David Reininger - Motorsport News International
Homestead, FL (October 17, 1998) - The FIA-GT Championship made two stops in the United States last year, Sebring and Laguna Seca. While Laguna Seca remains as one of this season's two U.S. stops, Sebring, site of this country's most historic endurance race, has been replaced by a date at the Homestead Motorsports Complex.
Pick up trucks stopping for a plate of gator, snake and frog legs in Florida's outback have been replaced by the world's most exotic cars lining Ocean Drive in Miami's South Beach.
The Lamborghinis and Ferraris rarely exceed 25 mph, as they cruise Ocean Drive, absorbing the pulsating sights and sounds of the art deco district. That won't be the case tomorrow as Porsche, Mercedes and Dodge Viper factory teams push their 550 horsepower sports cars to speeds approaching 180 mph on Homestead's front-straight.
For David Donohue, this race is a homecoming of sorts. The 31 year old son of Indy 500 winner Mark Donohue, resides in Malvern, Pennsylvania. David captured the North American Touring Car Championship for Dodge last season. This year he's racing with the Oreca Dodge Viper team in Europe.
Donohue has raced in three FIA-GT races this season, scoring points in each event. He also scored a class win at the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans.
"It's good to be back," Donohue said about racing in the States. "I know a lot of people around here, more so than when I'm in Europe." Donohue is quick to joke about it being easier to order dinner here, but gets serious about being on track.
"As far as on the track goes, I've never raced here before," said Donohue. "So I need to learn the track. What makes it a little more difficult is that I've been out of the cockpit for three months. It's learning all over again."
Despite the intense heat in south Florida, Donohue doesn't think the heat will be a key factor in the race.
"With some cars the heat will be a factor, I know the Viper gets quite hot inside. However we have some cool suits and some other driver comforts. I think a bigger key role is going to be how the track plays into it because the track just got hotter and hotter. The tires are very much effected by that. As time goes on, the track is going to change quite a bit. I think at the end of the race you'll see a lot of spins when it gets really greasy."
"The Viper is very quick here," said Donohue. "Starting up front will be important, because the track is very tight, and it will be difficult to pass. Because of the air Restrictors on the engine, we won't be able to pass on the straights so much - we'll have to rely on the Viper's handling ability"
"The duration is limited to three hours but because the Vipers are strong and reliable, we really don't anticipate any problems.
Both Vipers set the fastest GT2 times in this morning's session with the Beretta and Lamy car ahead of Wendlinger and Donohue. With the Viper team working on race set ups in this afternoon's qualifying session, the Marcos 600 LM of Euser, Becker and Vann just nipped the Viper team for GT2 pole.
"We will try to run with the Vipers," GT2 polesitter, Cor Euser said, "but their consistency is very good. "Their first lap is as fast as the last. We can start with them but we can't stay there. But we will give them a run for their money."
Round 9 of the FIA GT Championship takes the green flag at 13:00 on Sunday. Live television coverage in the United States will be provided by Speedvision.