Chevrolet-Corvette’s dominated the DP Class at the “Roar Before the 24” practice sessions at Daytona International Speedway last weekend.
SunTrust Racing topped a group of five Chevrolet’s following three days of running at Daytona, with Max Angelelli, Ryan Briscoe and Ricky Taylor filling driving duties.
A best lap of 1:4.142 around the famed Floridian circuit on Sunday was enough to give the #10 SunTrust machine the edge over both Action Express entries, headed by the David Donohue, Darren Law and Christian Fittipaldi trio.
João Barbosa, Terry Borcheller, JC France and Max Papis assumed 3rd spot, a mere 0.333 shy of the top at the close of play. The #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and the #90 Spirit of Daytona machines took 4th and 5th respectively.
Chip Ganassi’s BMW Riley finished the tests 6th overall, leading the way for the 2011-spec machinery in what was a far from stellar weekend. The reigning champions suffered a collision on Saturday evening with the #24 Alex Job Racing Porsche, ending the proceedings for the Telmex backed squad.
Risi Competizione Ferrari ended the weekend the quickest of the GT Class machines. Toni Vilander set their quickest time (1:49.239) in a busy Saturday session, with the #03 Extreme Speed Ferrari, #23 Alex Job Porsche and the #18 Muehlner Motorsports Porsche all within a quarter-of-a-second.
Reigning GT champions Andrew Davis and Leh Keen finished the weekend in 16th at the wheel of their #59 Brumos Racing Porsche. Germany’s Marc Lieb and US-native, Hurley Haywood partnered Davis and Keen during the tests.
Whereas SunTrust and Risi Competizione may have grabbed the headlines, Brazil’s Felipe Nasr – winner of last year’s Sunoco Rolex 24 Challenge – turned heads with a confident display throughout the three-day blitz at Daytona, having topped the December test at the circuit.
In a full field, the 2011 British Formula 3 Champion helped his Michael Shank Ford Riley into the top ten, alongside Firestone Indy Lights stalwarts, Jorge Goncalvez and Gustavo Yacaman. NASCAR and Grand-Am regular, Michael McDowell, is heading the young team.
With the calm hand of Grand-Am racer Ozz Negri guiding Nasr through his Daytona début, the Brazilian has adapted quickly to his temporary surroundings.
Having come through the ranks of Formula BMW and British F3, Nasr has tasted many of the circuits on the Formula 1 calendar; however Daytona International Speedway presents something of a first for the Brazilian – high banking.
Yet cool as ever, Nasr sees that as only part of the challenge, helped by racing on Rockingham’s partial oval during his time in British F3.
“Rockingham is an oval but the banking is a lot less accentuated. [Daytona] looks great – it’s smooth, pleasant and a pleasure to drive. The “esses”, coming out of the banking, leading to the infield, needs attention and has to be taken smoothly, as the whole circuit.“
The circuit isn’t the only element new to the 19-year-old. With its wider track, weighty downforce, 500 bhp Ford engine and coupé chassis, the Daytona Prototype is a significant departure from previous machinery Nasr has contested.
“On the paper, it shows such an enormous difference. To look at, it is even more! But on track it is so good to drive! I was smiling all through the entire lap, enjoying it each lap more and more.
“You can put the car in the precise points that you want. The power for me was the biggest difference, Wow! That was amazing! And the brakes were just what you need them to be. What for me was very different and I had to make a quick adaptation (…) was the fact that I could not see the front wheels! It was a first for me.
“The car is a great pleasure to drive; it is good that we have 24 hours ahead to enjoy it!”
The Rolex 24 will also be Nasr’s longest race by some margin. After several seasons competing in events that rarely lasted longer than 30-40 minutes, the Brazilian is facing this new challenge with vigour and determination.
“Just like in every race you have to divide your challenges in parts and this is what I will do, divide the twenty-four hours in 48 different 30 minutes F3 races. Each outing will be a race by itself, and I am concentrating on these periods.
“The tires are a critical item, as with the new ones you can get just two good laps out of them and then they deteriorate and the times fall and fall, we will need to take good care of them.”
Fully aware of the difficulties that lie ahead, Nasr is confident that his preparation will help him through the endurance.
“Physically I have been working as usual to keep my good form – remember that being a closed car the heat inside gets quite high – and mentally I have been using the simulator to increase my mileage in the track.
“Let’s call it the 48 Hours of Daytona!”
At this stage, it appears that Felipe Nasr next step beyond Daytona could be either Formula Renault 3.5 or the GP2 Series. Regardless, should his current form continue, it may not be too long before the Brazilian catches Formula 1’s wandering eyes.
Qualifying for the 2012 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona kicks off on Thursday January 26th at 8.30pm (UK), although no UK or European coverage has been confirmed as of yet.
Motors TV will be showing fourteen hours of the race live from 8pm (UK) on Saturday January 28th until 9pm the following evening, with a break during the late hours. The station will also be broadcasting the full 2012 Grand Am schedule.
My sincere thanks again to Carlos Lua for facilitating the interview with Felipe.
Roar Before the 24 Testing (January 6th-8th, Combined Times) Pos Drivers Team Times Daytona Prototype Class 1. Angelelli/Briscoe/Taylor SunTrust Chevrolet 1:41.142 2. Donohue/Fittipaldi/Law Action Express Chevrolet 1:41.338 3. Barbosa/Borcheller/France/Papis Action Express Chevrolet 1:41.475 4. Fogarty/Gidley/Gurney Bob Stallings Chevrolet 1:41.541 5. Garcia/Gavin/Magnussen/Westbrook Spirit of Daytona Chevrolet 1:41.655 6. Hand/Pruett/Rahal/Rojas Ganassi BMW Riley 1:41.761 7. Allmendinger/Negri/Pew/Wilson Michael Shank Ford Riley 1:41.762 8. Dixon/Franchitti/McMurray/Montoya Ganassi BMW Riley 1:41.868 9. Dalziel/McNish/Popow/Potolicchio/Viso Starworks Ford Riley 1:41.880 10. Goncalvez/McDowell/Nasr/Yacaman Michael Shank Ford Riley 1:41.883 11. Braun/Jonsson/Krohn/Zonta Krohn Ford Lola 1:42.398 12. Frisselle/Frisselle/Lowe Doran Ford Dallara 1:42.437 13. Defoor/Forbes-Robinson/Johnson/Pace/de Quesada 50+Predator/Alegra BMW 1:45.047 GT Class 1. Beretta/Bertolini/Vilander Risi Competizione Ferrari 1:49.239 2. Brown/Cosmo/Sharp/van Overbeek Extreme Speed Ferrari 1:49.337 3. Collard/Holzer/Leitzinger/MacNeil Alex Job Porsche 1:49.423 4. Gruber/Lester/O'Doski/Thomas Muehlner Porsche 1:49.465 5. Assentato/Lazzaro/Longhi/Segal AIM Autosport Ferrari 1:49.514 6. Farnbacher/Farnbacher/Keating/Pilet/Simonsen TRG Porsche 1:49.581 7. Asch/Baldwin/Burtin/Ragginger/Sellers Burtin Goldcrest Porsche 1:49.629 8. Cisneros/Edwards/Kauffmann NGT Porsche 1:49.649 9. Aguas/Kauffman/Pastrana/Waltrip AF Waltrip Ferrari 1:49.653 10. Bertheau/Goosens/Henzler/Pumpelly TRG Porsche 1:49.668 11. Lally/Lietz/Potter/Rast Magnus Porsche 1:49.669 12. Bremer/Edwards/Liddell Stevenson Camaro 1:49.714 13. Bell/Maassen/Miller/Wilkins Paul Miller Porsche 1:49.765 14. Edwards/Marsh/Milner/Taylor Autohaus Camaro 1:49.811 15. Bergmeister/Long/Neiman/Rockenfeller Flying Lizard Porsche 1:49.815 16. Davis/Haywood/Keen/Lieb Brumos Porsche 1:49.865 17. Bruni/Fisichella/Matos Risi Competizione Ferrari 1:49.918 18. Auberlen/Dalla Lana/Johnson/Said Turner BMW 1:49.941 19. Cameron/Nonnamaker/Nonnamaker/Nonnamaker/Sahlen Sahlen Mazda 1:49.951 20. Bell/Carter/Curran/Plumb Stevenson Camaro 1:49.957 21. Marsal/Muller/Muller/Said/Werner Turner BMW 1:49.980 22. Bomarito/Franchitti/Hinchcliffe/Trembley SpeedSource Mazda 1:50.015 23. Bell/Eversley/Graeff/Yarab Jr. Magnus Porsche 1:50.019 24. Cumming/Estre/Faulkner/Gomez/Keating TRG Porsche 1:50.025 25. Stippler Audi AG R8 1:50.484 26. Ave/Haylen/Peterson/Soulet/Valverde Racers Edge Dodge 1:50.606 27. Al Masaood/Al Mehairi/Kane Oryx Audi 1:50.859 28. Blaylock/O'Young/Paquette/van Blankers/White Porsche 1:50.907 29. Englster/Murry/Safina/Schaldach Liqui Moly/Mitchum Porsche 1:50.958 30. Doyle/Hedlund/McCarthy/Michaelian TRG Porsche 1:50.962 31. Cook/Earhardt/Harrington/Hill Rick Ware Ford 1:51.060 32. Dempsey/Espenlaub/Foster/Long/Putner Dempsey Mazda 1:51.068 33. Miller/Rettich/Schneider/Shoff Alliance Autosport Porsche 1:51.151 34. Avenatti/Faieta/Poordad/Sweedler/Wagner Alex Job Porsche 1:51.267 35. Ardagna/Costabat/di Guida/Salazar TRG Porsche 1:51.307 36. Fergus/Finger/Greer/Hotchkis/Trinkler Dick Greer Porsche 1:52.474 37. Baas/Canache/Norman/Pirro/von Moltke APR Audi 1:52.478 38. Del Vecchio/Grunnet/Kester/McKee Acumen Porsche 1:53.741 39. Baughman/Mason/Yeakle Michael Baughman Corvette 1:55.648 40. Espenlaub/Jonhson/Kitch Jr/Rogers Dempsey Mazda 1:57.387