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TACH SPECIAL: Rolex 24: Let the testing begin

6 January 2001

By David Treffer
Contributing Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
It may only be testing but the Grand-Am Road Racing series is in full tilt for the 2001 season. The premier endurance race for North America-The Rolex 24 is considered the official beginning of the worldwide professional road-racing season. The test session also marks the beginning of the second season for the Grand American series. The evolution of the series from the USRRC has been one of many small steps. This year the series administrators want to solidify their image that the Grand-Am Series is here to stay.

The series will receive a major lift toward that goal during the Rolex 24. The race will be headlined with the participation by two of NASCAR's best-known drivers. Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt,Jr. will be co-driving with Andy Pilgrim in a GM Goodwrench Corvette for the 24-hour event. Needless to say, the publicity surrounding the two Winston Cup drivers has been extraordinary.

For this three-day test, 66 cars have registered. So far only 44 cars have posted times. The breakdown of entries reveals that 13 SRP (Sport Racer Prototype), 10 SRPII (Sport Racer Prototype Light), 11 GTS Grand Touring Sport), 23 GT (Grand Touring) and 9 AGT (American Grand Touring). Leading the speed charts is a team known for being at the top, the SRP (Sports Racing Prototype) Dyson Ford R&S team of James Weaver, Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger.

The important item to remember about testing is that the teams are not concerned about speed as they are about reliability and working out the bugs. Reliability in an endurance race is an obvious prerequisite. The other item that teams have to address is funding and sponsors. Racing and going fast requires a lot of money. The continual search for that magical sponsor is an on-going affair.

For some racers the test session might be their first time in a racecar in several weeks. Getting acclimated to the cockpit environment takes some time. For some drivers this might be their first time racing at Daytona. Learning to drive the high-banks of the speedway is not a simple task even for the veteran racer.

So the testing has started and the racers have arrived to begin their quest to achieve a podium finish at North America's best-known 24-hour race.

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot racing photos and art, visit The Racing Photo Museum and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.