Pirelli P Zeros handle the heat at Daytona
The Independence Day running of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway was the second race at the storied track this season.
However, unlike the mild January temperatures of the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, Saturday’s July 4th race was run in the extreme heat and humidity indicative of the deep-south during the dog days of summer -- testing the limits of the P Zero Racing Slicks and challenging race teams to overcome the super-high track temperatures.
In a nail-biter, race-winner Max Angelelli and runner-up Alex Gurney waged a side-by-side battle on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course in the final 20 laps of the 70-lap/250 mile sprint that was run in the searing heat and humidity of the Fourth of July afternoon. Although Gurney twice edged the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley past Angelelli’s No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara, it was the top Italian sports car star that eventually overcame to score the victory.
Angelelli’s .270-of-a-second margin of victory over Gurney was the fifth-closest finish in Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series history.
“This track -- with the configuration -- this heat, and the time of day the race is run is really something that a tire manufacturer really does not look forward to,” said Angelelli, who co-drove to his first victory with young American teammate Brian Frisselle.
“But on the Pirelli side I should say, I am… happy because the tires were really good. Many, many drivers set their fastest laps at the end of their stints, several times, so the tires were good.”
Frisselle won a pair of races on Pirellis last year as a co-driver of the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley and now has his third career Daytona Prototype victory on P Zeros in the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara.
“The greatest challenge for any tire is this type of heat and the tires stayed underneath our car and we ended up P1,” Frisselle said, “so obviously we had great tires. Our team was asking the most of the tire by running so trimmed out and just by the nature of this track and the heat. We asked the absolute most of the tire and the Pirelli was there.”
SunTrust’s first victory of the year and GAINSCO’s fourth podium in seven races tightened the Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype championship standings. Saturday’s seventh-place finishers Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley still lead with 199 points, SunTrust and its drivers have 198 points and the GAINSCO squad has 196 points.
In GT action, Dirk Werner and Leh Keen drove the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche GT3 to its third consecutive victory and fourth win in the last five races. Werner held off Sylvain Tremblay by 1.531 seconds and denied the No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 started by Nick Ham its third consecutive Brumos Porsche 250 victory.
“Today, again, the Pirelli was a very good tire for our car,” said Werner, who extended his co-lead in the Rolex Series GT points standings. “It seems like over the last few races we have really kind of figured out how to treat the tire in driving and how to adjust the set up to get a good race car. For us, the Pirelli was a perfect tire today.”
Werner, Keen and the No. 87 team have 221 points atop the GT standings, 29 points ahead of the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, which finished ninth in GT in the Brumos Porsche 250.
Five races remain on the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series schedule. Next up is the Porsche 250 presented by Legacy Credit Union at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, July 17-19. The Barber race can be seen live on SPEED at 3 p.m. ET, Sunday, July 19th.