DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Michael Shank Racing’s Ford-Rileys ended up the first- and third-quickest cars around Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course at the 2013 Grand Am Roar Before the Rolex 24, Jan. 4–6.
The Roar Before the 24 is the first chance for many teams to try out the machinery they will race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and throughout the upcoming Rolex Sports Car Series. Such was the case with the quickest car of the three-day test, the #6 Shank Ford-Riley piloted by Michael Valiante.
This car, co-driven by Gustavo Yacaman, Chris Cummings, and Jorge Goncalves, was brand new to the Shank team, a replacement for the older model which finished third at last year’s Rolex 24 (where Yacaman and Goncalves also co-drove.) The crew took the set-up from the 2012 Rolex-winning #60 Shank Ford-Riley and got the new car working better than last year’s winner.
Valiante turned in a lap of 1:42.058 at 125.576 mph, only .043 seconds quicker than the next-fastest car. While Michael Valiante was glad to be quickest of the weekend but he didn’t feel too secure about his advantage.
“This test is always a challenge, because you have so many drivers here. I have a lot of time in these cars, so our team’s focus was to get the drivers who do not have much time in prototypes cycled through the car. It’s a brand-new car and we had no problems. It’s a bonus to have the quickest car out there,” he said.
“I feel everyone hasn’t shown everything they’ve got at this point, but I’m confident we’ll be strong when we come back for the Rolex 24.”
NASCAR star AJ Allmendinger, who co-drove to the win in 2012, was third quickest of the weekend in the #60 car, with a lap of 1:42.296 at 125.283 mph, behind Dane Cameron in the #43 Sahlen Racing Riley-BMW at 1:42.101/125.523 mph.
“We couldn’t be happier,” said team owner Mike Shank. “We were P1 in five of the eight sessions and we just kept learning about the cars. We took a couple steps back in there—it wasn’t all perfect but the best part is that all of the drivers got tons of laps in. We had no problems mechanically at all in either car. We have a good foot forward for the race and there is no reason why we shouldn’t do well.”
Shank Racing won one of the most exciting Rolex 24s in memory in2012; the #60 finished first by five seconds after 24 hours of racing, while the #6 came in third, 45 seconds back and the last car on the lead lap.
Shank is back for 2013 with two cars and the usual who’s who of drivers. Most of the 2012 winning lineup is back in the #60: Allmendinger, IndyCar’s Justin Wilson and team regular John Pew are certain for the event. The other regular Shank driver, Ozz Negri, is questionable; he hurt an ankle in a mountain-biking accident and is fifty-fifty for the race. If he can’t make it NASCAR and Aussie V8 star Marcus Ambrose will fill in.
Shank Racing has been contesting the Rolex 24 since 2004. In 2012 everything went right and judging by the team’s results at the Roar, they will be a major player in the 2013 race.
Porsche Pro Pat Long Quickest In Park Place GT
Judging by the Road Before the 24, GT will again be a hotly contested class again. Along with BMWs, a Chevy Camaro and Corvette, and a Dodge Viper, Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari were out in strength for the Roar Before the 24.
Seven Ferrari 458s faced four Audi R8s, but both marques were overmatched by the 17 Porsche GT3s entered for the three-day test.
Of the many Porsches, it was the #73 Park Place Motorsports GT3 piloted by Porsche factory driver Pat Long who set best lap of the weekend, 148.569 at 118.045 mph.
Park Place Motorsports has long been preparing customer cars and racing in other series; 2013 marks the team’s Rolex 24 debut.
Long had high praise for the new outfit.
“People were saying, ‘What’s Park Place?’ Hopefully, this will bump them up on the Google search for sports car fans. They caught my eye last year—that’s why I came knocking. They’re a group of young, hungry, motivated guys.”
Long has a long list of accomplishments already: three-time American Le Mans Series GT champ, three-time class winner at Le Mans and Petit Le Mans, plus a win at Sebring, and at the Rolex 24 in 2009. He is teamed up with two-time Rolex 24 GT winner Spencer Pumpelly, plus Park Place regular drivers Patrick Lindsey, Jason Hart and Daniel Graeff.
“What do you get for winning practice? Some bragging rights, and some momentum for a new team in the championship. But we feel confident,” Long commented.
Long may downplay the team’s accomplishments, but the pace and the line-up indicate that this team could challenge the Rolex regulars for a place at the pointy end of the field.
Napleton Racing Sets GX Standard in Rolex Debut
Grand-Am has added a new class to the Rolex Sports Car series for 2013, the GX class, designed for machinery which doesn’t fit into the GT class but is still race-worthy. Already the class has attracted a variety of entries, including the Lotus Evoras, Porsche Caymans, and Mazda’s new Skyactiv-D diesel-powered Mazda6.Napleton Racing, new to the Rolex series, made an eye-opening entry by setting best lap in the new class, with driver Shane Lewis lapping the 12-turn course in 1:56.167 at 110.324 mph. Lewis and co-drivers David Donahue (a Rolex 24 overall winner,) Nelson Canache, and Dr. Jim Norman put in more laps than any other GX entry and were rewarded with the top time.
The 51st Rolex 24 at Daytona takes the green flag at 3:30 p.m. on Jan 26. Get your tickets now at Grand-Am.com.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 20 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.