Road Atlanta: Doran Racing preview

Doran Racing's Lienhard, Theys and Bertolini Are Looking Forward to Tackling The Petit Le Mans with Their Lista Maserati LEBANON, Ohio, Sept. 28 - Doran Racing drivers Fredy Lienhard and Didier Theys will try to repeat their GT1 podium finish at...

Doran Racing's Lienhard, Theys and Bertolini Are Looking Forward to Tackling The Petit Le Mans with Their Lista Maserati

LEBANON, Ohio, Sept. 28 - Doran Racing drivers Fredy Lienhard and Didier Theys will try to repeat their GT1 podium finish at Road America Aug. 11 when they compete in the 10th running of the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Motor Sports Center in Braselton, Ga. on Saturday, Oct. 6.

It will be only the second race ever for their blue Maserati MC12, a privateer entry that wasn't far behind the big-budget factory Corvette team in Wisconsin. The best lap recorded by the Michelin-shod Maserati, which is sponsored by Lista, Making Workspace Work and Lista Office, was just 0.877 of a second off the best lap posted by the winning Corvette in the car's first race, held on Road America's 4.048-mile circuit.

On Oct. 3-6 the challenge will transfer to Road Atlanta's newly repaved 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course. Lienhard and Theys finished on the podium at the Petit Le Mans last year too, although that time they drove Horag Racing's Lista- and Lista Office-sponsored LMP2 car with which they're much more familiar. As always in endurance racing the first goal will be to finish, which is a challenge when high-performance cars and their components are put under such grueling pressure for 1,000 miles or 10 hours, and multiple drivers are competing in cars traveling at varying speeds in the four-class format used by the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). Cars must complete at least 70 percent of the overall winner's distance to be eligible for points and prize money. In the recent past the winning Audi has completed 394 laps, so the magic lap number for teams on Oct. 6 is 276.

Joining Theys, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Lienhard, of Niederteufen, Switzerland, in the driver rotation at the Petit Le Mans will be a driver who has been instrumental in the development of the Maserati MC12 - Andrea Bertolini of Castellarano, Reggio Emilia, Italy, who is currently tied for first place in the FIA GT1 driver points championship. Maserati has already clinched the FIA GT1 manufacturer's championship, which it also won in 2005. Two Maserati teams are currently first and second in that team championship.

Like the other two Doran Racing drivers, Bertolini already has had success at Road Atlanta. He and Fabrizio de Simone finished third in the GT1 class with a Maserati MC12 in a sprint race at Road Atlanta in April 2005, the Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta. Later that year he, de Simone and Fabio Babini finished fourth at the Petit Le Mans with the same car.

"I am very happy to be back racing in the United States, especially as I will be doing it with one of the best America teams around in Doran Racing," said Bertolini. "The Petit Le Mans is one of the hardest and most prestigious races on the ALMS calendar, along with the 12 Hours of Sebring.

"Along with Mosport and Elkhart Lake, Road Atlanta is one of my favorite circuits," the 33-year-old driver added. "American circuits are always a tough challenge for us European drivers because they're different from the ones we are used to, both in terms of their layout and the type of track surface."

"It will be a tough race again for us, but we'll try to do our best, as always," said Theys, who will be concluding his 30th season as a race car driver at this event.

Theys is one of the drivers entered this year who also competed in the very first Petit Le Mans 10 years ago, and Doran Racing is one of the event's original teams.

Theys recalled the race's first edition. "I was driving the Ferrari 333 for Kevin [Doran]," he said. " I qualified second, and I was running second when we had a fuel pick-up problem. I remember I stopped in the middle of the backstraight. We were very competitive, but we ended up 25th. I looked it up, and we completed 59 laps. I qualified second with a speed of 124.31 miles per hour.

"Mauro Baldi was my co-driver in that race; Fredy didn't do that one," Theys added.

Although he's very familiar with Road Atlanta, Lienhard pointed out that most of the team is still getting used to the Maserati, himself included. "This will be my last race in 2007, which was an interesting season with a good number of podium finishes and lots of new experiences with two different cars," Lienhard said. "I look forward to being at Road Atlanta. That is the track where I competed in my first race in the United States, some 12 years ago."

The announced attendance at last year's Petit Le Mans was 90,000. Those who aren't able to attend in person this year can follow SPEED's live coverage of the event on Saturday, Oct. 6. The network coverage is scheduled to run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. All times are Eastern.

In addition to the ALMS headliner there are six different support series on the packed Petit Le Mans schedule: Star Mazda, SPEED World Challenge Touring Car, SPEED World Challenge GT, IMSA Lites, IMSA GT3 Cup and the Panoz Racing Series.

For the Lebanon, Ohio-based Doran Racing team, the on-track action starts on Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 1 p.m. with a test session that runs until 2:30 p.m.

Practice continues on Thursday, Oct. 4 from 10:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.; 2:50 p.m. to 3:50 p.m., and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

There's a one-hour practice session on Friday, Oct. 5 at 9:30 a.m. and an autograph session in the ALMS paddock at noon. A 25-minute qualifying session for the GT1 and GT2 classes follows at 2:50 p.m. Friday.

A 25-minute minute warm-up session is on the docket Saturday, Oct. 6 at 8 a.m. before the pre-race activities begin at 10:15 a.m. and the race itself gets the green flag at 11:15 a.m.

Live timing and scoring and audio commentary will be available at imsaracing.net. Lista's Web site is at listaintl.com. Lista Office's Web site is at lista-office.com. Doran Racing's Web site is at doranracing.com. The track's Web site is at roadatlanta.com. Information on Maserati can be found at both maserati.com and maseraticorse.com.

-credit: doran racing/lm

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Fredy Lienhard , Mauro Baldi , Fabrizio de Simone , Fabio Babini , Andrea Bertolini
Teams Doran Racing