Test runs give teams a chance to adjust
setup. We’re learning a lot about this track, learning a lot about our car on this track.”
Stevenson Motorsports was one of several GrandAm teams that rented the circuit Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare for next year’s races, scheduled for Feb. 28 to March 2.
“It’s helpful to gather data and then try different things on the setup to see what works here and what doesn’t,” said John Edwards, who drives for Stevenson Motorsports in GrandAm’s top-tier Rolex Sports Car Series. “When we go testing generally at places we’ve been, we try new parts and things to see how it affects the car, but here we’re mainly seeing what the track’s like and what from our normal setups work at this place.”
Grand-Am is sanctioned by NASCAR and features two series that often race on the same weekend: the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, a support series. Both series will race at Circuit of the Americas.
The Rolex series is split between Daytona prototypes — purposebuilt, closed-wheel race cars capable of speeds of more than 185 mph — and Grand Touring, or GT class: production-based cars such as Porsche GT3’s, Camaros, Corvettes and Mercedes that have been modified for performance and safety.
The Sports Car Challenge is split into Grand Sport — such as Porsche 997s and Caymans, Subaru WRX’s and Chevy Camaros — and Street Tuner, which includes Honda Civic SI’s, Chevy Cobalt SS’s and Mini Coopers.
In each series, both classes race simultaneously, and teams compete for overall race and class victories, while also competing for season-ending honors for top driver, top team and top manufacturer.
Circuit of the Americas will be the second race on next year’s 12-race schedule, which includes other historic American venues such as Watkins Glen International, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The sport rewards endurance as well as speed. Most races are almost three hours long, but the season includes one six-hour race and its marquis event, the season-opening 24 Hours of Daytona at Daytona International Speedway in Florida.
Each car has at least two drivers, who are required to drive at least once during a race.
Most of the cars testing this week at Circuit of the Americas race in the Sports Car Challenge, but two teams brought Rolex Series GT cars: Magnus Racing — whose driver Andy Lally was named NASCAR’s Sprint Cup 2011 rookie of the year — and Turner Motorsport.
“My initial impression is this track is awesome, the facility is amazing,” Turner Motorsport president Will Turner said Tuesday. “I’m not sure what the race is going to be like, you never know until the race happens, but the track is certainly wide enough and plenty of room for spectators.”
Up to 30,000 spectators are expected for the race weekend, series spokesman J.J. O’Malley said. Tickets are expected to go on sale before the end of the year, circuit spokeswoman Julie Loignon said.
Turner said that one of the things that makes the series unique among motorsports is how accessible drivers and teams are to fans.
“Spectators that come to the race will be able to walk up and down the pit lane and be able to see the cars,” Turner said.
“Like at NASCAR, you’re not going to be able to talk to the drivers and take pictures with the drivers in the cars all the time. You’re not going to be able to walk up and down the pit lane before the race. At a Grand-Am race, you can do that, so you get to interact a lot.”
Mechanic Grant Ford works on the suspension on a Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GS on Tuesday. Test drives allowed Grand-Am teams to make adjustments to their vehicles.