DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 5 - Calling it "the strongest package I've ever had for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona," team manager Kevin Doran announced today that Mauro Baldi, Fredy Lienhard Sr., Max Papis and Didier Theys will be the drivers of the...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 5 - Calling it "the strongest package I've ever had for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona," team manager Kevin Doran announced today that Mauro Baldi, Fredy Lienhard Sr., Max Papis and Didier Theys will be the drivers of the Doran-Lista Racing Dallara Judd #27 Sports Racing Prototype car at the 40th annual Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona Feb. 2-3.
The Lebanon, Ohio-based team will conclude a three-day test of its primary car at Daytona International Speedway today. Although it is concentrating on its set-up and endurance, at the close of Friday afternoon's practice session Papis reeled off a lap of 1:40.818 or 127.120 mph, an unofficial new track record.
Baldi and Theys, who are virtual legends in endurance sports car racing, have both won this race before when they were teammates on the Doran-managed Moretti Ferrari team in 1998. Each also has two seconds in his previous eight starts; Baldi in 1988 and Theys in 1996. Baldi's resume also includes 36 Formula 1 starts, while Theys has 47 CART champ car starts. Theys has also been in the Indy 500 three times during his illustrious career.
Papis doesn't have an overall victory in the Rolex 24 yet but the popular CART champ car driver has a second, a third and a fourth overall in five previous Rolex starts. "Mad Max" also won the Sports Racer class here in 2000.
As chief executive officer of Lista, the world leader in the manufacture and distribution of modular storage systems, Lienhard is not a professional athlete like his three teammates, but his racing resume is also extremely impressive. He has three starts in the Rolex 24, the most prestigious endurance sports car race in North America, with his best finish being eighth in 1999. In 2000 he was awarded the Swiss BP Racing trophy in recognition for outstanding merits in international motorsports.
Insiders know that any car Doran puts on the track is a threat. He has three overall victories here as a team manager: 1998 in a Ferrari with Baldi, Theys, Arie Luyendyk and Gianpiero Moretti, and 1986 and 1987 with Derek Bell, Al Unser Jr. and the late Al Holbert in a Porsche 962.
Last year the team posted Grand-Am Road Racing Association victories in the Six Hours of Watkins Glen, N.Y. and, for the second year in a row, in the Road America 500 at Elkhart Lake, Wis. The team finished second in the 2001 national championship and it is second to only Dyson Racing in all-time Rolex Series victories. Doran-Lista Racing is also the first and only team in U.S. history to win the three most prestigious road races in North America -- the Rolex 24, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Watkins Glen Six-Hour -- all in the same year.
Papis is most well known for his champ car accomplishments, but his three teammates are all in the top-10 in overall Rolex Series podium finishes. Theys is second only to James Weaver; Baldi is fourth and Lienhard is tied for tenth. That trio's ranking in the list of overall victories in the past two years is also superlative, as Baldi and Theys are tied for third with four victories and Lienhard is right behind them in fifth with three checkereds.
Papis speaks glowingly of the team and its chances in this year's Rolex 24.
"I'm looking forward to this year's Rolex 24 and I'm particularly happy to be back with Doran Racing," he said. "With Kevin [Doran] and his great group of people, we won three races in 1996 and finished second at Daytona, Sears Point and Mosport on top of a 'all records' of four poles and four fastest laps. In 1997 we competed in LeMans and scored third in class and sixth overall, while in 1999 we were third at Daytona with Jim Matthews, Stefan Johansson and Jimmy Vasser.
"We had special moments together and I'm looking forward to new ones as well. I am very impressed with the car and its attention to details; beside the fact it's Italian, like me! [Dallara is based in Italy.] I have had a long relationship with Dallara since Formula 3.
"I think that with the experience of Didier Theys, Mauro Baldi and Fredy Lienhard we will have a very good chance to bring home the big trophy. It's just great to be back in Daytona again with Doran Racing. They helped me so much to start my new career in the United States. And I'm particularly glad to go back to the speedway where the name 'Mad Max' was born. I'm really looking forward to the race!"
Papis's teammates are equally optimistic.
"We got this car in October and we used the Grand-Am finale in November as a test," Theys noted. "We are continuing to refine our set-up here this weekend, and we have a very good car.
"Kevin's abilities are well known," he continued. "In addition, everyone on the team knows each other very well. That chemistry is extremely important. I believe our chemistry combined with the quality of the car and the expertise of the people working on the car gives us a strong chance to do well here next month."
Although Doran was born and raised in Ohio, his drivers reflect the international flavor of this event. Baldi and Papis are Italian, although Baldi currently lives in Monte Carlo and Papis resides in California. Theys was born in Nivelles, Belgium and now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., while Lienhard is a resident of Erlen, Switzerland.
Ron Mathis of Indianapolis is the team's engineer while Jeff Graves of Cincinnati is the crew chief.
For more information on the team, see www.doranracing.com and www lista.com. For more information on the Rolex 24, see www.grand-am.com.
The race will be televised live on Speedvision.