Tuesday, January 22, 2008

24 Hours of Daytona

Now that the winter holidays have winded down, much activity has been happening in preparations for the upcoming Rolex 24 Hours endurance race, with teams putting the final touches on their respective driver/car combinations, as the Rolex 24 will kick off the 2008 racing season this weekend. And I was happy to hear that during the latest testing, Cristiano da Matta was one of the drivers walking about with helmet bag in hand, while searching for a potential ride…

In what has become a traditional All Star “warm-up” event, this year’s Rolex 24 will see a host of Open Wheel warriors from Champ Car, Indy Car and Formula 1 compete for overall honours in two classes.
DP: Daytona Prototype
GT: Grand Tourismo (Touring)

AIM Autosport
Andrew Ranger, an ex-Ice racing star whom briefly competed in Champ Car before seeking the security of a paying drive in CASCAR, will be part of the driving strength of the #61 Ford-Riley, along with rian Frisselle, Mark Wilkins and Colin Braun…

Long time Porsche endurance racing stalwarts Brumos will once again enter a brace of prototypes for this years Rolex 24, with the lead car #58 featuring Darren Law, David Donohue and Buddy Rice, while the sister car, #59 will once again have the venerable Hurley Haywood being partnered by JC France, Joao Barbosa and Terry Borcheller…

Champ Car drivers Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal will contest this year’s Rolex 24 for Michael Shank Racing.

The Champ Car duo will join MSR’s regular Grand Am drivers Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson aboard the No. 60 Ford Riley. Wilson will be making his third Grand Am start for MSR, having finished second at Daytona in 2006 with Negri, Patterson and AJ Almendinger.

Wilson has also contested the 24 Heurs du Mans in 2004, piloting a Racing for Holland Dome/Judd with Tom Coronel and Ralph Firman. You may recall that Firman finally got his break in Formula 1 driving for Jordan Grand Prix during one sorely disappointing season in 2003.

Meanwhile the Rahal youngster will be making his third consecutive Rolex 24 start, along with having driven previously in the American Le Mans Series aboard his father’s (Rahal Letterman Racing) Porsche GT3, finishing third in class at last years Petit Le Mans. Could the pairing of Rahal and Wilson be a sign of things to come in the 2008 Champ Car season?

Ryan Dalziel, who was sent unceremoniously packing from Pacific Coast Motorsports Champ Car team late last season, will once again contest this year’s Rolex 24 as part of SAMAX Motorsport’s two car entry.

The lead Pontiac-Riley (#2) features Henri Zogaib, Mike Rockenfeller, Allan McNish and Lucas Luhr, while Dalziel will be piloting the #11 Pontiac-Riley with Tomas Enge, Harold Primat, and Danny B’s favourite driver MilkaDuno…

The defending Grand Am champions have added two “Jimmy’s” to their driving line-up, as part of *Bob Stallings/Riley Matthews Racing) two car Pontiac-Riley effort. Car number 99 will see ex-CART Champion Jimmy Vasser joining defending Grand Am DP champions Alex Gurney & John Foggerty. Vasser makes up one half of the Jimmy duo. The other is some cat known as Johnson. Yeah, that’s right. Its two time RASSCAR champ-peon Jimmy Johnson…

Their second entry, the #91 will be shared by Jim Matthews, Marc Goossens, Johnny O'Connell and Ryan Hunter-Reay…

Roger Penske has formed a partnership with Wayne Taylor Racing for this year’s upcoming Rolex 24 and will enter a second Pontiac/Riley chassis for a Penske “All Star” driver line-up.

Piloting the #9 will be RASSCAR Champion Kurt Busch, “Dancing with FOOLS,” Two time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves and latest Penske Indy car driver Ryan Briscoe, who spent the 2007 season as part of Penske’s dominant Porsche RS Spyder team…

While the “Target’s” firmly affixed to their back’s, Chip Ganassi will field a two car entry in his attempt to set Rolex 24 history by becoming the first ever team to win the race three consecutive years in a row.

With Scott Pruett returning to the No. 01 Lexus Riley, alongside Memo Rojas for the entire Grand Am season. The two drivers will be joined by RASSCAR drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Dario Franchitti for the 24 hours of Daytona race. Indy Racing League drivers Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon will be joined by Salvador Duran and Indy car debutant Alex Lloyd aboard car No. 02…

Ah, if only Tony George could envision a unified Open Wheel racing series, but I digress… Once again Mr. George has decided to enter the Rolex 24 “Just-in-Time,” as he’s cobbled together a entry at the last minute, having forgone testing, just expecting to show up and complete the race. Recall that last year Mr. George managed to spin the car into the wall during practice…

George will be part of the driving line-up that includes his current IRL pilots Ed Carpenter & A.J. Foyt IV, with Vitor Meira (from Panther Racing) and RASSCAR “ringer” John Andretti. The team will drive the #03 Porsche-Crawford…

Synergy racing will have two Champ Car drivers occupying two Porsche 911 RSR GT3’s, with 2007 Rookie of the year “Bad Bobby D” (Robert Doornbos aboard one mount, while Jan “Van Hagar” Heylen, whom also got unkindly dumped from Champ Car by Conquest Racing last season will co-drive the other Porsche.

Meanwhile Long Beach Champ Car race promoter Jim Michaelian and son Bob will share a Mazda RX-8 entered by Racers Edge Motorsports. And Raphael Matos, the newly defected and 2007 Champ Car Atlantics champion plans to drive a Mazda RX-8, keep your eyes on the mirror Rafael!