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Mar 06, 2014 - 05:32 AM
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12 HRS OF SEBRING: Ozz Negri Says Watch Turns 1, 17
Posted by: newsla on Mar 06, 2014 - 05:31 AM
Grand Am News
12 HRS OF SEBRING: Ozz Negri Says Watch Turns 1, 17


Ozz Negri took his first laps around Sebring International Raceway in 1996 as a test driver for Skip Barber Racing School. A “gazillion” miles later, the track still has a hold over the forty-nine-year-old driver of the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Ford EcoBoost Riley. Especially challenging Turns 1 and 17.

 

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Negri returns to the Central Florida track steeped in history for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, fueled by Fresh from Florida March 14-15, 2014. Watch at 10 a.m. EST on FOX Sports 1 on March 15, 2014. Coverage picks up at 1 p.m. EST on IMSA.com.

DID YOU KNOW:

It’s the 62nd year for the event but the first time Daytona Prototypes will race with Le Mans Prototypes (LMP2s) on the old runways of Hendricks Field, a World War II airbase used to train B-17 combat crews.

The first Ford-powered start at Sebring was in 1952 (Allard J2 Ford). The EcoBoost prototypes of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian will be the 67th different type of Ford-powered vehicles to take on the famous race.

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO SINCE THE ROLEX 24? “Right after the (Rolex) 24 we had a lot of meetings within the MSR team and engineers, and we worked very hard on a plan to obviously improve what we had at Daytona. I felt it was unfortunate that we had the problem with the gear box. Otherwise I think we had a Top 4-5 car for sure. As competitive as the series is this year, everything counts and counts a lot. To be honest, it is a long time between Daytona and Sebring, but we just have not stopped. We worked before the two-day test at Sebring, worked very hard on the program to improve what we had. We went to Sebring and we learned a lot. We learned a lot about the car, we learned even more about our engine. Until then we had run our EcoBoost engine only at Daytona. So this was the first time we drive somewhere else. We learned more about our engines and after the test, we’ve just been flat out putting in all the data, everything we learned, so next week when we go to Sebring, we are more competitive. Besides that, me personally, I’ve been doing my normal stuff, working out a lot, but like most of the people, right after Sebring, I got a flu or cold. I’m just getting over it.”

HOW HAVE YOU PREPARED FOR SEBRING? “We are testing a few modifications suspension-wise for Sebring. Sebring is a totally different track than Daytona. Daytona is very smooth, we’ve got banking and long straights. Sebring is extremely bumpy. Bumpiest track in our Series (the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship). We’ve been working very hard to get the car to deal with those bumps well when we get back to Sebring.”

TALK ABOUT YOUR HISTORY AT SEBRING. “I actually have a gazillion miles at Sebring. I used to be the test driver for the now-extinct Skip Barber Dodge Racing School and I used to test there at least 4-6 days a month every month, for quite a few years. When I took my first lap there, my first thought was that I needed a mouth guard because of the bumps. I absolutely fell in love with Turns 1 and 17 and that love still exists.

“I also in (the early 2000s) did the 12 Hours for the first time with a European team (Ferrari GT car). That was the only time I raced at Sebring. I really know the track. I really know how it changes and when it changes, and that’s a good thing.

“I went there to coach a young driver at the beginning of last week for IMSA Lights, and it ended up he won. I was purely just telling him what the track would do and what to look for.”

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR A DRIVER TO PREPARE FOR AT SEBRING? “As a driver, the bumps. How to make the car take the bumps as well as it can. Obviously Turn 17 is extremely challenging, the bumpiest corner I’ve ever driven and it’s not a slow corner. You have to drive over those bumps at an exact angle or you risk getting the car unsettled. Same thing as Turn 1. You have to hit the marks spot on to keep apex. Otherwise you will find a lot more bumps than the proper line.”

WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE AS A DRIVER TO SEE THE ECOBOOST PROGRAM FORMED FROM THE ENGINE UP? “First, I’m extremely proud to be part of it. I think of Ford as a mega-brand; it’s a global brand. The program is going OK. We are working, and when I say ‘we,’ it’s the whole group of people. The Roush Yates team does the engine, the Ford engineers help supporting the technical side of the engine and they also help us with the aerodynamic package, and it has been nonstop working, nonstop development. It’s exciting, because there’s always the next thing. You are always looking forward to “hey, this should be cool, so we’re going to test it.’ Yeah, we’d like us to be a little bit further ahead than what we are, but this is motor racing. It takes time if you do it as it’s supposed to be done.”

WHAT’S THE THING TO WATCH AT SEBRING? “Turn 17 and Turn 1. Every time I went to Sebring to watch the 12 Hours, I was always either at Turn 1 or Turn 17. That’s where you’re going to see who the drivers are. As far as handling the bumps, those are two real fast corners.”

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO? “I’m just looking forward this year to work with John (Pew). He’s been my co-driver for six years. Although he’s the amateur driver on our team, he works so hard. He’s gained so much in the last few years, it’s hard to call him an amateur driver. He’s really stepped up a lot. Last year when I broke my leg, I had to have an operation, and after I came back last for the last seven races, we were running Top 3-4 every race. We were the only car to have finished in the Top 10 in every race. We almost finished on the podium at Mid-Ohio.

“When I get out of a race meeting, all I have in my mind is how we did. If we do a good job, just the way we’ve been doing, then you get out of the car with such a good feeling on what you were able to do as a driver. We work well together, and Justin, at Sebring, it’s another great addition. He brings a lot of experience. It’s amazing how well we get along and admire and respect each other. It’s a great thing. Just like Daytona. We lost 60-something laps, but while we were driving (before the problems with the gear box), we were on the lead lap. You come out of the track saying ‘Hey, I did my part.’ Something else happened that was racing (that made us finish where we did). There’s a little bit of satisfaction you get out of (knowing you did your best driving).”

WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE TO HAVE DPs and LMP2s COMPETING TOGETHER AT THE FORMERLY ALL-ALMS EVENT? “It will be very different. It will be interesting to see how the DP cars will compare with the P2 cars at Sebring, since the P2 cars have been racing at Sebring and the DP cars will be racing there for the first time. The other thing that will be very different than Daytona will be traffic. The GT traffic. I always try to put myself in the shoes of a GT driver, because a GT driver at Daytona, you come out of the infield and you know you’re going to have x-amount of angle in the steering wheel, you can just hold that, look in the mirror and see which way the quicker cars are coming from. In Sebring, you can’t do that because there are so many switchbacks. It will take a lot of patience from both classes. I think Sebring will be more of a survival race than Daytona is. And, something else we have not experienced yet, is the dark. Because racing 24 hours at Daytona, it’s never dark-dark. At Sebring, it’s dark. It will be very dark. That’s something we don’t know (us, as drivers, from the Grand-Am side).

“I expect a lot. I always do. I expect to do well at Sebring, and when I say ‘I,’ it’s not just me myself. I expect as a group, as Ford, as Shank, as John and Justin and Roush Yates, I think we can do well.”

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