|Jeff Gordon is sharing the seat with Max Angelelli, Wayne Taylor and Jan Magnussen for the Rolex 24. Credit: Daytona International Speedway|
January 7, 2007
02:35 PM EST (19:35 GMT)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley lineup of Max Angelelli, Wayne Taylor, Jeff Gordon and Jan Magnussen executed their game plan in workmanlike fashion at this weekend's three-day test for the Jan. 27-28 Rolex 24 at Daytona, finishing four of the eight track sessions atop the speed charts and bringing home the best lap of the weekend among the 63 car-and-driver combinations that took to the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road circuit.
Angelelli, who co-drove the SunTrust Racing machine with Taylor to a Rolex 24 victory in 2005 en route to that year's Grand-Am Rolex Series championship, turned a fast lap of 1 minute, 43.483 seconds (an average of 123.552 mph) Saturday morning that set the pace for all competitors. The Italian had previously clocked fastest session times during Thursday's morning and late-afternoon sessions, and Friday's afternoon session.
He shared seat time throughout the weekend with Taylor, who this season adds the responsibilities of team owner to his role as driver for the newly formed Wayne Taylor Racing organization, as well as veteran Formula One, Champ Car and sports car racer Magnussen, and four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Gordon. They alternated positions at the top of the speed charts with the fellow Daytona Prototype-class entries from the Sigalsport BMW team, the defending-race-champion Ganassi Racing Lexus team and the SAMAX Pontiac team.
"It's been a successful three days of testing, but we know that our work has only begun," Taylor said. "We do leave Daytona with bragging rights, but as far as we're concerned, they only apply to this weekend. What matters most is where you are when the checkered flag falls on Sunday [Jan. 28]. But the results here this weekend are a great payback for everyone in the SunTrust Racing organization who has donated the last three months of their lives to this program. It's rewarding to see that all the hard work and dedication has not gone in vain. It's also a great motivator for everyone to try and keep this momentum going all the way through Rolex 24 weekend.
"From what we saw this weekend, the race promises to be one of the most memorable in history. My feelings are that Grand-Am has done a great job with parity. There seem to be 15 or 20 cars that are capable of winning this race.
"As for Jeff [Gordon], he did another great job for two solid days and I think he left here feeling very confident about coming back and contributing to a really strong race effort."
Angelelli, Gordon and Magnussen echoed Taylor's sentiments with regard to the SunTrust team's preparation since the formation of Wayne Taylor Racing last fall, and its overall excellence during the Daytona test.
"It was a very successful weekend for the SunTrust team and we leave here with a combination that makes us really excited for the race," Angelelli said. "We got all of our drivers plenty of time in the car, and we had a very nice confirmation from Jeff [Gordon] that what we saw from him at Homestead was another very talented driver for our team. We still have a lot of work to do after everything we learned this weekend. But, overall, everyone on the SunTrust team can feel good about the results we showed here this weekend."
Gordon, who was behind the wheel of a sports car at the famed track for the first time, agreed.
"Overall, I think things are headed in the right direction," Gordon said. "You always feel like you can use more seat time as a driver, but I think we got a lot of quality time this weekend and I'm quickly getting a good feel for the car. I got a chance to drive at night, which I've never done before in a car with headlights. I didn't get a chance to drive in the rain, but we'll deal with that if and when we need to come race weekend.
"There are a few sections of the track I need to work on, but there will be time for that. One of the more difficult things is getting used to all the traffic, and that's important because you can either gain or lose a lot of ground on any given lap. That's something I'll get more and more used to as we go along. All in all, I'm really happy with the chance to drive for the SunTrust team. I'm having a lot of fun, but I'm here for much more than that. I really believe this is a team that can bring home a win."
Magnussen flew in from his native Denmark in time to drive briefly during Friday's night session, then the entire final practice Saturday.
"I'll have to say I'm very happy with everything," he said. "I got to work on some long runs and it took very little time to feel comfortable in this car on this track. Now, it's just a matter of making slight improvements and fine-tuning various things so we can come back on race weekend and pick up where we left off."
Magnussen co-drove with Angelelli in the SunTrust car at six events in 2006, scoring a victory at Laguna Seca (Monterey, Calif.) and capturing the team's first pole position at Infineon Raceway (Sonoma, Calif.).
Rolex 24 at Daytona race weekend commences with practice and qualifying on Thursday, Jan. 25. Race time is 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 27 with FOX carrying the opening 90 minutes of the race live, and SPEED providing periodic coverage through race's end.