With the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona just around the corner, the SRT Motorsports team has filled out its driver roster for the extended endurance races on the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship calendar. Veterans Ryan Hunter-Reay (LEFT) and Rob Bell (RIGHT) will join returning full-time drivers Jonathan Bomarito, Dominik Farnbacher, Marc Goossens and Kuno Wittmer.
America’s Hunter-Reay, the 2012 IndyCar Series champion, has a strong record in sports car racing, too, including a Grand-Am Rolex Series victory at Miller Motorsports Park in 2007 driving a Daytona Prototype. He has seven career starts in the Rolex 24, and finished second overall there last year.
RHR was immediately up to speed at the Roar Before The 24 test at Daytona last weekend, posting the fastest GTLM lap during the Friday night session in his No. 91 SRT Viper GTS-R. Hunter-Reay told RACER’s Marshall Pruett he was highly impressed by how far the chassis has come since he last drove it at Petit Le Mans in 2012, during the car’s initial season of American Le Mans Series competition.
“It drives like a totally different car it just does everything better, which was a really cool thing to feel,” enthused RHR. “The car is smoother overall. The electronics work a lot smoother with things like the traction control, the ride is a lot less harsh and it carries a lot of speed in the corners. Altogether, it’s just a big, big change in the right direction from when I was last in the car. The SRT people and Bill Riley’s guys have done a phenomenal job with the Viper. I’m really enjoying myself.”
Bell, rated among the top GT drivers in the world, completes the team’s revised roster for the North American Endurance Championship rounds. The Briton, a McLaren GT factory driver and two-time European Le Mans Series GT2 champion, has also made five starts in the Spa 24 Hours, including a second-place finish in 2009, and he also has a GT runner-up finish in the 2011 Rolex 24.
“After seeing the steady progress the SRT Motorsports team has made, I can’t wait to get behind the wheel at Daytona and compete against some of the best GT class teams in the world,” Bell declared. “Being the new kid on the block that is joining a team as it continues to grow and get better with every race, I’m confident it won’t take long to feel right at home.”
Beth Paretta, Director of Marketing and Operations SRT Brand and Motorsports, is confident the two are the ideal choices to replace Ryan Dalziel who has joined the Extreme Speed P2 team for 2014 and Tommy Kendall, who has stepped out of the cockpit but remains as an SRT brand ambassador.
“We’re losing one Ryan and getting back another clearly, it’s always important to have a Ryan in one of our SRT Vipers,” Paretta joked with RACER. “And Rob has been on our radar and brings the exact kind of attitude we’re looking for. You have that with our regular drivers; they’re all team-first guys, no big egos, thinking as a group instead of as individuals. That’s what we were looking for when we needed to bring new endurance drivers in and I know Ryan and Rob will fit right in immediately.”
Paretta addedthat the team would also like to have Hunter-Reay and Bell in its cars at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, but the uncertain nature of Bell’s availability, and RHR’s ability to take part in the June 1 test day the same day as the second IndyCar Series race at Detroit’s Belle Isle could complicate matters. RHR also has a conflict for the third NAEC round at Watkins Glen, held the same day of another IndyCar double-header in Houston.
Despite the scheduling issues later in the year, RHR and Bell will pilot the Nos. 91 and 93 GTS-Rs in the Rolex 24 on Jan. 25-26 and the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 15 before their full-time efforts in IndyCar and the WEC, respectively, get under way.
And, Kendall fans can be assured TK will remain a prominent fixture, too.
“He’s amazing with our sponsors, amazing with our employees and with all of his knowledge, we very much see him like our Ron Fellows someone who can make the entire team better and groom our younger drivers in the sport and every other area,” Paretta added. “I think it’s a really good fit.
“With Ryan returning and Rob joining SRT Motorsports, we’ve solidified our team for competition in the longer endurance events. We can now turn our focus to continuing to get ready for Daytona and the upcoming season. We’re excited to kick off the new season and confident that we can continue improving and have an even better year in 2014.”
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