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Jan 21, 2014 - 05:48 PM
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Nissan Returns to Rolex 24 at Daytona
Posted by: newsla on Jan 21, 2014 - 05:46 PM
Grand Am News
Nissan returns to Rolex 24 at Daytona


Nissan has its sights set on returning to victory lane at the Rolex 24 at Daytona - 22 years after first tasting success at the historic Florida venue known as the “World Center of Racing”.

 

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Official Nissan Nismo partner team and two-time American Le Mans Sereis P1 champions Muscle Milk Pickett Racing will lead the charge at Daytona alongside FIA World Endurance Championship LM P2 title winners Oak Racing.

Nissan became the first Japanese manufacturer to take the overall win at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 1992 when Masahiro Hasemi, Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Toshio Suzuki triumphed with the Nissan R91CP (pictured right).

The Japanese trio completed 2,712.720 miles (762 laps) over the 24-hour journey with the 800 horsepower R91CP. They took the lead on the second lap of the race and never surrendered it.

Nissan had won its class (and finished second overall) the previous year in 1991 with Bob Earl, Derek Daly, Chip Robinson, and Geoff Brabham behind the wheel of a Nissan R90CK.

Remarkably, the distance record from the 1992 winning Nissan remains unbeaten to this day. (click on the video link below to look back at the famous 1992 victory)

Two years later, Nissan was again successful – this time taking the victory with the No. 76 Nissan 300ZX-Turbo piloted by Paul Gentilozzi, Scott Pruett, Butch Leitzinger and Steve Millen.

The 300ZX covered 707 laps, 2,516.92 miles and averaged 104.80 mph. Leading for all but 111 laps, including the final 427, the team’s margin of victory was a dominating 24 laps. The No.76 machine scored the first overall win in the Rolex 24 for a GT car since 1983 and the first win for a front-engine car since 1976.

Muscle Milk Pickett Racing will return this year with Klaus Graf and Nissan’s 2011 FIA GT1 World Champion Lucas Luhr as its full-season drivers for the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship which brings together the American Le Mans Series and the GRAND-AM Rolex Series into a single championship. Young Nissan LM P2 FIA WEC regular Alex Brundle will fill the third seat for the Rolex 24 at Daytona – a race his father Martin Brundle won in 1988.

As part of the Nismo Global Driver Exchange, racers from Nissan’s squad of international drivers will compete for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing at the major endurance events at Daytona, Sebring and Road Atlanta.

While Muscle Milk Pickett Racing will contest the Rolex 24 at Daytona with its Nissan-powered ORECA chassis. Oak Racing will do battle on the Daytona road course with its Morgan driven by Frenchman Olivier Pla, Russian Roman Rusinov, Columbian Gustavo Yacaman and Brit Oliver Webb.

The opening round of the TUDOR Championship - the Rolex 24 at Daytona - takes place January 23 - 26, 2014 at Daytona International Speedway with the green flag scheduled for 2:10 pm (US Eastern) on January 25, 2014.

The race will be broadcast live in the US starting January 25 on FOX from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm ET, FOX Sports 2 from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm ET, IMSA.com from 9:00 pm to 7:00 am ET and FOX Sports 1 from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm ET on January 26, 2014.

Schedule (All times Eastern):

Thursday, January 23, 2014:
Practice 1: 9:30 am - 10:30 am (All Classes)
Practice 2: 1:15 pm - 1:45 pm (All Classes)
Qualifying: 3:45 pm - 4:00 pm (GTD)
Qualifying: 4:05 pm - 4:20 pm (GTLM)
Qualifying: 4:30 pm - 4:45 pm (PC)
Qualifying: 4:50 pm - 5:05 pm (P)
Practice 3 (night practice): 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm (All Classes)

Friday, January 24, 2014:
Practice 4: 11:30 am - 12:30 pm (All Classes)

Saturday, January 25, 2014:
Autograph Session: 11:30 am - 12:15 pm
Race: 2:10 pm (24 hours)

GREG PICKETT

OWNER – MUSCLE MILK PICKETT RACING

"We're very much looking forward to this race. We're excited about it. I hadn't been back here for three or four years myself. I've run it many times.

"We're excited about our new opportunities with our new partnerships with Nissan and ORECA.

"The new addition to our team, Alex Brundle, who is in here as a Nissan driver, has done a great job. We're really happy all the way around.

"Nissan's awesome GTP cars they had - Brabham won four championships in a row in the late '80s and early '90s - I know that's a big legacy to help continue.

"I'll tell you that this is a big, hard trying group. We're going to work at it really hard.

"We're looking forward to the strength of the series, the strength of all the entries and the strength of the drivers. This is going to be one heck of a show.

"I think this is going to be some of the best road racing that's happened in this country for a very long time."

KLAUS GRAF

DRIVER – MUSCLE MILK PICKETT RACING

"The affiliation and partnership with Nissan provides Muscle Milk Pickett Racing with the opportunity to go to the next step.
"To be involved with a manufacturer like Nissan is obviously a privilege. We're very proud of that relationship we were able to create and build in a very short period of time.

"That's just the starting point. Now it's about getting to know each other better, building on the foundation, to be successful and competitive on the race track and use all of the marketing elements that Nissan provides.

"Part of our partnership is that we'll take some of the Nismo Global Exchange drivers into our program. Alex Brundle fitted right in with us. He's a very quick, young talented driver and has some good experience in LMP2 cars in the WEC. He provides very good feedback in that regard.

"I think it's good for the young drivers and the drivers coming from the program to us that. They obviously have drivers like Lucas and myself who have a lot of experience. We have a very high level of engineering in the team. That's not so easy to find."

LUCAS LUHR

DRIVER – MUSCLE MILK PICKETT RACING

"When I won the FIA GT1 World Championship with Nissan in 2011 it was a very successful year. Now being back with Nissan is a good thing and we have learned in the past that the Nissan engine in LM P2 is the one to have so I'm quite happy to be powered by Nissan again.

"We all expect the car to be very competitive in the first year of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. We think we've chosen the right package but at the end of the we'll have to wait and see what happens in the races.

"Nobody knows at the moment really how competitive they are. After the first race we'll obviously know a lot more.

"I think the competition is going to be very tough - not only in the Prototype class but in all classes. The key is going to be how the series gets the balance right between the Daytona Prototypes and the LM P2 cars. I have high hopes that they got it right so nobody has a real advantage or disadvantage. That's what the drivers and the fans like but for sure it is going to be tough competition."

ALEX BRUNDLE

DRIVER – MUSCLE MILK PICKETT RACING

"I'm enjoying my time in the car a lot. I've really taken to this team and I'd like to think the team has taken to me and we've gotten on really well in the early days of testing at Daytona.

"It's an incredible venue and I'm really enjoying driving here. I underestimated it massively, to be honest.

"There's some really technical sections out there that I need to get my head around, plus a new chassis in terms of P2. I've obviously driven the engine before in terms of the Nissan V8 but it's a new chassis for me to get on top of.

"There's lots of work that needs to be done but I'm enjoying it a lot.

"It's a massive privilege for me and I have to say a massive thank you to Nissan for sending me out here to do some racing, representing them on their behalf.

"This will be my first time in the Daytona 24, one of the biggest sportscar races in the world and arguably the biggest sportscar race in the United States. I'm delighted to be here and I'm going to make the best of the opportunity.

"Obviously to win this race is a massive dream and it would be an ambition realized. When my dad won back in '88, I know he still remembers that experience very fondly and describes it as the toughest race of his entire sports car career."

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