Daytona Beach, FL: As Spirit of Daytona Racing makes final preparations for their season debut at the Rolex 24, excitement is in the air. Following a year focused on development of the #90 Porsche based Coyote, the team is ready to see their work pay off. Defending Rolex co-champions Buddy Rice and Antonio Garcia signed on with Spirit of Daytona mid-season in 2009 and will return as full-time drivers for the season. They will be joined in the Rolex 24 effort by NASCAR Sprint Cup and nationwide Series star Paul Menard and IndyCar talent Darren Manning. Although the four drivers have never shared the same cockpit, their relationships go back many years. Most are aware of the Rice and Garcia partnership and 2009 Rolex win, but may not realize that Darren Manning refers to Rice as his “sparring partner” following their IndyCar competition through the years. Paul Menard has driven with Spirit of Daytona in a winning event on more than one occasion, enjoying his chance to rejoin them in hopes of adding a 24 hour win to his resume.
Spirit of Daytona team owner and manager, Troy Flis, is quite encouraged by the progress the team has made in development, saying “Last season our team had the goal of getting us to a more competitive level, and I think we are there. We've made great strides in developing the Porsche based V8 and I'm pleased with the results. We learned a lot in the test days and will continue to look for improvements, but with our progress and the driver lineup we have, I expect a strong finish for Spirit of Daytona in this year's 24 Hours and for the 2010 season.”
Buddy Rice acknowledged the changes, saying “Things are a little different - This year I'll be able to come back and defend, but it'll be with the Spirit of Daytona team. I'll also be driving full time with them in the series so I think there are a lot of new things to consider. It's great to be with the new Coyote and the new Porsche V8 for the season. We've done quite a bit of development in the off season, and there's still work to be done, but it's going to be an exciting year. With the drivers we have here, we have a strong shot at a podium or even a win.” Fellow full-time driver Antonio Garcia joined Rice in seeing good things on the horizon, both for themselves as drivers and for the Spirit of Daytona Team.
Of the many changes made for this year's Rolex 24, perhaps the most obvious to Spirit of Daytona fans will be the new look of their car. After signing Paul Menard for the Rolex effort, the team also adopted the classic Menard paint scheme for the race. The unmistakable bright yellow will make the #90 car easy for fans to spot on track and follow throughout the evening hours. Menard has enjoyed his seat time in the DP car in testing, and regardless of the color of the car, obviously feels right at home in the #90. He is looking forward to his return to Daytona and to getting back to the business of racing.
When Darren Manning got the call from Troy, he didn't hesitate. "Buddy and I have known each other a long while and raced against each other, but never driven with each other," he said. "The Spirit of Daytona #90 car is pretty new, plus, it's a new car and engine package to me, but it feels very good. I'm really encouraged with the little bit of time I've had in it already. I see there's a lot of potential there. I know there's a lot of competition in this race, but every time we go out in the car we're on the top of the time sheets, and that means we're going to bring a big fight to those guys. It's all about the 24 hours, it's not just a one lap deal. The team's getting stronger and stronger and I'm really proud to be a part of their effort".
The 48th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona will begin at 3:30 PM ET on Saturday, January 30th, with the checkered flag falling at 3:30 PM on Sunday, January 31st. The race is scheduled to be broadcast on Speed TV with pre-race coverage beginning at 3:00 PM. Coverage continues until 10:00 PM, then resumes at 7:00 AM on Sunday through the end of the event.
Eurosport 2 will broadcast live the start and finish of the race. Saturday 30th at 22h CET (120min) and sunday 31st at 19:45 (135min). http://tv.eurosport.co.uk/
Watch the Daytona 24h Broadcast Live on SPEED tv, http://www.speedtv.com/programs/rolex-sports-car-series/
Watch the Daytona 24h Broadcast Live on the Internet, click here.
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