Doran Lista remains perfect with inaugural Grand American 400 win FONTANA, Calif. (March 24, 2002) -- Belgian Didier Theys and Swiss Fredy Lienhard Jr., teamed up to earn Doran Lista Racing its third-straight win at the Grand American 400 on ...
Doran Lista remains perfect with inaugural Grand American 400 win
FONTANA, Calif. (March 24, 2002) -- Belgian Didier Theys and Swiss Fredy Lienhard Jr., teamed up to earn Doran Lista Racing its third-straight win at the Grand American 400 on California Speedway's new road course. The victory gave the team and its #27 LISTA Judd-engined Dallara a perfect record to date in the 2002 Rolex Sports Car Series season. Englishman James Weaver and rookie Chris Dyson finished second after keeping the battle for the lead close throughout the entire race.
Despite setting the fastest qualifying time on Friday, Theys had to maneuver through heavy traffic on the tight infield portions of the road course at the start of the race when the #27 Dallara was forced to start from the back after a pre-race engine change. It took the two-time Rolex 24 At Daytona winner 15 laps to move into the second-place position behind Weaver, but his arrival sparked a tight battle that would continue for the remaining 127 laps.
"At the beginning, it was a little bit of a handful because its a cold day and we're running a relatively hard compound in order to get two stints out of one set of tires," Theys commented. "Until the front tires some heat in them, I had to take it pretty easy."
The two teams exchanged the lead and both stayed on the lead lap throughout the race. Theys had accumulated his largest lead of more than a minute when he was forced into the pits with only 23 laps remaining. A leaking tire was the culprit, and it handed the lead over to Dyson in the #16 Thetford/Norcold Judd-powered Crawford.
Once back on track with a fresh set of tires, Theys began to quickly eat into the rookie's lead, passing him with only 10 laps remaining. However, the 24-year-old driver would not go down without a fight and stayed within striking distance until he spun trying to close in on Theys with just five laps remaining in the 142-lap, 400-mile race.
Rand Racing finished third overall and first in the SportsRacing Prototype II class for the third-straight race. Terry Borcheller took the #8 Nissan Lola out to an early class lead before handing off to Ralf Kelleners. SRPII points leader Borcheller jumped behind the wheel one final time before team owner Bill Rand brought it home.
"It's too bad that Anthony isn't here -- we miss him and send him our best wishes and can't wait for him to be back in the seat again," said Rand of the absence of driver Anthony Lazzaro due to an injury suffered in last weekends Indy Racing League race.
G&W Motorsports #07 Momentum Motorcars/USI BMW-powered Picchio had a strong start with its newly reworked engine, but fell back midway through the race when brake trouble sent Darren Law into the pits to replace the master cylinder. Andy Lally was eventually able to take the Picchio back out for its second-place SRPII finish.
After dominating the GTS class during the 2001 season, Park Place Racing returned to Victory Lane for the first time this season in a major comeback. The #5 Saleen S7R suffered severe damage during a wreck in Thursday's practice. The team was forced to take the car to Saleen headquarters in Irvine for repairs, and did not get it back until this morning.
Since it missed qualifying, the Saleen was forced to start from the back of the field. However, drivers Chris Bingham and Derek Hill, son of legendary driver Phil Hill, were able to maneuver the car through the field for not only the GTS victory, but also an impressive fourth-place finish overall.
"It was my first time in the car," said Hill. "We weren't sure if we were going to be able to race at all so to have a clean race like that, and have everything come together in the end is great. It was more than we ever could have expected."
Michael Ciasulli earned his third-straight American GT win of the season, this time with Paul Menard in the #90 Flis Motorsports Corvette. The #90 Corvette ran in second for most the race behind teammates Craig Conway and Doug Goad in the Flis Motorsports' #09 Corvette. But misfortune struck the defending AGT champions when steering problems forced the #09 Corvette to retire with only 35 laps remaining. That opened the door for Ciasulli and Menard, who was competing in his first-ever Rolex Series race.
"What can I say, the car was hooked up all weekend," commented Menard. "We didn't make a single change on the car except for a few driver comfort things. The first time I saw the car was on Thursday, and I give my hats off to Flis Motorsports. We kept plugging away and people kept falling out. We just kept at it."
The #19 ACP Motorsports Corvette moved into second place in the class, followed by the #46 Morgan Dollar Motorsports Corvette.
Late-race misfortune struck the leaders in the GT class as well. Las Angeles drivers Bill Auberlen and Cort Wagner looked as though they would pick up their first victory in the #33 Ferrari 360GT in front of a hometown crowd. However, the Ferrari of Washington entry became stranded in the pits with shifter trouble with 31 laps remaining.
"Brutal, absolutely brutal," said Auberlen. "You come so far, you're 30 minutes from the end. We had almost a two lap lead. We had the ability to run away from anybody at anytime we wanted and a pump fails in the car. Such a Mickey Mouse little part. We come in, we replace it. We go down to third place and we run quickly again, like a rocket ship. We just need any little kind of luck and we're going to split this class wide open. That's what we are looking for."
Although the team was able to get the Ferrari back on track, it was not before The Racer's Group #66 Porsche GT3 R passed for the lead, followed by the #34 ZIP Racing Porsche. The Racer's Group Porsche led for the remainder of the race, giving drivers Kevin Buckler and Michael Schrom a second victory to go with their Rolex 24 At Daytona win from earlier this season.
The second stop on the Rolex Sports Car Series western swing will be at Phoenix International Raceway for the United Auto 200, April 18-20. Tickets are available online at www.phoenixinternationalraceway.com.
Additional information about the Rolex Sports Car Series can be found online at www.grand-am.com.