|GRAND AMERICAN ROAD RACING ASSOCIATION|
|SunTrust Pontiac Riley Third-fastest in Street-circuit Qualifying|
|Five of Top-10 Daytona Prototypes are Powered by Pontiac|
|Strong Qualifying for Pontiac Race Cars At Long Beach |
No.10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley Third-fastest in Street-circuit Qualifying
Five of Top-10 Daytona Prototypes are Powered by Pontiac
After a rough start to the 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series, Pontiac-powered Daytona Prototype (DP) race cars are once again showing qualifying performances similar to last year, when the brand took top honours with DP manufacturers, team and drivers championships. A strong qualifying by Jan Magnussen, filling in for Wayne Taylor in the No.10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley, has put the car on the third spot of tomorrow's starting grid. Magnussen posted a fastest time of 1:20.255 seconds, not far behind pole-sitter Luis Diaz's high time of 1:19.891 seconds.
"For me it was a matter of getting as many laps as possible to get comfortable with the car," said Magnussen. "Everything was new to me - towards the end I felt more comfortable and confident and the team kept me updated on my position which helped even more. I'm really happy with third, but of course we always want to do better."
This weekend is a new experience for Magnussen and for the Rolex Series overall; this is the first time the series will run a race on a street course and Magnussen, who co-drove the No.64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R in the GT class of the Rolex Series last year, is new to the championship-winning Pontiac Riley. Magnussen is filling in for co-driver Wayne Taylor - who is concentrating more on team management duties this weekend - and joins Max Angelelli in the No.10 car. Angelelli was not present at qualifying; the Italian was flown today from Long Beach to Texas for the second round of the International Race of Champions (IROC) series, in which he placed sixth out of 12 competitors.
Pontiac-powered cars qualified third, fifth, sixth, eighth and 10th in today's two 25 minute qualifying sessions - a strong showing which shows promise for Pontiac in tomorrow's race. The brand is still looking for their first DP class victory this year; this is in stark contrast to last year's season where Pontiac won 10 of 14 races with 5 podium sweeps. However, Pontiac leads the Rolex Series GT class standings in manufacturer, driver and team points with their two GTO.Rs. The GTO.Rs and the rest of the GT class field will not race here in Long Beach; the course and tight time schedule will not allow for the large field to participate in this weekend's activities.
Mario Haberfeld of the No.12 Lowe's Fernandez Pontiac Riley gave Pontiac's second-best qualifying effort; his previous experience in CART open-wheel racing may have played a role in his fifth-place showing. The Brazilian finished ninth here in his two CART races here, the most recent being in 2004.
"The track feels quite a lot different in this car than in open wheel cars because you don't see the wheels - you're not exactly sure how far off you are from the wall," said Haberfeld. "It's just a matter of getting used to it and you don't get much time here. I did about four or five of the same laps and then we changed the bars inside the car and it was about a tenth quicker; I don't think we could have gone much quicker but we're much better than we were at Homestead."
Friday DP grid positions (Top 10)
Pos. No. Car Time
1 01 Lexus Riley 1:19.891
2 23 Porsche Crawford 1:20.080
3 10 Pontiac Riley 1:20.255
4 19 Ford Crawford 1:20.279
5 12 Pontiac Riley 1:20.665
6 4 Pontiac Crawford 1:20.789
7 3 BMW Riley 1:20.907
8 99 Pontiac Riley 1:21.021
9 39 Porsche Crawford 1:21.063
10 89 Pontiac Riley 1:21.176
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