Rolex 24: Live Updates Thursday

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Practice is underway for the 49th Rolex 24 At Daytona, the opening event of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16. The weekend also includes the GRAND-AM 200, opening the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season.

18 Daytona Prototypes are among the 50 cars entered in the 49th Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Expect Big Numbers in Qualifying (Updated Thursday at 2:50 p.m.)

Max “The Axe” Angelelli showed his hand in Thursday’s second practice session, running an unofficial track record lap of 1:40.340 (127.726 mph). So did Ozz Negri, who ran 1:40.758 (127.196 mph).

In GT, Andy Lally did even better – unofficially shattering the track record by running 1:48.988 (117.580 mph).

However, all three think that some of their competitors have yet to show their hands.

“I think a lot of people are sandbagging,” said Angelelli, who won the pole for the 2010 Rolex 24. “I would really like to win the pole again, but I think qualifying will be difficult. You saw the Ganassi cars just riding around in that last session.”

Negri won the pole for the 2008 Rolex 24, but was not optimistic going in to the 3:45 p.m. session.

“I’m going to be giving it everything I have – I was giving it everything I had in that last session,” Negri said. “But I’m still not happy with the car. We’re still struggling with the balance. There’s not a hair left in it. But as always, in qualifying I going to go for the gold.”

David Donohue set the track record in qualifying for the 2009 Rolex 24 with a lap of 1:40.540 (127.492 mph).

Lally was happy with his lap – but not overconfident entering the 4:15 p.m. GT session.

“Wow, that was the first sub-49 lap for a GT car in the history of Daytona,” Lally said. “TRG has given me a car good enough to fight for the pole. I just hope we can find a good gap and lay one down. The setup is great, and the guys have done a great job making this Porche really fast. But I still think one or two other guys have a little something in reserve. I think you’re going to see some big numbers this afternoon.”

Jeff Segal holds the track GT record from last year, 1:49.282 (117.275 mph).

No Problems Fitting in for Hand, Rahal (Updated Thursday at 1:55 p.m.)

Joey Hand and Graham Rahal both spent time at the wheel of the No. 01 TELMEX/Target BMW/Riley in Thursday practice, driving the car that won nine of 12 races en route to the 2010 Daytona Prototype championship.

“I’ve driven for some pretty cool teams in my career, but this was the one I’ve always wanted to drive for,” Hand said. “Wow, this team lives up to its reputation. It’s strong top to bottom, with a lot of depth. It’s a good race car. It’s tidy, clean and all the systems are easy to work with.

“Just having my name painted on the TELMEX Chip Ganassi car is a big deal for me,” Hand added.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Rahal said. “We’ve got a real good shot here, if we keep our heads together.”

This is Rahal’s first drive in a DP. Hand’s last appearance in the class was with Starworks at Virginia International Raceway, where he finished ninth. He was a regular with Alex Job Racing in 2008 running with Bill Auberlen in a Porsche/Riley, finishing second at Homestead-Miami Speedway among seven top-10 finishes.

“I seem to fit in well, and it’s been a seamless transition,” Hand said. “They’re very easy-going guys, and I just do my job. Scott (Pruett) and I both live in the Sacramento area, and he’s always given me advice.”

Now, Hand is content to watch from the pits as the team prepares for the race. He doesn’t expect to get any more seat time before the Rolex 24 – but he will be ready and eager to go if called on.

Henzler Happy to Return with TRG (Updated Thursday at 1:20 p.m.)

Wolf Henzler has been running in the Rolex 24 since 2005, when he won in GT for Farnbacher Racing. This weekend, he returns with TRG in the No. 67 Sargent & Lundy/South Point Hotel and Casino Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, co-driving with Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly, Brendan Gaughan and Steven Bertheau.

“I raced for TRG here last year (third in GT) and now I know nowthe team really good,” Henzler said. “It’s a real good team and I am happy to be back. The car is very fast, and the resurfacing of the track is really nice. It’s very smooth. and it’s easier to drive without the bumps in the banking.”

Lally was fastest in Thursday morning practice and will qualify the car this afternoon.

“It’s good to be on top, but for the overall result, it doesn’t matter if you start last or from the pole,” Henzler said. “But it’s still real nice for the team if you can win the pole position.”

Craig Stanton Fit and Ready to Go (Updated Thursday at 12:20 p.m.)

Craig Stanton’s usual preparation for the Rolex 24 involves several months of doing “a triathlon a day,” working out for at least one hour in three different activities.

As a final touch, the driver of the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup went through a series of workouts over a 24-hour span last Wednesday to simulate the race.

“I started out with a few hours doing circuit training in a weight room,” Stanton said. “Then I rowed, biked and worked on a simulator.”

Stanton took a few naps, meals and snacks throughout the 24-hour span, simulating what he will do in Saturday’s race. This is the fifth year he went through the full-day workout to prepare for the Rolex 24.

Davy Jones, Steve Lisa Without Ride (Updated Thursday at 11:10 a.m.)

The on-again, off-again entry for the No. 00 Aten Motorsports Ferrari F430Challenge has hit another snag.

Davy Jones, overall winner of the 1990 Rolex 24, came to the track today only to find that the car would be parked for the weekend.

“The owner doesn’t want it raced,” Jones said. “The car has badly damaged by fire in the recent testing here, but Tony Dowe and the team put a lot of effort into rebuilding the car and now it’s race ready and absolutely immaculate.”

Jones and Steve Lisa were scheduled to co-drive with Frenchmen Emmanuel Collard, Gabriel and Xavier Pompidou. Collard was the 2005 overall winner of the Rolex 24 with SunTrust Racing. In addition to winning overall in 1990, Jones also won his class twice in the event. A veteran of Indy Car competition, Jones finished second in the 1996 Indianapolis 500 and won overall in the 24 Hours of Le Mans two weeks later.

“We’re disappointed, but that’s racing,” Jones said. “Never a dull moment.”

Starworks Motorsport Adds Third DP; Enge Returns to Daytona (Updated Thursday at 11 a.m.)

Starworks Motorsport added a third Daytona Prototype to its lineup. Enzo Pololiccio, Alex Popow and Romain Ianetta are entered in the No. 2 Duncan Ford/Riley. Car owner Peter Baron expects to add at least one more driver.

Tomas Enge of the Czech Republic is making his first visit to Daytona in two years, co-driving the No. 8 Starworks Ford/Riley. Enge drove for Baron’s Samax Motorsports in 2007 and 2008, finishing sixth in his first appearance. He finished 15th in 2009, driving a BMW/Riley for Alegra Motorspors.

“I love 24-hour races – this is my second one this month – and I love to drive these cars,” Enge said. “The Daytona Prototypes remind me of little bit of a GT-1 car. This car is wider and has better response. Also, I like being in a position to win overall, as well.”


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