DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 5, 4 p.m. - Getting even a little more speed out of the Doran-Lista Racing Dallara Judd ...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 5, 4 p.m. - Getting even a little more speed out of the Doran-Lista Racing Dallara Judd #27 on Saturday morning than he did Friday afternoon, Max Papis set an unofficial new track record of 1:40.170 (127.942 mph) to top the charts for the three-day Rolex 24 testing session at Daytona International Speedway.
Papis's fastest lap was the team's 17th in the Saturday morning practice session. The only reason that it is not a new track record is because it was accomplished in a test session rather than during qualifying or a race.
"When I came over to the United States in 1996, Daytona was my business card which opened up the door to the next stage of my career," Papis said. "Being back here and being at the top of the list is great because it's a reminder that Mad Max is always here and always aiming for the top in everything he does.
"In the winter when everything is calm, the Rolex 24 test is the wake-up call that the new racing season is here," Papis continued. "I'm very glad to be here with a top team like Doran-Lista Racing and my teammates, Didier Theys, Mauro Baldi and Fredy Lienhard. We have to remember that this is just practice, but having results like we had this weekend definitely gives us a positive attitude when we return here for the race. This is just a reference point of one lap; now we will have to start thinking about putting laps like this together for 24 hours."
Team manager Kevin Doran was also very pleased with how everything went.
"Like always in racing, we want to test a few things when we come back, but if we had to start the race today we'd go back to this morning's set-up because all of the drivers liked it," Doran said. "Like I said before, I think this is the strongest package I've ever had here. We have a strong car, a strong engine, a strong list of drivers and I think we have one of the best teams. So overall I'm pleased."
Doran knows that a great deal of work still lies ahead, however.
"We have the upper hand at the moment, and if it was a sprint race I'd say we'd be in good shape, but being as it's an endurance race, you just never know," Doran added. "Twenty-four hours is still a very long time and anything can happen; this is still Daytona!"
Theys and Baldi were also pleased with how everything went as was Fredy Lienhard Jr., who got to take a few laps as he substituted for his father. The senior Lienhard will be behind the wheel for the race along with Baldi, Theys and Papis on Feb. 2-3.
"I think this is the strongest drivers' line-up we've ever had here," Baldi noted. "I think it gives us a very good chance to do well. The practice lap times that we ran confirms that we're on the right track. The set-up for the car is very close to what we'll use for the race, and we got a great deal accomplished here this weekend."
"When we first raced this car in November, it was brand-new," Theys explained. "We put a set-up on it and we raced it, but we didn't really know what the car would really do. This weekend we were able to really work on finding a set-up that we feel will be good for 24 hours. Now we will continue to work on consistency and we'll try to keep our nose clean in traffic when we're back here for the race.
"Each driver on this team is a very good piece of the puzzle," Theys added. "We all know each other and we all respect each other. It's amazing how consistent our lap times are. There are no egos here; we are all professional. Everyone on this team respects each other, and that is one of the keys to our success.
"The other part is that Kevin and his staff are experts in car preparation," Theys continued. "When we get back here for the race, this will look like a brand-new car. Every nut and bolt will have been gone over. Kevin and the other members of the crew will continue to work very long hours to get ready for the race.
"We are all doing the very best we can," Theys concluded. "We will still need racing luck on our side when we get back here next month, but as they say, 'So far, so good!' "