ATLANTA (Jan. 17, 2007) – Having clocked the fastest laps in testing earlier this month for next week’s renewal of the annual Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona (Fla.), Max Angelelli and his No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley teammates of Wayne Taylor Racing are counting down the days until they return to the legendary 3.56-mile road circuit at Daytona International Speedway for Rolex 24 weekend Jan. 24-27.
Among the most unique and certainly one of the most demanding sports car racing venues in the world, the 14-turn Daytona road course incorporates most all of the speedway’s 2.5-mile NASCAR tri-oval, with 31 degrees of banking in the turns and 18-degrees at the start-finish line, and features roughly a mile of tricky lefts and rights snaking through the infield, as well as a chicane approaching NASCAR Turn 3 – affectionately known as "The Bus Stop" – that often becomes the most action-packed segment of the track on a typical weekend.
Thanks in large part to his personal success on this circuit, which includes a 2005 Rolex 24 victory with co-drivers Wayne Taylor and Emmanuel Collard in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac en route to that year’s series championship, Daytona has earned a very special place in Angelelli’s heart. He calls it one of his favorite places on earth, and that feeling was evident during the most recent (Jan. 4-6) three-day test, when his lap of 1 minute, 43.483 seconds (an average of 123.552 mph) was fastest among the more than 60 car-and-driver combinations that took part. Angelelli logged the fastest overall laps in four of the eight individual test sessions and hopes he and his teammates can continue that momentum when Rolex 24 weekend commences Jan. 25 with practice and qualifying.
Following is a hot lap around the historic Daytona road circuit as described by Angelelli:
Start-Finish Line to Turn 1 – "As you cross the start-finish line, you are in top (fifth) gear and bending slightly to the left as part of the NASCAR tri-oval. As you approach Turn 1, which takes you off of the banking on the front straight and into the infield part of the circuit, you are shifting down to second. It’s a very long brake, and the whole time you are bumping the throttle. At one point, you have to lift off the brake just before you get to the corner, and then you have to brake again to make sure the car is entering the corner properly. It’s very easy to go straight through that corner because you want to brake really, really late and it’s easy to make a mistake there. The only problem you’ll have there – provided there isn’t another car on your outside – is that you knocked over some of the orange cones that mark the turn. That, of course, and the time it takes to get back on track."
Turns 2-5 – "Next is a very subtle left-right-left combination (Turns 2, 3, 4) where you are merging with cars that are coming out of the pits on your left. It is very simple and straightforward through here as you are shifting up to third gear on the way to the right-hand hairpin (Turn 5). You want to end up on the far left side of the track as you approach the hairpin, shifting back down to first. It’s a very normal corner, but it is very tricky coming out of it depending on what kind of grip the track is giving you at the time. You want to have the best traction possible off of that corner because this is a place where you can lose time if you spin your wheels. The infield part of the track, in general, can get very slippery during the course of the race, and depending on the weather. So you always have to be aware of your tires and taking good care of them, or else you can be in big trouble through the infield."
Turns 6-7 – "After you exit the hairpin, you come to a fast, sweeping left-hand kink (Turn 6) where during the race you will lift off the throttle just a little bit. In qualifying, as I shift up to fourth gear, I can go through here flat-out. Then, it’s another long brake as I set up the car on the left side of the track and shift down to first gear for the long, right-hand corner (Turn 7). I’ve seen drivers take many different lines through this long corner. Some stay to the left, others stay to the right, all at different times. It’s really up to the drivers which one is the best to use. That makes me pretty happy because not many drivers use the line I use. I’m not going to tell you what that is, though. You are in first gear all the way around the right-hand turn."
Turn 8 – "As you come out of the right-hander, you shift up to second, then up to third for a short burst to the last corner of the infield, a hard left-hander that puts you back on the banked part of the NASCAR oval. You accelerate hard out of the right-hander, and then you are braking very hard as you come to the left-hander here. It’s very traditional going in, but very tricky coming out. Again, you have a lot of different options around this left-hander – inside, middle, outside. I still haven’t figured out exactly which one is the best. But as long as I’m turning competitive laps, I will stay with the way I’ve been doing it, lately. I won’t tell you which way that is right now, either. Anyway, this is an important corner because it leads to the fastest part of the racetrack."
Turn 9 – "As you get back onto the banking, you accelerate up to fifth gear quite quickly. I like to stay on the low line all the way around NASCAR Turns 1 and 2 (road course Turn 9). Some drivers prefer to stay in the middle, others like to stay high. I prefer to stay low. The speeds on our Daytona Prototypes get pretty fast here – more than 185 mph."
Turns 10-12 – "This is my favorite part of the track. You are coming off of the fastest segment, which is the NASCAR backstretch, and you brake very hard for the chicane while you are dropping down to third gear. It’s a hard left, a hard right onto a very short straight-ahead burst, and then a smooth left again as you rejoin the oval. Going out of here is very difficult because it’s very easy to over-steer, and spin. If you spin here, you hit the wall, which is definitely not a good thing."
Turns 13-14 – "After you congratulate yourself for doing the chicane correctly, again, you accelerate quickly from third to fifth as you go around NASCAR (Turns) 3 and 4. You make your way out of NASCAR 4 at top speed, you bend slightly to the left at the start-finish line, and you do it all over again. A lot of people seem to think these oval parts of the track are boring for us. But I think the opposite is true. At the speeds we travel, the time goes by very quickly. And these are the parts of the track that we must get past as many of the slower cars as possible because that is more difficult to do in the infield and in the chicane. So on the oval part of the track, you always have to keep your eyes focused as far down the track as possible because there are always cars to pass. The oval part of the track is also the time to make whatever adjustments need to be made to the car from inside the cockpit, to read the gauges and make sure everything is okay with the car, and the time to communicate with the team about the car and about our strategy."
Overall thoughts – "I really love Daytona. I love everything about the track. Our SunTrust car usually works very well there, and it lets me use some racing lines other people don’t use, so that makes me very happy. The atmosphere on race weekend is always very special. The 24-hour race is our first race of the year, which is always exciting. And you get to travel from the cold winter weather to the warm, Florida sunshine in the month of January. I’m really looking forward to getting back there next week."
SunTrust Banks, Inc., headquartered in Atlanta, is one of the nation’s la