Road Atlanta: Doran-Lista preview

Doran-Lista Racing is looking forward to Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta on June 29 LEBANON, Ohio, June 18 -- Fifteen weeks. That's 106 days, but who's counting? The Doran-Lista Racing team has been, that's who. Drivers Didier Theys of ...

Doran-Lista Racing is looking forward to Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta on June 29

LEBANON, Ohio, June 18 -- Fifteen weeks.

That's 106 days, but who's counting?

The Doran-Lista Racing team has been, that's who.

Drivers Didier Theys of Scottsdale, Ariz. and Fredy Lienhard Sr. of Niederteufen, Switzerland; team owner Kevin Doran and everyone else on the Lebanon, Ohio-based team have been anxiously awaiting the second of nine American Le Mans Series races this year. Today the team is finishing packing its supplies in the Lista cabinets in the teamis transporter, as the time has finally come to get ready to go to Road Atlanta Motor Sport Park in Braselton, Ga. for the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta on Sunday, June 29.

The race will be televised live on CBS beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. Highlights will also be shown on EuroSport at 20:00 Central European Time on July 13.

Due to some unavoidable schedule changes, there was a 15-week break this year between the season opener, the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring in Sebring, Fla., on March 15, and the second American Le Mans Series (ALMS) race, which will be contested on the 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course at Road Atlanta Motor Sports Park in just 11 days. With one ALMS race in July, two in September and one in October, the rest of the season is less spread out, and there will be a frenzy of action in August, when a third of the races will occur.

"We can't wait to get to the racetrack; we're really looking forward to Atlanta next week," said Doran from the team headquarters here yesterday. "The Dallara is ready to go; it's been such a long break, and we're all anxious to get back racing."

Theys was a little more blunt.

""The three months between Sebring and Atlanta was very boring," he said. "I've been coaching drivers competing in the Fran Am series and doing a little bit of traveling in Europe to prepare for next year, but I always want to be driving," he said. "By the time I take off from Phoenix next week and fly to Atlanta, I will be totally focused on the race. Just driving to the airport, I get totally into my race mood."

Theys was in Europe while Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Gordon were swapping their Formula 1 and NASCAR Winston Cup cars last Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway so he missed all of that, but when asked if there was any type of race car he would like to drive that he hasn't yet in his illustrious career, he was quick to pick a NASCAR Winston Cup car too.

"I've had a chance to drive just about everything except a NASCAR Winston Cup car, and I'd like to try that sometime on a superspeedway," he said, quickly adding with a smile, "but only for a day or two.

"I've raced Indy cars and tested Formula 1 cars and driven just about every other type of race car; only NASCAR is missing on my list," he said.

Lienhard, caught while he was watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans on television last weekend, has mixed feelings about the upcoming race at Road Atlanta. Unlike Theys, he is not a professional race car driver, but races as a serious amateur at the professional level as his business schedule permits.

"Even though this time it is not my 'fault,' as usual I have mixed feelings about the coming race after any long period of 'absenteeism,' " he said. "Looking at the Le Mans race on TV, I wonder whether I will be able to be good and fast enough next time. My focus has been very much on business and other interests recently, like art, family, culture and political issues, and motorsports seems very far away, I'm sorry to say.

"I'm not saying that I'm not motivated," Lienhard was quick to add. "On the contrary, in my heart I'm looking forward to Atlanta. I just hope that ev erything will work out fine like it did in Sebring."

One thing is for certain; all three men enjoy competing at Road Atlanta, which is the home track of the ALMS.

"I enjoy the race track," Theys said. "It is a good challenge, both for the drivers and for the set-up for the car. I especially love the challenge of turn one, because it's a very fast corner.

"But I've never been that lucky at Road Atlanta," he added. "Many times we were leading the race or being a front-runner, and then had a mechanical failure of some sort. The last time I raced there was in 1999, but we did two days of testing there in February and the car was quite good that day. The weather was quite cold, but I believe the car will do well there. The two Audis and the two MGs from Dyson and the Panoz cars will be quite tough though.

"Our team prepares a reliable car, and to be consistent all weekend will be the key," Theys continued. "Road Atlanta will be a sprint compared to Sebring, so we'll have less time to make up for any problems that develop."

Lienhard also likes the track and hopes for a top-five finish in the LMP 900 class.

"It is a beautiful track and one of the better ones for me," he said. "History tells that I have been relatively good there. For instance, in 1999 I was at least doing as well as Stanley Dickens, a professional driver. But that was four years ago, at the Petit Le Mans, when we finished eighth.

"How will we do this time? I really don't know. A result in the top five doesn't seem impossible, but again, it will also depend on my performance.

"I am sure the Dallara will also like this track," Lienhard noted. "Our biggest strength is our top team and a good spirit. We are very experienced here, which will help!"

Like Theys, Doran spoke of the team's successful test at this same track earlier this year.

"We had a good test at Road Atlanta in February, so that is a positive thing," he said. "At the same time we're competing against a couple of Audis and MGs that are faster on paper than we are. So we're going into the event hoping for a clean, trouble-free run and a podium finish. The June race at Road Atlanta is a sprint race of course, so we're approaching it with that mentality.

"Road Atlanta is pretty twisty," he added. "It's the classic road course that puts a premium on engine performance, chassis performance and aerodynamics. It has very slow, tight turns and the backstraight and the frontstraightaway are pretty quick, so it's a track that demands the ultimate compromise when you're doing your set-up.

"It's a great course to race on," Doran continued. "It's a smooth track, which maybe suits our style better than a bumpy track, but we'll have to see."

Finally, everyone involved won't have long to wait.

The on-track action begins with testing from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Friday, June 27. The schedule for the following day shows a one-hour practice session at 9 a.m. and an autograph session and open house in the paddock from 11:50 a.m. to 1 p.m. There is another hour of practice at 2 p.m. before the 20-minute combined qualifying session for the LMP 900 and 675 classes at 3:40 p.m.

The schedule for Race Day, Sunday, June 29, shows a half-hour warm-up at 8:10 a.m.; fans will be able to stroll down pit road from 11 a.m. until noon; and the two-hour and 45-minute race itself will be from 3 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

In other news, the date has been set for the team's second Open House, which will be held on Saturday, Dec. 6 at the team's headquarters at 2050 McKinley Blvd. in Lebanon, Ohio. More information will be forthcoming later, but that event will be open to the public. Theys will be on hand to sign autographs, and the team's various race cars will be on display.

More info on the Road Atlanta race and the team can be obtained at www.lista.com, www.doranracing.com, www.americanlemans.com, www.imsaracing.net, www.roadatlanta.com and www.restartcommunications.com.

-lm-

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Series ALMS
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya