Michael Shank Racing took first blood ahead of the Grand-Am 24 Hours at Daytona after Michael Valiante secured the fastest lap of the day in the 'Roar Before the Rolex 24'.
Kicking off three days of testing for the Grand-Am contingent ahead of the race in a fortnight's time, Valiante ran a time of 1min 41.760secs to haul himself and co-drivers AJ Allmendinger, John Pew and Ian James to the top of the timesheets.
Settling into the team well having switched from SunTrust Racing, Valiante praised Michael Shank Racing for making him feel welcome.
"The car is working real well, and the team has been phenomenal. The team is working well together in the short amount of time I've been here, and they've made it real easy for me to come in and drive the car. We've been working well since the first test here in October."
The opening session was topped by reigning champions and last year's Daytona winners TELMEX Target Chip Ganassi Racing, with Scott Pruett fronting their effort. He will be joined by Memo Rojas and Juan Pablo Montoya for this year's race.
"It's always nice to pick up after a winning season," Pruett said. "Last year was huge for Ganassi Racing, winning our third in a row. Now, we're going for four, and that says a lot about the team and the commitment Ganassi has made. We haven't been in these cars since the end of last season, and we missed the testing here in October and November. To come here right out of the box and be fastest in our opening practice is a great way to start the year."
Franchitti, who was also part of the 2008 winning team, jumps to the sister Ganassi car for 2009, where he will race alongside fellow single-seater racers Scott Dixon and Alex Lloyd. He is confident of posing a race win challenge again
"Chip's going for four in a row, so it should be pretty exciting," Franchitti said. "That's an amazing statistic, and it speaks volumes for the job that this team does. The team has done a great job preparing the car, as usual, and it's always exciting to come back to Daytona. It's good to be in the car with Scott.
“We've raced against each other for a long time, so it's nice to be in the same car now, because it gives us a chance to work with each other. My engineer, Chris Simmons, is engineering the No. 02 car, so that will also help get us ready for the IndyCar season. If you look at the entry list, there are many, many strong teams. But these guys are up to the challenge."
Elsewhere, David Donohue led the evening session until the closing minutes, his Brumos Racing Porsche Riley, which he will share with Darren Law and Buddy Rice, ensuring a mix of engine providers in the leading positions.
"The Brumos guys did a great job, because we had issues with the engine in the afternoon session. It started making funny sounds, so the guys went ahead and changed it between sessions. We went out towards the end of the session, and what can I say, the car is good. We've done a lot of testing here, so we're pretty pleased."