Nasr Impresses at the ‘Roar Before the Rolex 24’, but Chevrolet Command

Nasr will be racing the #58 Michael Shank Racing at Daytona. ©

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

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