Daytona 24: Doran Racing race report

Doran Racing Entries Finish Fifth and Ninth in 2005 Rolex 24 at Daytona DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 6 - A podium finish slipped away from both of them, but both the Doran Racing and the Doran Labonte Racing entries in this weekend's Rolex 24 at ...

Doran Racing Entries Finish Fifth and Ninth in 2005 Rolex 24 at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 6 - A podium finish slipped away from both of them, but both the Doran Racing and the Doran Labonte Racing entries in this weekend's Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway ran as high as second at one point and went on to finish in the top 10 Sunday.

The Doran Racing DORAN JE4 Lexus #77, sponsored by Crown Royal Special Reserve, almost finished third. It ended up fifth when electrical problems slowed the car, which was driven by Fabrizio Gollin, Matteo Bobbi and Didier Theys, during the second half of the race.

The Doran Labonte Racing DORAN JE4 Pontiac #44 of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup stars Bobby Labonte and Terry Labonte, Indy Racing League IndyCar star Bryan Herta and road racing star Jan Magnussen was as high as second several times but ended up ninth in the final rundown. The crew had to change the car's gearbox Sunday morning, and at the checkered Herta ended up stranded in turn five when the car's engine expired.

Both entries were certainly contenders, although they displayed totally different strategies. The #77, sponsored by Crown Royal Special Reserve as part of its campaign to promote responsible drinking, ran a slower but steady pace that saw it break into the top three at 4:23 a.m. Sunday. The car's engine was already misfiring by that point, however, and efforts to identify and cure the electrical problem proved elusive. The team soldiered on, however, and almost was rewarded with a podium finish until the last hour of the race.

The #44 had a flashier approach. Both Magnussen and Herta had the car in second place at various times, but Sunday morning Magnussen drove the car back to the garage area for a gearbox change. The Doran crew worked like the well-oiled team it is and had the car back on the track in 24 minutes, but the problem caused that car's podium finish to disappear. Before the gearbox problem the car had been turning the fastest laps of any car during that portion of the race. The podium wasn't to be, however, with the engine problem at the very end, further spoiling those hopes.

There were a couple of spins but both cars had remarkedly little contact despite the fact that the competition was torrid. There were 44 lead changes(a Rolex Series record) among the field of 62.

Fourteen and a half hours of the race were televised live on SPEED.

Quotes follow:

Bobby Labonte: "I enjoyed it. It was definitely a neat experience, and I hope to do it again."

What was the worst thing and what was the best thing about your first Rolex 24?:

"I guess the worst thing was the traffic. And I guess the best thing was just being on the racetrack."

Terry Labonte:  "I had fun!  It was a lot more relaxed atmosphere than what
I'm used to.  It was fun; I enjoyed it."

Jan Magnussen: "I enjoyed the race. The best thing was the driver pairing; I enjoyed having Bryan and the Labontes for teammates. I think we all had a good time. I think without the bad luck, we would have been on the podium."

Did you spin out once?

"No! I went straight off and on once in the chicane; I had to go through the grass to get back on the track, but I didn't spin.

"I really didn't have any close calls. I didn't have any contact with anybody, and that's a first for me in such a long race!

"Our car was really fast. In the first couple of stints we were there. We were able to match or beat everybody's time at certain points of the race, so I'm happy about that."

Bryan Herta: "At the end I got stranded in turn five or six; I'm not sure what number it was. The motor broke going into one; I went off and limped it over to five and then it stopped completely. It was definitely the motor, not the gearbox.

"I had a great time. If you don't win you wish you could have done better, but I still had fun.

"We ran really well at times. I had a good experience, and I'd like to come back and do it again, although maybe not next week!

"It really felt good to be in a racing situation on a road course again, and I think this was a good way to prepare for the IRL's road courses. You can test, but being in a race is the only thing that really prepares you.

"I think the Daytona Prototype class is very competitive. I like having only two classes in the race; it makes it easier for everybody to know who is in what class.

"I had a lot of close calls. Everybody has a story to tell at the end of a race like this.

"I was happy with my first stint in the car, where I drove it up to second. Then later in the race we fell back to tenth and I drove it back to fourth, and I felt really good about that too."

Didier Theys: "I'm disappointed because we could have been on the podium, but the engine situation really was not under our control. I'm happy because we were quite competitive in the race, although not in qualifying. We did not have the fastest car, but we had a car that was very well prepared.

"I didn't have any close calls. I drove very conservatively, just trying to finish.

"Hoosier will have to work a lot to make the rear tires live longer though; I will say that."

How did the window fall out?

"I think once in a driver change the door wasn't closed right, and the window just flew out."

What did you think of your two young teammates?

"I think they're great teammates, and we have already developed good friendships. They did a good job. I also want to thank our team for all their hard work. Doran Racing certainly knows how to prepare a car for a 24-hour race, for sure."

Fabrizo Gollin:  "We have some points for the championship now, and this is
very important.  We were unlucky, but at least we finished.

"This was my first race with Matteo as my teammate. For the last two years we raced against each other and we were fierce competitors. Now we're together and having fun. We are friends, and this is a good opportunity for us.

"This race was important because it helped us learn the American way of doing things. It's completely different, and we needed to experience it.

"In Europe there are boxes right by the track, and you have your helmets and other things close to you. You don't have to walk them so far from the transporter to the pits. Also, the pit lane here is open at times and closed at other times, which is different than in Europe. Also, in qualifying you have two sessions in Europe, not just 15 minutes. That is just a few examples. It is different, but the American way is very good.

"I have never been in the Rolex 24 before, but I won Spa last year. I know that in a race like this it is very important to pace yourself. That is what we tried to do."

Matteo Bobbi: "This was an important race of Fabrizio and I because of the history here and the big names that have raced here. This is a track that has made the sport very big. It was also important to have the chance to compete with all the different categories of drivers. It was a new challenge. We were happy because we finished. We lost the podium maybe, but in a 24-hour race, luck always plays a role."

Kevin Doran: "This is the race you love to hate. Had the 44 car crossed the finish line I would have been really happy. It sounds like either the gearbox had another problem or maybe the engine let go.

"I have no idea why the Lexus started to miss, but it started to get a slight miss around midnight. It started very lightly; I was the only one who noticed it; nobody else could hear it. But then it started to get worse.

"We looked under the throttle body at the butterfly, because there is some history of them breaking free.

"Later we changed the ECU, and then the spark plug box. That was a low priority, but when you're chasing something electrical you change a bunch of things and hope it solves it.

"Then at the end we changed the spark plugs and coils on the right side of the engine, because we thought the right side of the engine might be what was giving us the trouble. We'll really have to analyze it after the race to see what really was going on.

"Fabrizio and Matteo are go-getters. They are really fast. Fabrizio is the Iron Man; he drove more than his fair share of stints, and his lap times are fantastic.

"Matteo is our qualifier. I wish we could have just let him go at the end, but the car wasn't up to it."

-dr-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Fabrizio Gollin , Jan Magnussen , Didier Theys , Bryan Herta , Matteo Bobbi , Kevin Doran
Teams Doran Racing