The Doran-Lista Dallara Judd ...
The Doran-Lista Dallara Judd #27 Wins the Pole for This Weekend's Rolex 24 With They's Fastest Lap at an Average of 125.576 mph
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 31 With Didier Theys of Scottsdale, Ariz. behind the wheel of the Doran-Lista Dallara Judd #27, the Lebanon, Ohio-based Doran-Lista Racing team won the pole for this weekend's Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona at Daytona International Speedway, the most prestigious endurance sports car race in North America.
Theys' fastest lap was clocked at 1:42.058, which computes to an average speed of 125.576 mph.
Theys did six laps in all during the 15-minute qualifying session on the 3.56-mile track.
"The most important thing for me was to try to find a clean spot on the track where there wasn't much traffic in front of you," Theys said. "It's always good to win the pole because it shows the teamwork and the good chemistry that the Doran-Lista Racing team has. The track was very slippery today; mainly the heat did that. The colder weather that's forecast for this weekend will be better for the car and the engine."
Thursday's temperatures were in the mid-80s compared to the 40s in the three-day test session here earlier this month.
Co-driver Max Papis of Miami Beach, Fla. had set an unofficial track record here during that test session with a lap at an average speed of 127.942 mph.
"We really didn't make too many changes on the car for today's session from the set-up we came up with at the test because the weather forecast will be for cooler conditions for the race this weekend," Theys added.
Theys will start the race on Saturday at 1 p.m. Team manager Kevin Doran said he hasn't determined the driver rotation yet but it will probably be Theys, Fredy Lienhard of Erlen, Switzerland; Mauro Baldi of Monte Carlo (who celebrated his birthday Thursday) and Papis. No matter what the final driver rotation is, Doran said the plan for the race will be for each driver to do double stints (a stint in this car is about 50 minutes) and then begin triple stints.
"The track is slower today and greasier and the air conditions were worse, so getting a lap that was as good as that one was was pretty difficult. It's pretty slippery out there," Doran said. "We always thought that this car was fast enough to get the pole. Now we'll concentrate on trying to get it to run fast for all 24 hours.
"Tonight all four drivers will get used to the car," Doran continued. "After the night practice session tonight we'll put the race engine in and then skip tomorrow morning's practice session. We'll use tomorrow afternoon's practice session as sort of a warm-up session and a systems check to make sure everything is in order for the race."
Theys was pleased with his pole, which is actually his second pole in this event. The Belgium native sat on the pole in 1996 and won this race in 1998.
"I haven't checked the record book but it seems like nobody wins this race from the pole, so I hope we can change that this weekend!" Theys said.
Theys' car finished second the other year he won the pole.
"Winning a pole shows the effort that the Doran Racing team always puts forth," Theys added. "Kevin and Jeff [Graves, the crew chief] and the rest of the team have worked very hard. Everything on this car is brand-new since the test and it came to the track ready to go. Winning the pole is always an accomplishment, but I give all the credit first and foremost to the Doran Racing crew for all their hard work."
Starting in the front should also help the sometimes hairy start of this race.
"If you can start in the top five rows you're in good shape," Theys said. "Those drivers are usually drivers that you know and they're pros, which makes it easier."
The top 35 positions on the grid were locked in during that qualifying session.
The top three cars in qualifying all use the Judd engine. This particular engine has never finished a 24-hour race due to other problems the cars encountered, but Theys and the rest of the Doran-Lista Racing team hope to change that this weekend.
"There's not much we can do about it as drivers but try to be smooth," Theys said. "I guess we'll know Sunday afternoon.
"Gearboxes also take a great deal of punishment in a 24-hour race, but they can be changed if necessary," he added. "The rules stipulate we can't change the engine though."
Goodyear is the spec tire for this series this year. Two compounds are available; a hard one and a softer one.
"We qualified on the hard compound, and the Goodyear tires were very good," Theys said. "We ran more or less the same set-up as we'll run for the race, so I think they'll be fine in the race too."