Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Toyota leads but then develops problems at Mont-Tremblant; still finishes fifth in Daytona prototypes MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec, Sept. 21 - The Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Toyota was leading the Six Hours of Mont-Tremblant Grand Am...
Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Toyota leads but then develops problems at Mont-Tremblant; still finishes fifth in Daytona prototypes
MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec, Sept. 21 - The Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 Toyota was leading the Six Hours of Mont-Tremblant Grand Am Rolex Series race Sunday at Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant when its shift linkage bell crank broke, forcing the team to spend 36 minutes back at the transporter making repairs. That dashed its hopes for a victory here, and the car ended up fifth in the Daytona Prototype class and 13th overall.
Doran-Lista's Bill Auberlen of Hermosa Beach, Calif. started second and set a sensible pace behind the pole-winning Brumos Fabcar Porsche #58, which eventually won the race. Less than a half-hour into the six-hour race the first full-course caution waved for a Mustang that had lost a wheel at turn seven, and the Doran-Lista crew made its first pit stop under that yellow for fuel only.
That well beautifully and only took 25.723 seconds. The Doran-Lista #27 was out of the pits first and took the lead. Preservation of the car's Goodyear tires was on everyone's minds until the shift linkage problem occurred while Auberlen was circling the 2.65-mile road course under caution behind the pace car. He was forced to head for the pits right before the restart.
"I was behind the pace car on the backstretch and everything was fine," Auberlen said. "Then I saw the shift flop over and I said, 'Uh-oh.'
"The car is good though," he added. "We have a push when the fuel tank burns off halfway, but I love the way the back sticks in the low-speed stuff."
While the Doran-Lista crew worked feverishly back at the transporter, another car built at the headquarters of Doran Enterprises in Lebanon, Ohio moved from third to first, as the Bell Motorsports DORAN JE4 Chevy #54 passed both the SpeedSource Multimatic Ford #70 and the G&W Motorsports Picchio DP2 BMW #8. It eventually developed gearbox problems while running second, however, and finished fourth in Daytona Prototypes and sixth overall. It won the last three previous Grand Am Rolex Series races.
Fredy Lienhard Sr. of Niederteufen, Switzerland drove the Doran-Lista DORAN JE4 after it left the transporter. Theys took over later for a double stint and almost broke back into the top 10 overall. Auberlen got in again after that but the shift linkage problem reoccurred, so the team parked the car before the finish.
"Although this was not the outcome we wanted, we accomplished a lot here," Theys said. "After we had the problem early, we used the rest of the race as a big test session. I really ran it hard when I was in it to see what else might develop, because we'd rather know now than later. The chassis handles well. It was not hot here today, but we've improved the driver comfort level very much. The Toyota engine was fine and our Goodyear tires were fine. We learned a lot about this car here this weekend. Every time you're in a car you learn something, and it always helps you in the future."
"The outcome wasn't what we all were looking for, but it was still a pleasure to race with this team," Auberlen said. "The team made the car better every time I was in it. Kevin [Doran, the team owner] and Didier are wonderful to work with. And knowing Kevin, whatever little problem we had today, he will have solved it in a day or two."
"It was not that bad, but I was ready to come in," said Lienhard right after he climbed out of the car after his stint. He was driving in his first race since Sebring in March and his first race ever in a Daytona Prototype car. "It's a matter of physical conditioning."
"There was a lot of understeer when I was in the car," Lienhard added. "I also came into the pits too early. There was a miscommunication and I thought the crew said 'Pit now' when really they said to pit in five laps. The Brumos car came in at that time too and there was interference on our radio, so I probably heard that crew saying to pit now."
"These were not the results we wanted here, but that happens in racing," Lienhard added. "We'll try again at VIR."
Lienhard was referring to the next Grand Am Rolex Series race, which will be held at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va. Oct. 3-5. After that only the Grand Am Finale at Daytona, Fla. on Oct. 31-Nov. 2 remains on the 2003 schedule. Testing will be held in January for the most prestigious endurance sports car race in North America, the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, which is held in February.
Doran definitely has the big picture - the Rolex 24 - on his mind.
"The focus for us running these last four races was to be ready for the Rolex," he said. "These sort of problems are better found now than at the 24, so from that point of view it was better it happened now. These new designs invariably have some problems that can only be found when the cars are raced. Although we had a problem today, we still have a huge advantage over other manufacturers that haven't run yet. Today was just proof of that."
Sunday's race was covered live on SPEED.