DAYTONA, Fla.—It is only a test—the results don’t indicate who will be quick in the actual racing yet to come. Still, it has to be gratifying to Joey Hand that he could step into his new 2015 ride, the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford Daytona Prototype for the first time Friday and be the fastest man on Dayton International Speedway all day.
Hand’s fastest lap from the morning session put him second behind teammate Scott Dixon in the #01 Ganassi car. Hand came back in the afternoon with a lap nearly two-tenths quicker—139.397 at 129.937 mph to win top honors.
By way of comparison, Gainsco Racing captured the 2014 Rolex 24 pole with a lap of 138.270.
“It was a great first day on the job for me,” Hand said after the afternoon session. “It’s my first day on the job for Chip Ganassi Racing. Just a fun day for me.”
Hand has done some driving for Ganassi Racing in past years—mostly the Roar and the Rolex 24—and he fit right back into the team where he will spend the 2015 season.
“I’ve only done four races with team but it feels like I have been driving for them for a long time. I walked straight in, everybody knew everybody’s names; I just jumped in, belted in, and went for it.
When you’re happy, you’re fast,” Hand continued. “I was really comfortable right when I got in the car. The team did a lot of work in the offseason. The car drives pretty nice; the drivability of the engine is really good.
“Who knows what this means? It’s the first sessions of the year, but we were P2 in the first session and P1 in the second, and I will always take being on top of the charts.”
Hand, back from a stint driving in Germany’s DTM series, was testing for his new team at the Tudor United SportCar Series Roar Before the Rolex 24, a three-day preparation event for the season-opening Rolex 24 of Jan. 24-25.
Scott Dixon’s first-session effort of 1:39.406 at 128.926 mph held up as second-fastest lap of the day, .111 seconds quicker than the brand new Michael Shank Ligier-Honda driven by Oswaldo Negri. Again the times here don’t mean much, but for a MSR to take a car fresh out of the box and be that quick shows, if nothing else, that the engineers at MSR are on top of things.
The revised DeltaWing was fourth-quickest on the day and tirsd in the second session. Again, this might merely mean that the engineers there have had a particularly productive off-season, or it might mean that the narrow-nosed oddity will be an actual contender in 2015.
Daytona Prototypes filled the next three spots, with the two Action Express Coyote-Corvettes and the Wayne Taylor Dallara-Corvette DDPs carrying the flag for Chevrolet.
Both Krohn Racing and Eztreme Speed Motorsports were off the pace in their new cars—Krohn with a Ligier-Judd, ESM bringing a Batmobile-looking all-black HPD ARX-04a-Honda.
In GTLM, Aston Martin’Racing’s Pedro Lamy was quickest on the day at 1:44.414 at 122.472 mph (scored in the morning session,) followed by Nick Tandy in the #911 Porsche North America RSR and Davide Rigon in the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458. Jörg Bergmeister in the #912 PNA RSR was fourth quickest, followed by Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette Racing C7.R, only .002 off Bergmeister’s pace.
Renger Vander Zande in the #8 Starworks Oreca-Chevrolet was quickest in Prototype Challenge, while in GTD Daytona Marc Goosens led the field in the #33 Riley Motorsports Viper with a lap of 146..948—quicker than the 2014 GTD pole of 1:46.973.
None of these numbers mean much excpet as a benchmark for comparing how different teams adjust during the weekend—except in a few certain cases, like that of the SpeedSource Mazda diesels. These cars, very much an ongoing development project, ran relatively quickly and without trouble all day, finishing near the back of the Prototype field but showing much greater pace that they did last year, when they were often at the back of the GTLM field. This team has made huge strides over the off-season; it will be very interesting what they can do with three days of track time for real-world testing.
The Tudor United SportsCar Championship Roar Before the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway continues through the weekend, wrapping up Sunday evening. Tickets are available and affordable if you should happen to be in the neighborhood; contact Daytona International Speedway.