It takes many days to prepare for a 24 hour race. Daily, shop hours often tick long into the night. Plus, the more time spent practicing on a race course like Daytona International Speedway, the better.
The GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series brought its GT and Daytona Prototype classes and more to DIS this past weekend for testing and fan appreciation time.
The Roar before the Rolex 24 is an opportunity for teams to gear up for the grueling race later this month that requires four drivers for each car. Plus, it’s a chance for those drivers to get valuable seat-time before they must swap seats for real. Fans get to view the testing and to seek autographs during the four-day Roar.
Scores of world-class drivers arrive at Daytona, eager to get fast time on the track. These IndyCar, NASCAR and GRAND-AM drivers are classy guys from around the world as well. Their international diversity contributes well to this article.
Scott Dixon (New Zealander), Dario Franchitti (Scottish), Rock legend Brian Johnson (British), Justin Wilson (British), Marcos Ambrose (Australian), Juan Pablo Montoya (Columbian), Clint Bowyer (American), A.J. Allmendinger, (American) and Joey Hand (American) shared their comments about Daytona and the Rolex 24 race.
Lead singer for the Rock band AC/DC, Brian Johnson, raced the Rolex 24 last year in the Daytona Prototype 50plus race car, a charity entry boosted by their “Highway to Help” slogan. Johnson shared his thoughts:
“I can tell you a story,” Johnson said. “In 1971 it was our first time in America. We were coming to one of the venues and we were flying over Daytona. I was sitting next to our drummer and we flew over Daytona to the airport. It was something that we’d never thought we’d ever see—hallowed ground. The first thing we did, we landed and checked into the hotel and came straight here…just to stand. We took a little ride in the trolley thing, you know.
“To be amongst the drivers, like Scott Pruett, Max Pappis, Allen McNish and all the other guys—they’re just very friendly. This year it’s going to be better. We’re going to have a lot of fun.”
Four-time IndyCar champion, Dario Franchitti, knows a lot about winning.
“It’s fun to come back with the team, Franchitti said. “The team prepares a good car so we have a really good chance of contending. It’s a nice way to start the season. It’s always fun to show up and see the drivers from all different disciplines coming here and ultimately getting on the track and doing some good racing.”
Two-time IndyCar champion, Scott Dixon was eager like many of his fellow drivers.
“For most of us, it’s a great way to start the year,” Dixon said. “The stress level is not as quite as high, because you’re sharing the load with others. It’s more of a team, combined effort. It’s great to get back in the car, get some miles under the belt.”
IndyCar racer Justin Wilson, with experience in Formula 1 as well, explained how Rolex racing helps with skills:
“Like everyone else is saying, it’s just fun to start the year off this way,” Wilson said. “It’s a great environment. The cars are fun to drive, and it’s cool to be a part of Michael Shank Racing team. We’ll have a lot of fun.
“It’s seat-time at the end of the day, and you want to get as much preparation done before your actual season starts, So, it’s good to get that in. It lets you apply yourself in a different way. It keeps you thinking, keeps you working your skills as a driver. It’s a very different car than we always race, but you try to adjust to that and get the most out of yourself.”
ALMS champion, Joey Hand, explained the routine necessary for such a long sports car race:
“Here you have downtime,” Hand said. “You have four guys driving the car. You do some driving and have a lot of time off. You do some driving and then have a lot of time off.”
“When I first came here a long time ago, I wasn’t in good cars all the time. It’s kinda a lot of work, because you don’t really have a chance to win. The cars broke a lot. Now you come here and you drove for Ganassi and you know you got a chance to win. You got a durable car and great teammates. It’s a ton of fun.”
NASCAR driver, Juan Pablo Montoya has Formula 1 experience like Justin Wilson and has expectations about the race as well.
“You got to make sure every time you’re in the car you do your bit to help the car be up front,” Montoya said. “All of us do that. We give ourselves a chance and that’s how we play it.
‘It’s fun to be here. This year there will be a lot more Prototypes and I think a little bit hotter. You just got to be patient.”
NASCAR driver, A.J. Allmendinger, added his take on racing a sports car and the effects:
“I think that you get to start off the year,” Allmendinger said. “Kinda get into the flow of the racing season, especially after the holidays and just taking time off from race cars in general. To come back here, to get going and although the cars here are nothing like the Cup car, there’s nothing similar about it. Just to get back in that competitive nature, that’s the best thing to happen. Then on top of it, this race has always been so prestigious.”
NASCAR driver, Marcos Ambrose, has raced all types of cars across the world, but is at home at Daytona.
“It’s pretty handy to at least get some laps through January and get ready for Daytona Speedweeks and for everything that it entails. I really enjoy the atmosphere in the garage area. I know a lot of friends from Europe that I hadn’t seen in many years. To get to know all the drivers at Michael Shank Racing and the team, it’s a real pleasure to be around them. I’m enjoying my time—to come down here without a lot of pressure to try to help out where I can. I want to be behind the wheel as much as I can, so it’s a great way to start.”
Other drivers from around the world will join these skilled racers for the 51st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 26-27, 2013
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of motorsports topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanctions, teams or track representatives.