SunTrust Ends Daytona Testing On Top

Monday, January 09, 2012

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Courtesy of Speed.com

After three days of testing at Daytona International Speedway, it became clear the new Corvette DPs are the cars to beat. The Bow Tie swept the top-five positions in combined testing times as GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series teams prepare for the 50th Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Max Angelelli nearly saved the best for last, as the rapid Italian put his No. 10 SunTrust Racing Corvette DP on the top of the time charts in Sunday's first of two final sessions. The Italian's 1:41.142 lap time held as the quickest of the weekend, which saw speeds in the Daytona Prototype category increase across the board.

“You’ve got to understand that we were pushing the limit and, in the first session today, we did a qualifying run under the perfect conditions – low fuel, new tires, a good, clear lap, no mistakes," Angelelli explained. "It was the perfect lap.

"Obviously we’re happy, but not because of that lap. We’re happy because we did eight practices without a single issue. Our SunTrust Corvette ran really well the entire time. So far, I’ve never had a January test as good as this one. It’s been great, very successful."

The Dallara-chassied SunTrust entry of Angelelli and co-drivers Ricky Taylor and IndyCar star Ryan Briscoe recorded the quickest lap time in four of the eight timed sessions, making the Wayne Taylor Racing team one of the early favorites heading into the around-the-clock marathon later this month.

"I think the guys have done a good job," Wayne Taylor said. "They’ve taken the time to make sure the car is ready for the race. We did try to simulate a qualifying lap with Max this morning and we did a really good lap.

"I’m not sure if we can go any faster than that. But the main thing, at this point, is we have a car that all three drivers are really happy to drive. I’m really happy that we can take two good weeks to regroup and get ready for the big one.”

The two Action Express Racing Corvette DPs ended up second and third quickest on the combined time charts, ahead of the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing machine, which posted a weekend-best 1:41.541 on Sunday morning. Spirit of Daytona's Corvette DP completed the top-five overall and in class after overcoming gearbox failure on Sunday morning.

While the new-generation Daytona Prototypes clearly showed the way, with even in the case of the third-gen Riley run by Michael Shank Racing and defending Rolex 24 winners and series champions Chip Ganassi Racing, the 2011-spec DPs were performance balanced through the use of a drag plate underneath the wing.

According to Krohn Racing motorsports manager Jeff Hazell, who is fielding a grandfathered Proto-Auto Lola-Ford, times from this weekend's test may not show the true outcome of the recent BoP changes to the aerodynamics of the second-generation DPs.

“GRAND-AM's intention to balance the performance of the cars is really a difficult task with the tools that they presently have at their disposal," said Hazell. "The wind tunnel work they conducted, of course, needs to be validated and verified on the track.

"If the intention was to do this during these test days, then that work has been made difficult with the misleading lap times of the cars either caught in traffic or compromised by the teams who are not going to show their hand in case they incur further restrictions to their car’s performance from GRAND-AM.

"So, the lap time and lap section times that GRAND-AM has, at best, are confusing and don’t give the clear data that is needed to make accurate changes between here and the race.”

The quickest 2011-spec DP was the No. 2 Starworks Motorsports Riley-Ford of Ryan Dalziel, Enzo Potolicchio, Alex Popow, Lucas Luhr and Allan McNish at a 1:41.880 lap time, nearly eight-tenths off the pace-setting Corvette.

In GT, it was all about Ferrari, as the No. 03 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari F458 Italia Grand Am of Guy Cosmo was quickest on Sunday with a 1:49.337 lap time.

But it was fellow American Le Mans Series squad Risi Competizione that ended up the best of the weekend, thanks to Toni Vilander's 1:49.239 set on Saturday in his No. 63 Ferrari.

Risi, along with a handful of other cars, didn't participate in Sunday's third and final day of testing, opting instead pack up and make further preparations away from the track.

“It’s been a very positive test with the new Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am and we learned a lot over the two days," Vilander said. "I’m happy to be here in Daytona and am really starting to understand the full meaning of the Rolex 24 at Daytona – it’s a huge and impressive event."

A total of 60 cars (14 Daytona Prototype, 46 GT) took part in the Roar Before The Rolex 24 test, with nearly all expected back for the GRAND-AM season-opener, which scheduled for Jan. 28-29.