GRAND-AM Wraps Up First 2012 Pre-Season Test
Friday, October 21, 2011
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Rolex Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge competitors wrapped up a two-day test at Barber Motorsports Park, the first of three pre-season tests remaining in 2011. The next test will be at Daytona on Nov. 16-17.
SPIRIT OF DAYTONA LOOKING FOR DIFF-ERENCE: Troy Flis was happy with the performance of the Spirit of Daytona Chevrolet/Coyote at Barber Motorsports Park last April. The reason he is back at the circuit is that he wants to do even better in 2012 - concentrating on working on differentials at this session.
"We had a good car here last season," Flis said. "When we rolled the car off the truck we were only two-tenths off."
Antonio Garcia won the pole and led the opening 12 laps in the 2011 Porsche 250. He and Paul Edwards combined to lead 50 of the 105 circuits, but the car gradually lost power during the final hour, leading to an extra pit stop and a ninth-place finish, one lap down.
"The 90 team had everybody covered today," winner Scott Pruett said after the race in April. "We caught up to them after I got in the car, and we cut down about an eight-second differential between us and them. I'm sliding around and he looked pretty pasted down to the ground."
Knowing he's back with a good car, Flis and the team came here with one major goal for Garcia and the No. 90 Chevrolet/Coyote.
"Last year we didn't get much opportunity to test differentials with the EMCO gearbox," Flis said. "We know that our setup is good for this track, so we're here to work on only one thing, which is differentials. We've been working on that, mapping our differential to use as another tool in our toolbox for next year."
Flis expects to have a new car ready for the test at Daytona on November 16.
"I can't wait for our next test at Daytona in November," Flis said. "The new look of our new car is going to excite a lot of people. It's awesome."
FORD HAPPY WITH NEW FOCUS ST-R: Multimatic Motorsports had the first public test of its new Ford Focus ST-R, and the team was happy with the results.
"We've been learning more and more every session, and every time we hit the track, we learn something new," said lead driver Gunnar Jeannette. "The car is completely new, and all in all, it's been very successful."
Rolex Series veteran James Gue also helped the team evaluate the car.
"This car is in its early development stages," Gue said. "I only got in enough laps to get a feel for it, but I can test it has a lot of potential."
Ford plans to market the car in race-ready form.
"We're very happy with our first official track test," said Mark Wilson, engineering supervisor for Ford Racing Performance Parts. "We plan on running two cars next season to develop the car to where we are satisfied that anyone who jumps in the car has a chance to finish well."
SHANK HAPPY WITH TEST: Michael Shank Racing's focus at the test was to give Jorge Goncalvez his first opportunity in a Daytona Prototype.
"I'm super happy," team owner Mike Shank said. "This was his first time in this type of car, and his times were close to a few of the series veterans. We did a 30-lap run at the end, and he was able to maintain a very good average race pace. This is probably the most difficult and most technical track we go to, and if he can do it here, he'll probably will be able to do it at Daytona."
The Venezuelan finished fifth in the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights championship.
FALL-LINE TESTS TWO NEW DRIVERS: Fall-Line Motorsports brought three of the 15 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge cars at the session. Charles Espenlaub drove all three cars, with Al Carter and Hugh Plumb working on the No. 45 B+ BMW M3.
The team also is testing two prospects - Jonathan Summerton and George Miedecke.
"I've never driven a closed-cockpit car before," said Summerton, a 23-year-old native of Kissimmee, Fla. "My first session was a steep learning curve. It's very different from what I've raced before, but it's a lot of fun."
After taking Team USA's first victory in A1GP in 2007, Summerton raced in the Atlantic Championship, where he won six races and finished second in 2009 championship, losing the title on a tiebreaker to teammate and current Rolex Series racer John Edwards. He also raced in Firestone Indy Lights, finishing second at St. Petersburg.
"Fall-Line Motorsports is a benchmark team with an incredible performance record," said Miedecke, a 24-year-old Australian who has been racing ARCA and Late Model Sportsman stock cars for Marcos Ambrose. "I'd love to race here if the right opportunity comes up. The cars are fantastic - the BMW is really well balanced - and the racing is very good. It would be fun to be part of this."
Miedecke led most of the ARCA race at New Jersey Motorsports Park, only to finish second to Andrew Ranger when he got caught up in lapped traffic with two laps remaining."
EVERSLEY LENDS NEW TEAM A HAND: Ryan Eversley, second-place finisher in the 2011 ST championship, was on hand Tuesday to lend old friend Jason Saini a hand and run a few evaluation laps in the new No. 159 C.J. Wilson Racing Mazda MX-5, joining Saini and Marc Miller.
"I felt the car was quick for our first test, and we're very happy and proud of our effort," Saini said. "This car and team didn't miss a beat all week."
Team co-owner Wilson was not at the test - he will be the starting pitcher for the Texas Rangers in Wednesday's opening game of the World Series.
TIM BELL TESTS BROTHER'S STEVENSON CAMARO:Matt Bell and Edwards turned to test the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, joined by a few prospective drivers.
One of them is Tim Bell, who raced in ST this past season for Doran Racing.
"I never drove a car with that much horsepower," Tim Bell explained. "I'm used to throwing the ST car around. With this, you've got to be careful in the corners, because if you punch the throttle, it will really kick out. I've talked to my brother a lot, and he said the biggest challenge is getting the power down without spinning the wheels."
RETTICH OBSERVING: Scott Rettich drove a pair of 2011 events in his Alliance Autosport Porsche. While his team wasn't testing at Barber, Rettich was here observing and learning as he prepares for a full GT season (and possibly some CTSCC) in 2012.
"We learned a lot in our two races last season, and I think our second race was significantly better than our first," Rettich said. "Our goals were to learn and build speed, and we met them. We stayed out of trouble, finished the races and maintained good race. Now we're looking forward to the Daytona tests, the Rolex 24 and running the full GT series."
i-MOTO EXPERIMENTING: i-MOTO is doing a lot of experimenting at Barber, in addition to testing a driver who's never been to this track before.
"We're working with new setups we've never tried before," Glenn Bocchino said. "This is an experimental test. We're learning a lot. We haven't found the ‘secret solution,' but we're learning what our car will do when we make major changes to it."
Joining Bocchino at the wheel of the No. 30 i-MOTO Mazda Speed 3 is World Challenge veteran Chip Herr, driving at the circuit for the first time.
"I love it here," Herr said. "I love the elevation changes. That reminds me of two of my favorite tracks, Infineon Raceway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I'm glad to check this track off my list."
LATE ARRIVAL FOR APR, EARLY DEPARTURE FOR MAGNUS: APR Motorsport, GRAND-AM's lone Alabama-based team, took the two-hour drive to test the team's Grand Sport Audi on Tuesday. Josh Hurley was at the wheel.
Meanwhile, Magnus Racing left following Tuesday's second session after encountering problems with its fuel cell.
"This is our '09 car, and we haven't run it in awhile," said team owner John Potter. "It's probably the one part we don't have a spare for on our truck. We wanted to shake down this car so it's ready for the big 50th anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona."
With regular driver Craig Stanton in Europe, Porsche vet Bryan Sellers helped the team at the test.
Following the Magnus hauler out of the paddock were many of the other GT teams following an afternoon downpour, although all four participating DPs took advantage of sunny skies to run throughout the final session.
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