Test runs give teams a chance to ad­just


Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - C laura skelding / amer­i­can-states­man

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.

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