Rolex 24 Hours preview


Last year’s season-opening Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona featured a tremendous battle through the final three hours between Juan Pablo Montoya and David Donohue. Donohue scored the biggest win of his career as the 42-year-old overcame Montoya’s unrelenting efforts, using his Riley-Porsche’s superior power to take the lead from Montoya with 40 minutes to go and holding on to win one of the most exciting Rolex 24 Hour finishes in recent history by just 0.167sec.


Donohue’s Brumos Riley-Porsche is again among the favourites to win this year’s race, as is Montoya, who returns with Chip Ganassi’s two-car team of star-studded drivers including Dario and Marino Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Justin Wilson, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas. Ganassi’s team won the race three years in a row from 2006-08 but has switched from Lexus to BMW engines this year.


Another favourite is Bob Stallings’s Grand-Am championship-winning Gainsco team. Once again defending champions Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty will be joined at Daytona by four-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson and former CART champion Jimmy Vasser. The Rolex 24 is one of the few Grand-Am races the team has not won, but Gurney is optimistic about its chances at Daytona.

“Obviously it’s a really big challenge,” he says. “Ganassi has won that race a lot of times and we’ve learned a lot from watching those guys. I think that race tests how good your team is more than any other. There are so many things involved and you’ve got to be on top of everything. Just knowing the things that [can] break on the car and having disciplined drivers who stay out of trouble, all those things are going to make a difference. I think we’re in a position where we’re ready to win it. We’ve got all our ducks in a row.”

The team’s only change for 2010 is a switch from Pontiac to Chevrolet engines, a change in branding rather than equipment. “Last year showed you need the power when three or four cars are on the lead lap and you need to pass,” says Fogarty. “It’s so tough. You need everything going for you to win that race.”

Team owner Bob Stallings is very impressed with NASCAR champion Johnson (below). “Jimmie is a really talented driver,” he says. “The first time we put Jimmie in the car it was raining and I was scared to death because I didn’t know if a Cup driver could drive in the rain. And he was awesome, just really outstanding. He’s fascinated by our kind of racing. He feels that when he gets in our car he has a chance to win.”


Gurney couldn’t be happier to have Johnson and Vasser back for Daytona. “It’s definitely a good thing,” he says. “There are no unknowns and that makes a big difference for this race. We don’t have to worry about how these guys fit in the car or how the driver changes work. It makes it a lot easier and we’ll all be less highly-strung.”

Fogarty agrees: “Having Jimmie and Jimmy back, the same old crew, is great. They’re both super-capable and they both want to win it really badly.”

The weather forecast for northern Florida this weekend is for clear skies and mild temperatures, so the race should be run in ideal conditions under a full moon. Here’s hoping for another fierce battle and an interesting result.

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