Grand-Am Sports Cars Bring New Sights, Sounds To IMS During Test
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Only four days after playing host to the world's top motorcycle racers in the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the site Sept. 3 of the first Grand-Am Rolex Series-sanctioned test in track history.
Five Daytona Prototype and four GT cars participated in the test on the IMS road course. The cars used the 13-turn, 2.534-mile Formula One road course for the two-hour morning session. The drivers navigated the 16-turn, 2.621-mile MotoGP layout for the first 15 minutes of the afternoon session before switching back to the Formula One layout for the remaining one hour and 45 minutes. In both sessions, the cars were traveling clockwise, the opposite direction of the oval events.
The teams that participated in the test:
•Daytona Prototype: No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley with drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas; No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley with drivers Michael Valiante, John Pew and Michael Shank; No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara with Wayne Taylor and Ricky Taylor; No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Porsche Coyote with Buddy Rice, Ed Carpenter and Jonathan Klein; and No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley with Jon Fogarty and Bob Stallings.
•GT class: No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports with drivers Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis; No. 66 TRG Porsche GT3 with Spencer Pumpelly and Kevin Buckler; No. 70 Speedsource Mazda RX-8 with Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham; and No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 with Dirk Werner and Leh Keen.
The No. 70 Mazda is a history-making addition to the test, as it marks the first time a car with a rotary engine has tested at IMS.
Rice, Pruett and Carpenter all have extensive experience on the iconic IMS 2.5-mile oval, with Rice winning the 2004 Indianapolis 500. He also sat on the pole for the "500," that year and has a total of five starts.
"I'm not going to lie, coming through (oval) Turn 1, backwards, didn't feel normal at all," Rice said. "It's great to come back here; it's a beautiful day and it's great for Grand-Am. It's a great course, the track's really wide. To be able to come here and run on the F1 course - obviously nobody thought anything other than F1 cars would run here - we have five DP's and three GT's, I think it's good."
Pruett competed in the Indianapolis 500 four times, earning a 10th-place finish his rookie year in 1989 and was named co-Rookie of the Year; he also has two Brickyard 400 starts and finished 10th his rookie year in that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, in 2000.
Pruett said the road course suits the Grand-Am Rolex Series cars well, and just appreciates the opportunity to drive a sports car at "The Racing Capital of the World."
"The speed - we were just doing about 190 (mph), so that itself is pretty awesome," Pruett said. "The curbs need to be taller; we'll be tempted to go over the top of the curbs onto the grass. Other than that, the layout is pretty good. I'm pleased with the flow and the speed.
"Indianapolis is the epitome of motorsports. It's the center of everything that happens, and I'm proud to be back."
While the test is the first at IMS sanctioned by Grand-Am, it's not the first time a Daytona Prototype has turned laps on the IMS road course. IMS Board of Directors member Tony George, along with Carpenter and Stephan Gregoire, turned laps in a private test with Vision Racing prior to the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January 2007.
Earlier sports car tests - on the IMS oval - also have contributed to Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 100-year history as an automotive proving ground.
In fall 1957, several months after 10 American open-wheel drivers competed in the Monza 500 in Italy, Pat O'Connor drove a D-type Jaguar owned by Indianapolis-based team owner Jack Ensley on the IMS oval in a feasibility test.
In 1965, Jim Hall, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winning-car owner, drove his Chaparral Can-Am car at IMS in a private test. The car featured an automatic transmission and Chevrolet engine, and Hall ran the car both clockwise and counter-clockwise on the oval to get a feel for turning left and right. Hall's "500" wins came in 1978 with driver Al Unser and 1980 with Johnny Rutherford.
IMS tickets: Established in 1909, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has long prevailed as an icon of motorsports excellence. Beginning in 2009, the Speedway celebrates its Centennial Era, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the facility in 2009 and the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in 2011.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com at any time. Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are on sale. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.