The longtime GRAND-AM Road Racing team grabbed the second best clocking on the overall time sheets in its first official outing with its BMW/Riley.
As the echoes of last weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 died away, the biggest surprise of the three days of testing was the progress made by the neophyte Daytona Prototype effort of Team Sahlen. The longtime GRAND-AM Road Racing team grabbed the second best clocking on the overall time sheets in its first official outing with its BMW/Riley co-driven by Dane Cameron, Wayne Nonnamaker, Simon Pagenaud and Bruno Junqueira.
Team Sahlen competed in the GT class in 2012, winning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and previously was successful in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.
Sahlen’s No. 42, with Cameron behind the wheel, posted a lap of 1 minute 42.101 seconds/125.523 mph, just 0.043 second off Michael Valiante’s 142.058/125.576 in the No. 6 Ford/Riley that topped the 17-car Daytona Prototype field.
Teams now have less than three weeks to digest testing results and make last-minute adjustments before returning to Daytona International Speedway for their season opening race. The 51st running of the Rolex 24 At Daytona will be held Jan. 26-27. The Continental Tire GRAND-AM 250 is set for Jan. 25.
Fifty-five Rolex series teams were on-track during the Roar while 55 Continental Tire GS and ST cars recorded lap times during the test.
From Team Sahlen’s perspective, it was nice to see all the hard work has paid off.
“But we know that this was only the test,” said Will Nonnamaker, Team Sahlen’s sporting director. “No one hands out trophies for test times.”
Nonnamaker credits the veteran Cameron, along with lead engineer Catherine Crawford, for bringing the freshman DP outfit into a contending role. Both have significant DP experience. The team used the second half of the past season as a “test bed” for its Daytona Prototype campaign and tested its new cars at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Daytona in the waning days of 2012.
“All of this testing cramped into a short period of time resulted in our lap times at the Roar,” said Nonnamaker. The organization will field at second entry at Daytona, the No. 43 which will be co-driven by Tomy Drissi, Joe Nonnamaker and Joe Sahlen. Nonnamaker expects that car to gain speed when they return for the race.
“The benchmark for Daytona Prototypes is Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates,” said Nonnamaker of the five-time Rolex 24 At Daytona winner. “And how they get there is being near the front at the end of the race. Thus we are working hard back at the shop to make sure we have built a reliable Daytona Prototype.”