JANUARY 5, 2014
Milder temperatures were on tap for the final test sessions at the Roar Before the Rolex 24, the three-day practice event leading into the upcoming Rolex 24 At Daytona, meaning teams have weathered a variety of conditions in which to evaluate the setup of their cars.
Ganassi Racing got a leg up on defending their Rolex 24 title win when Missouri’s Jamie McMurray posted the top speed of 129.481 mph on day two of testing in the #01 Ganassi Racing Ford Riley. McMurray, a NASCAR star, is joining Ganassi’s lead drivers and three-time Rolex 24 At Daytona champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas for the endurance race. The team will also add a fourth driver, Pennsylvania high school senior Sage Karam, the defending Indy Lights champion, for the late-January race.
The #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP was fastest in both test sessions on the final day of the Roar Before the Rolex 24. British driver Richard Westbrook’s best laps of 128.484 and 127.751 put the #90 car second overall in the 62-strong field over the eight sessions. Westbrook and Canadian driver Michael Valiante will be joined in the #90 by Germany’s Michael Rockenfeller for the Rolex 24.
The Roar Before the Rolex 24 is perhaps the most important testing that sports car drivers in America experience all year. The intensity of these three days show on the faces of crew members and drivers alike as some teams recognize the competiveness of their cars while others realize they need to go back to the drawing board at their shops before they return for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Floridian Charles Espenlaub was pleased with the performance of his #46 Fall-Line Motorsports Audi R8 LMS in the GTD class. “There are a lot of new drivers here from all over the world and they need to become familiar with their cars and this track,” said Espenlaub. “Some of us have been testing and tuning all winter but we need to make sure we have a good set up in order to be ready for the Rolex 24 At Daytona which is the most important race of the year. It’s an invaluable tool for us to be able to come here to test and try different things and have the drivers climb into their cars so they get a feel for what’s happening.”
One of the new young drivers getting a feel for Daytona International Speedway this weekend is 22-year-old Bradley Smith from England. Racing karts since age eight, Smith began racing a Radical SR3 in 2012 and his ensuing race successes earned him a ride for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the #31 Marsh Racing Corvette DP as winner of the 2014 Sunoco Daytona Challenge.
“It’s fantastic to be here in Daytona considering it is only my third year in car racing” said Smith who explained that not only are these cars different than those he is used to driving, the tracks in the U.K. do not have banking which is one of the signature features of Daytona International Speedway. “It has been good for me to get some experience here in order to get used to the car itself as well as the circuit … in these cars you need a little bit more patience when slowing down the car and then there is a big difference in the top speed these cars have. Then there is, of course, the driving at night which takes a few laps to get used to. The actual lighting around the circuit is pretty good, but it takes a while to judge the cars from behind. After a few laps though you settle down, get comfortable and concentrate on what’s in front. Being here for the Roar Before the 24 is fantastic because you get a chance to see how the car is handling and you also get to experience the traffic. Additionally the drivers get to know what to expect on track for the race. The atmosphere here is great and it is wonderful to see all the fans that are here and see how much they are enjoying themselves.”
The 52nd edition of the iconic Rolex 24 At Daytona starts at 1430 EST on Saturday, 25 January 2014. The winners will be presented with the coveted Rolex timepiece at the conclusion of racing on Sunday, 26 January 2014.
About Rolex Motorsports - Leading brand of the Swiss watch industry, Rolex, headquartered in Geneva, enjoys an unrivalled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its Oyster watches, all certified as chronometers for their precision, are symbols of excellence, performance and prestige. Pioneer in the development of the wristwatch as early as 1905, the brand is at the origin of numerous major watchmaking innovations, such as the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch, launched in 1926, and the Perpetual rotor self-winding mechanism introduced in 1931. Rolex has registered over 400 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces inhouse all the essential components of its watches, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining, crafting, assembly and finishing of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. Rolex is also actively involved in supporting the arts, sports, science, the spirit of enterprise, and the environment through a broad palette of sponsoring activities as well as philanthropic programs.