MONTREAL (July 29, 2008) – First impressions being what they are, the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac team of Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) left a lasting one on the race fans of Canada a year ago this weekend when it stormed to its second victory of the season in the first-ever Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at the legendary home of the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
On Friday, Max Angelelli and his co-driver, Canadian Michael Valiante of Vancouver, B.C., look to make it two-for-Canada for the SunTrust team when they take to the 2.708-mile, 15-turn road circuit for Round 10 of the 2008 Rolex Series campaign.
They’ll be behind the wheel of the all-new Dallara chassis that debuted July 3 in the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway with a strong second-row qualifying effort and an impressive early race run in the lead before a tire puncture took them out of contention.
One race ago, on July 20 at Barber Motorsports Park outside Birmingham, Ala., Valiante put SunTrust on the pole for the third time this season in only the second race for the new Dallara chassis. Valiante had earlier started from the pole in the original SunTrust Pontiac Dallara at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) in Alton, where he ran up front before being taken out by Memo Rojas in the series point-leading No. 01 Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entry. Rojas was subsequently penalized and put on probation for the incident. That original Dallara chassis, meanwhile, was lost in a catastrophic transporter fire May 19 along with the rest of WTR’s entire stock of spare parts, tools, equipment and race track apparel.
Angelelli and Valiante hope Friday’s third outing for the new Dallara is the charm as they look to rekindle the magical weekend of a year ago that ended atop the podium in Montreal’s ever-so-festive atmosphere and a packed house of Canadian race fans. Racing the now-retired SunTrust Pontiac Riley chassis, Angelelli and co-driver Jan Magnussen proved to be the strongest race car from the opening minutes of practice, through a front-row qualifying run, and while leading a race-high 45 of 68 laps en route to SunTrust’s 11th Rolex Series win dating back to 2004.
This week’s challenge for Angelelli and Valiante will be to try and repeat last year’s win with a Dallara chassis still in its Rolex Series infancy, but one that has proven, quite emphatically, to be a fast qualifier on every type of circuit it has visited thus far – from the wide-open high banks of Daytona to the tight, twisty and technical Barber Motorsports Park layout, and everything in-between.
In six outings between the original Dallara and its replacement, the newly designed chassis from the legendary Italian race car manufacturer has three front-row starts, including the poles at Barber and VIR, and it has shown its ability to fight its way into the lead with a total of 44 laps led. This week, Angelelli, Valiante and their WTR teammates hope their lightning-fast Dallara, coupled with a little Montreal magic from a year ago, helps them find the lead once again, most importantly the lap punctuated by the checkered flag.
Practice for Friday’s 200-mile (or two-hour, whichever comes first) race takes place Thursday afternoon from 12:30-5:30 p.m. EDT. Qualifying is set for 1:30 p.m. Friday, followed by the race at 4:15 p.m. SPEED-TV’s delayed broadcast begins at 8 p.m. Friday. The detailed event schedule, as well as live timing and scoring during all on-track sessions, can be found at www.grand-am.com.
Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara:
It’s back to Montreal this weekend, where you enjoyed your last victory for SunTrust. What are your expectations heading back there to defend your race victory?
“Montreal was really good to us last year. We have the new Dallara there for the first time, which will make it a challenge like it is everywhere we go with it for the first time. But we are using the same tools that we had last year, like lap simulation programs, which we just started using in Montreal last year. I’m pretty confident the SunTrust car will be fast. Depending on the weather conditions – in Montreal, rain is always very possible – that feeling might change. But if we have a clean, sunny race, I am confident we can have our second podium of the year, or better.”
Safe to say you like the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve since you won there last year, even though it was your first time on the track?
“It’s a good track, a very friendly track from a driver’s point of view. The track is like driving on a street track because you have the bus stops (chicanes), it feels like you’re inside the city, and it is almost walking distance from downtown. The whole atmosphere is very enjoyable. There are lots of people walking outside. It’s just fantastic. There are lots of tourists. The location of the race track, the city, the time of the year, the history related to the track, the fact that F1 has gone there since the early days, the track is named after a famous driver – all of those things, combined, make the weekend very exciting.
What was the key to victory at Montreal last year?
“I was kind of surprised with the win last year, since it was my first time on that track. I was surprised, yes. I was happy with what we did last year, and I was happy with the team. They just set up the car so well. It was so fast. We never changed anything on the car the whole weekend. All we did was pit for tires and fuel and the driver change. It was amazing how smoothly everything went.”
Michael Valiante, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara:
For the first and only time this season, you have the luxury of leaving your home in Vancouver for a race weekend and you don’t have to bring your passport. Are you looking forward to racing in Canada this weekend?
“I’m really looking forward to Montreal because, even though it’s a few thousand miles from home, it’s the closest thing I have to a home race. It’s great to be racing in my home country. It’s an unbelievable facility, there. It hosts F1 races, as well, so it’s definitely one of the best tracks we visit. Montreal is one of the oldest cities in Canada. There is lots to see, great night life, and lots of restaurants. It’s simply one of the best events on the calendar.”
You raced at Montreal last year with the (No. 19) Ganassi team and had a good run for a while. Is this a track that you particularly enjoy?
“It will help that I’ve driven that track. Almost everybody else was there last year, as well. The most positive thing I have going into this race is that it’s a place I like. I really enjoy driving there. Any time you enjoy driving a track, it’s bound to be one of your strongest events of the year. The location is just spectacular. It’s basically on a piece of land between two rivers, so it’s quite picturesque. In terms of driving it, it’s technical and fast, and it’s maintained really, really well. The surface is smooth and there are lots of places to pass. Last year, I jumped in the car around 15th place and got up to third with a half-hour to go. Then (Scott) Pruett hit me from behind and flattened a tire. It was inadvertent contact, but it still dropped us way back.”
Wayne Taylor, owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara team:
Coming back to a race track as defending race-winner is always special. Do you think that feeling might help push the team over the top once again this week?
“It was a good weekend for us last year. Everybody has those kinds of weekends from time to time. You just wish you had more of them. This year is quite different than last year. We were running a c