Valiante to race at Daytona

Toyota Atlantic standout Michael Valiante has signed a deal to join Rob Finlay's Ten Motorsports line-up for the 24 Hours of Daytona. The 25-year-old Canadian, who recently made an impressive Champ Car debut with Walker Racing at the Mexico City season finale, will team up with Champ Car veteran Memo Gidley and 2004 Star Mazda champion Mike McDowell for the sportscar classic, which takes place on February 3-6

Valiante to race at Daytona

Hot on the heels of a successful test in Dale Coyne Racing's Champ Car at Sebring, in which he outpaced five other young hopefuls, Valiante stepped into Ten's new Riley-BMW Daytona Prototype at Homestead, and, despite never having driven a closed-cockpit racing car before, set comparable times to both Gidley and McDowell.

"Driving a car with fenders and a roof for the first time was a really different experience," Valiante admitted. "We were running the car really hard, but from the driver's seat, things happen more slowly than in an open-wheel car. [Endurance racing is] a different kind of challenge, to balance speed with mechanical reliability and race strategy to make sure you're in front when the chequered flag finally drops. The great thing about this team is that we're all equally fast, and will be working with top professionals on the other side of the wall."

Valiante will feel at home in the Ten Motorsports squad, whose management and engineering staff includes brothers Steve and Rick Cameron, who were (respectively) his team manager and race engineer in his Atlantic days. Although he is enthusiastic about the opportunity to go head-to-head with some of sportscar racing's greats at Daytona, Valiante insists that his heart remains set on a Champ Car future and that he will continue his sponsorship-seeking efforts to secure a full-time ride there for next season.

"I'm excited about getting to drive at Daytona, and perhaps at some of the other long races that don't conflict with the Champ Car schedule," he said. "Champ Car is what I've been working towards all along in my career; it's where I wanted to be and it's where I continue to put my focus.

"I'm just starting to get a little traction there, and I think that the series has some strength now where the costs are under control and it has something to offer sponsors with network television in the USA and Canada and major cable channels in Europe, South America, Asia and around the world. In the next few years, Champ Cars along with Formula 1 will be 'it' for the top drivers in the world, and that's where I want to be."

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