Date: April 26, 2008
Event: Bosch Engineering 250 at VIR
Series: Daytona Prototype division of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series
Location: Virginia International Raceway, Alton, Va. (3.27-mile, 17-turn road course)
Pole Winner: Michael Valiante of SunTrust Racing (1:43.329 at 113.927 mph)
The SunTrust Racing driving duo of Michael Valiante and Max Angelelli will start Sunday’s Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Bosch Engineering 250 from the pole after qualifying Saturday at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) near Alton, where the SunTrust team is the defending race-winner.
Valiante was awarded his first career Rolex Series pole after clocking a fast lap of 1 minute, 43.329 seconds (113.927 mph) around the scenic 3.27-mile, 17-turn road course just a stone’s throw above the North Carolina-Virginia state line. The lap was actually the second-fastest lap of the 20-minute qualifying session. But Memo Rojas’s bid to win his second consecutive pole in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entry was disallowed after its rear wing was found to be too high in the post-qualifying technical inspection. The No. 99 Bob Stallings/Riley-Matthew Racing entry of Jon Fogarty, which clocked the third-fastest lap of the session, also was found to have a rear wing that was too high. Both the No. 01 and No. 99 will start Sunday’s 250-mile race from the back of the Daytona Prototype grid.
Valiante’s second front-row qualifying effort in the last three events (he qualified second in the all-new Dallara chassis’ historic first start at Homestead, Fla., in March) was all the more incredible as it suffered heavy crash damage in the Mexico City event last Saturday and underwent a complete rebuild at the Wayne Taylor Racing shop in Indianapolis on Wednesday and Thursday before turning around and heading to VIR.
“I think it’s a big, big accomplishment for this team because a week ago this car didn’t even have four wheels on it,” Valiante said. “The crew guys did a great job and the car’s been great ever since we rolled it off the trailer, which was encouraging to them because they put so much time into it. Considering this car is so new and we haven’t even had a full test day, it’s a huge accomplishment for the SunTrust team. During the session, I actually went off once because I was pushing so hard with it being such an important race for SunTrust. I gave it everything I had trying to get everything I could out of the car. It’s a great day for SunTrust. It’s a great accomplishment for SunTrust to be on the pole, so I’m quite pleased. The team deserves it after all it’s been through. It’s amazing. I’m happy for them.”
The pole position is the seventh for SunTrust Racing since it joined the Rolex Series in 2004, and the second since Wayne Taylor Racing took on the responsibility of carrying the SunTrust banner just prior to the 2007 season. Jan Magnussen qualified the No. 10 car on the pole at Homestead in March of last year. Magnussen and Angelelli co-drove the SunTrust car to its first of two victories here last year.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Taylor, whose 18-year-old son Ricky Taylor is also in the field, making his second career Rolex Series start this weekend after qualifying fifth today in the No. 19 Beyer Racing entry. “I think this whole team – all the guys, Michael, Max, SunTrust – have done something incredible by coming here and starting on the pole. I’m also ecstatic that Ricky is starting fifth. It’s the first time he’s run that car. What a great car and deal that Jeff Beyer gave to them and Max Crawford.
“These SunTrust guys have gone through a really hard time this year, and I’ve kept telling them it’s going to turn around. With the amount of work and energy that everyone’s put in, things eventually will come around for you, and this is just proof. After all the hard work – push-push-push – they deserve it. The team deserves it, Michael deserves it. No matter how they got it, they deserve it.”
The top-five in qualifying were the following teams:
1. SunTrust Racing (No. 10 Pontiac Dallara) with Michael Valiante and Max Angelelli (1:43.329 at 113.927 mph)
2. AIM Autosport (No. 61 Ford Riley) with Mark Wilkins and Brian Frisselle (1:43.505 at 113.734 mph)
3. Brumos Porsche (No. 58 Porsche Riley) with David Donohue and Darren Law (1:43.801 at 113.409 mph)
4. Alex Job Racing (No. 23 Porsche Crawford) with Joey Hand and Bill Auberlen (1:44.439 at 112.717 mph)
5. Beyer Racing (No. 19 Ford Crawford) with Ricky Taylor and Jared Beyer (1:44.446 at 112.709 mph)
Final practice is set for 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday. Race time is 1 p.m. with SPEED-TV’s tape-delayed broadcast set for next Saturday (May 3) beginning at noon. Complete results from all on-track sessions, as well as live timing and scoring during the race, can be found at www.grand-am.com.