Long Beach Offers Many "Firsts" For Pontiac Driver

Long Beach Offers Many "Firsts" For Pontiac Driver

04.04.2006: Long Beach Offers Many "Firsts" For Pontiac Driver

Co-driver of #10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley Max Angelelli to Race in Round Two of IROC Series and Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in Same Weekend; Jan Magnussen Joins Angelelli in SunTrust Pontiac Riley

In the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series' first event at the famous Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, last year's Rolex Series driver co-champion Max Angelelli will drive the #10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley in his usual fashion - focused yet aggressive with a goal of winning. He'll be faced with a number of unusual challenges, though. His Daytona Prototype (DP) has yet to see a street course and instead of his usual teammate Wayne Taylor, Angelelli will drive with last year's #64 Pontiac GTO.R co-driver Jan Magnussen. Additionally, Angelelli must fly to Ft. Worth, Texas during the weekend to compete in the IROC series - all firsts for the Italian native.

"I've raced a lot of street courses before, perhaps more than permanent race tracks but I've never raced at Long Beach," said Angelelli. "I have been paying attention to races there since my friend (Alex) Zanardi used to race at that course. This should be a good track for the Daytona Prototypes and I think the Riley chassis will be the best suited for this course, much like the Crawford was at Homestead."

In the previous Rolex Series race at Homestead on March 25, Porsche-powered Crawford race cars managed a 1-2 finish. In the three races of 2006, Pontiac-powered DPs have not yet been able to score a win in marked contrast to their success in 2004 and 2005. However, Pontiac will have strength in numbers at Long Beach: nine of 26 DP entries utilize Pontiac power and Angelelli - who shared last year's Rolex Series driver championship with teammate Wayne Taylor and team championship with SunTrust - drives a Pontiac Riley DP, which he feels is best suited toward this street course. He is hoping to give Pontiac its first 2006 DP win on Saturday.

Angelelli will have Jan Magnussen to help him in his quest; Magnussen was invited by Wayne Taylor to drive in his stead in the #10 car for Saturday's 90-minute race, which is part of the 32nd annual Long Beach race weekend. Magnussen (an ex-Formula One driver and winner of several 24 Hours of Le Mans races) co-drove the Rolex Series' GT class #64 Pontiac GTO.R to three wins last season and will be a capable substitute for Taylor.

"Everyone respects the SunTrust Pontiac Riley team for their accomplishments including winning the Daytona Prototype championship last year, the Rolex 24 and all the other victories they have collected in just two years," said Magnussen. "I hope to be able to add something to an already great team."

Magnussen may not have too many chances to add to SunTrust's accomplishments, since Taylor plans to keep racing in the foreseeable future (he is sitting out this race to concentrate on SunTrust team management duties, a role he shares with his driving). However, Magnussen may have more chances to drive in races where SunTrust could use a third driver, such as Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen.

This weekend, Angelelli will also drive in the International Race of Champions (IROC) Series in addition to his Pontiac duties. Chosen with Taylor to compete in the prestigious four-race series in which12 of the world's top drivers go against each other in identically prepared Pontiac Firebirds, Angelelli will have to leave Long Beach on Friday and fly to Ft. Worth for the IROC race. He will return on the same plane the same evening in order to make the Rolex Series race on Saturday.

"I'm really impressed with what IROC is doing to make sure I get to race in their series," said Angelelli. "Basically, they are providing me a plane. I hope I do well - I've never driven their type of car before and I've never raced on an oval before. It will be difficult."

The DP-only Rolex Series (for Long Beach) joins Champ Car, Formula D Drift Series and the SPEED World Challenge in a weekend of intense street-circuit racing at Long Beach. Daytona Prototypes race on April 8 at 4 p.m. PDT; the event will be tape delayed on SPEED TV at 9:00 p.m. EDT. The GT class of the Rolex Series (where Pontiac leads the points standings with its GTO.Rs) will resume racing on April 23 at Virginia International Raceway.

-Steve Smith, Jim Hopson-
photos grandam

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04.04.2006 / MaP

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