Forty cars were on hand for the first of two days of Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series testing at Daytona International Speedway, as teams and drivers logged nearly eight-and-a-half hours of quality track time in preparation for the forthcoming 2009 season.
The test was the first time that teams had used the 2009-specification Pirelli PZero tyres, and saw 20 cars from each category participating, including the 'new' #4 Childress-Howard Motorsports Porsche Crawford, two Michael Shank Racing Ford Rileys and the SpeedSource Mazda RX-8s. Brian Frisselle made his debut with the SunTrust Racing team and the man he replaced, Michael Valiante, with MSR,
Several teams were involved in minor skirmishes and incidents, but no car was severely damaged and no driver seriously injured. No times were issued for the session, as will be the case throughout testing.
While the new Penske operation took time out of the day to change an engine in its entry, the Childress-Howard alliance enjoyed a successful session with Andy Wallace and Rob Finlay sharing the wheel of the #4 car in preparation for January's Rolex 24.
"I think it's come quite far," said Wallace of the effort, which had its lone outing in the Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen International in August, where the British veteran and co-driver Andy Lally finished 19th.
"The car is very well balanced," Wallace added, "I'm very happy with the engine we've got in. This is a new one from Watkins Glen. We've had a little bit of problem getting the car started, which is a shame, but, other than that, it feels really good. We've had a few people working very hard in Denver, North Carolina since Watkins Glen, trying to improve every part of the car, and I think we have.
"It's a big thrill to be driving Mr Childress' car. He wants to get serious about sportscar racing, and I've been the lucky recipient to get the car ready and, ultimately, try to win races. I think we'll be right up there where we need to be, and I'm really, really happy to be back here. I miss not doing to the whole season, and I'm looking forward to this.
"It's a bit of a sting in the toe to have the Rolex 24 as the first race of the season. If it was halfway through the season, you'd know the car a lot better by then. With a new car, you've got to find out exactly what it likes."
Finlay, having run his own DP outfit in the past, was also happy with the updated Crawford.
"They are two completely different cars," he said, comparing new and old, "This one is really good, but it's completely different. We're going through our first day trying to get everything working together but, overall, I'm really pleased."