Sears Point: Doran-Lista preview

SONOMA, Calif., July 18 - The name may have changed from Sears Point Raceway to Infineon Raceway, but the beauty of the area and the hot on-track action will remain the same when Doran-Lista Racing visits the wine country of Northern California...

SONOMA, Calif., July 18 - The name may have changed from Sears Point Raceway to Infineon Raceway, but the beauty of the area and the hot on-track action will remain the same when Doran-Lista Racing visits the wine country of Northern California for the Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sunday, July 27.

The race will start at noon local time and will be broadcast live on NBC from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time. Highlights will be shown on EuroSport at 18:00 Central European Time on Aug. 3.

Prior to that, a lucky fan chosen in a contest by KVRV, 97.7, The River, a local classic rock radio station, will spend the day with the Doran-Lista team on Saturday.

Drivers Didier Theys of Scottsdale, Ariz. and Fredy Lienhard Sr. of Niederteufen, Switzerland are looking forward to tackling the challenging turns and elevation changes of the 12-turn track located near Highways 37 and 121 in Sonoma. The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) uses the full 2.53-mile "long course" here, not the shorter road course used by NASCAR for its races at this facility. The two-hour and 45-minute race is being presented by the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel and Spa and Foster's Lager.

Theys and Lienhard will take turns behind the wheel of the immaculate red and white Dallara MG #27 prepared at the headquarters of world-famous Doran Racing in Lebanon, Ohio. The car, which uses Michelin tires, competes in the top class of four, LMP 900.

The team is coming off of a fabulous podium finish in class and a fifth-place finish overall in the last race, which was a similar sprint event held at Road Atlanta Motor Sport Park last month. Theys and Eric van de Poele were the drivers at Road Atlanta when Lienhard couldn't attend due to business commitments.

The latter is anxious to get back behind the wheel now though, and is especially looking forward to competing on the nation's "left coast."

"It is always a pleasure driving in California," said Lienhard. "I don't exactly know why; it must be the air! But I do like the track."

Lienhard has a string of fifth-place finishes at this facility.

"I believe I've raced there four times," he said. "My first race there was with the Swiss Horag team with Ferrari No. 12 in 1995. Didier and I finished fifth. I had just started to race in the United States, so everything was pretty new, and it was also only my second race with Didier.

"As I recall I also finished fifth in a race there in 1996. In 1997 I had a new Ferrari 333, and again we finished fifth," he added. "My last race there was in 1999, but that time we finished ninth."

"It's a beautiful track in a beautiful area," agreed Theys, who is in his native Belgium today. "Hopefully we will have a trouble-free run. The competition will be stiff and we need to have no problems in order to do well in the final standings, but we'll give it our best, for sure.

"I've never raced anything other than a Ferrari at this particular track, except when I started to race in the United States I spent a few months in the area during the winter and tested a Super Vee there; that was in '85," Theys recalled.

"It's only a few miles away from the Napa Valley area and it's a beautiful track that is very challenging," he added. "It has short straightaways, so there's not much time for a driver to rest.

"I like the very fast corners, especially the esses," he said. "When you commit to a line going into the first one, you better be in the right place because if you don't do it properly, you're going to miss the next three turns, too."

While they're in California, both Lienhard and Theys hope to find time to enjoy some excellent California cuisine, including the wine for which the area is so famous.

"I have ordered wine from the Roche Winery near the race track," Lienhard noted. "Didier and I had some good wine-tasting in the past in California, after the race!"

The tentative schedule calls for practice from 12:20 p.m. to 2:05 p.m. on Friday, July 25.

There is another practice session from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. the next day, followed by a one-hour autograph session at noon. Another hour of practice follows at 1:45 p.m., with a 20-minute qualifying session at 3:35 p.m. Tom Kristensen holds the LMP 900 qualifying record at this distance at this track in an Audi at an average speed of 110.246 mph, but David Brabham and Jan Magnussen won the race here last year in a Panoz by only 0.483 of a second over the Kristensen/Johnny Herbert Audi.

A fan chosen from a contest being conducted over the airwaves of local radio station KRVR will spend the day with the Doran-Lista team on Saturday as its special guest, courtesy of the station, the track, the ALMS and Doran-Lista Racing. Further information on the contest is expected to be posted on the station's Web site at soon.

A half-hour warm-up session will be held at 8 a.m. on Race Day, with the race itself starting at noon. It will be broadcast live on the American Le Mans Series Radio Web at

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny Herbert , David Brabham , Jan Magnussen , Didier Theys , Eric van de Poele , Fredy Lienhard