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Grand-Am: Rookies take AIM at Daytona.

Despite being a rookie team, the AIM Autosport squad surprised many with its performance in the recent Rolex 24 at Daytona, as the team secured a fine fifth place finish in the round the clock race that kicked off the Grand Am season.

Mark Wilkins qualified the #61 Lexus Riley 17th in the top Daytona Prototype class, but started 27th after the car's starter balked at the green flag. He and his co-drivers David Empringham, Brian Frisselle and Burt Frisselle then logged consistent laps and the AIM crew executed smooth, penalty-free pitstops to finish fifth.

It was a result that put the team ahead of more established outfits near the front of the field and Andrew Bodin, who co-owns the team with Ian and Keith Willis said that one thing had been key to the teams success.

"It's definitely preparation," he reflected. "The team has to be calm, they have to be confident. To be up there, you need quite a bit of experience because things have to flow so smoothly. Ian and Keith are so meticulous in the way they do things that you see it in the result of the car."

AIM has 12 years of experience fielding multi-car teams in Formula BMW USA and the Star Mazda Championship, but the Rolex 24 was the team's first endurance race – meaning that the team was suddenly faced with an event as long as nearly 50 Formula BMW races.

However the team was ready for the challenge and hired experienced personnel to get the job done. Team manager Don Sobering, chief mechanic Kevin O'Reilly and data engineer Craig English quickly gelled into a cohesive force with race engineer Ian Willis. The drivers were equally impressive, flashing the car's striking gold-and-black livery around the 3.56-mile Daytona track for sponsors Exchange Traded Gold, Barrick Gold Corporation, RBC Royal Bank and Telus' Mike Network.

"The drivers did a fantastic job; they were consistently quick in their lap times. They couldn't do that without a good car that the crew put together," Bordin noted. "Everything went really smoothly. A lot of that was the experience of the guys who were hired into this programme. We come from the world of sprint races. These guys spent a lot of their time and energy explaining things. Communication was a big factor in getting us off to the right start.”

AIM is already tackling the next set of lessons, changing strategy to match the two-hour 30-minute format of the upcoming Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series races.

"We found a setup that was comfortable to run a certain pace for a long time,” Bordin explained. “It wasn't very knife-edge and it wasn't the fastest, but it was very consistent. When you have a safe car underneath you, it feels good, it's really comforting. But when you get to a sprint race, a safe car isn't the one that wins. So it's a different idea now. Looking ahead, we definitely have to focus on outright speed and taking the car to its maximum limit."


Related Pictures

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Max Angelelli / Jordan Taylor. GRAND-AM Championship Weekend Presented by BMW at Lime Rock Park. 2013 Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series
Max Angelelli / Jordan Taylor. Continental Tire Sports Car Festival. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. 2013 Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series
Action. VisitFlorida.com Sports Car 250 at Road America. Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series [Pic credit: Grand AM]
Starworks Motorsport BMW/Riley duo Brendon Hartley and Scott Mayer celebrate their first Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series victory at Road America [Pic credit: Grand AM]
Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor drive the #10 Velocity Worldwide Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the third race of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor drive the #10 Velocity Worldwide Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype (left) to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the third race of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Alex Gurney and Jo Fogarty, drivers of the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP (right) finish in second place. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
John Edwards and Robin Liddell, drivers of the # 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R., race to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the Grand Touring (GT) class of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
John Edwards and Matt Bell, drivers of the # 9 Camaro GS.R, race to second place Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
Juan Pablo Montoya, Memo Rojas, Scott Pruett and Charlie Kimball, co-drivers of the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates TELMEX/Target Ford BMW Riley celebrate their win in victory lane at the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 27, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Rolex Series action [Pic credit: Grand-Am]
Alex Popow and Sebastian Bourdais, drivers of the #2 Ford Riley, celebrate in Victory Lane after wininng the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Alex Popow and Sebastien Bourdais, drivers of the #2 Soloson Ford Riley, celebrate after winning the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
The winning #60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Ford Riley car is brought into victory lane after a gruelling 50th anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona. [Picture Credit: Daytona International Speedway]
Action Express win the Rolex 24 [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Derek Johnston [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Wilkins/Frisselle - AIM Autosport [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Spencer Pumpelly - TRG Porsche [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Borcheller/Barbosa - Action Express Racing Porsche Riley [Pic credit: Grand Am Media]

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