Sunoco Rolex 24 at Daytona Challenge winner Ivan Bellarosa described his first tests in a Daytona Prototype as a “fantastic experience” as he looked back on his first running at Daytona International Speedway in the Rolex Series’ two day test.

Bellarosa, who won his way to Daytona in the Sunoco Challenge by winning the SPEED EuroSeries, was aided by fellow Italian Max Papis, a Rolex 24 winner in the past, as he made the transition to the Rolex Series machinery.

Having gained his first miles in Action Express Racing’s first-generation Riley-Porsche DP at Virginia International Raceway the week before attention turned to Florida for the test on November 14-15.

“It has been a fantastic experience to come to the US and to work with the experienced Action Express team and Max Papis,” said Bellarosa. “The Daytona Prototype is quite different to the Wolf CN car that I’m used to driving in the SPEED EuroSeries. It is more powerful but also less stiff. The cornering speed is lower but I love the acceleration!”

After being treated to a tour of the speedway’s facilities testing began with Papis taking the car out to set a time for Bellarosa to aim for. Papis’ early target of 1:44 was quickly surpassed, meaning a second benchmark – 1:42.9 – was posted for Bellarosa to tilt at as the opening day of testing entered the latter stages.

Meeting the challenge Bellarosa ended with a fastest lap of 1:42.4, just over a second slower than the day’s ultimate pace, set by Action Express’ Joao Barbosa in the third-generation Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype.

The second day of the test, unfortunately, was largely lost to the weather, a morning downpour limiting running to just ten laps.

“Ivan has been great to work with and got up to speed very quickly,” said Papis. “I would be happy to have him as a team mate for the upcoming Rolex 24 At Daytona – the only thing we need to work on is Ivan’s technical English vocabulary!”

“It was good to have the exclusive test days at VIR to learn the car,” added Bellarosa, “because coming to Daytona was an eye opener – the banking is very steep! However, the trickiest part of Daytona is the braking from nearly 200mph into corner one and the bus stop. At this pre, pre race test there were only around 20 cars so it will be much busier at the Roar and the race – I can’t wait to get back!”

Bellarosa will have to wait until the traditional ‘Roar Before The 24’ test on January 4-6 – the start of a hectic January in the run up to the 51st Rolex 24 at Daytona.