Day 2 Notebook
Kyle Petty runs in afternoon, former Rolex 24 winner Bouchut returns to track, Taylors team up in Beyer Motorsports car
Day two of the three-day October Test Days for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 at Daytona International Speedway gave several drivers the opportunity to become reacquainted with the track, while others their first chance with a new team or ever running in a Daytona Prototype or GT car.
The test, which is using the 2008 Pirelli P Zero tires for the final time, will conclude tomorrow with practice at the 3.56-mile track, following two days of nine-hour test sessions. Wednesday's schedule will be shorter, with teams and drivers seeing action from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Only two incidents interrupted the session Tuesday. Billy Asaro, who was involved in an incident late Monday, lost his brakes in Turn 5 in the early afternoon, and his No. 11 AIM Autosport Ford Riley slid into the tire barrier, damaging the car's front bodywork and mechanical pieces. The team will forego Wednesday's session. Christophe Bouchut, driving the No. 55 Level 5 Motorsports BMW Riley, also brushed a tire barrier after a pedal problem in the early laps Tuesday morning. The car sustained minor damage, and the team made repairs and sent the car back out for several laps.
Kyle Petty Heading to Daytona Prototypes Fulltime?
Kyle Petty came to Daytona on Tuesday to test the No. 45 Orbit Racing InterMedia BMW Riley in preparation for the 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona. However, the veteran of nearly 20 seasons at NASCAR's highest level admitted that may only be the beginning of his involvement in the Rolex Series.
"We're trying to put something together to run not only the 24 hours, but all year long," Petty said. "Obviously, I'm in a place with the Cup stuff where I don't really have a ride right now. I've always said this is where I want to be. When I came here the first time, I said to run the Grand-Am division would be the next step up. I don't want to go back to Nationwide, I don't want to run the Trucks...This is a step to the top level of road racing."
Also testing the No. 45 were IndyCar Series veteran Darren Manning along with Michael Riolo and Lawrence Stroll.
"It was a lot of fun," Petty said. "It's been probably a couple years since I've driven a DP car. I've driven for (Orbit Racing's) Rodger Hawley before, and these are a good group of guys."
Petty raced three times in the Rolex 24 with Orbit, finishing seventh in 2001, 15th in 2002 and sixth in 2003. His co-drivers in all three races were Leo Hindery - who is set to co-drive in the Rolex 24 - and Peter Baron, who now manages Orbit's Daytona Prototype program. Petty ran several additional Rolex Series races for Orbit, winning the 2001 Bully Hill Vineyards 250 at Watkins Glen International with John Andretti.
"It's nice to get into a car like this that somebody like Darren set up," Petty said. "He's a great road racer - that's his background. I grew up in ovals, and I've got no clue here. Darren is telling me where to brake, and I'm scared to death trying to figure out how to brake."
Now, Petty is contemplating a fulltime move to the team.
"Rodger and I have talked numerous times, but the time was wrong for me or the time was wrong for Roger," Petty said. "Hopefully, where Orbit Racing is right now, and where I'm at with my career, hopefully we can put together something and run. Who knows?"
Former Overall Winner Bouchut Tests for Level 5 Motorsports
Christophe Bouchut picked the wrong year to win the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The Frenchman, competing in his first major American event, scored the overall victory in the 1995 enduro, joining Jurgen Lassig, Giovanni Lavaggi and Marco Werner in the Kremer Porsche K8 Spyder.
The Rolex 24 victory made Bouchut two-for-two in 24-hour competition. He won in his first 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving for Team Peugeot. Since then, he's won the 24 Hours of Spa-Franchorchamps in Belgium twice (2001-2002), winning his first two attempts at that event. In his only race at Daytona since then, Bouchut finished third in the 1998 Rolex 24, co-driving with team Larbre.
Now, Bouchut returns to Daytona with Level 5 Motorsports, partnering with regular drivers Ed Zabinski and Scott Tucker in a brand-new No. 55 BMW Riley. Marc Goossens, Riley's factory driver, joined the team during the pre-season testing.
"It's great to be back here in the USA, especially in Daytona," Bouchut said. "It's a special track with the banking, and it's always nice, great weather. The DP car is really nice, and I believe the Grand-Am championship has a great future. I'm really happy to be back here."
Bouchut has 95 victories and 77 pole positions in his career. He is the only driver to capture the FIA GT title three times, and won the prestigious Porsche Cup four times. He has six titles in the French GT championship and one in the European Le Mans Series. Most recently, Bouchut won the 2008 French GGSA GT championship.
Level 5 ran selected Rolex Series races in 2008, with Zabinski and Tucker co-driving a Crawford-built Ferrari in GT competition. Rather than continue a development project, the team felt it could achieve better success in a proven car in the Daytona Prototypes.
Taylor Trio Joins Beyer Motorsports at Test
Running in the Rolex 24 At Daytona with his two sons seemed like a distant dream for Wayne Taylor. Tuesday, after testing in the same car for the first time with both Ricky and Jordan, the two-time winner of the Rolex 24 feels it's a lot closer to becoming reality.
Wayne Taylor still has the priority of running the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara team at the Rolex 24. A family team would be run independent of that. There are a lot of logistics to be overcome, but the test may prove that they are not insurmountable.
"It's anybody in racing's dream to have this opportunity," Wayne Taylor said. "Jeff (Beyer) made this possible. I always said I'd love to do it. I knew we needed to get through these three days, so I can get a better feel for the car and how it might work. The greatest thing is to help my sons with the understanding of the car and what goes on. It's not about the speed for me anymore. It's about trying to do this. If I can do a 24-hour with them, I could say I have done everything."
The only time all three Taylors raced together was in a 24-hour karting race in Ocala - where they won three years ago.
This past January, Ricky Taylor joined his dad in finishing fifth overall in the Rolex 24, while Jordan Taylor drove for a GT team. Since then, both sons have driven in selected Rolex Series races, with Jordan Taylor moving up to the Daytona Prototypes with Beyer Racing in the Brumos Porsche 250 here in July.
"Being here with Beyer Racing and the Ford Crawford is fantastic," Ricky Taylor said. "We've got a lot to learn, but we're maximizing these test days. I think we'll run well together if we get the chance. It will definitely be fun if we can get it to work out."
Jordan Taylor is doing extra duty this week, also testing the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Mazda RX-8.
TRG Camp Showing Speed
Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly both recorded strong results in last season's Rolex 24 At Daytona; Lally second and Pumpelly third. And the pair were both fast in the first two days of Rolex Series testing.
Lally is expected to run a comparable schedule in 2009 to that of 2008, running select Rolex Series races while mostly focusing on ARCA and in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Pumpelly will run fulltime in 2009 with TRG in the Rolex GT and KONI Challenge GS Series.
"I'm really happy to be here this week, and thankful to run with Kevin and the rest of the team," Lally said. "It's good to be back in the car. We've tried some different things. We'll be back again next month, and hopefully, when the race gets here, we'll be in position to move up one spot from last year."
Added Pumpelly: "So far, the test has been great. There have been a lot of guys who have taken their first laps at Daytona this week with TRG. Kevin, Andy and I have done our best to teach them what we can and pass along what we've learned over the years. It's giving us a chance to harp back to our first experiences here at Daytona and relive those memories again. The team's been great. It's been a fun group to work with. So far, we've had a good two days."
Several other drivers were on hand for TRG, including Steve Miller and Chris Pallis, whose Team Seattle team has earned the assistance of TRG in prepping the car. Steve Zadig, Dan Watkins, Dave Quinlan and Bruce Ledoux will run together in the Rolex 24. The quartet's car will be prepared by TRG but run under Guardian Angel Motorsports.
TRG had four cars at Daytona for this test session, which is just a portion of what is expected to compete in the 2009 Rolex 24. Other drivers expected to run the Rolex 24 for TRG include RJ Valentine, Josemanuel Gutierrez, Tim George Jr., Duncan Ende, Scott Schroeder, John Potter, Craig Stanton and select Porsche factory drivers.
TRG team owner Kevin Buckler didn't spend the entire time sitting on the sidelines during the first two days of testing. Buckler was among the fastest drivers, setting a time close to last year's pole.
Georgian Bay Motorsports Tests Curran, Holtom in Corvette
While the temperatures reached just past the 60-degree mark, Eric Curran was happy to be in sunny Daytona Beach and escaping the 40-degree, cloudy skies in his Springfield, Mass., home.
He was even happier to be testing the No. 00 Georgian Bay Motorsports Corvette with teammate Jamie Holtom, who won the 2008 Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Street Tuner (ST) championship with Curran's assistance.
Curran has competed in the Rolex 24 At Daytona before, and is hoping he and Holtom can appear together in the 2009 classic in the Corvette. Through a day-and-a-half of testing, Curran was pleased with the way the car was handling.
"We're working hard," Curran said. "We're making a lot of progress on the Georgian Bay Corvette. I did a number of laps in it yesterday (Monday), and we kind of had a few teething problems here and there that we got straightened out. Now that the basics are behind us, we're just really trying to get this car to work well. Jamie's done a good portion of the morning session, and we're getting quicker. We're probably a second quicker than we were yesterday, so we're going in the right direction."
Curran and Holtom have both said they hope to run a limited number of races in the Rolex Series GT class.
"It's really a complete unknown right now," Curran said. "We'd like to put together a half a dozen races for next year. It's the age-old problem of funding and trying to come up with a sponsor that can help get this car out there. But this is something that we've got to try and make happen, and I think Jamie and I can do a good job in this car."
Notables Roaming Pit Lane, Garage Area on Second Day of Testing
Several drivers were in the garage area and behind the pit wall scoping the test out, or even seeking out a ride or audition for an upcoming test, the Rolex 24 or the 2009 Rolex Series season. Ryan Dalziel, Bill Lester and Shane Lewis were back for the second straight day in street clothes, while Cristiano da Matta, who returned to racing this season after a 2006 crash at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., was on hand with AIM Autosport. Da Matta competed in the season finale at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah.
Bryan Sellers was also wandering the garage area, as were Hugh and Matt Plumb, winners of the KONI Challenge Grand Sport (GS) finale at Virginia International Raceway; Patrick Long, who competed in multiple Rolex Series races in 2008; and Jean-Francois Dumoulin, who won the 2007 Rolex 24 in the GT class.