American Series GRANDAM : New Pontiac-Powered Race Cars to Debut At Laguna Seca

02.05.2006: American Series GRANDAM : New Pontiac-Powered Race Cars to Debut At Laguna Seca

Pacific Coast Motorsports Enters Third Pontiac GTO.R and Team Cytosport Debuts Pontiac-Powered Daytona Prototype in Rolex Series

The upcoming round six of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series has much to offer sports car fans. The event takes place at legendary Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and the twisting, 2.238-mile road course with many elevation changes has tested drivers for years and still offers great racing to this day. When the Rolex Series returns here, spectators will get to see - besides intense racing competition - two Pontiac-powered machines that have not yet raced: the #31 Pontiac Riley Daytona Prototype (DP) and the #98 Pacific Coast Motorsports (PCM) Pontiac GTO.R. Both cars make their Rolex Series debut this weekend.

Ross Thompson and David Empringham will pilot the #98 Ironclad/Wine Country Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R at Laguna Seca. Thompson is a former Trans-Am Series driver with experience in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the NASCAR Southwest Elite Division; Empringham, who will drive the #98 Pontiac in this race only, is a two-time Toyota Atlantic Series champion and was also a champion in the Indy Lights Series. He has competed since 1987 and is a regular in the Grand-Am Cup series.

"We postponed our entry into the GT class so we could test and make sure that we'd be as competitive as possible," said Tyler Tadevic, program manager at Pacific Coast Motorsports. "We were hoping to race at V.I.R. but we decided to hold off to do some more fine tuning. It looks like Ross will be in the car for the foreseeable future, but we'll have another great driver (TBA) taking David's place in Phoenix.

"We're hoping to make GM and Pontiac proud with our efforts and we think we're now at the point where we'll do just that," said Tadevic, who also campaigns the #89 Playboy/Vonage/Palms Pontiac Riley in the DP class. "If we succeed, we'll boost Pontiac's points lead in the GT class."

Pontiac's other two GTO.Rs, which have competed in the GT class since June of 2005, started the season off with one of the cars giving a second-place showing at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and have continued to rack up wins since then. The #64 TRG iRise Pontiac GTO.R of Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins won at Mexico City and Homestead and the #65 TRG F1 Air/Alpine Bagel/Pontiac GTO.R of Andy Lally, Marc Bunting and R.J. Valentine took their first win at the last race at V.I.R. Lally and Bunting now lead GT driver points (Valentine drives part-time) and the GTO.Rs have given Pontiac a lead in manufacturers points. A strong finish by the #64, #65 or #98 car will be enough to keep that lead out of the grasp of rival Porsche.

The other Pontiac making its debut on Sunday will be the #31 Xcyto Energy Drink Pontiac Riley DP. Team Cytosport owner Greg Pickett, another Trans-Am driver (of 29 years) with wins in that series in every decade since the 1970s, will take his Pontiac Riley to the track with co-driver (and son-in-law) Scott Sharp of Indy Racing League fame. Sharp drove Chevrolet Camaros for Pickett in the Trans-Am Series in the mid 1990s and moved to the IRL with Oldsmobile soon after. Sharp still races in the IRL for Delphi Fernandez Racing and will compete in the Rolex Series on Sunday against his team owner, Adrian Fernandez. Fernandez (with Mario Haberfeld) races the #12 Lowe's Fernandez Pontiac Riley DP in the Rolex Series and had Sharp in that car as a co-driver for the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

"There are a lot of choices for power in this series but it was really a no-brainer for us when we chose our engine," said Pickett, referring to his new car. "When this opportunity came up, we jumped at the chance to put a GM powerplant in the back of this Riley - we've been working with GM for so long and we've had such good results, we didn't consider any others.

"We'll only run a handful of races this season; we'll do a lot of testing this year and keep preparing for a successful (entire) season next year," continued Pickett. "But we had to run at Laguna Seca - it's a great track and our shop is only an hour and a half away. Besides, I raced in one of my first pro events here!"

In other Pontiac DP news, GM driver Jan Magnussen will again fill in for Wayne Taylor in the #10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley for the upcoming event. Magnussen joins Max Angelelli and the pair will attempt to give Pontiac its first DP win of 2006 (at V.I.R., the #10 car took second; Pontiac's best DP finish of the year).

The U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will take place on Sunday, May 7 at 12:00 p.m. PDT (3:00 p.m. EDT). The race will air live on SPEED TV with a repeat on Monday, May 8 at 12:00 p.m. EDT.

-Steve Smith -

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02.05.2006 / MaP

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