Theys, Magnussen to Share Cockpit of Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Lexus ...
Theys, Magnussen to Share Cockpit of Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Lexus #27 at Homestead
LEBANON, Ohio, Feb. 21 - One of the most popular drivers in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) will pinch-hit on one of the most popular teams in the Grand American Rolex Series at the Grand Prix of Miami on Saturday, Feb. 28 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla.
Former Formula 1 driver Jan Magnussen, who has won three popularity awards connected with the ALMS, will join the 2002 Grand American SRP champion, Didier Theys, behind the wheel of the Doran-Lista Racing DORAN JE4 Lexus #27. Magnussen, a Danish driver who currently lives in both England and Gainesville, Ga., is substituting for Swiss driver Fredy Lienhard Sr., who drives in selected Rolex events as his business schedule permits.
Magnussen has the most starts (45) of any driver in the history of the ALMS. He plans to drive a limited schedule in that series this year with the factory Chevrolet Corvette team. Last year he drove the Prodrive Ferrari and a Riley & Scott for Jim Matthews Racing, but he is perhaps best known to American road racing fans for his accomplishments as a member of the Panoz Motorsports team.
The 30-year-old Magnussen was the ALMS' "Personality of the Year" in 2001; he received the "From the Fans" award in 2002 and he garnered the "Most Popular Driver" award last year.
Although he'll be getting his first taste of Daytona Prototype racing at Homestead, Magnussen certainly will be with a team with a long list of accomplishments both in the Rolex series and at this track. Two poles and two victories in three starts at Homestead is an impressive record, indeed.
In its last appearance at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Doran-Lista Racing ended up in victory lane with its Dallara, and the Lebanon, Ohio-based team hopes for similar results this year with its new car, the DORAN JE4 Lexus. The chassis, designed and built by Doran Designs, finished first and second in the Daytona Prototype class at the Rolex 24 at Daytona earlier this month.
In the team's last appearance here, in 2002, Theys and Mauro Baldi won the race from the pole with the Doran-Lista Dallara. They did exactly the same thing in 2000 in a Ferrari, and the pair qualified fourth and finished third here in 2001 in a Crawford.
Gianpiero Moretti and Baldi were the drivers of the Doran-prepared MOMO Ferrari in 1998 when it qualified third and finished second at Homestead.
The competition will be stiff this time too. The Daytona Prototype class has more entries than any other, with 18 of the 45 cars on the preliminary entry list. Four of those 18 are DORAN JE4s. In addition to the famous Bell Motorsports DORAN JE4 Pontiac #54 which won the Rolex 24 at Daytona earlier this month and the equally famous Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Lexus #27, Michael Shank Racing's DORAN JE4 Lexus #6 which debuted at Daytona is entered, as is a DORAN JE4 making its first start ever, the G&W Motorsports DORAN JE4 BMW #81. All use Goodyear Eagle tires.
Getting used to a new team and a new car are challenges, but Magnussen is no stranger to pinch-hitting. In the past he has substituted for both Paul Tracy and Emerson Fittipaldi in CART champ car events when he was running in that series. He has also been one of the most highly-regarded 'subs' in racing during his years when he was a Formula 1 test driver, a role he performed for McLaren in the nineties before he landed a F1 ride with Jackie Stewart's team in 1997-1998.
Theys and Magnussen have never driven together and don't know each other well, but they are both looking forward to changing that at Homestead.
"He has one of the best reputations in the business," said Theys, a Belgium native who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. "From Formula 1 to sports cars, he's driven everything. He is a very good sports car driver."
Much has been written about the recent changes made to the Homestead track. Theys hasn't seen it since then, let alone drive on it, so he's not sure what to expect.
"I've seen pictures of it, that's all," he said. "Before [the changes], going fast on the banks was a challenge, but now I heard it's not as challenging for the drivers," he said. "But I will confirm that to you after the race," he quickly and wisely added with a chuckle.
The Rolex series race, which is being run in conjunction with the Indy Racing League IndyCar season opener, the Toyota Indy 300, will be shown on a tape-delayed basis on SPEED at 4 p.m. Eastern on March 7.
Rolex series practice will be held from 2:45 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 26. The following day there is a one-hour practice session at 9 a.m. followed by another one from 12:45 p.m. until 1:30 p.m. Qualifying for the Daytona Prototype class will be held that Friday from 4:55 p.m. until 5:10 p.m.
On race day a final 45-minute practice session will be held at 8 a.m., with the start of the 250-mile, 109-lap, two-hour-and-45-minute race beginning at 3 p.m., after IndyCar quals.
For more information, see Lista's Web sites at www.lista.com and www.listaintl.com, and Doran-Lista Racing's recently revamped site at www.doranracing.com. Jan Magnussen's Web site is at www.janmagnussen.com.