No. 48 Chopard Porsche Quartet Set for Daytona 24 Hours
All four drivers of the No. 48 Chopard Porsche GT3 from Paul Miller Racing know the feeling of standing on the podium after 24 hours of racing at Daytona International Speedway.
That's why all four drivers - Bryce Miller, Sascha Maassen, Rob Bell and Mark Wilkins - are so hungry as they head to Daytona for this week's world-renowned twice-around-the-clock enduro, which takes the green flag on Saturday, January 28 at 3:30 p.m. ET. They've all been tantalizingly close to victory, but none have taken home the top prize. Yet.
Bryce Miller has finished second in the GT class twice in his five previous starts in the Daytona 24 Hours. He led 49 laps en route to a runner-up result for the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing team last year and led 26 laps in a second-place GT performance in 2008.
He and the team will benefit from a full year of experience under their belts after running as an essentially new team in 2011. They should be encouraged by competitive, top-10 lap times in pre-event testing at Daytona earlier this month.
"I am very excited for the 24-hour race this year," said Miller. "We are coming off of a second-place finish at this event from last year and have had this entire past season to grow as a team. Consequently we're bringing more cohesiveness, experience and intensity - all qualities that will play to our favor - in this year's race. The newly issued shortened fuel windows places an emphasis on pit strategy and pit stops for this year's event and our team is ready for these challenges. I am supremely confident in our driver lineup as well, and are honored to be in the presence of such professional talent."
Indeed, the GT class in the 2012 Daytona 24 hours features a whopping 46 cars and a who's who of international racing talent. That isn't lost on Maassen, who will make his 13th start in the Daytona 24 Hours this year. He looks to build on a previous best result of third, which came in the GT class in 2009, and he's confident in the team's ability to run up front this year."This is going to be the toughest 24 Hours of Daytona that I can remember," said Maassen. "There are a lot of good drivers, cars and teams in GT, so the challenge is there and we are ready to be part of it. I am proud to be part of one of the teams with a good chance to win this race. Thank you Paul Miller Racing!"
Bell returns to Paul Miller Racing for the first time since playing a key role in the team's runner-up performance last year. The two-time Le Mans Series champion acquitted himself well in his maiden Daytona race last year. But like his teammates, he's looking for a little bit more this time around.
"Our test went very well," Bell said. "The new car felt great. We learned lots about it and all drivers felt at home straightaway. We also showed our pace was there or thereabouts. I'm looking forward to the race and going head to head with an amazing field of competitors. Reliability will be our strong point and with such great teammates I expect to be fighting for the win."
The lone newcomer to the team's driver lineup is accomplished Canadian racer Mark Wilkins. But Wilkins is no stranger to the Daytona 24 Hours, as this will be his eighth time in the prestigious race. He has raced in the Daytona Prototype class for the last five years, but he returns to GT this year and enjoyed his best success in the 24 hours in a GT car with a third-place run in 2005, his debut race.
"It's almost time to go racing and after a successful test at the beginning of the month, I couldn't be more excited to get back behind the wheel," Wilkins said. "The No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Porsche GT3 ran great at the test and I know the crew has been working very hard to prep the perfect race car for this weekend. With lots of strong competition and this being the 50th running of the Rolex 24, everyone will be trying hard to win that watch and we will be no exception. This team knows how to race Daytona and I'm thrilled to get racing in pursuit of the top step of the podium."
On-track activities from the Daytona 24 Hours get underway with practice from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, January 26. Thursday's schedule includes a second practice from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., with GT qualifying slated to run from 4:15 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday draws to a close with night practice from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Friday's schedule calls for the final two practice sessions in preparation for the race. The first session runs from 9:00 to 9:45 a.m. and the second goes from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 Noon.
Saturday's pre-race activities include a number of 50th Anniversary celebrations and exhibitions, as well as an all-driver autograph session in the Sprint FanZone beginning at 12:15 p.m. ET. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Live coverage of the entire race will be available through a combination of SPEED television and SPEED.com. The SPEED telecast begins with a pre-race show at 2:30 p.m. ET and rolls into the first seven-and-a-half hours of the race from 3:30 to 11:00 p.m.
Overnight coverage, including a number of stationary cameras, a running leaderboard and audio commentary, will be available on SPEED.com. SPEED television coverage resumes at 9:00 a.m. ET on Sunday and runs through the checkered flag at 3:30 p.m. and post-race interviews.