Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Speedweeks Notebook; Rolex 24 Race a Feature for Drivers of All Types

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Speedweeks Notebook; Rolex 24 Race a Feature for Drivers of All Types

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

The 50th Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona will start with 60 cars and more than 250 drivers, and the level of ability for both cars and drivers will be dramatic.

Most of the 14 Daytona Prototype teams have accomplished veterans. The GT Series, however, is peppered with wide variety of skill levels.

The pole-winning Ford-powered Riley prototype for Ryan Dalziel qualified at 126.741 mph. The slowest of the GT cars was clocked at 110.887.

While every driver must been vetted by Grand-Am Road Racing, the difference in experience and speed has been a major issue since the first race in 1962.

Closing speeds by the faster prototypes, especially at night, is the biggest challenge for the championship contenders.

"I absolutely believe there needs to be a higher set of standards put in place to make sure the guys are going racing have some amount of depth and experience," defending 24-hour and Grand-Am champion Scott Pruett said. "I know some of these guys personally out there, and I don't think this is the place for them to be. They're on the edge of being scared, they're not quite sure what' going on."

There were several accidents involving prototypes and the GT cars during a three-day test last month. Those sessions were broken into short runs, not a 24-hour marathon.

Grand-Am reaches out to other sports and entertainment platforms to bring star power to its biggest race of the season.

Movie stars and musicians have competed - actor Paul Newman finished first in class in 1995 on his 70th birthday - as well as athletes from other sports.

This year's race features the debut of AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson.

He's raced in vintage cars for more than 10 years, but this will be his first time in a high-speed prototype.

Hurley Haywood is the only five-time overall winner in race history. This year he will co-drive a GT Series entry from Jacksonville-based Brumos.

"I think during [last month's test] we saw a lot of DP cars get involved with the GT cars, and it's just because the GT cars, some of the drivers just really are not used to some of the closing speeds and it catches the DP guys out. …

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