April 29, 2010

Crowd Favorite

NASA Mid Atlantic peeps have been used to seeing the screaming yellow Ferrari like this...
(WARNING, this clip includes an excited and possibly intoxicated tracktard dropping the f-bomb and no, the "F" does not stand for Ferrari!)

Now that it has officially started on its road to Daytona, the underdog Bennet Racing Ferrari can be cheered by Spec e30 racers across the country on SpeedTV's Grand Am broadcasts.

But you get a bit of an inside line, Mike Skeen sent us a clip that lets you ride along in the Bennett Ferrari in its season debut start at VIR. Turn it up!


Bennett Racing Accomplishes First Mission by Completing Maiden Run in GRAND-AM Rolex Series With 15th Place Run at Virginia International Raceway

ALTON, Va. (April 24, 2010) – The mission was clear for Bennett Racing and co-drivers Skip Bennett and Mike Skeen in their debut race in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway.

That mission was to learn everything they could about themselves, their team and their bright yellow No. 56 South River Marina & Mercruiser Ferrari F430 Challenge. After two hours and 45 minutes and 77 laps around the twisting 3.27-mile, 17-turn VIR road circuit on Saturday afternoon, it was mission accomplished. Skeen and Bennett combined to bring the lone Ferrari in the field home in 15th place in the GT class, exactly the position where Skeen qualified it on Friday.

“It was definitely a great experience,” Skeen said. “The pit stops were better than I expected being the first time out for all these guys--they did an awesome job. I think we were pretty much running the pace that we expected. I won’t lie. It was a little bit disappointing that we couldn’t keep up a little better because the racer in me wants to do battle at the front of the pack. All of us are used to being at the front in the other forms of racing that we’ve done, but we know that takes time. We’ve got to develop the car more. We didn’t have the straight-line speed to keep up, and that part of it was disappointing. But at the same time, we exceeded our rational expectations.”

Skeen started the car 15th following a best lap at 1:54.288 (103.002 mph) from the15-minute qualifying session on Friday afternoon. He drove a trouble-free first stint in the race and came onto pit lane just prior to the 45-minute mark in the race to turn the controls over to team owner/driver Bennett, who pedaled the Ferrari for a clean middle stint before giving way to Skeen with slightly more than an hour remaining in the race.

“They’re definitely pros,” said Bennett of his on-track competition. “Hands down, these guys are pros and they want to finish the race. There’s a lot of respect out there. I’m a slower driver in a slower car and there were absolutely no problems at all. Do I think I’m a pro now? No. Do I think I can do better? Absolutely. Do I think the car and the team will do better? Absolutely, but you’ve got to remember that to do better than what we did, there’s a lot to do.”

Both drivers pointed out that—for starters—the car needs to be roughly 200 pounds lighter. Bennett remarked that a few changes to the chassis are in order, as the car needs to pick up roughly four seconds to compete at the front of the GT field. However, Skeen noted that the team needed this race to learn where the car’s shortcomings were.

“For the beginning stint, I was right behind the (No. 40) Dempsey Racing Mazda,” Skeen said. “In my second stint, there were several caution periods where we ended up being amongst the leaders in GT going to green, so we had some chances to mix it up—albeit a lap down—with the leaders. We did get a chance to see and feel where the other cars are gaining and losing speed. For the most part, we were off sequence pit strategy wise with the guys that were a position ahead or a position behind us. We didn’t have a whole lot of position battles on the track.”

One area where Bennett and Skeen came away extremely satisfied was the ability of their volunteer crew on pit road. Just as it was the first time in a Rolex Series race on the track for the drivers, it was also the first time the crew worked together in the pits. The drivers couldn’t have asked for better service.

“Our crew was tremendous,” Bennett said. “I watched a lot of the other crews and our guys looked better and they were faster. I’m not trying to blow smoke. This is a fact. When Mike came in for a gas-and-go under a yellow, he wasn’t the first guy into the pit, but he was the first guy out of the pit. That gave us a lap back. Our pit guys were awesome.”

“One of the coolest things was in one of our team meetings (on Friday),” Skeen added. “We were sitting around in the back of the transporter and we’ve got a guy from South Africa, we’ve got a couple of guys from Georgia, a guy from the Czech Republic, Virginia, North Carolina and guys have been on a bunch of different teams. One of them spoke up and said, ‘I’ve only known you guys for five days. We’ve only worked together a few times and already this team is really, really gelling.’ We’ve got great camaraderie, it’s a big family and everybody has got a lot of respect for each other.”

With the Bosch Engineering 250 now in the rearview mirror, the team’s focus shifts to making improvements to the car ahead of its next scheduled Rolex Series appearance in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on the weekend of June 4-5. Bennett expects to share the car with co-drivers Mike Davidson and Jonathan Allen for their first attempt at a Rolex Series endurance race, while Skeen will be competing in an SCCA Trans-Am Series event at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah that weekend.

Chris Cobetto, another of the team’s drivers, will get some seat time in the car later this season. The team plans to make four Rolex Series starts this season: at VIR, the Watkins Glen enduro in June, and sprint races at Daytona International Speedway and New Jersey Motorsports Park in July. All of this is being done with an eye toward competing in the 2011 Rolex 24 At Daytona next January.

“The car is now going to go to UUC Motorsports in Georgia and they’re going to do a couple things,” Bennett said. “We’re going to continue with our plan, which is to get four races under our belt to get the car sorted out so we can do Daytona in January. We could definitely use some sponsors to help us, as it will take a lot of time and a lot of money to get the car where we want it to be. We have to do some significant things to the car. We know what they are and we know what they’re going to mean when we get them accomplished.”

Just like the team’s mission in its debut this weekend.

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