On his first ever running at the famous track Sunoco Rolex 24 at Daytona Challenge winner Felipe Nasr stole the plaudits, topping both days of the unofficial test session at Daytona International Speedway (DIS).
The test was the start of Nasr's preparation for January's Rolex 24 At Daytona, having won a drive with a top Daytona Prototype squad through the Sunoco Challenge.
The Brazilian dominated the British Formula Three International Series to become the third winner of the prize put up by Sunoco – the fuel supplier to both the British Series and Grand-Am series.
After the first two challenge winners entered the Rolex 24 with Doran Racing, Nasr will race with Action Express Racing – the team that won the race overall in 2010.
The team are also one to be running the brand new Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype in January's 50th running of the Rolex 24. However, while the team tested two of the new look cars with their regular drivers, they rolled out the Riley-Porsche car that finished third in the 2011 Rolex Series to enable Nasr to familiarise himself with Daytona's fearsome sportscar course.
Nasr's first impressions of the Florida venue were typical for first visits to the super-speedway; “When I first saw the track I was amazed by how nice it is; it's such an historical place and to be part of it is amazing.”
Following a tour of the facility with DIS president Joie Chitwood III and a meeting with mentor Ozz Negri, Nasr turned his first laps on the track on the Tuesday, ending the session fastest off all, beating the Rolex Series regulars by over a second.
“I was expecting the DP to be quite lazy and heavy and not as quick as my F3 car but I was impressed as it was completely different to what I thought!,” said Nasr. “The first time I came out of the pits and put my foot down I thought, wow this thing can really move! I was laughing to myself at how fun the track was to drive when I first hit the track – I couldn't quite believe it.”
On the second day of testing, Nasr trimmed a further eight tenths of a second from his best time to set the fastest unofficial time sheets with a 1:40.438. Darren Law, driving one of the new Corvette cars for Action Express was second fastest.
“Felipe has done over 500 miles faultlessly, he gives great feedback,” explained chief mechanic Duncan Charnell. “He has not put a wheel wrong and I tried to wear him out but failed! He is super smooth, good on tyres and has done a wonderful job. He was fastest yesterday by 5 hundreds of a second, we made some changes to make him more comfortable and he responded by going 7 tenths faster today. He has been beautifully consistent – a very successful day.”
Though almost certainly helped by running an old spec car against the brand new Corvettes Nasr's achievement still came as a surprise to many, not, however, including Negri, but he was still left in awe of his countryman's pace during the test.
“I had an idea of how good Felipe would be,” he said. “It is not just anyone that can win the British F3 Championship but I have to say that surpassed my expectations, he is the real deal, a F1 material for sure. He has the speed and also the maturity, did not put a foot wrong and was on the top of the timing charts for the two test days. The Sunoco Challenge prize could not be on better hands.”
The next test for Felipe Nasr is the Roar Before The 24 on January 6-8 before the Rolex 24 at Daytona itself on January 26-29.