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Yellow Dragon Motorsports Mazda RX-8 Team Ready For Rolex 24 Adventure

All systems are “go” for the Window World-sponsored Yellow Dragon GRAND-AM Rolex GT team at this weekend’s historic 50th anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona

SMYRNA, GA (January 24, 2012) — Once the checkered flag falls on the 2012 edition of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, one team in particular — the small but feisty Yellow Dragon Motorsports program—will be able to look back at a couple of whirlwind weeks with a sense of pride and amazement.

As one of the final teams to enter the 50th running of America’s most famous endurance race, the Smyrna, Ga.-based team has been on a mission to get its car, drivers and crew ready for the punishing 24-hour race which starts this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

With the support from Mazda, its factory SpeedSource racing team and an enthusiastic group of sponsors, the No. 36 Yellow Dragon RX-8 outfit was assembled in record time. And with a recent test at Roebling Road for John Andretti, his son Jarett Andretti and Anders Krohn, three of its four drivers got their first chance to learn the handling and performance traits of the legendary sports car prior to Daytona’s opening practice session.

“The Mazda RX-8 is like a go kart on steroids,” said the elder Andretti, outright winner of the 1989 Rolex 24 race. “The car is very light on its feet, yet has plenty of power. It’s really a lot of fun and I can see why Mazda has earned so much success with this car.”

18-year-old Jarett Andretti cut his teeth in the world of oval racing, earning a USAC championship in 2011, and says his first taste of road racing at the test revealed just as many learning opportunities as it did areas to use his circle track experience.

“I think driving a USAC Midget prepared me well to drive the Mazda RX-8, and under braking both cars are very similar,” he explained. “Also, running on dirt in a USAC Midget allowed me to be more comfortable sliding the Mazda around which should be useful if it rains during the race. In a USAC Midget there’s no shifting, so developing shift points and synchronizing that with my braking is something that I will be working on during practice.”

Like Andretti’s USAC-to-GRAND-AM learning curve, Anders Krohn also used the test to get a feel for Mazda’s championship-winning GT car after years of racing on the Mazda Road To Indy open-wheel circuit.

“It didn't take many laps to get comfortable in the RX-8,” said the 24-year-old Norwegian. “As with any car, it'll take some time before you explore its full potential in all areas, but I was very impressed with the handling of the car and just how nimble it was. The power distribution of the Mazda Rotary engine inspires driving confidence, and the sound made me grin on more than one occasion while out on track. The test absolutely confirmed that this is where I want to be, not just for the Rolex 24, but for the remainder of the 2012 season as well.”

Taylor Hacquard, the only returning driver to the Yellow Dragon Rolex 24 stable, monitored his new teammates from afar during the test, and with extensive knowledge of the race and the Daytona circuit, feels the No. 36 team has the right ingredients to get to the finish line.

“Every team goes into the 24 with high hopes, but it is a long race and a lot can happen in 24 hours,” said the 21-year-old Canadian. “I feel we have a good mix between youth and experience to get the job done. John Andretti, being a former winner, is a great asset and I’m sure will be helping us through the race. The Yellow Dragon Mazda RX-8 is a good reliable car so if we can keep it clean I’m sure we will be there in the end.”

In addition to Hacquard’s Rolex 24 experience, John Andretti’s lifetime of sports car, open-wheel and stock car knowledge will make for an invaluable resource for the Yellow Dragon drivers.

“I am happy to talk with all my teammates about all aspects including the car, track, strategy, etc.,” he said. “They are all talented young drivers, and with Jarett and Anders experiencing their first 24-hour race, it comes down to big picture racing which is sometimes hard to explain when speed has been their only weapon in all other forms of racing. I can remember my first Rolex 24 and the advice from Derek Bell was simple. I will give them the same advice!”

With his team now ready to go, Yellow Dragon Motorsports owner Jack Smith will combine what his team learned during the race last year to try and charge to the finish line in 2012.

“We learned a great many lessons--both positive and negative--in 2011 that are applicable to this year’s event,” he said. “Our strategy is to run our race using our plan developed on the basis of our cumulative driver and team experience. We are optimistic about the outcome; however, this is a long race so we will have to wait to see how it turns out on Sunday.”

Confidence leading into the race is running high throughout the team, and looking ahead, John Doonan, Mazda’s Director of Motorsports, sees nothing but promise for the Yellow Dragon program at Daytona and beyond.

Follow the team at the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Twitter (@YellowDragon36), on Facebook and live on SPEED starting at 2:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, January 28th.

Follow the Yellow Dragon drivers this weekend via their personal Twitter accounts: John Andretti (@John_Andretti), Jarett Andretti (@JarettAndretti), Taylor Hacquard (@hacquardracing) and Anders Krohn (@AndersKrohn).

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