 13th at Mexico City after a crash in Turn 14 damaged the No. 70 Mazdaspeed/Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8’s rear bodywork. The trio is 10 points in arrears of No. 07 Banner Racing Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R co-drivers Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, whose win at Homestead and second-place finish at Mexico City allowed the pair to jump into the point lead (91-81).
Miller is in a four-way tie for eighth in GT points after finishes of second, 13th and sixth in three races respectively with co-driver Ted Ballou in the No. 66. TRG has four cars entered at VIR while Farnbacher Loles has three.
Nineteen Daytona Prototypes and 27 GT cars are entered to take Sunday’s green flag. The race is scheduled to be 250 miles or two hours and 45 minutes.
- This is Round 4 for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16. The combined Daytona Prototype/GT race is 250 miles (77 laps)/400 kilometers or two hours and 45 minutes, whichever comes first.
- The green flag for the race is scheduled to fly at 1 p.m. ET. The race will air on SPEED (Noon ET on Sunday, May 3; Leigh Diffey: Play-by-Play; Dorsey Schroeder, Calvin Fish: Analysts; Brian Till, Chris Neville: Pit Reporters).
- All cars must make a mandatory pit stop prior to the 45-minute mark in the race, and each driver must complete 30 minutes of the race in order to earn points for their respective standings.
- Defending VIR race winners are Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen (Daytona Prototypes), and Dirk Werner and Bryce Miller (GT).
ROLEX SERIES WEEKEND SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES CENTRAL)
- Saturday: Rolex Series GT Practice (9:45-10:15 a.m.); Rolex Series Combined Practice (10:15-11:15 a.m.); Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Practice (11:15-11:45 a.m.); Rolex Series Combined Practice (2:30-2:55 p.m.); Rolex Series Trueman/Akin Practice (2:55-3:15 p.m.); GT Qualifying (3:30-3:45 p.m.); Daytona Prototype Qualifying (3:50-4:05 p.m.)
- Sunday: Rolex Series Combined Practice (8:30-8:50 a.m.); Bosch Engineering 250 at VIR (1 p.m.; 77 laps/250 miles/400 kilometers or two-hours and 45 minutes)
2008 IN REVIEW
Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas own a 16-point advantage in the Daytona Prototype point standings after two wins and a second-place finish in their first three starts in 2008. They won the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley before finishing second in the Mexico City 250, won by Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews in the No. 91 Bob Stallings/Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley.
Consistency and three top 10s – including a class win in the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami – have Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards atop the GT point standings. The pair finished second last week at Mexico City and rose to a 10-point advantage in the standings over former point leaders Spencer Pumpelly and Tim George Jr. Defending series driving champion Dirk Werner is also in the three-way tie for third.
NEWS & NOTES
- Native Sons: While there aren’t many Virginia drivers in this weekend’s field, some drivers have connections to the state. Spencer Pumpelly was born in Mason Neck but now lives in Georgia. Steve Johnson, this weekend with Farnbacher Loles, is from Bristol. Brian and Burt Frisselle formerly lived in Lynchburg.
- Home Race for Synergy: Based at the race track, Synergy Racing will field two Rolex Series cars this weekend. The team’s regular No. 80 OilHeatAmerica.com Porsche GT3 will be piloted by Patrick Long and David Murry, and the No. 71 Courtyard by Marriott Porsche GT3 will be contested by Tennessee natives Carey, Kevin and Milton Grant.
- Beyer Motorsports, Barrett Debut: Eighteen-year-olds Jared Beyer and Ricky Taylor may be among the youngest of the field, but the pair will drive together in the No. 19 Beyer Motorsports Lennox Ford Crawford, which is debuting this weekend under the Beyer Motorsports banner. Taylor drove with father Wayne in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and led a lap, while Beyer is making his first career Rolex Series start. …Californian Patrick Barrett will debut in Rolex Series competition this weekend for PR1 Motorsports, which made its first career start with rookie Mike Forest in the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami.
- Cheever Racing Running Kimber-Smith; Farnbacher Tags Johnson: Due to a racing conflict overseas, Spaniard Antonio Garcia will not compete at VIR and will be replaced by Tom Kimber-Smith. The Englishman Kimber-Smith was scheduled to compete for Cheever in the Rolex 24 but the car only lasted 44 laps and Kimber-Smith did not compete. This weekend, he’ll compete with Italian Matteo Bobbi. …In the Farnbacher Loles Racing camp, Steve Johnson of Bristol, Va. will replace Greg Wilkins, who has taken a leave of absence. Johnson, a former NFL player, and Canadian co-driver Dave Lacey won’t have many problems adjusting their seats, as both over six feet.
- Daytona Prototype Drivers Consistent: Only 21 points separates the top eight drivers in Daytona Prototype competition, and that’s because the top four driver pairings have been consistent. Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas have been first or second in all three races; Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney, Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri haven’t finished outside the top six; and Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews have not finished worse than eighth.
- Starting up Front Has its Privileges in GT: Starting up front is the right place to start, at least for drivers in the Rolex Series GT class. Sylvain Tremblay, Kelly Collins and Andrew Davis have all started in the front two rows in their co-victories in 2008. Meanwhile, the Daytona Prototypes have been on the opposite end. The best start any driver has won from was third (Pruett and Rojas) at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Other starts have been sixth (Pruett, Rojas, Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti) and 15th (Goossens and Matthews).
ROLEX SERIES POINT STANDINGS
- Daytona Prototype: 1. (tie) Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, (102); 3. (tie) Marc Goossens, Jim Matthews (86); 5. (tie) Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty (85); 7. (tie) Oswaldo Negri, Mark Patterson (81); 9. (tie) Nic Jonsson, Ricardo Zonta (78).
- GT: 1. (tie) Kelly Collins, Paul Edwards (91); 3. (tie) Spencer Pumpelly, Tim George Jr., Dirk Werner (81); 6. (tie) Sylvain Tremblay, Nick Ham (79); 8. (tie) Bryce Miller, Ted Ballou, Jeff Segal, Emil Assentato (75).
- MESCO Building For the Future Rookie of the Year: 1. Tim George Jr. (81), 2. Ricardo Zonta (78), 3. (tie) Ted Ballou, Jeff Segal (75), 5. Lawson Aschenbach (68).
- Law Hits The Century Mark: Brumos Racing’s Darren Law became the first driver in Rolex Series competition to earn the coveted 100th career start, as he garnered that mark in last Saturday’s Mexico City 250 with an 11th-place finish. Law has competed in at least nine Rolex Series races each season since the inaugural Rolex Series season, and has eight class victories, yet is still looking for his first career overall win. In addition, Law leads the Rolex Series in laps and miles completed.
- Pruett, Ganassi Continue Winning Record: Scott Pruett and Chip Ganassi continue to set records for overall victories in the Rolex Series. Pruett notched his 16th overall win in the GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami, now three more than second-place James Weaver. In turn, Ganassi earned his 17th win – all in Daytona Prototypes. That’s six more than SunTrust Racing.
- Pontiac Approaching Class Win Record: With three class victories this season, Pontiac is only one behind Porsche for all-time class wins. Porsche, which has not won in either Daytona Prototype or GT in 2008, has 47, while Pontiac has 46.
OTHER PRE-RACE QUOTES (SELECT DRIVERS)
MEMO ROJAS (No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley): “I look forward to VIR! Last year didn’t go to well there, as we had a lot of problems in the race even though we were running very quick. Hopefully this year we’ll be able to stay out of trouble and go for a great result. I love that track; it has a great combination of fast corners and elevation changes that very few tracks have.”
LEIGHTON REESE (No. 06 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R): “We were third their last year in the 07. It was our first natural road course with the GXP.R which was new last year. The rolling terrain of VIR brought out some visibility issues with the car – we basically had trouble seeing out of the driver seat. So we had some tweaks to do on the car for the rest of the season. We will be strong there this year and it is a perfect track for the Pontiac, with all of the adjustability in the chassis. I will have Marc Bunting, who is the 2006 GT champion, with me and he likes the track.”
MATT PLUMB (No. 7 Rum Bum Racing BMW Riley): "I love VIR. It is a great track. This track always produces great racing. I raced here many times and was very successful. I never tested or raced a Daytona Prototype at VIR but I am sure our team will give us a great car to do our job.
TOM NASTASI (No. 15 USG/Guardian Blackforest Motorsports Ford Mustang): “It’s one of my favorite tracks; I’ve won there before. We didn’t have the right setup last year, but I think this will be a better year. (Co-driver) Jean-Francois Dumoulin likes the track too. It’s a V-8 track, which will suit us very well. We’re hoping for a top five there.”