ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (July 8, 2001) -- Doran Lista Racing battled back from a one-lap deficit to defend its Road America 500 title today in the seventh race of the Rolex Sports Car Series season. Didier Theys, of Phoenix, piloted the ...
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (July 8, 2001) -- Doran Lista Racing battled back from a one-lap deficit to defend its Road America 500 title today in the seventh race of the Rolex Sports Car Series season. Didier Theys, of Phoenix, piloted the LISTA/Yokohama-sponsored #27 Judd-powered Ferrari for two grueling stints at the start of the 500-mile race and hopped back in again at the end to carry the team to Victory Lane.
Theys, who started on the outside pole, battled with polesitter James Weaver, of England, in the Thetford/Norcold/Goodyear-sponsored #16 Ford-powered Riley & Scott in the opening laps, but Weaver surprisingly darted into the pits after the third lap. The crew made some minor repairs and sent the Dyson Racing car back onto the track, but two laps later it was spraying oil out the back. Weaver pitted once more and allowed teammate Butch Leitzinger, of State College, Pa., to get behind the wheel for at least one lap in order to gain points, once the crew determined the damage to engine was detrimental.
The early exit of the polesitter allowed Theys to take the lead in the Ferrari, but Jon Field, of Dublin, Ohio, was immediately on his tail and eventually took the lead in his Banana Joe's #37 Intersport Racing Judd-engined Lola. The Banana Joe's car held the lead until it pitted for a driver change. The Ferrari and Lola exchanged the lead multiple times in the race with Dyson's second car, the #20 Ford Riley & Scott.
Eventually good pit strategy and a powerful Ford engine allowed the #20 Dyson car to pull out to a strong lead, lapping the Ferrari and leading the Lola by half a lap. But the Ferrari managed to get back on the lead lap as the first and only caution, late in the race, brought the top-three cars within 20 seconds of each other. Only 15 laps remained when the course returned to green, but nearly a dozen lapped cars separated the Lola and Ferrari from the leading Riley & Scott. The second- and third-placed prototypes battled through the traffic and Theys grew closer to the Riley & Scott with each lap, eventually overtaking the lead with only nine laps remaining, as the Lola remained stagnant. Neither the Dyson nor Banana Joe's car could threaten the Ferrari, as it cruised to its second victory of the season.
"That was unbelievable," Theys said after the race. "That yellow very much helped us, that's for sure. Fortunately for me, Kevin (Doran) was anticipating this and as soon as it came out, he yelled for me to go. I made it before the pace car came out. From there I was determined to use the luck to my advantage. I just drove the fastest I could through the traffic and soon I was back in the race. I tell you, this was a fun race to drive and I was fortunate to start and finish the race. To win it again with Freddy and Mauro is great. I cannot tell you how happy we are."
The GT class was also a sprint to the finish as four Porsches and a lone BMW battled for the lead as the course returned to green after the caution. Randy Pobst, of Melbourne, Fla., was a man with a target on this back as he led the pack in the Fordahl Motorsports/Crazy Redhead Racing #15 Porsche GT3 RS.
"I'm going to get you. I'm going to get you," is what Stephano Buttiero, of Monaco, said he was thinking as he followed Pobst in the Yokohama #57 Porsche GT3 R of Seikel Motorsports. "I was pushing really hard and on the edge. I went off with two wheels on the sand and it was all over."
Buttiero's misstep was enough to give Pobst a strong lead to the checkered. The Yokohama/BBS/Castrol Oil-sponsored #54 BMW M3 of JET Motorsports was holding on to third place in the class, but spun into the gravel in turn one with only four laps remaining, allowing the Motorola/CommScope/Valley Group-sponsored #81 Porsche GT3 R of G&W Motorsports to move onto the podium.
The #11 Camaro of Hamilton Safe Motorsports ended a five-race winning streak by capturing the American GT victory today. The Camaro started the season by winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona, but it was the X-1R Performance Lubricants #09 Corvette C5 of Flis Motorsports Team X-1R that found its way atop the podium at every other race this season. Flis Motorsports Team X-1R enlisted the help of expert Corvette driver Andy Pilgrim, of Cooper City, Fla., for the Road America 500 in hopes of continuing its streak, but it was not a lack of driving talent that cost the team its sixth-straight victory, rather the combination of a broken transmission and rear axle seal problem. Though the Camaro had brake trouble of its own midway through the race, it paled in comparison to the X-1R Corvette's woes.
"We came close (to beating the Corvette) at the Glen, and that would have given us all the long races," said Hamilton Safe team owner and driver Kenny Bupp, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "We started with hardly any hot laps. We started the weekend with a new motor that was bad, so we had to put a motor in that was ready to go back to the builder."
Several cars made their way to the front of the SportsRacing Prototype II (SRPII) class, but most fell victim to mechanical trouble or mishaps on the track. The Kolter Property/L2 Metal/Goodyear/Hawk Brake-sponsored #89 Nissan-powered Lola of Porschehaus Racing led for a stint, but fell victim to reoccurring alternator problems that eventually put them in second place. The Quikblade/Multimatic Engineering-sponsored Nissan Lola also led the class for a while, but had gearbox problems put it behind the wall.
In the final hour of the race it was the Oberto Beef Jerky #22 Nissan Lola of Archangel Motorsport Services that held a strong led, which appeared to be untouchable until it hit the wall in turn 11 with only 20 laps remaining. The incident brought out the only caution of the race and ended the car's bid at a class victory. The #22 Lola's sister car, the Tycoon Magazine/bendevlin.com/Troon Golf-sponsored #21 Nissan Lola, eventually moved to the front of the SRPII class for the win.
The BASF/HCI/Yokohama/Park Place Ltd.-sponsored #5 Saleen S7R of Fordahl Motorsports/Park Place Racing was racing against itself after the third lap when the only other GTS class car, The Jennifer Fund #07 Porsche GT2 of G&W Motorsports, pulled behind the wall. The Porsche had missed qualifying after getting into the wall during a practice session, and the crew was unable to get the car back into shape for the race. The Saleen finished an impressive sixth overall.
The resounded message from the drivers following the race was the cleanliness of it. With only one caution coming out, which lasted only three laps, many drivers were impressed by the cooperative effort all the classes showed each other as they battled through the grueling 500 miles.
"The prototype and GT car relationship is very sportsmanlike in this series, which we all know isn't always true in other racing series," said Phillip Collin, whose #57 Porsche finished second in the GT class.
The Rolex Sports Car Series will next travel to Quebec, Canada to compete in the Trois-Rivieres Grand Prix, August 3-5.