On Saturday, Jan. 4, the drivers and teams of the TUDOR United Sportscar Series once again took to the high banks of the Daytona International Speedway in preparation for the 52nd anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 25-26. As the temperature moderated from Friday's chilly start, the action on the track also began to heat up.
Jamie McMurray, winner of the 2010 Daytona 500, paced the Prototype (P) drivers with a lap of 1:38.980 (129.481 mph) in the No. 01 Telcel/Target Ford EcoBoost/Riley.
“The car is different from the one we raced here last year, with traction control, and it drives differently with the turbocharger," stated McMurray. "I’ve won the Daytona 500 and the Coke Zero 400, and even won in go-karts here. It would be awesome to win the Rolex 24.”
Sam Bird, runner-up in the 2013 GP2 championship and test driver for the past three seasons for the AMG Mercedes Formula One team, led Prototype Challenge (PC) with a lap of 1:42.010 (125.635 mph) in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM09.
“This is my first time stateside, my first endurance race and my first time in a PC car,” said the 26-year-old London driver. “So far, I’m really enjoying it. I hope I get many more opportunities to race in America."
Last year's second place P2 team in the American LeMans Series presented by Tequila Patron championship, Extreme Speed Motorsports, has to be one of the early favorites to claim the overall title during the inaugural IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season. Ed Brown, co-driver of the No. 2 Tequila Patrón Honda Performance Development (HPD) ARX-03b, turned his first laps of 2014 at the world center of racing during Saturday's test. He is not unfamiliar with the historic speedway, and hopes to have a good, competitive year.
"I’m comfortable here at Daytona," Brown stated. "We had two great sessions today putting laps on the car. We’re making progress and moving in the right direction. This track is pretty straightforward. We have one more day here, and we’re making continuous improvements and gains on these race cars. We’ll be in good shape for the race.”
The team also made headlines on Saturday by announcing that their sponsor, Tequila Patrón, will be featured as the entitlement partner for the ‘championship within the championship’ in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup. As the former title sponsor for the American LeMans Series, this move further solidifies the companies commitment to sportscar racing in the United States.
“It would be fitting to have one of the ESM cars win the North American Endurance Cup because Tequila Patrón is sponsoring it this season," Brown continued. "The key to winning the endurance races is finishing and gaining as many points as possible. The endurance races are long events and anything can happen. If we do our jobs as drivers and the team does its job, we should be in good shape not only for the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup, but for the overall championship title.”
Testing resumed on Sunday beginning at 10:15 a.m. ET, and includes an afternoon session from 2:30-3:30 p.m. The West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner will bring you a wrap-up of the test, and continue to cover breaking news in the series in the run-up to the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“This is going to be an exciting year," Brown concluded. "There are an impressive amount of cars entered for Daytona and that’s a great way to start the season. It should be a fun and exciting season for the drivers, teams and spectators.”
As one of the darlings of the garage area, Patrick Dempsey, owner of Dempsey Racing, is accustomed to the spotlight. The star of the ABC hit drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” Dempsey is known to race fans and competitors not as an actor who races, but as a racer who acts. His race team, on which he drives this season with teammates former GRAND-AM Rolex Series GT Champion Andrew Davis, Joe Foster and factory Porsche driver Marc Lieb, has delivered some strong finishes in the grueling twice-around-the-clock race, including a third-place podium finish in the GT class in the 2011 Rolex 24.
This year, Daytona International Speedway is partnering with Dempsey Racing for a special ticket offer for the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Available for $64 per ticket, the Dempsey Racing ticket package includes a two-day infield & general admission grandstand ticket for the 52nd anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, a 15-minute fan forum with all Dempsey Racing drivers on the Saturday morning prior to the start of the race, and a Dempsey Racing hero card. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this special ticket package will go to Dempsey Racing charities. Space is limited, so reserve your spot today.
Fans can also stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for the latest news all season long. Fans can follow the latest on DAYTONA Rising, the $400 million frontstretch renovation at the “World Center of Racing” by using #DAYTONARising on Twitter.
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