Long Beach: Dorricott Racing race report

Dorricott Racing's Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty finish second and third place at Long Beach Atlantic race. Diaz literally remarkable in finishing 10th LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 14, 2002) - - Dorricott Racing showed how a little luck and a lot of...

Dorricott Racing's Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty finish second and third place at Long Beach Atlantic race.
Diaz literally remarkable in finishing 10th

LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 14, 2002) - - Dorricott Racing showed how a little luck and a lot of skill goes a long way as the Toyota Atlantic Championship's newest premier team captured two podium and three top-10 positions in the second round of the Toyota Atlantic Championship, Sunday, April 14.

Alex Gurney, of Newport Beach, Calif., ran an intelligent, error-free race to finish an Atlantic career best second place in round two of the 12-race series around the tortuous 1.968-mile, 11-turn seaside street circuit of Long Beach.

Teammates Jon Fogarty, of Portola Valley, and Luis Diaz, of Mexico City, also showed their championship skills with Fogarty finishing third place and Diaz finishing a truly amazing 10th.

Gurney and Fogarty avoided what could have been a race ending melee moments after the initial green flag. A slower than anticipated start by polesitter Joey Hand bunched the field enough that six rows of two cars took the checkered flag simultaneously. As the 12 cars careened down the long front straight-away toward Long Beach's notoriously narrow first corner, the rest of the 27-car field closed. The formula for disaster was complete as nearly 16 cars entered the turn one braking zone within hundredths of a second of each other. Multiple contacts ensued.

Gurney took an inside line down the front straight-away and beat most of the field to the corner. A perfectly executed right-to-left turn as the carnage began permitted him to squirt into the lead. Canadian Michael Valiante also dodged the "proverbial bullet" and followed Gurney in turn. Gurney led the race for the first 20 laps albeit 13 laps were completed under yellow flag conditions

"I didn't get the greatest start off the line when it went green," said Gurney. "It turned out to be a blessing. I was just a tick back so when everybody collided, I ended up with a nice line through turn one and exited in front. I'm happy I earned points because I didn't get any in Mexico."

Fogarty, whose Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014a lost traction in the braking zone and slightly slid, was also able to recover and jumped behind Valiante. The front-running trio burst away while a full course yellow flag was issued by Atlantic officials in order to sort out the mess.

"At least four of us went into the first turn real hot," reflected Fogarty. "Everybody was late to the brakes. I just avoided stuffing it into the tire barrier. It was really tight. It didn't spread out going down the straight-away. I think the polesitter waited a long time to go to the throttle with the green flag so it bunched the rest of the field. I came away unscathed so I'm happy for that."

Diaz was caught in middle of the crash scene. Diaz, who started sixth, did all he could to avoid contact in driving a cautious line into turn one. Unfortunately, he was struck from the side, spun, and then was literally struck on his helmet by Scotland's Ryan Danziel when Danziel's car went airborne after being struck by Jonathon Macri. Diaz was uninjured but required two separate pit stops during the caution period to replace a severely damaged rear wing.

"On the race start, I was just trying to keep the car on the track," said Diaz. "I didn't look to make a bold move. I just wanted to get through turn one safely. I saw the accident in front of me and was pushed from the middle to the outside. Then I felt the impact of someone hitting me from behind. The next thing I recall, a car flew over my head and one of its tires hit my helmet. I realized my wing was damaged but I couldn't do anything about the wing or the crash. I returned to pit lane because I wanted a new wing."

Diaz, who started sixth, fell to 23rd by lap nine after making two pit stops. However, he then put on a show that was "second to none." Over the proceeding 20 laps, Diaz powered his Telmex Swift 014a past 13 cars to score a 10th place finish.

"Team Dorricott was incredible!" said an exited Diaz. "My crew fixed the car in maybe 30-seconds. The rear wing was badly damaged but L.J. (crew chief John Martin Jr.) and the rest of the crew had everything ready so I didn't even drop a lap. I had problems with my left rear tire after the crash but it wasn't bad enough to stop me from making up positions. The car felt great after the rear wing was replaced."

A race re-start on lap 21 found Valiante and Gurney in a figurative drag race down the front straight-away. Valiante drove an inside-to-outside line, and then pulled side-by-side and within inches of Gurney's Behr/Castrol/The Cannery Swift 014a as both cars entered the braking zone of turn one. Valiante took a "too close to call" gamble pass and narrowly succeeded passing Gurney through turn one. Valiante came to with 10 inches of striking the outside wall but recovered well and held his lead for the remaining nine race laps and the win.

"We probably ran too much downforce and that made us vulnerable," reflect Gurney. "On the re-start when Michael passed me, he braked later and then almost crashed. When Valiante first turned in, I didn't think he'd make it. It looked like he would more likely bounce off the wall and back into me. I thought he was toast for a moment. I slowed to get out of his way. When he made it through the turn I thought 'you lucky dog.' He did it right. He made his move at the right time. I doubt any other moment of the race would have worked. His timing couldn't have been better."

Due to the lengthy caution periods the race was shortened from its scheduled 32 laps to 29 laps.

Gurney's runner-up showing was a career best in Atlantic competition. His previous best was at Trois-Rivieres in 2000.

"My father (Dan Gurney) was here today and I'm sure this race made him happy," said Gurney. "It was his birthday yesterday so this is a nice present. It's nice to get a good result in front of him and many of my friends and family.

"Being with this team is the difference. Compared to other teams I've been with, Dorricott Racing is totally into every last detail. Every little thing makes a difference to this team. When you look at the grid, one-tenth of a second can mean four positions. Every little variable is looked at by the team. We have three good drivers, excellent engineers and a winning work ethic."

Fogarty remains the Toyota Atlantic Championship leader with 35 points and a three-point margin over Valiante's 32 points. Diaz remained in fourth place with 19 points. Gurney made up the most ground in moving into fifth place with 17 points, including 16 points for second place and one bonus point for leading the most laps.

Round three of the 12-race Toyota Atlantic Championship will be at the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wis., on Sunday, June 2.

-dr-

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About this article
Series Atlantic
Drivers Alex Gurney , Jon Fogarty , Joey Hand , Luis Diaz , Dan Gurney , John Martin