VIR: Doran-Lista race report

Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Toyota ...

Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Toyota #27 sets fastest race lap, finishes sixth Sunday at VIR

ALTON, Va., Oct. 5 - The Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Toyota was the fastest car in the VIR 400 Grand American Rolex Series race Sunday at Virginia International Raceway, but unfortunately a rookie driver in a GT car hit it about 40 minutes into the event to destroy the team's chances of victory.

Still, the Lebanon, Ohio-based team persevered and came back to finish sixth overall and fifth in the Daytona Prototype class.

Another car designed and built by Doran Enterprises, the Bell Motorsports DORAN JE4 Chevy, won the race. Although the Doran-Lista car ended up six laps down Sunday, both of the DORAN JE4s took the checkered together, which hopefully is a precursor of things to come at the season finale at Daytona Beach, Fla. on Saturday, Nov. 1.

Sunday's 400-kilometer, 77-lap race was broadcast on a same-day, delayed basis on the SPEED network.

Doran-Lista's lead driver, Didier Theys of Scottsdale, Ariz., ended up starting 17th overall and sixth in class when another team changed its driver line-up before the start.

As soon as the green waved, Theys was flying. By the end of lap one he was already in tenth place overall, and by the end of lap five he was fifth both overall and in class. He was setting the fastest laps of the race, and was only surpassed in that category by his own teammate, Bill Auberlen of Hermosa Beach, Calif., after the team's driver's change about two hours into the two-hour and 45-minute event. Auberlen's fastest lap was run in 1:48.850, which was .411 of a second faster than the eventual winner's fastest lap.

Before that, however, trouble struck in the form of the Scuderia of Washington Ferrari #28 GT car, which had a rookie behind the wheel at the time. Theys had masterfully blasted clear up to second place and was about 11 seconds behind only the Bell Motorsports DORAN JE4 when the Ferrari came across the track and hit him.

At first Theys thought he just had a flat right-rear Goodyear, but after that was changed he reported that something was still wrong, and the team lost several laps to replace a bent right-rear upper A-arm. When Theys returned to the fray his second place had dissolved into 19th and he was six laps down, so just salvaging a top-six finish at the end was quite commendable.

"I followed him for half a lap and I even got off on the grass in order to give him more room," Theys said afterwards about the accident. "It happened on the back of the track, going up the hill. He actually crossed the race track in order to hit me. He hit me big-time with his left front into my right rear. It gave us a puncture and the suspension was bent, and our chances were over.

"l was being very careful around him because all weekend I had problems with him. It took me five corners to pass him earlier because the guy is all over the place.

"The only positive thing I can say was before that the car was very, very good. Even this gurney flap today was better than the one we had in qualifying," Theys added with a smile.

"It was just bad luck," Auberlen summarized. "The car is a little bent but even with that we did the fastest race lap, which shows you just how strong this team and this car is. Our time is coming. The car is great. The team is great. The combination is great. We just need some luck."

"I have mixed emotions," team owner Kevin Doran said. "I'm tickled to death that the Bell Motorsports DORAN JE4 won the race and took the lead in the championship. I think they're a very motivated group that races hard and fairly and they deserved to win.

"For our team, it's very disappointing to have the fastest car in the race and to be fastest in every practice session, sometimes by a little bit and sometimes by a fair amount, and then be taken out in the race by a rookie driver. Didier was driving quite conservatively and carefully because he'd had problems with that driver before, and then to get hit under these circumstances, it was devastating. But in racing the fastest car doesn't always win. Hopefully we'll have better luck next time."

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Series GRANDAM