ALTON, Va. (April 22, 2008) – Racing, like a lot of other things in life, is all about timing. And for the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara team of Wayne Taylor Racing and its drivers Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante, the timing couldn’t be better for their annual visit to one of SunTrust’s most successful race tracks on the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series circuit over the last four years.
They’ll take to the scenic Virginia International Raceway 3.27-mile, 17-turn road course for Sunday’s Bosch Engineering 250, and they will be looking to rebound like never before after back-to-back racing setbacks at Homestead, Fla., and Mexico City.
Last weekend, at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in downtown Mexico City, Angelelli and the No. 10 SunTrust Racing machine were in position to capture a much-needed first-ever victory south of the border before getting spun from behind by the No. 7 Sigalsport BMW and crashing heavily into a concrete barrier, ending a promising run before the race’s halfway point and leaving the team with a devastating 18th-place finish.
That was precisely not what the doctor ordered for SunTrust’s championship hopes after Valiante was crashed into from behind by the No. 58 Brumos Porsche on a weekend when he qualified on the front row and led 20 of the opening 42 laps the previous race at Homestead Miami Speedway. That incident, which spoiled the much-anticipated debut of the all-new Dallara DP-01 Daytona Prototype and brightly colored SunTrust Racing paint scheme, ended in a 14th-place finish.
Considering SunTrust Racing has never finished outside the top-three in the Rolex Series season-ending points since the program started in 2004 – a run that included the 2005 championship for co-drivers Angelelli and team owner Wayne Taylor – sitting 46 points out of first place in the championship chase with 11 races to go is uncharted territory.
The good news is that there are still 11 races to go, and in the highly competitive world of Rolex Series racing, anything is possible. And even though its first two outings were marred by accidents, the new Dallara chassis – the creation of legendary race car manufacturer Dallara Automobili Spa of Parma, Italy – already has proven capable of qualifying at the front of the grid and leading laps despite relatively minimal track time since arriving at Wayne Taylor Racing’s Indianapolis shop the first week of February.
After arriving back at the shop from Mexico late Tuesday afternoon, the SunTrust crew at Wayne Taylor Racing was faced with having to make quick work of repairing the crash damage before turning the car around and sending it off to VIR Thursday evening. It’s a challenging task, to say the least, but Taylor, his drivers and crew are fully confident the new Dallara will be race-ready and competitive once again when it hits the track this weekend.
With the scenic layout at VIR having been particularly kind to them over the last four years, they’re hoping for more of the same when they get there. Angelelli and Taylor drove to SunTrust’s third-ever Rolex Series victory at VIR in 2004. In 2006, Angelelli was leading late in the race and was involved in one of the wildest finishes in series history – a dramatic five-car, nose-to-tail dash over the final laps – before bringing home a runner-up finish. Then, at last year’s VIR event, Angelelli and co-driver Jan Magnussen scored a milestone first victory for Wayne Taylor Racing, which was formed just the previous November, in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac.
If turning around its recent string of bad luck is the order of the day, it would appear for the SunTrust team that VIR is the place to be.
Practice for Sunday’s Bosch Engineering 250 begins Saturday morning with Daytona Prototype-class qualifying set for 3:50 p.m. EDT. Sunday’s 250-mile (or 2-hour, 45-minute) race begins at 1 p.m. with SPEED-TV’s delayed broadcast scheduled for the following Saturday (May 3) at noon EDT. The detailed event schedule, as well as live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions, can be found at www.grand-am.com.
Quotes from Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara:
After devastating results at Homestead and Mexico City the last two races, is it safe to assume you feel good about going to VIR, where SunTrust Racing has enjoyed perhaps more success than at any other track?
“VIR is a track where the SunTrust team has always run up front and has been very competitive. I’m very confident going there with our new Dallara. We will try to keep going and try to shoot for a good set-up like we’ve always had on race day at VIR. One of the reasons we’ve always been very good is that we’ve also been very good on strategy at VIR. When we won in 2004, and again in 2007, our team had a really good game plan. Our engineer, Travis Jacobson, found something that helped us a lot on race day last year. And our team manager, Simon Hodgson, is a master at race strategy. Hopefully, they work some more magic with the Dallara this weekend.”
As was the case at a lot of races last year, you and the team made your greatest improvements on race day at VIR, and it resulted in a victory. Do you feel you’ll be able to adapt to the track with the new chassis this year?
“We were just so-so in practice on Friday and in qualifying on Saturday last year. But we went from the middle of the field to being the best car in the race. That was thanks to some excellent and creative work by our engineers and crew. Exactly what the set-up will be like with the new Dallara will be a question mark because the car is so new. But we’ll be better than we were at Homestead and Mexico City and, hopefully, that will mean another good result for SunTrust.”
Quotes from Michael Valiante, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara:
It’s been a rough couple of races for the SunTrust team. How do you feel about heading to VIR this weekend?
“I am really looking forward to VIR because it is one of the best tracks to drive. It has very fast corners, which require a real commitment from the driver, and then it has slow, tight corners that challenge the driver’s discipline level. It was one of the first DP races that I led and had a chance to win in 2006. I think it will suit our SunTrust car very well. VIR is a fairly high grip track, which I think our car will like. I think it will be a great event for us because it will give us a chance to turn everything around.”
Quotes from Wayne Taylor, owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara team:
What are your overall thoughts heading to VIR this weekend, a track where you’ve won twice in the last four years?
“VIR has always been good to us. Obviously, in our preparation to go there, the biggest thing that concerned me is our guys have been working non-stop since October of last year. And just when you think you’re going to have a break by settling down into a normal race-by-race routine, what happened at Mexico City happened. The guys seem to be motivated now more than ever after what has happened the last two races. At the end of the day, we’ve been at the front and not at the back when the incidents happened at Homestead and Mexico City. So we know we are strong and we will win. The other stuff, we have no control over.”
You must certainly feel snake-bit after back-to-back weekends where the SunTrust car was taken out by somebody else. How are you dealing with that?
“I never, ever expected to have another accident at Mexico City. We’d gone four years with hardly anything happening to us. And now, all of a sudden, we introduce this brand new car, and we get crashed in both of our first two races. We’re really focused on going to a race and h