Doran-Lista Racing is set for Sebring; Drivers will be Theys, Lienhard Sr. and van de Poele. SEBRING, Fla., March 7 - Coming off a superb year in which it won the Super Bowl of endurance sports car racing in North America, the Rolex 24 Hours ...
Doran-Lista Racing is set for Sebring; Drivers will be Theys, Lienhard Sr. and van de Poele.
SEBRING, Fla., March 7 - Coming off a superb year in which it won the Super Bowl of endurance sports car racing in North America, the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, the Doran-Lista Racing team is all geared up for the 2003 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season opener, the prestigious Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway here next Saturday, March 15.
Reigning Grand Am Rolex Series Sports Racing Prototype driver champion Didier Theys of Scottsdale, Ariz., will be joined behind the wheel of the Doran-Lista Dallara MG #27 by Fredy Lienhard Sr. of Niederteufen, Switzerland and Eric van de Poele of St. Jean-Geest, Belgium, team owner Kevin Doran announced today.
Fredy Lienhard Jr. originally planned to drive at Sebring, but he recently returned to Switzerland due to some previous obligations. van de Poele just got the call to substitute for him yesterday morning (Thursday).
Theys won this race in 1998 in the Kevin Doran-prepared Momo Ferrari and is well established as the lead driver of the team, which is based in Lebanon, Ohio, near Cincinnati.
van de Poele has two overall victories at Sebring: in 1996 in a Riley & Scott Olds and in 1995 in a Ferrari. He also won his class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1998, 2001 and 2002. He has driven for many other top endurance sports car teams too, including Risi Competizione, Panoz, Bentley and Cadillac Northstar, and he's also driven in Formula 1.
"First I truly thank Fredy [Lienhard Sr.] to put his trust in me. I know that Didier was behind this too, and I want to thank him very much too," van de Poele said.
"I have competed against the Doran team for many years, and I've been beaten by them many times. It's an honor for me to join this top team, and I could not ask for a better opportunity with such a competitive package as we'll have at Sebring. I am very happy to finally join this family.
"I believe the last time I drove with Didier Theys was at the 24 Hours of Spa in 1987, and we won the race," van de Poele noted.
Getting the call to drive at the 11th hour doesn't faze van de Poele. It's happened before, with terrific results.
"I'll always remember my first 12 Hours of Sebring, which was in 1995," he said. "I had a call a week before the race, just like this time, and incredibly we won the race."
Even with former winners behind the wheel and calling the shots in the pits and garage area, Theys says the team has its work cut out for it at Sebring and the other ALMS races this year.
He notes that the team's primary rivals have been competing in this series and on these tracks for several years, while the Doran-Lista team has been concentrating on the Grand Am Rolex Series. Many other teams also have much bigger budgets.
"Sebring will be the toughest race of the season for us for sure," Theys said. "That's where the competition will be the strongest. There will be three or four Audis, which are good and reliable in long races. The Bentleys have the mechanical strength. The MGs have tested a lot in the last few months, especially the Dyson cars, which will be very strong. The Riley & Scotts have been testing a lot too, especially the Matthews car.
"We need to have a perfect race, and by that I mean routine pit stops and a good pace for the drivers. That's the key to having a good result at the end."
Sebring International Raceway was built on the site of a World War II military training airfield, and its surface is notorious for being very bumpy.
Theys acknowledges that but discounts it. "It's always bumpy, but that's the same for everybody," he noted. "I think we'll be OK there. Our Dallara chassis doesn't like bumpy tracks though; that's true. We will have to raise the car a little for the bumps and we will hurt the aerodynamics with that, but we'll just have to deal with it. It's a little bit of a disadvantage with our car, but we'll deal with it."
"I feel confident that our team will have a good race at Sebring," said Lienhard Sr. "I know that we cannot expect to be on the podium, but it is allowed to dream about it! Perhaps we can be the top privateer team."
The Doran-Lista Dallara will sport Michelin tires this year in the ALMS, as the team enjoys a technical partnership with that tire manufacturer.
Despite the team's change in series, which was necessary when Grand Am changed its car specifications for 2003 and thus made the Dallara ineligible, the car won't look much different this year in the ALMS series' LMP 900 class as it did last year in the Grand Am Rolex Series.
It's still red and white and carries the blue and white logo of primary sponsor Lista, the worldwide leader in modular storage units.
It will have a diffuser this year and a smaller rear wing, and it will have carbon-fiber Brembo brakes rather than steel brakes.
"Actually this Dallara was designed for the ALMS rules, so it's going back to its roots," Theys noted.
The car is powered by a five-liter MG engine.
This year the first official practice day at Sebring is on Wednesday, March 12. The team competes in the top class, LMP 900, which will qualify for the race in a 25-minute qualifying session at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 13. A one-hour night practice session will follow at 8 p.m. that night.
The schedule for Friday, March 14 shows a one-hour practice session at 9:35 a.m. and a half-hour final practice session at 6:15 p.m.
Race-day will dawn with the roar of engines warming up in a 20-minute session at 7:30 a.m. The actual race will get the green flag at 10:30 a.m. and the checkered 12 hours later. Last year's overall winner completed 346 laps around the 3.7-mile, 17-turn road course enroute to victory.
The 51st edition of this once-around-the-clock race will be televised live and non-stop on SPEED Channel in America beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern time that day and concluding at 11 p.m. that night. It will be shown on Eurosport on a tape-delay basis at 20:00 Central European time on March 23. Coverage can also be heard live on the American Le Mans Series Radio Web at www.americanlemans.com.
For more information on Doran-Lista Racing, see www.lista.com and www.doranracing.com. For more information on the ALMS, see www.americanlemans.com or www.imsaracing.net.