at Daytona for 26th 24 Hour Start
Daytona Prototype Star to Make One Race Return to GT Ranks at Rolex 24
In the world of endurance racing, experience brings victories. With the drop of Saturday's green flag for the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Shane Lewis will mark his 26th career 24 hour race start. It will be his 12th start in the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona. The Jupiter, Fla.- resident joins Gotham Competition and co-drivers Randy Pobst (Atlanta), Gerardo Bonilla (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and team owners Jerome Jacalone (New York) and Joe Jacalone (St. Augustine, Fla.) in the GT class for the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series season-opener. These drivers will wheel the No. 26 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup in the twice-around the clock classic that is the traditional launch of the motorsports year around the world.
In a field of stars from all forms of the sport, Lewis has long been considered an endurance racing ace. The multi-time Grand-Am sanctioned event race winner is a highly-prized tactician that blends on and off-track savvy to draw the very best from his car. In 2009, he brings his impressive resume and skills back to the GT class for the first time since 2002. The native Californian's Rolex 24 starts date back to 1997 with only one year ('03) missing from his resume - the sole absence due to other motorsports obligations. Since 2004, the string of starts have come in the Daytona Prototype (DP) class with Southard Motorsports. However, the Ohio-based team closed its DP effort at the end of 2008 leaving Lewis with a chance to pursue new opportunities. Upon reviewing his list of offers, Lewis put aside the biases that would keep him from the prospects in the road car-based class to focus on what program offered him the best opportunity to win the Rolex 24. That analysis pointed the Daytona Endurance Champion towards Gotham Competition as the best opportunity to stand on the podium at the end of 24 hours. Lewis' endurance racing career had a distinguished launch in 1990. Fresh from his 1989 victory in the celebrated SCCA American Formula Ford Festival, Lewis was asked to attend the 24 Hour of Nelson Ledges (Ohio) as a relief driver. The driver lineup was made of experienced, professional road racers. Lewis stepped into the car late in practice only to familiarize himself should he be needed in the event. Still unfamiliar with racing a sports car, Lewis set the quickest time of the lineup in a limited number of laps. He was then asked to qualify the car. Lewis earned the pole position and set fastest race lap on his way to the Showroom Stock Prototype overall victory in his first 24 hour race. He returned to Nelson Ledges twice more, again sweeping pole position, fastest race lap and the class victory in 1991 and another victory in '92.
Since, Lewis has added to his 24 hour starts both in the United States and at the world-renowned 24 Hours of Le Mans ('99-'00, '03) and 24 Hours of Nürburgring ('04, '05). Other classic endurance race starts include the 12 Hours of Sebring ('97-'98, '00- '03), the Petit Le Mans ('98-'01, '03) and a victory at the 2007 12 Hours of Magny-Cours.
Lewis, the Driving Club Pro for the Palm Beach Driving Club at the Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Fla., will be joined by a large support group from the newly formed country club for car enthusiasts. Mixing with his ever-present Shane Lewis Fan Club, the die-hard supporters will carry their "Go Shane, Go!!!" banners to the 3.56-mile, 12- turn Daytona International Speedway for the punishing 24 hours of competition. In gratitude, Lewis will carry the Palm Beach Driving Club logo on the No. 26 Porsche.
Television coverage of the start of the Rolex 24 At Daytona can be seen live on FOX Sports, January 24, at 3 PM (ET). Coverage will then move to SPEED Channel at 4:30 PM. The final hours of the Grand-Am season opening event will be shown on SPEED beginning at 7 AM (ET). Live timing and scoring of each session and the race can be found at www.Grand-Am.com.
Shane Lewis,About joining Gotham Competition for the Rolex 24: "I am very excited about racing with Gotham Competition at this year's Rolex 24. For me, it is about getting in a car capable of winning. I don't care what class I am in as long as the car, the team and my co- drivers have what it takes to win at the level demanded of you in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. When I looked at all of my options in both DP and GT, I knew that Gotham was that team. I have great co-drivers, a team dedicated to winning and no one knows how to win endurance races better than Porsche. I only got a handful of laps at the Test Days but slipping back behind the wheel of a 911 just felt right and the Gotham guys impressed me as much as I impressed them. I am absolutely looking forward to the weekend."
About his 26th career 24 hour race start, 12th at Daytona: "It's pretty amazing actually. To do that many endurance races in a relatively short period of time is pretty cool. The fact that nearly half of those starts came in a race the magnitude of the Rolex 24, against some of the greatest drivers to ever hustle a race car; that is just awesome and quite an honor."
About what he has learned in 26 24 hour race starts: "The most successful finishes I have ever had in a 24 hour race were not always with the fastest cars. It was always with the smartest drivers. Staying physically fit and mentally sharp is part of my job but the synergy of working with the right drivers, ones that understand this is not just a race but a matter of survival is how you win. You need guys that know the importance of never putting a wheel wrong and always taking care of the car, putting their egos aside and always thinking of the team first. That's when you put yourself in the position to win. Those are the things only experience teaches you."
About the Palm Beach Driving Club: "I was made the Club Pro at the Palm Beach Driving Club late last year. The Club has just exploded at the new Palm Beach International Raceway since it opened. When I let the members know I'd be racing with Gotham Competition at the Rolex 24 everyone wanted to come to the race. Along with the Fan Club, we're going to have a huge turn-out supporting the number 26 car at Daytona. The Jacalone Brothers and I were so excited by that. To show our appreciation I am running the Driving Club logo on the car."