Homestead-Miami: Doran-Lista race report

The Doran-Lista Team Dominates The Nextel 250 Saturday at Homestead; Posts Second Victory in a Row HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 2 -Doran-Lista Racing's Dallara Judd ...

The Doran-Lista Team Dominates The Nextel 250 Saturday at Homestead; Posts Second Victory in a Row

HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 2 -Doran-Lista Racing's Dallara Judd #27 and drivers Mauro Baldi of Monte Carlo and Didier Theys of Scottsdale, Ariz., dominated Saturday's Nextel 250 Grand American Rolex Sport Car Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The Lebanon, Ohio-based team took the checkered flag with a two-lap advantage over second place after 104 laps around the track's 2.21-mile modified road course.

The race was televised live on Speed Channel.

After starting on the pole, Baldi showed the way right from the start. His main threat was James Weaver in the Dyson Crawford Judd #16, which moved into second on lap five and was right behind Baldi by lap 19.

Doran-Lista team manager Kevin Doran brought his car into the pits for four tires and fuel on lap 22 under a full-course caution that was reportedly brought out by a run-in between Weaver and the ZIP Racing Porsche #34 of Steven Ivankovich and Spencer Pumpelly. Baldi entered the pits as the leader and he was still in front when the green waved again on lap 26 thanks to the Doran-Lista team's perfect pit work.

At that point the only wrinkle surfaced in the Doran-Lista team's master plan. A problem developed with the set of tires that was put on the car on that stop, and Baldi quickly had his hands full not only trying to hold off Weaver, but also just keeping the car on the track since it had developed a big vibration and a serious understeer.

Baldi got off course for just an instant in turn two on lap 33, which allowed Weaver to take the lead. Baldi regrouped quickly, however, and he retook the lead on lap 44 when Weaver got sideways in turn eight and ended up in a gravel trap. There were reports that something broke on Weaver's car before the crash. Whether the problem was initiated by a broken part or the off-track excursion, the Crawford was definitely damaged in the left rear after the incident and was never again a threat for the victory.

"I went off in turn two and James [Weaver] went by," Baldi explained after the driver change on lap 61 to let Theys take over. "I was fighting the understeer all the time at that point. I tried to put pressure on Weaver and eventually he spun by himself and I got the lead back.

"I think our car is better than his under braking and in the quick corners, too," Baldi added while sitting on the pit wall after his stint.

Despite the excitement Baldi had rebuilt a two-lap lead over the now-second-place Rand Racing/Risi Competizione Lola Nissan of Terry Borcheller, Anthony Lazzaro and William Rand when he pitted for the driver change. Theys had a relatively easy time keeping that advantage throughout the rest of the race.

"I think the most important part of the race was the early going when we were fighting with James Weaver," Baldi said later. "That was the race, I think."

Theys agreed.

"The car was perfect when I was in it," Theys said. "Once again it is the great preparation that Kevin Doran and the entire Doran-Lista team does that gives us results like this.

"The car was very reliable for me and I had no problems," Theys continued. "I was actually hoping for more competition, but I think the #16 had a suspension problem or something like that.

"My job was to just be as smooth as possible and bring the car home in one piece.

"The Goodyear tires were fine for me; they were perfect. The car had perfect balance and really it was a simple job for me.

"I think it was easier for me today than Mauro because I drove when it was getting dark and it was cooler, and the car likes the cooler temperatures," Theys explained.

"Traffic wasn't bad," he added. "Everybody was very cautious. It was a great day. Anytime you win it's great."

Trailing the Doran-Lista #27 at the checkered were the Intersport Racing Lola Judd of Jon and Joel Field and the Rand/Risi Lola Nissan of Borcheller, Lazzaro and Rand.

After winning the most prestigious sports car race in North America, the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, last month and now having such great results at Homestead Saturday, the team will tackle its second-biggest race of the year, the 12 Hours of Sebring, on March 16.

"Sebring will be much tougher, but we hope to do a good job there too," Theys said.

"I'm very proud of the entire Doran-Lista Racing team," Doran summarized. "I hope we can keep this momentum up going into Sebring and then Fontana. The Dallara-Judd combination is strong; I think we've proven that. It's always great to win."

-dr/lm-

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Series GRANDAM