DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 13, 2002) -- 2002 Rolex 24 At Daytona-winning team owner Kevin Doran took time out of his busy schedule to answer questions submitted by fans to Grand-Am.com. Doran answered several questions about being part of his...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 13, 2002) -- 2002 Rolex 24 At Daytona-winning team owner Kevin Doran took time out of his busy schedule to answer questions submitted by fans to Grand-Am.com. Doran answered several questions about being part of his fourth Rolex 24 winning team. He also talked about his plans for the 2002 season, in addition to discussing the new Daytona Prototypes that he plans on building for the 2003 season.
Do you have any other interests besides running your race team? Judging from the purses in sports car racing and sponsorship that appears minimal compared to, say, Winston Cup, I don't know how someone affords to compete in the top category, at a competitive level, without some other business interests. And you do it quite effectively, I might add.
Actually sports car racing is our primary source of income, and we are only able to do it due to our good sponsorship involvement from Lista and our partners.
Have you started construction of your first Daytona Prototypes?
We have not started construction; we are only in the planning stages at this point. I would project it to be June or July before the first construction is started. We will have a wind tunnel program to run through in the second quarter of the year prior to construction
Will Doran Racing be entering Le Mans?
No, not for 2002
I know it is still early, but what is your team's plan for the 2003 season? Will the Judd V10 meet the new rules for the 2003 season? And if not what do you plan on running?
At this point its clear that the Judd V10 would be excluded from the 2003 Rolex Series regulations, but the Dallara car, with some minimal chassis modifications and a new engine, would be legal for 2003. You can probably expect to see the Dallara car back next year with a new engine.
How many of the new Dallaras did you (or Fredy) buy from Oreca racing?
We bought two.
What did you have for mechanical concerns once Sunday morning came and as Sunday noon approached? Watching the car lap after lap, if there wasn't a leader tower showing you in first, one would have assumed you were in second and chasing someone. The car seemed to run flawlessly all morning right through race end.
Well, the car did run flawlessly every lap that it was on the track, which gave us confidence and speed. On the opposite side of the spectrum, we had trouble with the batteries three times during the night and that could have come back at any moment. Additionally, I had concerns about a catastrophic failure of the gearbox or the engine, which can always come up at any moment without warning. So that was my main concern.
I was wondering what your plans for the rest of the year will be.
Due to financial restrictions, we're not able to run a full season. We plan on running some of the bigger sports car events in the U.S.
What is the best route to take to become a sports car series SRP driver? I have competed in the Skip Barber Formula Dodge Series. Should I try driving something like a Spec Racer or Sports 2000 in the SCCA? Which school format will give me the foundation I need to go on to SRP?
The most important thing is to race as many events possible per year to improve your skills. The second most important thing would be to race at some level that you have a chance of winning and then progress up, and not jump in too deep from the start.
What was the game plan with your team on race weekend?
Our game plan changed on Saturday, one week before the race. During test days it was obvious to me that we had a car that was truly fast enough to win the race and that reliability would be our problem. I was confident that we could cover the issues because we're fairly well known for that.
That Saturday, the week before the race, we were in the midst of doing 18-hour days and it became obvious to me that we weren't quite as prepared as we had been in the past. So, rather than thinking about going down and dominating the race, I started thinking about how we could cover our troubles and recover from what little troubles might crop up. Sure enough, during testing for the race and in qualifying we had some small troubles coming up from time to time and that continued into the race. Like always, you try on the track and stay out of the pits if at all possible; but when you do have to stop for the unscheduled work, you have to be sure to repair it properly the first time so that it doesn't reoccur, and basically that is what we did.
Are you guys going to build a Daytona Prototypes coupe for the 2003 season?
How does it feel to be crowned the Rolex 24 At Daytona champion?
It's a great accomplishment. I think that it is the most significant sports car race in the U.S. and each time that I'm involved with the winning team it becomes more significant than the last. With four wins now it seems to be a great achievement.
Can you explain how you work to arrive at a car setup that is workable for the 24 hours, yet also takes into account the individual styles of Fredy, Didier, Mauro and Max? How do you boil down all those variables into your final race setup?
One thing that makes it simpler is that from time to time we actually choose our drivers based on their driving style. Our four drivers have a similar driving style to start out with, so it makes my job easier. The second big point is that for the 24 hour race you go with what I would call a conservative set up -- where the car is very secure, tending toward understeer with a very secure back end so that the guys can afford to change direction in traffic or make sudden moves if traffic surprises them without losing control of the car.
Has the team recovered from the race? Is it really as much fun as you made it look like it was through out the race?
I still don't have my voice back. I think as of Monday everyone was back on track, but all of last week was spent coming into work a little late and leaving early; basically being brain dead the whole week. I think you can look for a one-week recovery period after that race.
What was the most serious mechanical problem during the race and what measures and steps do you take to avoid it in future races?
Well, we lost the most time in three unscheduled stops during the race. All three times we put in batteries, and we had prepared the car as we do all our cars for a reasonable fast battery change. The middle stop was the longest where we replaced the battery and the alternator. The alternator change is a bit cumbersome on the Judd Dallara. It's possible that the alternator could be relocated to a different place, but in the end I think we had the best compromise of alternator location and reliability.
I've followed your team for several years and always wondered if the number 27 has any special significance to you or was it just assigned?
The number 27 came to our team via Fredy Leinhard. He had used that number for many years with his European race team, so that's Fredy's historical number. The only significance to us is that my family has run the number 77 for 30 years or so. There is a slight similarity there, but its Fredy's number.
Do you think you can win the championship?
I am currently working on trying to secure some sponsorship, so I hope we have the opportunity to run for the championship. If we do, I expect that we'll be very competitive with a very strong chance at winning.
What was it that sold you on the Dallara? Do your engines come straight from Judd, or do you or someone else maintain them?
For Dallara, I believe they are the best chassis provider in the world. They manufactured the Ferrari 333, which we are very familiar with, and we became very familiar with their company over the last eight or nine years running the Ferrari. As a customer based race car constructor, no one comes close to competing at Dallara's level.
As far as the engines, they are built and maintained by Engine Developments in England. We actually are allowed to do very little to the engine. So, changing spark plugs, oil filters, fuel injectors and the clutch is about the limits of what we are allowed to maintain on the engine. Anything internal would have to go back to Engine Developments.
Do you think the Daytona Prototypes rules package is a viable solution for team owners?
The Daytona Prototypes should be a very fast car, a very exciting car for the owners. With a new look and some cost savings built into the package, I think the owners will find it to be a good package, less expensive than today. Hopefully through long term consistency with the same rules for, I'm hoping, five or six years this car could become even more economical as time goes on.
Did you have any serious concerns about the reliability of the Dallara, especially due to the fact it was so new?
From our November and January runs at Daytona and what we saw back home with our inspection of the car, it looked very strong. I didn't have any real concerns about chassis or body issues or anything like that. My concerns were focused on the gearbox and the engine.