|THE ROAR BEFORE THE ROLEX 24|
|Four days into the New Year, new teams and new cars are taking their first laps at Daytona International Speedway as the landmark 2013 sports car racing season gets underway with this weekend’s three day test event: the Roar Before the Rolex 24. The dreary weather did not dampen the excitement among drivers and race organizers to go racing as they prepare for the historic merger of GRAND-AM and ALMS, as well as the debut of the new GX class at the 51st running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona later this month. |
The introduction of a new class presents numerous challenges for interested race teams, starting with the wait for the rules package to be published. With the rules in hand, the mad rush begins to build the car in order to be ready for early testing before the Rolex 24 At Daytona opens the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series on January 26. For the six GX teams who are testing this weekend, there was barely enough time to complete their cars and get them to Daytona for testing.
That was the case for Napleton Racing’s #16 Porsche Cayman which arrived at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 having taken only a few shakedown laps with Shane Lewis (Jupiter, Fla.) behind the wheel. Teammates David Donohue (Malvern, Penn.), Jim Norman, (Tampa, Fla.) and Nelson Canache (Norcross, Ga.) will have their first opportunity to drive the car this weekend.
“Shane and I have raced together before and I have worked with Ron, our crew chief, before at Brumos,” said Donohue, who previously raced in the DP class. “There are a lot of familiar faces on the team and I wanted to find a team where we can exercise our craft, have some success and grow together as a team.”
Lewis couldn’t wait to get the car on the track. “What do you want for Christmas – I want to be driving a race car at Daytona,” he said referring to the holiday season which interrupted the build progress for many teams. Lewis explained the difference between the GX and the GT classes: “The GX class is based on production cars, and, although there are some significant race prepped elements, we are restricted to a stock H-pattern shifter similar to that of the road car – as opposed to the sequential shifters of the GT Cars. Unlike some of the race cars today we are going to have to drive our car the old fashioned way.”
A total of 59 cars – 17 DP, 36 GT and six GX – are expected to participate in testing this weekend. A.J. Allmendinger (Denver, Colo.) drove the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley to a fastest lap of 1:42.918 (124.526 mph) to take bragging rights for the day.
“The weather was not the best today and I was the first driver on our team to go out in the damp conditions,” said Allmendinger. “But even in those conditions the car was really solid. I was just trying to get comfortable in the car since it had been a year since I drove this DP car. I feel the car is even better this year than it was last year when our team won the  Rolex 24 At Daytona.”
In the GT class, 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona class champion Andy Lally (Northport, N.Y.), at the wheel of the Magnus Racing #44 Porsche GT3 Cup, posted the fastest lap of 1:49.322 (117.232 mph), while David Donahue led the new GX field with a time of 1:57.466 (109.104 mph) in the Napleton Racing #16 Porsche Cayman