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Gentilozzi alone and out front again

By MIKE READLING, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 3, 2002


DAYTONA BEACH -- Two things Paul Gentilozzi knows: racing cars -- any kind of cars -- and being different when he does so.

DAYTONA BEACH -- Two things Paul Gentilozzi knows: racing cars -- any kind of cars -- and being different when he does so.

Maybe that's why Gentilozzi fits in so well at the 24 Hours at Daytona.

The twice-around-the-clock race features numerous body styles, hundreds of bright colors and drivers from every corner of the map. There is, however, only one Jaguar and, fittingly, Gentilozzi is behind the wheel.

One year after driving the only Saleen entered in the 24 Hours, Gentilozzi teamed with road racing experts Brian Simo and Scott Pruett along with Michael Lauer to pilot the No. 3 Jaguar.

It is a team as high on experience as Gentilozzi is on personality and the results began showing early as the car began running away with the GTS class despite a stop-and-go penalty in the second hour prompted by Gentilozzi passing the pace car while under full course caution.

"I thought I was being waved by," Gentilozzi said. "Everywhere else in the world that hand gesture means go by. I know not to (pass) the pace, I don't need hand signals to tell me that."

To make matters worse, when he headed back to the track after the penalty, officials clocked him at 73 in the 65 mph pit speed zone and assessed another penalty.

Gentilozzi won the 24 Hours overall title in 1994 with Pruett and he seems intent on adding one more.

"The car is absolutely flawless," he said. "The only reason I got out was because of the time limit, not because I wanted to."

AREA FARE: Crystal River's Terry Borcheller thought he had gotten his weekend off to a good start when his No. 54 BMW finished the GSII class runner-up in Friday night's Grand Am Cup race, thought he felt sick much of the day. Then the car was disqualified for an intake hole that was a fraction of an inch too wide.

In the 24 Hours, Borcheller and the rest of his No. 8 Nissan Lola SRPII -- co-drivers Anthony Lazzaro, Bill Rand and Ralf Kelleners -- dominated early, leading the class at the end of each of the first six hours and ranging from sixth to ninth overall.

Largo's Edouard Sezionale spun his No. 87 Norma Ford into a wall during the fourth hour. The car returned but was mired way back in the pack.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "They're getting ready to plant grass over there," Tampa's John Annis, talking about the dirt and gravel covering the track in the chicane because of cars missing the corner and running off course.

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