Theys jikes Camelback for training

Doran-Lista Racing's Theys Hikes Camelback Mountain to Stay in Shape; Some Crew Members May Join Him While in Ariz. SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., March 30 - Hikers on the trails of Camelback Mountain probably don't realize it, but they have something in ...

Doran-Lista Racing's Theys Hikes Camelback Mountain to Stay in Shape; Some Crew Members May Join Him While in Ariz.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., March 30 - Hikers on the trails of Camelback Mountain probably don't realize it, but they have something in common with many drivers in the Grand American Rolex Series who will compete at Phoenix Int'l Raceway in nearby Avondale on Saturday night, April 10.

At one time or another, it's very likely they've all been passed by Didier Theys.

The series' 2002 driver champion lives in Scottsdale, and hikes those trails regularly as part of his training regimen.

Many of Theys' fellow drivers in the Rolex Series are accustom to seeing Theys blast by in the brilliant red Doran-Lista Racing DORAN JE4 Lexus #27, which he'll share with co-driver Fredy Lienhard Sr. of Niederteufen, Switzerland for the Food City 250 at PIR Easter weekend.

But the hikers on Camelback Mountain probably have no idea that the man they just nodded to on the trail is one of the world's top endurance sports car racers, and that he's not just enjoying nature but is also working hard to prepare for the grueling conditions he faces driving in a dozen endurance sports car races each year.

Theys was the driver champion of the series in 2002 with the Doran-Lista Dallara. He won his second Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, the most prestigious endurance sports car race in North America, that year. Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross gave him the keys to the city and proclaimed a "Didier Theys Day" to commemorate those accomplishments.

Theys has been racing for some 30 years and has an extremely impressive resume. At 47 he knows what it takes to be competitive, and he works hard to stay in top physical condition in order to excel at his job.

"I was born in Belgium but I've lived in Scottsdale for many years, and it feels like home to me," he said. "I love to hike as part of my exercise program, and the Phoenix area is a great area to hike.

"That's my favorite pastime in the winter," he continued. "I hike three or four days a week in the winter until it gets too hot, and in the summer I go down to two, provided I can get out early in the morning. Otherwise I go to the gym because it's just too hot.

"It's hot here in Arizona already; we went from winter to summer this year and didn't have any spring here this year," he added.

Theys says Camelback Mountain is his favorite place to hike locally. But is he as fast on the mountain as he is at the racetrack?

"I hike fast; it's too steep to run," he said. "I'm mainly working on my cardio; it keeps your heart rate quite high. In the gym I lift weights and concentrate on my shoulders, neck and arms for racing.

"I hike anywhere from one hour to 10 hours at a time. That's what I like to do with my family and friends. I enjoy the scenery of the mountains, and it's a great way to get your cardio exercising in."

Two years ago when the team competed at PIR, Lienhard and some of the pit crew members went along with Theys on one of his hikes.

Theys said they might do it again this year.

"Jeff [Graves, his crew chief], Jerry [Woods] and Martin [Raffauf, both pit crew members] are bringing their hiking shoes and we'll see if we can fit it in this trip," Theys said. "We'll talk about it at the track and then decide. Fredy [Lienhard] went with us when we hiked together two years ago too."

Graves, a fine-art photographer (see who lives near the team's headquarters of Lebanon, Ohio, often hikes in exotic locales in search of interesting shots. While he's in Arizona some of the photos he took last year hiking in Peru will be displayed in a group show at the Mac Worthington Gallery in Columbus, Ohio. He changes the car's right-front Goodyear tire during pit stops.

Raffauf, of San Carlos, Calif., and Woods, of Campbell, Calif., are both avid cyclists in addition to being hikers, mechanics and tire-changers during pit stops.

Last year Woods finished the "Tour of the California Alps" bike event, better known as the Death Ride, completing 129 miles in just one day. That ride requires the cyclists to climb five mountain passes to reach over 16,000 feet in elevation, so hiking Camelback Mountain is right up his alley too.

PIR's 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 Didier Theys , Fredy Lienhard