Phoenix: Doran-Lista preview

Doran-Lista hopes winning momentum and Theys' home-track advantage will do the trick at PIR April 20. PHOENIX, April 9 - With three poles and three victories in three races, the Doran-Lista Racing team of Lebanon, Ohio has a perfect record so...

Doran-Lista hopes winning momentum and Theys' home-track advantage will do the trick at PIR April 20.

PHOENIX, April 9 - With three poles and three victories in three races, the Doran-Lista Racing team of Lebanon, Ohio has a perfect record so far in the 10-race Grand American Road Racing Assn. Rolex Series.

All the members of the team hope to carry that winning momentum into the next event, the UnitedAuto 200 on Saturday night, April 20 at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR).

They're also hoping for some form of home-court advantage. One of their drivers, point leader Didier Theys, is a resident of nearby Scottsdale, Ariz.

Theys, who has lived in the Phoenix area part-time since 1987 and full-time since 1995, will be joined behind the wheel of the Doran-Lista Dallara Judd #27 at Phoenix by Fredy Lienhard Jr., the 22-year-old son of co-c ar owner Fredy Lienhard Sr.

Lienhard Jr. will be making his first appearance at Phoenix and only his second American race ever. He has a perfect record too, because he and Theys won the last event, held March 23 at California Speedway. Theys and Mauro Baldi shared the driving duties for the victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway March 2. The winning Doran-Lista drivers at the season opener, the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in February, were Baldi; Fredy Jr.'s father, Fredy Lienhard Sr.; Max Papis and Theys.

Theys competed on the Phoenix oval in Super Vees, Indy Lights and CART champ cars. However, this will only be his third event on PIR's 1.51-mile, 11-turn road course, which uses the track's banked turns and infield sections inside the 1-mile oval.

What drew Theys, a native of Belgium, to the Phoenix area?

"When I started to race Indy cars in the United States, we did a lot of testing at PIR and Firebird during the winter," he explained. "I had to choose a place to live, and with the nice weather, Phoenix was perfect.

"In the late '80s many CART teams tested on the oval at Phoenix because it was good preparation for Long Beach," he added. "And if you have a set-up that's good for Phoenix, it's good for Indy too," he noted.

What is Theys' impression of PIR's road course?

"It's a mixture of things," he explained. "There is one real high-speed area, which is turn three and four of the oval. Also, turn one of the road course is quite fast.

"The infield is very tight; a little too tight for my taste," he added. "I prefer faster race tracks. It was a little bumpy over the past two years too, but I've heard they've worked on that and that's improved now."

Theys' wife, Florence, and two daughters, Morgan and Perrine, will be able to attend the UnitedAuto 200 and cheer on their favorite driver. "My wife is doing one or two races this year, and the kids are just doing one, which is Phoenix," Theys said. "It's nice to have your family and friends at the track, but you always hope they understand that I won't be able to spend a lot of time with them because I have to focus on my job.

"But it's always nice to sleep in your own bed," he added with a smile.

"We have a new freeway that goes across Phoenix, but it will still take me 40 to 45 minutes to get to the track from my home," he added. "It will be different, but for me I'm focusing on my job and approaching it as just another race. This one is just more convenient because it's at home."

The Doran-Lista team will compete in a Dallara here this year after campaigning a Crawford at Phoenix in 2001 and a Ferrari in 2000. Theys and Lienhard Sr. started third and finished fourth at Phoenix last year and they both started and finished fourth here in 2000.

Practice will be held Thursday afternoon, April 18, with qualifications at 5:25 p.m. Friday afternoon, April 19. The 200-mile/133 lap race, which has a three-hour time limit, is scheduled to get the green flag at 7 p.m. Saturday night, April 20.

Speed Channel plans to broadcast the event on a taped-delayed basis from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern time on April 27, with a re-airing on April 29 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Website: www.doranracing.com

-dlr/lm-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Didier Theys , Max Papis , Fredy Lienhard