Doran-Lista prepares for Phoenix event

From Switzerland, Ohio and Scottsdale, Doran-Lista Racing to Converge at PIR Easter Weekend in Search of Points LEBANON, Ohio, March 30 - Fredy Lienhard Sr. will be coming all the way from Niederteufen, Switzerland to compete in the Food City...

From Switzerland, Ohio and Scottsdale, Doran-Lista Racing to Converge at PIR Easter Weekend in Search of Points

LEBANON, Ohio, March 30 - Fredy Lienhard Sr. will be coming all the way from Niederteufen, Switzerland to compete in the Food City 250 Grand American Rolex Series race at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) April 8-10.

His co-driver, Didier Theys, will have a much shorter commute.

The Belgium native who lives in nearby Scottsdale, Ariz., says one of the nicest things about racing at PIR is that for this event, one of 12 in a schedule which dots the nation and extends into Canada, he can sleep in his own bed at night.

Theys received a key to the city of his adopted hometown of Scottsdale from Mayor Mary Manross after the Doran-Lista Racing team won the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in 2002 and he went on to capture the driver championship in the series' top class. Earlier this month Manross was re-elected for another term, and Theys hopes she and other area residents will come out to the track, located in Avondale, Ariz., on Saturday, April 10 to cheer him and Lienhard on and see their new car, the Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Lexus #27.

When Theys raced at PIR in 2002 he was driving the Doran-Lista Dallara, a completely different car. Co-driving with Fredy Lienhard Jr., he qualified fourth and finished second.

The series' rules changed last year and a new top class, Daytona Prototype, was introduced. Its ranks have swelled, and that class now accounts for the most cars in any of the event's three classes racing together in the Food City 250, with 18 of the 42 total entries.

Four of those 18, including Theys and Lienhard's Goodyear-shod Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Lexus #27, were designed and built by Doran Designs, a sister company to Doran-Lista Racing. Both are based in Lebanon, Ohio.

Theys and Lienhard Sr. would like nothing better than to end up on the top step of the podium during the awards ceremonies on Saturday night, April 10, but Lienhard says that with so much tough competition, his goal is a podium (first, second or third place) finish.

The team finished fourth overall and second in the Daytona Prototype class at this year's Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. Theys qualified second at Homestead, Fla., but the team finished 14th in class and 19th overall after his co-driver for that race, Jan Magnussen, was involved in a much-talked-about accident while going for the lead late in the race.

"Well, we can only do better than in Miami!" said Lienhard from his home in Switzerland. "With me, a podium finish [at Phoenix] would be a very good result. This is what we are shooting for."

With the disappointing finish at Homestead, points are definitely on the team members' minds. When Easter morning dawns a quarter of the season will be over, and the competition for the championship is intense.

Still, Lienhard, Theys, team owner Kevin Doran and other members of the team won't let the pressure of competition spoil their enjoyment of the event and the area's beauty.

"The ambiance is unique," Lienhard said. "The sunset in the desert and the starting-grid atmosphere are unbeatable. I really love it. The race track itself is quite physical; for me it was the most demanding track because you can never really relax; the straightaway is too short and takes your full concentration after passing the pits in order not to miss a good entry into the infield [portion of the 1.51-mile, 11-turn road course]."

Lienhard explained that quick driver changes will be critical in the two-hour-and-45-minute race, which begins at 6 p.m. local time on Saturday, April 10 and will be broadcast live on the SPEED Channel beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern time.

"We need a smooth driver change, especially if we have to change twice, which is a possibility," he noted.

Lienhard says that PIR has had a way of being at the forefront of his racing activities over the years due to the timing of some important decisions he has made in his career.

"Phoenix is where I decided in September of 1994 to buy a Ferrari 333 SP and to race it in the United States," he noted. "At the same time I met Didier Theys, who became not only my teammate but also my friend and coach. Without Phoenix, I might never have raced in America. I always look forward to coming to Phoenix."

The team's sponsor, Lista, the worldwide leader in modular storage solutions, will entertain some customers at the race.

"We have a good sales manager there and a lot of fine customers," Lienhard added. "I want to meet them and thank them for their business."

In addition to Lista's guests, Theys will have other friends at the track too.

"My wife and my kids will get to come," he said. "I'll be working on our set-up and won't get to spend a lot of time with them, but they understand that, or at least I hope they will!

"The biggest thing about racing at Phoenix International Raceway is that I can sleep in my own bed in the evening," he reiterated. "The team is headquartered in Ohio and we don't have a testing budget per se, so it's my 'home track' only in that it is the track closest to where I live. We don't test there and it's not like I have a lot more laps there than I do at the other tracks. So really my approach to the race will be just like any other one."

Still, there's no place like home.

"I was born in Belgium but I've lived in Scottsdale for many years, and it feels like home to me," Theys added.

The tentative weekend schedule shows the team practicing from 3:40 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. and again from 7:55 p.m. until 8:55 p.m. on Thursday, April 8. Another hour-long practice session is slated for 2:05 p.m. on Friday, April 9 prior to qualifying at 4:25 p.m. that day.

On race-day, Saturday, April 10, there is a warm-up practice session at 12:15 p.m. and an autograph session at 1 p.m. before the 250-mile/166-lap/2-hour-and 45-minute race begins at 6 p.m.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Jan Magnussen , Didier Theys , Fredy Lienhard , Kevin Doran