As the Grand-Am Rolex Series heads to Homestead for the third round of the 2012 season, maximizing strategy and a balanced setup on the second “roval” is key to success. Homestead's 2.3-mile, 11-turn infield road course and banking is notoriously abrasive on tires for both classes.
“Homestead is different with the 'roval' concept, and you absolutely kill the right side tires on the banking,” explained Jeff Segal of AIM Autosport Team FXDD, driver of one of the Ferrari 458s. “You tend to scorch the tires. The track's gritty, tough and abrasive where wear and degradation is a problem.
“Being good on the banking is critical to lap time and to driver confidence here,” he added. “If you have a car doing something it shouldn't on the banking, it takes it's toll. You can overcome a mistake in a second- or third-gear corner, but a mistake on the banking and you end up with a face full of wall.”
In the Daytona Prototype category, there's a logjam at the top with 10 points separating the top six teams in the championship. Still, it's BMW that's behind, as the only one of the three engine manufacturers without a win so far this year. Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won this race last year with their previous-generation Riley-BMW, but are off to a sluggish start by their own illustrious standards with sixth and third-place results in the first two races.
The Ford-powered contingent leads the standings, with Starworks' Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio lead the sister Riley Ford squad Michael Shank Racing by only two points. Shank's team seeks a bounce-back from its strange incident the last race at Barber where a wayward Sahlen's Mazda RX-8 forced John Pew off track.
Meanwhile, Corvette recovered from its Daytona disappointment in a big way at Barber. Spirit of Daytona's Richard Westbrook and Antonio Garcia swept to their first, the team's first, and Corvette's first Daytona Prototype victory from pole position – as Corvette DPs ran 1-2 and finished in three of the top five positions.
Two teams running Corvettes, Action Express and SunTrust Racing, had good Homestead setups a year ago with their older cars, both finishing on the podium, and hope to transfer that over to the cars now running the Corvette bodykits. GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing has yet to record a Homestead victory in its five previous tries, but should still be quick this weekend.
The GT battle should be more enticing than at Barber, where strategy helped propel the SpeedSource RX-8 to victory by a lap. Any of the improving AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458, either of the Magnus or TRG Porsches, which should be running 4.0-liter engines as opposed to 3.8-liter ones, the Autohaus or Stevenson Camaros, or defending race champion Turner Motorsport with its BMW M3, figure to be in contention.
Bomarito, who admitted much of SpeedSource's success hinges on a strong strategy, described his expectations heading into Homestead.
“We have to maximize our points at these upcoming races,” Bomarito said. “So far we've been perfect so far, but we have to keep it up to compensate for a relative disadvantage to the field right now. It's next to impossible for us to come back if we have a setback.
“This is a difficult track,” he added. “It's low-speed and low-grip through the corners, but you need a good car through the oval and a good platform. To get the power down, you do need some understeer. The engineers earn their money here.”
Sleepers include the Sahlen's and Dempsey Racing Mazdas, APR Motorsport's Audi R8, and the Horton Autosport Porsche driven by Eric Foss and Patrick Lindsey – Foss qualified fourth with the team's new 2012-spec GT3 Cup at Barber in the team's first start of the year.
Extreme Speed Motorsports makes its second start of 2012, with Homestead roughly two hours south of the team's Tequesta, Fla. base. Guy Cosmo and Ed Brown will drive the team's Tequila Patron Ferrari 458.
Oryx Racing has withdrawn its Audi ahead of the race as team owner Humaid Al Masaood will tend to unexpected business commitments, which leaves him and co-driver Steven Kane high and dry.
CONTINENTAL TIRE SPORTS CAR CHALLENGE
Rain and cautions plagued the second Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race of 2012 at Barber, although the day still ended well for Rum Bum Racing, which won overall and in GS with its new Porsche 997 Carrera. Porsches, BMWs and one of the Multimatic Aston Martin Vantages swept the top six positions last race, with the Camaros and Mustangs in the field seeking a rebound this race.
In ST, a late pit stop demoted the Marc Miller-driven C.J. Wilson Racing Mazda MX-5 down the order, although its sister car ended fourth in class. BimmerWorld scored the class victory with its BMW 328i ahead of a Kia Forte and Honda Civic SI, respectively. Kia has been strong in both races so far as it seeks it first win of the year, but Honda could say the same thing with any of its teams.
• The Rolex Series Grand Prix of Miami airs live on SPEED Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern.
• The Continental Challenge race from Homestead-Miami Speedway will air on SPEED on May 12 at 12 p.m. ET