The last preseason test before the 50th anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Roar Before the Rolex 24 kicked off Friday with two test sessions and three other series and team announcements (Michael Shank Racing's lineup, left).
CORVETTE, PORSCHE TOP TIME SHEETS – Corvette DPs came to the fore on the first day of the Rolex Series' Roar Before the 24 test, with two of the manufacturer's four teams leading the day's two sessions.
In the morning session, which was initially delayed by fog, Corvette swept the top four positions. SunTrust's entry led the No. 5 Action Express, No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvettes. Ganassi's new Riley BMW clocked in fifth. Max Angelelli's best time of 1:41.407 in the morning held as fastest of the day.
GT also saw the bow-tie brigade topping the charts, Stevenson Motorsports' Camaro ahead of three Porsches. The FOAMETIX/Burtin entry was second ahead of two TRG Porsches (Nos. 67 and 68) and the Extreme Speed Ferrari 458.
By the afternoon session, the Corvette hold at the top was reduced to only the top three. Still, the Action Express pair went 1-2 with times of 1:41.599 and 1:41.603, ahead of SunTrust at a 1:41.651. Juan Pablo Montoya hoisted Ganassi's second entry up to fourth.
In GT, Porsche swept the top seven positions – led by the surprising NGT Motorsport. Nick Tandy lapped the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway at 1:49.708, ahead of two of TRG's Porsche (Nos. 67 and 66) as the only three cars under 1:50. Brumos, Alex Job's No. 23, the Flying Lizard No. 45 and Magnus No. 44 completed the sweep.
AIM Autosport's Ferrari 458 was the next best manufacturer in eighth, with the best Mazda, BMW and Camaro 10th through 12th, respectively. Audi's R8 “test mule” driven by Frank Stippler ended 22nd, 1.8sec off Tandy's pace, while the lone Ford Mustang and Dodge Viper were 25th and 27th.
Of the 57 cars entered, 52 took time in the afternoon session.
NEW CHAMPIONSHIP UNVEILS POINTS STRUCTURE – Earlier Friday, Grand-Am officials announced the points structure for the new North American Endurance Championship, its new “championship within a championship” to be featured at three 2012 Rolex Series races.
For the races at Daytona (24 hours), Watkins Glen (6) and Indianapolis (3), points will be awarded on a 5-4-3-2 basis for drivers and teams in both the Daytona Prototype and GT classes. The first finishing position earns five points, with four for second, three for third and two for fourth and each following position in the field. The events will be scored differently so that drivers and teams can earn a maximum of 20 points at each of the three races.
For the Rolex 24, points will be awarded based on the standings in each class at six hours, 12 hours, 18 hours and the finish. Watkins Glen's race will award points at the three-hour mark and finish, with points multiplied by two. At Indianapolis, points will be awarded at the finish of the three-hour race, which will be multiplied by four.
Drivers must drive the minimum 30 minutes to score points at each event. Team points will be awarded for the highest-finishing car from multiple car entries, with the team's additional cars not counted in the standings. Ties will be broken per the 2012 Rolex Series regulations, based on number of victories, second-place finishes, etc.
TWO MORE LINEUPS CONFIRMED – Michael Shank Racing announced its first full lineup of its two cars at this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Justin Wilson and AJ Allmendinger joining full-season drivers Ozz Negri and John Pew in the team's No. 60 Ford Riley.
The team opted for youngsters in its second car, a second-gen Riley the team ran with United Autosports a year ago. Felipe Nasr, who was quickest at December's Daytona test, joins Indy Lights drivers Gustavo Yacaman and Jorge Goncalvez in the car, with Michael McDowell bolstering the lineup. That shouldn't change too much before the Rolex 24.
Meanwhile, Spirit of Daytona confirmed its four drivers will all be GM factory drivers. Antonio Garcia and Richard Westbrook had already been confirmed for the full season, and for this race are joined by Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen. Gavin will stay on as the team's third driver in the North American Endurance championship with this race a one-off for Magnussen.
“We've all done endurance races in the same car,” Magnussen said. “I don't think any other team out there has that kind of experience.”
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 continues on Saturday and Sunday.