Rolex 24-winning team-mates Antonio Garcia and Buddy Rice will be reunited in Grand-Am competition next month, having signed to co-drive Spirit of Daytona Racing's #90 Coyote-Porsche in the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway on 4 July.
The team will field a two-car Daytona Prototype entry for the event, with the #09 machine also racing, in the hands of Guy Cosmo and Scott Russell, in the Saturday afternoon sprint event that acts as warm-up for NASCAR's Sprint Cup event. The Brumos event will mark the Rolex Series debut for the newest-specification Coyote chassis, which Rice and Garcia will share at all remaining races on the 2009 calendar, with the exception of the Miller Motorsports Park round in September.
“We're really excited, not only to have Buddy and Antonio racing with us, but also to start the next chapter in our development with the Coyote chassis,” team owner Troy Flis commented, “We've been working flat-out to be ready to go with this car and, even though we have not logged too many miles with it in testing, I'm confident we can give it a good strong run at Daytona and am looking forward to building on that through the second half of the season with these guys.”
Former Indianapolis 500 victor Rice brings a wealth of experience to the programme, having driven countless open-wheel and sportscar machinery, and is looking forward to playing a part in the development of the latest Coyote.
“We want to make a good showing at Daytona of course, but it's more about the future and about developing the car, just getting the time, mileage, and understanding of what it takes to make this car fast,” he said, “We need to gather the miles and establish data points with the car and make some baby steps before really going after it. This weekend really is a first tune-up for the Rolex 24 next year, to see where this car is and what needs to happen in the next six months to be competitive in the 24.”
Garcia, who earned victories at Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans in the last twelve months, made his first appearance with Spirit of Daytona in qualifying for the six-hour event at Watkins Glen earlier this month, but never took to the track in the race as the car was retired early with transmission issues. However, the Spaniard has previous experience with an earlier iteration of the Coyote chassis, having come up just 0.064secs short of a Rolex Series win at Montreal last year.
“We need to find our way to make this car competitive,” he said while preparing to test the latest Coyote at Mid-Ohio, “We are learning what is working and what is not working. The most important thing is to establish a base-aero-wise and mechanical-wise. Grand-Am for me is the best category for the racing, it's the best endurance championship because there are a lot of cars and they are very close together. It's not at all fixed who will win because of the equipment. There is a wide open window, and that makes it very, very exciting.”