Ferrari is back in the Rolex Grand Am Series, and just in time for the 50th running of the 24 Hours of Daytona! Ferrari has competed in 47 of the 49 day long classics, and has 15 class victories, 5 of which were overall victories around the 3.56 mile course that runs through part of the NASCAR super speedway and then down in the infield for the road course section of circuit.
On sight for the testing was some very important people from both Ferrari and Grand Am. The men from Michelotto Automobili, Ferrari’s go to team for all that is Ferrari sports car racing, were on hand to see their beauty take the track for the first time. Also, the heads of state for Grand Am were in attendance. Grand Am President, Tom Bledsoe stated, “This car looks like it’s winning, winning standing still.” Mark Raffauf, Grand Am managing director, wanted everyone to know that this car was straight from Maranello. Being straight from Italy, and not a private company developing the car, goes to show that Ferrari is serious in their contention for the Rolex 24 Hour.
Loosely based on the GT3 spec 458, Ferrari has made a few adjustments to fit this car into Grand Am regulations. They detuned the motor from a stock 562hp to 500hp. Ferrari was able to accomplish this by setting the rev limiter at 8000 rpm instead of 8500 rpm. Also they add a restrictor plate that was 48mm in diameter. Ferrari also included a beefed up suspension from the road going version as well a better roll cage than GT3 version. These additions were made due to the multi class racing and the greater frequency of side impact collisions because of that. Also, series regulations state that no car is allowed to have ABS or tractions control systems on their cars, and Continental Tires are the exclusive tire provider for the Grand Am series.
Even though, there was only just this one 458 at Daytona testing last week, Raffauf said that four to six Ferraris in next year’s classic is not unrealistic. Ferrari of Fort Lauderdale, owner of this 458, plans to field two cars, and there are supposedly several other teams interested in buying. Some would be only for the Rolex 24, but expect to see a couple running the full season in the Grand Am series in 2012. Another probable owner is Eddie Cheever, Americas most experienced F1 driver and 1998 Indy 500 winner. Cheever said he knows of at least 5 teams that might be interested in purchasing a 458, including him.
So be on the lookout Ferrari to add to their class victories and their overall legacy in sports car racing January 28th and 29th on SPEEDTV.
A special thanks to my friend James Boone who was kind enough to allow me to use the pictures. You can click on the individual pictures to see more, or follow the links below.
Ferrari 458 Italia GT at Daytona