04/01/05-04/03/05 ROLEX SPORTS CAR SERIES AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Tue, Apr 12, 2005
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
ROLEX SPORTS CAR SERIES AT CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY
By Contributing Editor HAROLD OSMER
What is it about road racing that keeps fans coming in? For drivers, there is the obvious thrill and challenge of shifting gears, turning corners left and right, changing elevations, blind corners, and racing through, in, and around a crowd of cars on a too-tight course.
As a fan of oval racing myself, I decided to go out to California Speedway for the Grand American Road Races to try and figure it all out from a fan's perspective.
Professional road racing is a world unto itself. Its roots date back to the very first automobile racing when roads were all there was to race on. Twisting courses result in a spectacle that disappears from view only to reappear a few minutes later. Sitting in the main grandstand at California Speedway for a road race is a waste of time. So, small bleachers were set up at various locations around the course and fans were free to move about as they pleased to witness racers from all angles. Different visual and auditory impacts are experienced from wherever you happen to be watching.
An impressive array of race cars was on hand to compete in six professional divisions ranging from Daytona Prototypes to Grand American Street Stocks. A 21-turn road course utilized the front stretch and east turns of the main speedway then snaked its way
through the infield, yielding some exciting fan views and ample opportunity for driver error. Covering 2.8 miles per lap, the fastest Daytona Prototypes were lapping in the vicinity of a minute and a half.
Open pits allow people to get within arms reach of crews as they work on their prized vehicles. Men, women, and children abounded at California Speedway, making this a true family outing. Fans, racers, and officials alike seemed to be having a pretty good time of it and all respected one another's boundaries. Common sense goes a long way and there wasmuch to be had.
A live internet broadcast of the Grand American Road Racing events augments Speed Channel media coverage. Veteran motorsports announcer Mike Paz provides the internet coverage on his own. Three hours of solo talking race action is a tough haul.
The main attraction for the weekend was the Ferrari Maserati 400 for Daytona Prototypes. These are low-slung, bubble cockpit, flat-bottomed, mid engine coupes using independent suspension with adjustable shocks. Though mildly exotic in appearance, DP racers are restricted in their use of carbon fiber, turbochargers, and other costly materials.
Set for a race of 400 kilometers (86 laps) or 2 hours 45 minutes, 22 DP racers started the event. Defending co-champion Scott Pruett held off current DP co-points leader Max Angelelli by a series-record 0.096 seconds to take his first victory of the 2005 season.
Running in conjunction with the DP cars were cars from the Rolex Series Grand Touring division. A confusing array of rules is under refinement this season and 19 entry manufacturers run the gamut from Acura and Audi to Lexus, Ford, Mercedes, and Porsche. These cars maintain the same visual lines of their stock counterparts and are readily identified on the track. A BMW finished first followed by a Porsche then a Mustang. Parity in racing form.
Production cars race in the Grand American Street Stock Series, which provides a terrific proving ground for both new automotive ideas and driver/team training. Only minor modifications are allowed on the cars as they roll off the showroom floor. Cars similar to the GT class, though in stock condition, compete here. It was Mustang, Porsche, BMW on the podium.
Also on track at California Speedway was the Ferrari Challenge wherein Ferrari owners were invited to take to the track in identically prepared Ferrari 360s. Twelve years into the series, Ferrari has hit upon a safe, meaningful way to serve their customer's need for all out speed and competition. An historic version of the Ferrari Challenge had older cars making spirited laps in two groups-those with drum brakes and those with disks.
A great event, well attended, with room for more. Attending an auto race in-person results in a dynamic sensory experience. Sights, sounds, smells, aura, and excitement tickle the senses in ways no other sport can. Dads with small children as well as whole families roamed the grounds at California Speedway that weekend with access to some of the most interesting race cars and competition in the country.
As a rookie viewer, trying to follow the race events themselves proved impossible. Yet it remained clear who the leaders were, where they were, and the action was spread around the track so it didn't really matter to this first-timer.
Grand American Road Racing has a fine race product worthy of your time.