HOMESTEAD, Fla.—Action Express driver David Donohue was quickest in Friday’s two practice sessions for the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series Grand Prix of Miami.
Donohue lapped the 2.3 mile, 11-turn combination road/oval course in 1:14.163 at 111.646 mph in the #5 Action Express Racing Coyote-Corvette Daytona Prototype. For comparison, John Fogarty took the 2011 pole with a lap of 1:13.655 at 112.416 mph.
Friday’s practice times don’t say much about Sunday’s race, but the strategies developed from what is learned on Friday could dramatically affect both Saturday’s qualifying session and Sunday’s race.
“We tried to go quick today,” Donohue told Grand-Am.com. “Our main goal was to see how the tire plays out. Having a good car on old tires is going to be the key here, although having fresh tires—if there’s a late-race caution—could be a game changer.”
Homestead is notoriously hard on tires, with the combination of Florida heat, high banking, and an abrasive track. Teams might try to save a set for late in Sunday’s race by qualifying on older tires, hoping that lost grid spots will come back when the competition starts sliding (teams are allowed a limited supply of tires for the whole weekend.)
Action Express has played this game before—saving tires for the late laps. It could pay off for them Sunday.
Second fastest was the #90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Coyote-Corvette driven by Richard Westbrook at 1:14.414 (111.269 mph.) Westbrook and co-driver Antonio Garcia are coming off their first Daytona Prototype win at Barber Motorsport Park March 31 and will be eager to stretch that string.
Jon Fogarty in the #99 Gainsco Riley-Corvette finished third with a lap of 1:14.474 at 111.180 mph, giving the new Corvette Daytona bodywork a clean sweep of the top three.
All the fast laps were set during the cooler morning session. As the track heated up, the grip went away, exhibited by the fishtails several cars waved exiting Turn Six.
Comso, ESM Top GT Class
In GT, it was series newcomer Guy Cosmo in the #03 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari 458 Grand Am. Running only their second Rolex race with this new car, Cosmo and the ESM crew turned in a very respectable 1:19.885 at 103.649 mph, edging veteran Bill Auberlen in the #94 Turner Motorsport BMW.
Auberlen won both the Rolex GT class and the Continental Tire GS class in 2011, he plainly knows his way around Homestead very well, besting him, even just in practice, must have been a boost for the ESM garage. Auberlen posted a time of 1:20.412 at 102.970 mph.
Third fastest in GT was Jeroen Bleekemolen in the #68 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 at 1:20.527 (102.823.) The rear-engined Porsches used to have problems at Homestead due to rear tire wear, but Porsches have also won here Dirk Werner and Leh Keen, driving the #87 Farnsbacher Loles 911 GT3 proved that the German cars could handle the heat if handled properly by winning here in 2009.
Qualifying for the 2012 Grand Am Rolex Grand Prix of Miami starts at 12:45 p.m. EDT after a 9 a.m. practice session. Qualifying will be followed immediately by the 2012 Grand Am Continental Tire Sports Car Chalnege Kia 200, where 69 cars will do battle for two-and-a-half hours around Homestead’s tight twists and high-speed banking.
The Rolex Grand Prix of Miami starts at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 29.
Tickets to the race weekend can be purchased through the Miami-Homestead Speedway website.
The Rolex Grand Prix of Miami will be televised live on Speed TV starting at 1 p.m. EDT, Sunday, April 29. The CTSCC Kia 200 will air on Speed on May 12 at 12 noon EDT.