Daytona II: Doran Lista preview

Leuenberger Gets the Nod to Join Theys in Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Lexus For Thursday Night's Paul Revere 250 at Daytona LEBANON, Ohio, June 29 - Situations can change instantaneously in auto racing; just ask Benjamin Leuenberger. The young Swiss...

Leuenberger Gets the Nod to Join Theys in Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Lexus For Thursday Night's Paul Revere 250 at Daytona

LEBANON, Ohio, June 29 - Situations can change instantaneously in auto racing; just ask Benjamin Leuenberger.

The young Swiss driver thought he'd be racing as part of the Taurus Sports team this Sunday at the Nurburgring in Germany, but last Thursday that team decided not to compete in that race due to a lack of sponsorship.

In a complete turn of events, Leuenberger will instead get the opportunity to sit in one of the most coveted seats in endurance sports car racing an ocean away, as Kevin Doran and Fredy Lienhard have agreed to allow Leuenberger to substitute for Lienhard in this Thursday night's Paul Revere 250 Rolex series race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Lienhard isn't racing this weekend due to business commitments. The driver who has substituted for him the most this season, Jan Magnussen, is going to be racing at the Nurburgring this week and thus couldn't work the Paul Revere 250 into his schedule.

Wanting to help a young driver from his native Switzerland, Lienhard invited Leuenberger to make the trip to America to race under the lights at one of the country's greatest tracks.

He'll share the cockpit of the Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Lexus #27 with the team's lead driver, Didier Theys of Scottsdale, Ariz., whom he hasn't met yet. Leuenberger, who turned 22 on June 11, will be competing in his first Rolex series race and competing at Daytona for the first time.

"I look forward to the challenge, and I hope I can help the team get a good result," Leuenberger said. "I would like to thank Lista and Kevin Doran for this great opportunity," he added. "Lista has been in racing for years now, and it's great to see that a company like that has committed itself to support young Swiss drivers."

The team's primary sponsor, Lista, is the worldwide leader in the production of modular storage units.

Leuenberger, of Bellach, Solothurn, Switzerland, and his co-drivers on the Taurus Sports team were running eighth in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France earlier this month until their Lola Judd dropped out with mechanical difficulties with less than three hours to go. American race fans perhaps know him best for his work with the JML Team Panoz team in the American Le Mans Series. He really came to prominence in Europe in 1998 when he won the BMW Junior School in BMW ADAC Formula Junior cars, beating 78 other drivers. He won the BMW ADAC Formula Junior Cup in 1999 with seven victories in 20 races. He was selected as part of the BMW ADAC rookie team in 2000, and also finished third overall in the Italian Formula Renault Winter Championship. His 2001 Formula Renault European championship efforts earned him the prestigious Swiss BP racing trophy, the same award that Lienhard won in 2000. He has also competed in Porsche Carrera Cup, Porsche Super Cup and the German V8 Star championship.

Although this event will be new to him, racers are racers, and Leuenberger has been paying attention to what goes on at Daytona.

He had his helmet painted like the one used by one of the winners of this year 's Rolex 24, Christian Fittipaldi, but he used the colors of Switzerland instead of Brazil.

And when asked by a writer which four people - dead or alive - he'd invite to dinner if he had the chance, his response was Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost - and Dale Earnhardt.

Although the arrangement is a one-race deal, Leuenberger is joining one of the most respected and successful teams in American endurance sports car racing. Headed by Kevin Doran, Doran-Lista Racing won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2002 and finished second in the top class in that event earlier this year, among many other accomplishments. The team also finished second at Mont-Tremblant, Quebec in May.

Another entity under the Doran Enterprises umbrella, Doran Designs, manufactures the car that won the inaugural Daytona Prototype championship last year, the DORAN JE4. The company and the team are based in Lebanon, Ohio.

There will only be two hours and 45 minutes of practice beginning at 2 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) to refine the set-up and get everyone comfortable on Daytona's 3.56-mile road course before qualifying, which gets underway at 6:20 p.m. for the Daytona Prototype class. An additional one-hour practice session will be held at 8 p.m.

Theys is scheduled to visit Camp Boggy Creek in Eustis, Fla., a camp for children who have chronic or life-threatening illnesses, on Thursday morning. The race is scheduled to begin at approximately 11 p.m. Thursday, after NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying for the Pepsi 400. Its distance is 250 miles, 70 laps or two-and-three-quarters hours. It will be covered on a tape-delayed basis on SPEED at noon ET on Sunday.

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jan Magnussen , Didier Theys , Christian Fittipaldi , Fredy Lienhard , Alain Prost , Ayrton Senna , Benjamin Leuenberger , Kevin Doran