Ganassi sets Daytona pace

The car of Chip Ganassi Racing's 'all-stars' team set the pace on the second day of official testing for the Daytona 24 Hours.

Ganassi sets Daytona pace

Ganassi's NASCAR racer Casey Mears and IRL IndyCar Series team-mates Scott Dixon and Darren Manning set a best time of 1m47.654s in their Lexus-Riley during the seven-hour test, 0.054s quicker than the SunTrust Racing Pontiac-Riley of Wayne Taylor, Max Angelelli and Emmanuel Collard.

Day one pacesetters Andy Wallace, Jan Lammers and Tony Stewart dropped to ninth in their Howard-Boss entry, while Marino and Dario Franchitti, Dan Wheldon and Milka Duno improved to fifth in the team's second car.

Johannes van Overbeek topped the GT class times in Flying Lizard Motorsports' Porsche GT3.

The Ganassi team held a press conference to announce their 2005 Grand-Am line-up during the test. With last year's title winning partnership having been split up by Max Papis' move to Krohn Racing/TRG, Luis Diaz will be promoted to the lead car alongside Papis' former partner Scott Pruett. Diaz co-drove with Jimmy Morales in the second Ganassi entry in 2004.

"I am thrilled and so motivated heading into this season and this race," said Diaz. "I learned so much in my first season and I really feel that I can improve on that even more this year, especially working and sharing driving duties with Scott Pruett."

Ex-Toyota Formula 1 test driver Ryan Briscoe, who is likely to join Ganassi's IndyCar squad this season, will share the Pruett/Diaz car at Daytona. The combination was third fastest in today's test.

Ganassi's second season-long entry will be shared by ex-F1 and Champ Car star Stefan Johansson and double Grand-Am GT class champion Cort Wagner. NASCAR racer Jamie McMurray will join them for the 24 Hour race.

Film legend and Champ Car team owner Paul Newman was in the spotlight on day two of testing after his Ford-Crawford spun and then briefly caught fire - apparently due to mechanical failure. Newman was taken to the medical centre for precautionary checks but was released without injury.

"I don't know what happened," he said. "It just caught on fire somehow."

Last year's winning car, the Bell Motorsports entry, has yet to threaten the pacesetters and was only 12th fastest on day two. Christian Fittipaldi, who will share the Pontiac-Doran with Terry Borcheller, Forest Barber, Paul Tracy and Ralf Kelleners, remains confident of their race chances.

"I think we're not going to be unbelievably strong in qualifying," he said. "But I think we're going to be very, very strong in the race.

"We unfortunately don't have the same speed as some of the Rileys and one or two of the Crawfords. We're a little bit behind them, but I think our strengths are going to show up in the race."

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