Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 2: Daytona 24 hour race preparations

Photo Credit: Grand-Am

The day before the Rolex 24-hour of Daytona is the final preparation to set up for a rain or shine competition on a challenging 3.56 mile road course. The Rolex Series field full of veteran, rookie, full-time and part-time drivers will receive a challenge which even their race machines may not be able to persevere.

Morning practice for the Rolex Series Daytona prototypes and GT cars consisted of a lighter presence on-track based on the fact that some of the front-running teams wanted to conserve their race cars for Saturday. Nonetheless, many teams those the 45 minute session as a time to fine tune their sports cars including the embattled #99 GAINSCO/ Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley.

The determined work of GAINSCO/ Bob Stallings Racing crew member reignited the "Red Dragon" by replacing the rear end damage after a Thursday morning practice crash with Jimmie Johnson in the vehicle. Staying in the pits with the GAINSCO crew members until midnight, Johnson made every effort to acknowledge the hard work. "These guys are top notch and I am fortunate to drive here at GAINSCO and look forward to a good race" Jimmie Johnson said. Jimmy Vasser added "It was a great job by all of the guys on the GAINSCO team".

With the #99 Daytona prototype repaired, drivers Jimmie Johnson, Jon Fogarty and Jimmy Vasser were all able to get seat time in the "Red Dragon" clocking a 3rd fastest time in the practice session. Top speed in the morning belonged to a pair of Porsche powered Rileys led by the #59 Brumos car with an Action Express Racing #9 Daytona Prototype's lap just over 3/1oths of a second slower. A large contingent of the durable GT class cars made use of the morning weather including the #23 Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3 which lead on speed ahead of the #70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 squad car.

Splitting an uneventful final qualifying which required only 8 of the GT cars to take time, a fifth and last practice was the final preparation before the 24-hour race commences. The Daytona Prototypes were led by the #60 of Michael Shank Racing Riley ahead of the #10 SunTrust Dallara. While Ford power led the final practice, as they did in qualifying yesterday, the Chevy power in the GAINSCO/ Bob Stallings Racing appears ready to challenge the blue oval pairing. In GT, another Chevrolet team also made a statement in the 5th practice. The Chevrolet Corvette C6.R of Godstone Ranch Motorsports achieved a time to led the session ahead of a Mazda RX-8 and BMW M6.

Throughout the final day, both Target/Chip Ganassi Daytona Prototypes sat quiet with a long distance ahead for the BMW-engined Rileys to survive. A 3-time winner of the Rolex 24-hour of Daytona, the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has their #02 car starting in 4th place, one place ahead of the #01 teammate.

The 52nd running for one of the earliest sports car races, the 2010 race is the 47th time that the event will run a full day's distance at Daytona International Speedway which has seen past entrants log more than 4,000 kilometers (roughly 2,485 miles). The field for the 2010 Rolex 24-hour of Daytona will take the green flag at 3:30PM Saturday with the SunTrust Dallara Ford Daytona prototype leading a field of 45 cars through a one-day journey. Spoiling the warm weather and sunshine that beamed on the improvised road course within the famous speedway, weather forecast in the Daytona Beach area calls for lingering rain showering as well as the possibility of thunderstorms through Saturday. As for Sunday, it is predicted that the sun will greet the survivors after enduring what will be a guaranteed harsh night to competitors whether their jobs are in the car or in pit lane.

As the ears of sports car fans absorb the majestic sounds of mechanical creations running at the edge of their limits, it will not be until after 3:30PM on Sunday that the engines around Daytona International Speedway will fall to silence again.

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