Grand-Am: The Human Interest Side of the Rolex 24 at Daytona

What Happens When It is the Little Things

9:29pm EST — On the way out of Daytona International Speedway after twenty-four hours of hard racing, a young boy and his family were exchanging stories about the weekend they had at the Rolex 24. That boy, eleven year-old Wyatt Peavy from Orlando, was thrilled, but had one complaint. He really wanted to be able to hang out in the hot pits next year, watching the teams change tires and re-fuel, see the drivers switch places and be even more in the thick of the action. As he bounced in his seat on the tram, the 01 Chip Ganassi team pushed their winning car past. They were on their way from Victory Lane to tech inspection. Those fans that saw the team and car go by gave a cheer and offered up their congratulations.

Wyatt Peavy & a Ganassi crew member's generosity.

What happened as the team hurried by Wyatt is an indication of how Grand-Am and the Ganassi boys do business: one of the crew members handed over his Victory Lane hat to Wyatt. It was an act without prompting and too quick for Wyatt to do more than yell “thanks!” to the man’s retreating profile. Some of the dirt the crew couldn’t get off after 24 hours of racing (despite the handy-wipes they broke out with a half hour left) remained in thumbprints on the hat’s bill.

The purse money may not be in Grand-Am, it may not be a series with the technological advancement of Formula1 or even ALMS, but damn if they don’t make the fans happy. A general admission ticket gets you into the garage, along with all the crew members, drivers, owners, and autograph hunters…you only have to be certain to keep an eye out to keep from being run over by someone in a golf cart or a Patrick Dempsey fangirl.

Grand-Am is something of an unsung series, just a national sportscar series that could pale in comparison to the possible gliz and glamor, except by those who compete in it. The 2011 Rolex 24 ended with a one lap sprint to see which of the top four cars could win. Five former F1 drivers, two multi-time IndyCar champions, multiple Rolex winners and Rolex series champions, Le Mans competitors, IndyCar drivers, NASCAR drivers, and young talent had driven those four cars with the backing of some seriously competitive teams, experienced and brand-new, all for a watch and bragging rights. In the end, it really is the little things: a Rolex, hard-charging racing, a commitment to generosity.

Pictures from throughout the weekend can be found through the following links:
Thursday: garage area and hot pits
Friday: qualifying, garage area, and hot pits
Saturday, garage area, hot pits, and pre-race activities
Saturday: racing, garage area, and hot pits
Sunday: racing, garage area, and hot pits (namely the Ganassi pit)
Sunday: step-by-step photos of pit stops
Sunday: post-race celebrations

Grand-Am: Pruett, Lally Win Classes at Rolex 24 at Daytona

What Happens When 24 Hours is a Long Time To Not Write Something In

10:28pm EST —Scott Pruett won the 2011 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona Sunday, holding off Chip Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon through a restart on the final lap. It was a tense few moments that can be seen on video through this link, as Dixon also came under attack from reigning winner Joao Barbosa in the #9 Action Express DP entry.

Dixon took over the lead from co-driver Jaime McMurray, after fellow driver Juan Pablo Montoya gained quite a lead over the rest of the field in the early morning. Dario Franchitti was the other driver in the all-star Ganassi line-up that lost to reigning Grand-Am champions Pruett and Memo Rojas. Graham Rahal and Joey Hand also drove the winning #01 DP entry. Barbosa finished third, with United Autosports drivers Martin Brundle, Mark Blundell, Zak Brown, and Mark Patterson finishing fourth.

Andy Lally won the GT class with the #67 TRG Motorsports Porsche. He had won pole on Friday, wearing the lucky Rolex he won at Daytona in 2001, but his time was disqualified after the rear wing was found to be mounted a millimeter too far to the rear. He and co-drivers Steven Bertheau, Brendan Gaughan, Wolf Henzler, and Spencer Pumpelly won after starting last. The #48 Paul Miller Racing team of Bryce Miller, Tim Sugden, Bryan Sellers, and Rob Bell finished second in class while the Dempsey Racing #40 team of Joe Foster, Patrick Dempsey, Charles Espenlaub, and Tom Long claimed its best ever finish with the final podium spot at Daytona. Complete race results can be found at the Grand-Am website.

Pictures from throughout the weekend can be found through the following links:
Thursday: garage area and hot pits
Friday: qualifying, garage area, and hot pits
Saturday, garage area, hot pits, and pre-race activities
Saturday: racing, garage area, and hot pits
Sunday: racing, garage area, and hot pits (namely the Ganassi pit)
Sunday: step-by-step photos of pit stops
Sunday: post-race celebrations

A full race report and weekend impressions will be posted early this week.

Grand-Am: Friday’s Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona Activites, EJ Viso Added to Line-Up

What Happens When It Feels Like a Slow Day

9:42pm EST — Even with no qualifying, Friday at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is a busy day. There are two practice sessions and the Continential Tire Challenge Race, in which many of the Rolex drivers also compete. Usually, it feels like a day filled with changes and last-minute fixing. The teams are required to be out of their garages by 7:30pm, so the level of frantic ramps up for any team caught out by a Thursday night or Friday morning crash. It didn’t feel quite that way today. Not to say that mechanics weren’t sprinting down the pitlane and causing traffic jams by driving a golf cart the wrong behind the hot pits, but there seemed to be a bit more caution from most teams.

Many did not run much during the Thursday night practice and even fewer DP teams ventured out for the forty-five minute morning practice. When they did, it was in the final minutes for a fluid check after an engine replacement. Less than half the fifty car field posted a time during that practice. Only four DP cars set a time, with Scott Pruett leading the Gainsco team, the 02 Ganassi sister car, and the #90 Spirit of Daytona. Complete results from the morning practice can be found here. For the second morning practice, more cars were out, but that cautious nature still seemed to prevail. The Gainsco led the 01 Ganassi, Flying Lizard, 60 Michael Shank, and the 5 Action Express as the fastest five DP and overall. The final times from the hourlong, second practice can be found here.

In continuing entry news, IndyCar driver EJ Viso has been added to the lineup for the #2 Starworks entry, sponsored by Venezualan battery company Duncan. There is some confusion, with the car either owned by Starworks owner Peter Baron or by lead driver Enzo Potoliccio. He “recently purchased the car and plans to run the entire season,” according to Grand-Am. Viso has joined a line-up that also includes Alex Popow and Romain Ianetta. Thomas Enge was listed as a driver on the opening day entry list, and Guy Cosmo was to have been either the fourth or fifth driver, but his contract fell through after opening ceremonies on Thursday. According to Cosmo on Twitter, he had turned down to GT drives for the DP opportunity.

Finally, the #00 Aten Motorsports Ferrari F430Challenge GT entry has withdrawn. It was very seriously damaged from a fire during the test and had been restored, but “the owner doesn’t want it raced,” according to Davy Jones, who would have been a driver. Continuing Thursday’s trend, there were none of the massive, car-killing incidents that so often have strewn pieces across the Speedway. Seemingly, the repaving is to thank, as the edges and seams are so much more smooth, they no longer catch out the unwary. Still, Friday was as calm as a frantic race weekend could be. Expect continued coverage here and updated throughout the weekend on Twitter. Pictures from the garages, pits, and on-track Friday can be found through this link. Thursday’s recap and photos can be found here.

Grand-Am: Bergmeister, Farnbacher on Pole for Rolex 24 at Daytona

What Happens When It’s a Tech Issue

10:06pm EST — The biggest news of the first day of the 2011 Grand-Am season was simple: re-paving Daytona has made it fast. The top eight DP qualifiers, with Jorg Bergmeister putting his Flying Lizard Porsche on pole, all broke the previous qualifying record. It was the sort of news that happened across the board in all classes of Grand-Am racing. Andy Lally was on pole for the GT class, saying “so many years I’ve been trying to do this,” while he wore his 2001 winning Rolex for his run to pole. It was not to be, despite his jubilation. His time was disqualified after the tech inspection discovered that “his rear wing was found to be mounted too far to the rear,” according to Grand-Am. Lally noted on Twitter that the issue was “a short bumper.” Fellow TRG driver Dominik Farnbacher will instead start on pole.

Begmeister beat out Max Angelelli, depriving the Italian of his third straight pole at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Instead Angelelli will start beside Bergmeister. Scott Pruett qualified third in the 01 Ganassi, with reigning winner Ryan Daizel qualifying the 8 Startworks fourth, and Scott Dixon rounded out the top five starters in the 02 Ganassi machine. After Lally’s removal from pole and Farnbacher having taken that position, Jordan Taylor will start the Autohaus Motorsports car second, with Craig Stanton (Magnus Racing), Nick Tandy (Burtin Racing), and Shane Lewis (Chris Smith Racing) rounding out the top five starters in the GT class.

The first day of the weekend’s racing was sunny, clear, and not overly warm. Shockingly, and thankfully, there seemed to be no incidents that required massive repairs by the team. Of course, the repaving might have helped, as had what appears to be a remarkably experienced field. The Sahlen team cars seemed to have an issue with the rear stepping out slightly when exiting the International Horseshoe, but it seemed to clear up in the coolness of the night practice. Neither Ganassi car ran during the two hour night practice, with the team choosing to spend the two hours setting up for the race. The single Gainsco car ran for a while, but finished the session replacing the engine. Meanwhile, the pole sitting Flying Lizard Porsche uncrated a new engine to swap out with the used one.

With no second qualifying session on Friday, the starting grid is set. The weekend’s weather is set to remain sunny and clear, becoming increasingly warmer (though still not more than the low seventies, Fahrenheit). Expect continued coverage here and updated throughout the weekend on Twitter. Pictures from the garages, pits, and on-track Thursday can be found though this link.

A Return to Racing: Grand-Am Coverage from the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and More

What Happens When the Off Season Is Truly Over

6:20pm EST — The excitement is beginning to ramp up as I sit in a hotel room just north of Daytona, watching Indian soap operas on television. The weekend of Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona begins tomorrow, and I’ve got a hot pit pass in my grubby fingers. With this unofficial commencement of racing after an interminable off-season, spring seems to have sprung. Halfway around the world, World Superbikes are resting overnight after the first of three days of unofficial testing. Formula1 launches are being announced, testing begins next week, and only one seat is open (at HRT) for the 2011 driver market. Valentino Rossi spent the day on a Ducati sportbike, testing his shoulder in preparation for winter testing in Sepang soon. There’s a palpable sense of excitement, and it isn’t only because I’m not in the snows of Pennsylvania.

It has been a long time coming, but changes are afoot here at On Any Sunday, These Days, too. Obviously, nothing has been posted since the final race of the F1 season back in November. Plenty has been happening in racing, but plenty in life has too. I simply don’t have time to cover each piece of news from F1, MotoGP, WSBK, and Grand-Am the way they deserve. This is especially since I’m now the WSBK correspondent for irreverent and relevant motorcycle news site Asphalt & Rubber.

I’ll still be writing those long and detailed race reports for Formula1 (posted both here and at Formula1Blog, which still provides the best forum for fan opinion on the web) and MotoGP. I’ll be keeping up with what I can, especially regarding MotoGP, here. Any races I do attend will get lots of coverage, too.However, those days of seven new articles a day are gone. Thanks to those few who have been checking to see when I’d actually get something posted all winter. You’ll be rewarded, especially this weekend.

Right now, though, the focus is on Grand-Am and this weekend’s 24 hours of glorious racing. I’m here and ready to provide extensive coverage of one of the most prestigious sportscar races in the world. Entries for 2011 include former F1 drivers, NASCAR and IndyCar stars, and sportscar veterans. For moment-by-moment coverage from the track (the garages and pit lane) follow me on Twitter. It isn’t necessary to join Twitter: simply bookmarking the link to  my tweets and refreshing will work to keep you updated. Last year, I spent the first eight hours of the race in the Starworks garage [this link takes you to the entirety of 2010’s coverage]. We’ll see who takes me in in 2011. Welcome to roadracing in 2011!

Grand-Am Barber Race Results: Pruett/Rojas Take the Win at Barber

What Happens When It’s a Double-Header

2:11am EST — The Grand-Am Rolex Series took to Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday, with IndyCar to race on Sunday.  Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas took the win in the two hour, forty-five minute race, completing 108 laps, and finishing six seconds ahead of second-place finishers Oswaldo Negri and John Pew.  Starworks Motorsport saw some clever strategy (leaving Mike Forest out while much of the rest of the field stopped after the first caution, putting him in the lead for many laps) bring the team in for its first podium finish, also on the lead lap, despite a moment in which SunTrust driver Max Angelelli take a very aggressive line through a corner, nearly taking out driver Ryan Dalziel, but instead only benching his own polesitting car eighty laps in.  Quite early on, the GAINSCO car suffered an engine failure a half hour into the race, just after the first caution and before Alex Gurney could even run a lap.  That caution was caused by an off by Tracy Krohn just twenty minutes into the race.  He was unhurt after running very wide off a turn and traveling lengthwise through a gravel trap.

In the GT class, Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato won two in a row, in class, and continued the Mazda dominance of GT.  In fact, mazda cars swept the GT class podium with Jordan Taylor and Todd Lamb finishing second and the Rolex 24 at Daytona GT winners Sylvain Tremblay and Jonathan Bomarito finishing third, ahead of the first Camaro in the field, driven by Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis.

Final Positions for the Porsche 250 at Barber (courtesy of the official Grand-Am site):

Pos. Number Class Pos.

in

Class

Drivers Team/Car Laps
1 01 DP 1 Pruett / Rojas Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates/BMW Riley 108
2 60 DP 2 Negri / Pew Michael Shank Racing/Ford Riley 108
3 8 DP 3 Dalziel / Forest Starworks Motorsport/BMW Riley 108
4 77 DP 4 Gidley / von Moltke Doran Racing/Ford Dallara 108
5 59 DP 5 Donohue / Law Brumos Racing/Porsche Riley 108
6 90 DP 6 Garcia / Rice Spirit of Daytona Racing/Porsche Coyote 108
7 6 DP 7 Frisselle / Valiante Michael Shank Racing/Ford Riley 108
8 61 DP 8 Frisselle / Wilkins AIM Autosport/Ford Riley 108
9 7 DP 9 Andersen / Lester Starworks Motorsport/BMW Riley 106
10 9 DP 10 Barbosa / Borcheller Action Express Racing/Porsche Riley 106
11 75 DP 11 Jonsson / Krohn Krohn Racing/Ford Lola 104
12 69 GT 1 Assentato / Segal SpeedSource/Mazda RX-8 103
13 30 GT 2 Lamb / Taylor Racers Edge Motorsports/Mazda RX-8 103
14 70 GT 3 Bomarito / Tremblay SpeedSource/Mazda RX-8 103
15 57 GT 4 Davis / Liddell Stevenson Motorsports/Camaro GT.R 102
16 68 GT 5 Christodoulou / Edwards SpeedSource/Mazda RX-8 102
17 94 GT 6 Auberlen / Dalla Lana / Turner Motorsport/BMW M6 102
18 41 GT 7 Gue / Keen Dempsey Racing/Mazda RX-8 101
19 97 GT 8 Magnussen / Schaldach Stevenson Motorsports/Camaro GT.R 101
20 43 GT 9 Nonnamaker / Nonnamaker Team Sahlen/Mazda RX-8 101
21 40 GT 10 Dempsey / Foster Dempsey Racing/Mazda RX-8 101
22 44 GT 11 Potter / Stanton Magnus Racing/Porsche GT3 101
23 42 GT 12 Nonnamaker / Sahlen Team Sahlen/Mazda RX-8 101
24 28 GT 13 Collins / Lux LG Motorsports/Corvette 100
25 07 GT 14 Edwards / Russell Banner Racing/Corvette 88
26 10 DP 12 Angelelli / Taylor SunTrust Racing/Ford Dallara 80
27 19 GT 15 Eversley / Lally Matt Connolly Motorsports/Corvette 61
28 31 GT 16 Curran / Whelen Marsh Racing/Corvette 54
29 99 DP 13 Fogarty / Gurney GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing/Chevrolet Riley 20

Driver Profile: Dion von Moltke

What Happens When Youth and Maturity Collide

12:02am EST — Dion von Moltke has experienced multiple types of racing, from karting to sportscars and even has some open-wheel experience.  Here, he chats about being bribed into karting as a way to get his grades up, driving for Max Papis and Emerson Fittipaldi in karts, the pressures of becoming a racing family, and being a South African where there are few.

You qualified 11th for the Grand-Am GP of Miami [the interview took place Friday afternoon, after qualifying but before the race on Saturday], how was qualifying and how to things feel for tomorrow?
You know, it was a bit of a weird thing.  We were pretty optimistic going into qualifying because the last session we ended up P1 and the session before we were probably four or five, overall, so we were really hoping, but for some odd reason, I’m not actually sure what happened, but a lot of cars got a lot quicker for qualifying.  We don’t have that ultimate one lap speed.  But I think for a race pace, we’re looking pretty good.  The tires are falling off extremely fast here, so it’s kind of hard to get the proper race pace in the car.  I think for racing, we’ll be fine, but that was not the qualifying we were looking for.
[von Motlke and fellow #77 Doran Racing driver Memo Gidley finished the race in ninth, see here for the On Any Sunday, These Days race report]

You’re driving for a different team, Doran Racing, for this race than you were for the Rolex, Starworks Motorsport, though you have tested for Doran before.  How does switching teams change how you prepare for the race?
It’s more difficult.  It definitely puts extra stress on it, because, yeah, I’ve worked with them before, I’ve worked with them briefly, but I’ve never raced with Memo [Gidley].  So, you don’t know your teammate as well, you don’t know what he likes in the car, he doesn’t know what you like in the car, you’re learning each other.  The engineers also have to learn how I feel driving and what I like in the car, and I have to learn what the engineers like to hear from me and how they like to go about things.  So, it’s a big, steep learning curve, and the chemistry between your teammate and you engineers is the most important thing in the team and starting from scratch makes it extremely hard.  The nice thing at Doran is that I get along with everyone really well, and I get along with Memo really well, so the fact is that it is a lot easier [than it could be], even though it’s not an easy step at all. Continue reading