Daytona III: Doran-Lista qualifying report

Theys and the Doran-Lista Dallara Judd ...

Theys and the Doran-Lista Dallara Judd #27 earn the pole for Dark Dog Grand Am finale at Daytona.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Nov. 9 - Driving the Doran-Lista Dallara Judd #27, Didier Theys earned his seventh pole of the year Saturday afternoon in preparation for tomorrow's Dark Dog Grand American Finale at Daytona International Speedway.

The three-hour race will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel beginning at noon Eastern time. Both the team and Theys will be going for championships, as they've led the Sports Racing Prototype team and driver point standings all year. Theys will share the driving duties with 22-year-old rookie Fredy Lienhard Jr. of Santa Barbara, Calif. and Niederteufen, Switzerland, tomorrow.

The Lebanon, Ohio-based team and Theys, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., earned the pole for all three Grand Am Rolex Series races held on Daytona's 3.56-mile road course this year. Saturday's lap at 1:41.313 or 126.499 mph was the fastest of the three pole-winning runs. Theys' fastest lap at the Paul Revere 250 was clocked at 1:41.421, while his qualifying speed at this year's Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, held on a day when the temperature was very hot like today, was completed in 1:42.058.

The only times the team hasn't been on the pole in the 10-race series this year were at Phoenix, the first race at Watkins Glen and at Virginia International Raceway. The team hasn't started further back than fourth all year.

As was the case at the Paul Revere 250 in July, Butch Leitzinger qualified second in one of the Dyson Racing Riley & Scott Fords. Like Theys his best lap was his fourth, which he did in 1:42.183. The other Dyson car, driven by James Weaver, qualified third.

As a further testament to the expertise of Doran-Lista Racing and Theys, the team has put together its impressive record despite the fact that its first race with this particular car was at this same race exactly one year ago. Most of the other teams have been working with their particular chassis for many years. The Doran-Lista team has the only Dallara in the field, a trend that at this point in time looks like it will continue when the team competes in the American Le Mans Series in 2003.

Theys only did six laps in the 15-minute qualifying session Saturday.

"It was pretty hot and the track was quite slippery," he said after climbing out of the immaculate red and white car that sports the blue logo of primary sponsor Lista, the world-wide leader in modular storage systems.

"We had to go up on the tire compound this afternoon, but the grip on our Goodyears was good. We have good balance on the car. We need to be careful tomorrow but we also still need to be competitive, and to do that we're going to have to push. Maybe we'll take less risk in the traffic passing slower cars because of the championships, but if we have the opportunity to win the race without too much risk, we'll take it."

Although the team has had a remarkable year, winning the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and three other races, Theys agreed that it's been a year of learning the intricacies of the new-to-them Dallara. "We don't have a budget which allows us to test, but in July we were able to do a two-day test at VIR [Virginia International Raceway] which helped us a great deal," Theys said. "We learn more about the car in every session, but that test helped quite a lot. It's not been a case of learning any one specific thing, but more of gaining a bigger depth of knowledge about this chassis and engine."

Theys' co-driver, Fredy Lienhard Jr., is making his first start here at Daytona. He is currently fourth in the SRP driver point standings.

"Our race set-up is very good; I feel comfortable in the car and I'm confident going into tomorrow's race," said Lienhard Jr., who with Theys' coaching has been almost as fast as his mentor here.

"Qualifying was good; now we have to win the race tomorrow," said team manager Kevin Doran to sum things up.

For more information, watch SPEED Channel, see www.grandamerican.com, www.lista.com and www.doranracing.com.

-dlr/lm-

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Series GRANDAM