Photo by John Thawley The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series moves to Round 4 of 14 races this week as race competitors head to VIRginia International Raceway. The two-car Daytona Prototype Krohn Racing team is anxiously anticipating the first solo DP race of the season.
A total of 20 Daytona Prototypes are expected to challenge one another for another exciting no-holds-barred 400 kilometer/77-lap/2-1/2 hour sprint race around the beautiful 3.27-mile, 17-turn circuit that sits at the Virginia/North Carolina border. Driving the Krohn Racing stable of cars will be team owner/driver Tracy W. Krohn and Nic Jonsson in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley and "Mad" Max Papis and Colin Braun in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley.
Tracy W. Krohn, team owner/driver, No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley:
How do you like the VIR circuit?
"VIR is a fantastic race track with a grand history. It's got everything -- elevation changes, speed, and a pleasant surface. I really like it. There are a couple of turns that pucker you up like the uphill Turn 10. It is a real first class track that has everything."
How has Grand-Am racing changed this year from last?
"The bar for Grand-Am goes up about 25% every year. That is a lot of improvement for all the teams to manage. Not having traction control in any of the cars this year is very challenging, but I think it is a good idea and will save all the teams a lot of testing and development expense. I think it is testing all of the drivers skills as well."
Nic Jonsson, driver, No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley:
What do you think about the VIR circuit?
"I think VIR is a fantastic circuit. It has a lot of elevation changes, fast corners, braking zones and stop-and-go places. The track has a little bit of everything you can ask...from both a driver and spectator standpoint. I think it's an excellent facility."
How do you like racing with just the Daytona Prototypes?
"I actually like to run the separate races because you don't have the big speed differences between DP and GT. I think it makes it a fairer race. You're not going to get held up by a GT car when you're in a fight for position and happen to have bad luck and get stuck behind someone slower. You can lose ten car lengths and then have to work really hard to get back position. I think it is going to make for a very clean, good, and competitive race."
You and Tracy have been racing together a lot and running go-karts in between. Has that stepped up the game for you guys?
"I believe the go-karting we've done over the winter has made Tracy get a better feel for the car and helped him feel the tires much better. This is an important thing to learn with any car really. With a go-kart, basically all the suspension is in the tires. I think it's very important to have that feel. It's also shown in the last test we have done that the feedback Tracy has given has been more accurate. The data has confirmed that he'd more spot-on than in the past. He's coming along very well. We also have to keep in mind that he started out racing just five or six years ago. Generally, most the drivers out there doing this have been racing for 20 plus years. So, Tracy has a steep learning curve. He's not entered into the minor leagues either. He's going for the big leagues. Both the American Le Mans Series with the Ferrari and the Grand-Am Prototype Series, with the Daytona Prototypes being the top series, are the big leagues. He's not taking any baby steps. He's diving in the deep end. I think that's very difficult. He's come a long way and is getting better every race. I have very high expectations and big hopes for this weekend. I think we ran very competitive last year. I think we should have a very good chance of running very competitively this weekend.
Max Papis, driver, No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley:
How do you like the VIR circuit?
"It's a great road racing course with plenty of fast turns and high-speed straights. I like the circuit because, although it is challenging, you can get into a rhythm while driving. The elevation changes and sweeping turns are part of what makes the course interesting as well."
Is the Pontiac Riley the right combination for domination at VIR?
"The Pontiac engine will be very strong at VIR. GM has done a good job for all the Pontiac teams and continues to give us everything they can to make Pontiac-powered cars the best in the Rolex Series."
How do you think you will like racing with just the Daytona Prototypes at VIR?
"I think it will make the race more exciting. Everyone will go flat-out and really push one another. Last year was a bumper-to-bumper last lap bonsai run and I think this year will be no different. Everyone will be flexing their muscles and pushing the limit for track space. It should be a very good race for the fans."
Colin Braun, driver, No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley:
What are your favorite parts of the VIR circuit?
"This will be my third year going to VIR. It is one of few tracks that I've been to quite often. It's also one of my favorite tracks on the Grand-Am circuit. It's a very technical track with a lot of fast, sweeping, flowing corners, which I really enjoy. I think the favorite part for me is those high-speed esses. It's a great balance of having a really good handling car, as well as a good, strong Pontiac engine. I think that's a really fun part of the race track for me. I love that!"
Do you think VIR is a good track for the Pontiac Riley?
"I do think it is. With the Krohn Racing guys working on the car, and Pontiac-CRD guys building the engines, I think any track we go to is going to be a good track for us. We had a great test a couple of weeks ago and we learned a lot in that test. I'm really excited to go to this race and see how everything we learned applies to actually going faster compared to everybody else."
You had a Top Five finish last year...do you think you can improve on that position?
"Absolutely, I think last year we had a quick car and the race track didn't exactly fall our way. We're going to have an even quicker car. I know we're going to make some smart pit calls. It's going to be a great race for us. I'm sure Max is going to do a really good job. I think we have a really strong package over all."
How do you like running single-class races like this weekend with just the DP class at VIR?
"It's going to be an interesting weekend not racing with the GT cars. That's one of the aspects of sports car racing that I really enjoy -- is working in traffic and working with the GT cars. It's much more like a chess game. I'm going to rather miss racing with the GT cars just because it's something I really enjoy. I think all the guys at Krohn Racing have done a great job getting the car set-up to work well in traffic. It will be fun and it will be interesting to see how it all changes up."
Jeff Hazell, Krohn Racing Team Manager:
Since the Homestead/Miami race, you've done some testing. Tell us what you've been doing?
"David Brown and his engineering team have been very busy testing in Atlanta. It remains to be seen how relevant the testing is for set-up for VIR. We've also done some damper rig tests. We'd done a great deal of homework. We'll be disappointed if we're not very competitive this weekend. We'd like to see some reward for all the effort we've put in over the last month."
Is VIR well suited for Pontiac Riley?
"These days the car/engine packages seem to be very close. Riley chassis are in the hands of the more proficient teams and by virtue of that have the numbers as well. It's no surprise they've been winning and will continue to win. That said, both Alex Job Racing and Cheever Racing are increasingly competitive, so the race at VIR should be very tight."
Is the single-class racing easier or more difficult for the team and drivers?
"It makes it easier because there is less traffic and probably fewer yellow flag periods. This is the first race under the 45-min. rule where we have to make a pit stop with each car before 45 minutes into the race. On paper it looks like that gives an advantage to cars with the best fuel consumption, but as anything can happen in the first 45 minutes, let's wait and see how it tests out."
The Krohn Racing team, now in its second year, sits fourth in the DP points chase with the No. 75 entry and 10th with the No. 76 entry after three races so far this season. Papis and Braun have one podium finish, a second-place at Mexico City, where Braun also captured the pole.
Last year Krohn Racing won the Daytona Prototype Driver's Championship with driver Jorg Bergmeister and finished second in the DP Team Championship. In 2006, Krohn Racing collected three victories, six podiums, eight Top Five finishes, 13 Top Ten finishes and one pole position.