Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Even for Gordon, a Learning Experience; Cautious Tempo in Early Stages of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Even for Gordon, a Learning Experience; Cautious Tempo in Early Stages of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

DAYTONA BEACH | All 12 Prototypes in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona were new for this year, and that turned the early hours of the sports car marathon into a high-speed dress rehearsal.

With no leftover parts from last year's Daytona Prototype class, every team in the premier IMSA class had to be careful not to push too hard on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course - even if they didn't know how hard was too hard.

"We don't know what the breaking points are of the car yet," Joao Barbosa said. "With every lap, we learn a little more. We don't want to be tempted to push too hard."

Barbosa started on the pole in the No. 5 Cadillac DPi. That car, along with the No. 31 Cadillac and the No. 10 Cadillac from Wayne Taylor Racing took turns dominating the early hours of the race.

"This is the first time for the real deal," said Dane Cameron, who drives the No. 31 Cadillac from the same Action Express Racing shop as Barbosa's car. "In practice, it's hard to get a clean lap. It's hard to learn how to pace yourself. We're understanding how the car will reaction, what happens when we do this, when we do that."

Ricky Taylor drove the first stint for Wayne Taylor Racing, and he set a quicker pace than many expected. Although he was careful not to run over the curbing and he picked his passing zones carefully, he was told to build a cushion ahead of Jeff Gordon's time behind the wheel.

"We wanted to give Jeff a little bit of a gap for Jeff to take some of the pressure off him, but that didn't work out," Taylor said. "It would have been nice to give him a five-second lead."

At the same time, Taylor wasn't taking any chances.

"The unknown is a big part of it," he said. "We are taking it conservatively. Right now, everyone's a little conservative. I didn't want to crash the car and not give [Gordon] a chance to drive. Nobody wanted to see that."

Gordon lost traction during a restart for his first lap because he wasn't used to cold tires. …

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