Lead Friday’s Grand-Am Rolex Series Practice at New Jersey
Both drivers pace a session, Porsches fastest in morning, afternoon GT practices
Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team drivers Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand led the opening day of official practice Friday at New Jersey Motorsports Park, starting the Round 14 weekend for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.
Hand set the fastest time in Friday morning's practice on the 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche Riley, turning a time of 1:11.520 (113.258 mph), while co-driver Bill Auberlen led the afternoon session with a lap of 1:12.565 (111.624 mph). Hand is expected to qualify the car Saturday afternoon (SPEEDTV.com, live, 1:50 p.m.) in preparation for Sunday's Supercar Life 250 (SPEED, Live, 1 p.m. ET).
"This track really superseded my expectations," Hand said. "Driving my car is a lot more fun than I expected, and the Ruby Tuesday team really worked hard and did a great job preparing for this race. For the first time with our new Riley, we're actually running strong coming right off the trailer."
Hand and Auberlen finished second in the second race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but the team's best finish since then was fourth in the Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen International as it switched to an upgraded Crawford chassis before moving to the Riley.
"This is my kind of track," Auberlen said. "The flow is good, and I like the really, really fast turns. We've been P-1 in every session, and that is where this team belongs. They work as hard as anyone in the paddock - sometimes harder."
Daytona Prototype point co-leader Memo Rojas practiced in a fellow manufacturer's car Friday while the TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team worked back at its Indianapolis shops preparing a backup car to replace the primary No. 01 Lexus Riley destroyed in a testing accident here Thursday. Scott Pruett, who was involved in that incident, was cleared to drive on Friday. Rojas and Pruett enter the Supercar Life 250 with a 42-point lead (364-322) over Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty in the standings with only two races remaining.
"Those few laps really helped," said Rojas, who shared the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Lexus Riley with Shane Lewis and Bill Lester. "It would be really tough to race here without knowing the track. The car was familiar, and I got to learn the braking references and how to get around here."
Second fastest was Ricardo Zonta, who ran a lap of 1:11.795 (112.821 mph) in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Lola.
"This track is very slippery and very challenging," said Zonta, who finished fifth with Nic Jonsson in the two most recent Rolex Series races. "Finding the right place for overtaking GT cars can be very difficult. But we've found the right direction to balance the car. There are still some issues where we can improve, but I think we can get a good position tomorrow."
Third in the combined practice was Marc Goossens at 1:12.010 (112.227 mph) in the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley that will be qualified by Jim Matthews. Rounding out the top five were Alex Gurney in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley at 1:12.175 (112.227 mph), and Darren Law in the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley at 1:12.238 (112.129 mph).
Farnbacher Loles, TRG Porsches Lead GT Sessions
Porsches from Farnbacher Loles Racing and TRG led the respective morning and afternoon sessions in GT class action. The GT class returns to action for the first time since Aug. 1 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Bryce Miller was fastest in the morning session with a lap of 1:19.534 (101.843 mph) in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3, followed by Tim George Jr. in the No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3 at 1:19.573 (101.793 mph). Leading the afternoon session was Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 66 TRG Porsche GT3 at 1:19.586 (101.776 mph).
Fourth overall was Jeff Segal in the No. 69 SpeedSource FXDD Mazda RX-8 at 1:19.643 (101.703 mph), and Bryan Sellers in the No. 68 TRG Porsche GT3 at 1:19.652 (101.692 mph). Tied for fifth were a pair of Pontiacs, with Paul Edwards in the No. 07 Banner Racing Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R and Andrew Davis in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Stevenson Automatic/BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R, both setting a fast lap of 1:19.692 (101.641 mph).
Following Sunday's 250-mile race (112 laps with a two-hour, 45-minute time limit), only the season-ending SunRichGourmet.com 1000 presented by the Grand and Little America Hotels at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City, Utah, remains on the 2008 schedule.
The Rolex Series will hold a combined practice Saturday at 9:15 a.m., followed by qualifying at 1:50 p.m.