Following the announcement that the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series would merge in 2014 creating the United Sportscar Series, debate ensued as to whether the technologically inferior Daytona Prototypes would be able to muster the speed necessary to compete with the ALMS P2 class. On Wednesday, Oct.9, that debate was put to rest as Colin Braun turned the fastest lap ever recorded on the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway oval, piloting Michael Shank Racing’s Ford EcoBoost-powered Daytona Prototype to a lap of 222.971 mph (40.364 sec.).
Braun’s single-lap speed topped Bill Elliott’s record of 210.364 mph set during qualifying for the Daytona 500 in 1987. Subject to homologation from the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), Braun also set new world speed records for 10 kilometers from a standing start and 10 miles from a standing start. Braun’s 10-km speed was 202.438 mph and the 10-mile speed was 210.018 mph. The 10-km and 10-mile world records were previously held by Hans Liebold, who drove a Mercedes-Benz Turbo to a 10-km speed of 199.101 mph and a 10-mile speed of 208.316 mph from a standing start in Nardo, Italy on May 5, 1979.
“It’s certainly really special to hold the record here at Daytona,” Braun said. “This is the place where I got my first professional sports car win in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series with a Ford-powered DP car. It’s always been a historic place for a lot of people. This is hallowed ground here at Daytona, so it’s really special to hold the record at this place. To get to do it with a group of guys like Mike Shank and with the new EcoBoost Ford motor, it’s a special day, for sure.”
The record speed runs come on the heels of the earlier announcement that Michael Shank Racing became the first team to utilize Ford’s new 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V6 EcoBoost engine in its Daytona Prototype heading into the 2014 debut of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. It was the culmination of a process that began several months ago for Shank.
“I can’t believe, in my whole racing career, that I’d have an opportunity to do something like this,” Shank said. “I never thought we could. If you think about how fast we went around here in a Daytona Prototype car is a little bit surreal. This thing is extremely fast and I’m extremely proud of it. I think it bodes well for the future of sports car racing in the U.S. Daytona Prototypes are not slow cars. They are very, very capable cars and I think we proved that here today.”
The record runs were also a source of pride for GRAND-AM founder Jim France, who spearheaded the use of Daytona Prototypes as the top category for the Rolex Sports Car Series since 2003 and through the completion of the series last month. France will serve as chairman of the new International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), which will sanction the TUDOR Championship. The series, which results from the merger of the Rolex Series and the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, will include Daytona Prototypes in its top class as well.
“It was a very special, exciting day to be able to set the track record with a Daytona Prototype,” France said. “I think it was very appropriate and very exciting. For Ford with their new EcoBoost engine, for Mike Shank and everybody involved at Ford Motor Company and their engineers and everybody who worked on the project, it’s wonderful to come to a great conclusion like this.”
The new EcoBoost V6 engine represents a renewed commitment from Ford to North American sports car racing and the TUDOR Championship in particular. Ford Racing Director Jamie Allison was on hand throughout the speed runs at Daytona and was thrilled with the performance of his company’s new powerplant.
“It’s a very proud day for all of us at Ford,” said Allison. “To take a Ford EcoBoost engine that is basically production technology, and to beat speed records that have been on the books for decades really says something for our new engine.
“It’s a great way to kick off a new era of EcoBoost and sports car racing for Ford. Now we’ll start getting it ready to make its competition debut in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship in January.”
The inaugural TUDOR Championship opens with the 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 25-26, 2014. Tickets are available by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or visiting the speedway website.
Fans can catch the latest news leading up to next season by following the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron, and the Sunoco Rolex 24 at Daytona Challenge , as well as the West Palm Beach Motorsports examiner for the latest inmotorsports, no matter how many (or how few) wheels the vehicle may have! 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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