Grand-Am draws the curtain on its 2012 season this weekend at Lime Rock Park. While a late addition to the calendar, the northeast bullring should be a close-contact, all-out shootout for the two-hour, 45-minute duration. Rain is anticipated for at least part of the weekend.
So long as they complete 30 minutes, TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates will score the Daytona Prototype title with drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas for the third consecutive year and fourth time in five seasons. If for some reason they can't, then Starworks' Ryan Dalziel will have the opportunity to overtake.
“Obviously we are a long shot here to win this, and Ganassi has obviously done a great job and that's why they are leading the points,” Dalziel said earlier this week. “It's going to take a little bit of a miracle I think for us to win it, but we are up to the challenge.”
Both Ganassi and Dalziel's Starworks squad have gone for Riley chassis this year, with BMW power for Ganassi and Ford for Starworks, but it's Chevrolet that is likely to wrap the DP manufacturer's championship with a 25-point lead on Ford in the first year with the Corvette DPs. Rojas admitted a pace differential between the Corvettes and the Rileys, something discussed all year.
“This year has been a championship that's been marked by consistency,” he said. “I believe the fastest cars consistently who, I would say, have been the Corvettes, are not in the top of the points standings like you would say. And I think that is for whatever reason, the Corvette teams have not had the consistency that we have had.”
Of the five Corvette entries, this is the last chance for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings to join the other teams (Spirit of Daytona, SunTrust, Action Express) in winning a race. The Jon Fogarty/Alex Gurney pair have a couple runner-up finishes but not an elusive victory in a snakebit year – together they look for the win in the team's 100th Rolex start. Brian Frisselle partners David Donohue in the Action Express No. 5; either nine or 10 DPs will start depending on whether Starworks runs three cars.
More is settled in GT where Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato wrapped the class title for AIM Autosport Team FXDD and its Ferrari 458 last race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The story here is the sign-off of the Mazda RX-8 – the rotary's last ride in Rolex competition and five cars (flagship SpeedSource No. 70, two Dempsey and two Sahlen's cars apiece) will look to deliver a final win. Sahlen's won at Mazda Raceway last race with Dane Cameron and Wayne Nonnamaker.
Patrick Dempsey won't be driving this weekend per a schedule conflict, and thus unable to reprise another podium as achieved earlier this year in the ALMS round in a P2 class entry.
Ferrari has another guest entry in the form of Mazda Raceway polesitters Scuderia Corsa – driven by Alessandro Balzan and Johannes van Overbeek – and TRG has an entry with Spencer Pumpelly and Bob Doyle listed. Turner Motorsport also has a second M3 ready to go.
The Grand-Am Championship Weekend presented by BMW airs live, Saturday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern on SPEED.