Grand American’s Official Test at Virginia a learning experience for Team Sahlen

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The Fall Test held by Grand American at Virginia International Raceway was the 1st time that Team Sahlen had an opportunity to try out the new ROLEX series Continental Tires.  Team Sahlen entered 3 SpeedSource built Mazda RX-8s in the test.  Drivers were Memo Gidley and Wayne Nonnamaker in the #43 racer.  For the #42 and #49 Mazdas, Joe Sahlen, Joe Nonnamaker and Will Nonnamaker shared seat time together.

On the 1st day of testing, Wayne Nonnamaker spent the morning sharing time with new full-time co-driver Memo Gidley in the team’s new No. 43 Team Sahlen Mazda R7-8 – the former 2010 Rolex 24-winning SpeedSource No. 70. Wayne liked the fact that everyone is learning the new Continental Tires at the same time.

“That’s an advantage for us, because everyone is starting from square zero,” Nonnamaker said. “We’ve all got the same toolbox to work with. Last year, when we went to the Mazda platform, we had all the other Mazda teams to work with, but when it came down to crunch time, they had more experience with the cars that we do. Also, the two Joes (Nonnamaker and Sahlen) are getting a lot of track time in the other two cars.”

“This was our 1st test with our newly acquired Mazda RX-8.  The initial testing with the new Mazda RX8 we received from Speed Source was extremely encouraging due to their development through last year. We viewed the test as a way to build up a ‘toolbox’ for the new Continental tire to be used at race weekends. We have been making important strides as a team and are excited about the upcoming season.” -shared Catherine Crawford Wallace, Team Sahlen Lead Engineer

Day two of the test saw overcast skies and rain for the entire morning.  The rain died off in the afternoon, and everyone was able to get further dry weather driving.

“Team Sahlen has big plans for the future and it was great to get out for our first test heading towards 2011.” shared Memo Gidley, “Along with shaking down our new Mazda RX8 car which was awesome, Wayne, Catherine and I were working on making changes to the car to see what it likes.  Not only are Catherine and I new to GT racing, but we are all new to the Continental tire and it is going to require some testing to figure them out.  I was pleased with what we accomplished and also pleased with how all the members of the team were working together.  It is exciting to see the strength of the GT field and I am very happy to be part of Team Sahlen and the GT class for 2011.”

“I am very glad we had a chance to come out here to Virginia.  This is always a fun track, and a great place to get to learn a new tire. Hopefully we can build on this as we work towards 2011.” Shared Joe Nonnamaker

“This was the 1st time I have been in the RX-8 since the beginning of August.  It was great to knock the rust off and get back behind the wheel.  I was able to get a lot of track time in both the dry and wet.  I am really looking forward to the start of the 2011 season.” Stated Joe Sahlen.

Team Sahlen now heads back home to their shops in Canton, Ohio.  There, the crew will continue preparing for the big 2011 season, that starts off with the epic ROLEX 24 hours of Daytona.

The next test on the Grand American schedule will be at Homestead on December 1st and 2nd.

The 2010 Team Sahlen GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 & GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Campaigns will be supported by Mazda, Mazdaspeed, HRPWorld.com, HAWK Performance, Cool Shirt, Racetech Seats, BBS, Racing Print Media, Alcon, Mothers Polish, EMCO, TheRaceSite.com, Grassroots Motorsports, Holliday Canopies, Alcon, CM Racing