GRAND-AM Series: Ganassi, Brumos Championships Among Top Stories of 2011
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas returned Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates to the Daytona Prototype championship, while Brumos Racing marked its return to GT competition with another title among the highlights of the 2011 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.
The TELMEX BMW/Riley won five of the 12 races – including the Rolex 24 – to lead Chip Ganassi Racing to its fifth DP team championship in eight years; Brumos Racing returned to its historic GT roots and captured its first championship since 1994; Bill Lester became the first African-American to win in GRAND-AM competition; Ricky Taylorbecame the first Rolex Series driver to lead every race in a season; Turner Motorsports won two races in one day at Homestead-Miami Speedway; and GAINSCO had a “worst to first” turnaround.
Off the track, GRAND-AM announced it would be competing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time, joining the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series in the first Super Weekend at the Brickyard; GRAND-AM announced the DPG3, the newest evolution of the Daytona Prototype; and Ferrari and Audi announced they were building cars especially for Rolex Series competition.
Seven different teams won in the GT division and five in the DP ranks, with nine of the races decided by a margin of victory of less than five seconds.
In chronological order, here are a few of the highlights from 2011:
Ganassi Slams Them Again: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates scored its fourth Rolex 24 At Daytona victory in six years, kicking off a successful defense of its Daytona Prototype championship. Termed the “Chip Slam,” the Rolex 24 victory followed Ganassi victories in the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 to give the team an unprecedented sweep of the four major events over a 12-month span. Lead drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas opened the season with three consecutive victories and led all the way to defend the championship – the fourth for Pruett and third for Rojas.
Auberlen, Dalla Lana Double Up: Turner Motorsport’s drivers Bill Auberlen and Paul Dalla Lana followed up their GT victory in the Grand Prix of Miami by winning that evening’s Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dalla Lana became a first-time winner in both series, and went on to capture the Grand Sport championship.
Lester Makes History: Bill Lester became the first African American to win in GRAND-AM competition, joiningJordan Taylor in capturing the GT class at Virginia International Raceway in April. It was the first victory for both drivers and Autohaus Motorsports. The team was in contention for the GT championship until the final lap of the season, losing by two points.
Action Express Claims The Bounty: After seeing Pruett and Rojas tally six straight victories dating back to 2010, GRAND-AM posted a $25,000 “Bounty” for the first team to stop the Ganassi duo. Action Express Racing drivers JC France, Terry Borcheller and Joao Barbosa stepped up to take the checkered flag .270 seconds ahead of Pruett at VIR, winning the bonus.
Taylor Leads Every Race: Ricky Taylor led all 12 races – including six in a row – to extend his record streak to 17 races. He joined SunTrust Racing teammate Max Angelelli in winning three races and finishing second in the DP championship. He also won six consecutive pole positions, one shy of the series record.
Historic Stop Set For 2012: Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that GRAND-AM’s Rolex Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge would participate in the 2012 Super Weekend at the Brickyard. Teams from both series held a successful Continental Tire test at the iconic speedway in early September.
Worst To First For GAINSCO: Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney scored no points after being eliminated early in the August race at Watkins Glen International. The two-time DP champs rebounded the following weekend with a dominating victory at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing.
Ferrari Flawless At Daytona: A Ferrari F458 Italia specifically designed by the factory for GRAND-AM competition completed a flawless two-day test at Daytona International Speedway in July – opening the door for fulltime Ferrari participation in 2012. In September, Audi announced it would build a special R8 to also join GT competition next season.
First Glimpse At Future Of DP: GRAND-AM unveiled the first image of the Riley DPG3 in September. Featuring a smaller greenhouse and more dramatic styling, the third-generation DP will debut at the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Brumos Back Home In GT: Returning to its historical GT roots after seven years in DP, Brumos Racing scored two victories and had drivers Andrew Davis and Leh Keen trailed by three points in the championship entering the season-ending race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. They finished fourth in the finale to win the championship by two points, giving the Jacksonville, Fla., team its 14th title – and first since Hurley Haywoodwon the 1994 North American GT Endurance Championship in a No. 59 Porsche.
A number of exciting additional announcements are expected over the off season, including additional versions of the DPG3 and the complete 2012 schedule.
The next activity for the Rolex Series will be testing at Barber Motorsports Park on Oct. 17-18, followed by sessions at Daytona in November and December. The 2012 season officially gets underway with Jan. 5-8 “Roar Before the Rolex 24” Test Days at Daytona International Speedway, leading up to the 50th anniversary running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Jan. 28-29.
Source: GRAND-AM Road Racing