First Indy test hailed a success
4 September 2009
Grand-Am Road Racing competitors and officials were pleased and optimistic following Thursday's first sanctioned test at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Nine Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series teams participated in the test, which included a pair of two-hour sessions. While the bulk of the time was spent on the 2.534-mile, 13-turn Formula 1 road course, teams also spent a short time on the modified 2.621-mile, 16-turn MotoGP layout.
"Let's go racing," said Scott Pruett after his first run in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' #01 TELMEX Lexus Riley he shared with Memo Rojas. "I think we'd put on a heck of a show. I have no question in our mind, compatibility is not an issue. The biggest question for me is, 'When are we going to race?'"
Rolex Series officials held debriefing sessions following both the morning and afternoon sessions.
"We had a fantastic welcome from the Speedway, the media and the entire community," said Grand-Am vice president of competition David Spitzer. "I had conversations with track leadership, and they were delighted by the buzz the test generated and the unexpected large number of people who came here to be part of the day.
"We're confident we will be able to put on a fantastic show at Indianapolis," Spitzer added. "The Speedway will work very well with our two-class format. We will continue to work with our tyre partner, Pirelli, along with the experience of NASCAR and will have no problem designing yires that can race here."
Joining Pruett and Rojas from the Daytona Prototypes at the test were Daytona Prototype point co-leader Jon Fogarty and Bob Stallings Racing owner Bob Stallings in the #99 GAINSCO Racing Pontiac Riley; Wayne and Ricky Taylor in the #10 SunTrust Ford Dallara; Michael Valiante, John Pew and Michael Shank in the #6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley; and Buddy Rice in the #90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Porsche Coyote. Indy Racing League veterans Ed Carpenter, Jonathan Klein, Scott Mayer and Ryan Lewis also turned laps in the Coyote.
Four Rolex Series Acxiom GT cars also tested: championship leaders Leh Keen and Dirk Werner in the #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3; Robin Liddell, Andrew Davis and Mike Johnson in the #57 BryanMark Financial/Stevenson Automotive Pontiac GXP.R; Sylvain Tremblay and David Haskell in the #70 SpeedSource/Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8; and team owner Kevin Buckler and Spencer Pumpelly in the #68 TRG Pontiac GXP.R.
"It's a pretty fun road course, and it's great to be here in the Grand-Am Rolex Series," said Fogarty, who leads the Daytona Prototype points with co-driver Alex Gurney with two races remaining in the 2009 season. "We put on spectacular racing, and I think we'd be able to do that here, too. Judging by the number of fans we had here, just for the test, there seemed to be a lot of interest, which is great. As a driver, you want to go where people appreciate what you do, and people in Indianapolis know racing. It's great to be a part of that."
Both sessions ran incident free, other than a couple of harmless spins.
"It's been exciting," said Rice, who won the 2004 Indianapolis 500 from the pole. "It's great to get back to Indy. I think the compatibility test has gone really well. A lot of people are excited about it. I think the course is good. There are a few things that we need to work on to make it better, but I don't think there's any major job that needs to be done. I think it's gone quite well."
The only other appearance of the Daytona Prototypes at Indianapolis was a private test for Vision Racing in January, 2007, preparing for that year's Rolex 24 At Daytona. Carpenter, Stephan Gregoire and car owner Tony George drove the team's Coyote in that session. The Speedway has also hosted several sports car tests on the famed 2.5-mile oval, most recently in 1965 by Jim Hall in a Chaparral Can-Am car.
The opening 15 minutes of the afternoon session were run on the MotoGP course, running in the same direction as the F1 course.
The next race for the Grand-Am Rolex Series will be September 19 at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City, Utah, followed by the October 10 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.