Doran Racing's Crown Royal Special Reserve No. 77 Finishes on the Podium Sunday at VIR ALTON, Va., Oct. 9 - Matteo Bobbi and Fabrizio Gollin could hardly contain themselves as they stood upon the podium Sunday at Virginia International Raceway...
Doran Racing's Crown Royal Special Reserve No. 77 Finishes on the Podium Sunday at VIR
ALTON, Va., Oct. 9 - Matteo Bobbi and Fabrizio Gollin could hardly contain themselves as they stood upon the podium Sunday at Virginia International Raceway after driving Doran Racing's Crown Royal Special Reserve DORAN JE4 Ford No. 77 to a third-place finish in the Grand American Rolex series' VIR 400. It was the Italian duo's best finish ever in Rolex series competition.
"Third place is like a win for us," said Bobbi, who led 16 laps and held off a late-race charge from Max Angelelli to claim the team's first podium of the year.
The previous best Rolex series finish for Bobbi and Gollin, both FIA World GT champions, was fifth in the grueling Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in February.
Each Doran Racing driver completed one stint in the Crown Royal Special Reserve car, with Gollin piloting the car at the start. Gollin started 11th but lost one position on the first lap. By the 14th tour of the 3.27-mile circuit he had moved into fifth place. After running comfortably in fifth for 15 laps, Gollin reported to the pits for routine service and a driver change.
Despite picking up six positions before surrendering the Crown Royal car to his teammate, Gollin downplayed his early efforts. "In the beginning of the race, it is not difficult because you must be conservative without taking too many risks," he said. "I know how hard it is at the end of the race. Matteo did a very good job at the end of the race."
The Doran Racing crew was able to complete the race with only one pit stop. That came during a lap 30 caution period when the No. 05 and No. 37 Porsches made contact, leaving debris on the circuit. The crew worked flawlessly, returning the Crown Royal DORAN JE4 Ford to the circuit in tenth place. Mired in heavy traffic, Bobbi fought his way to eighth place before inheriting one more position during the fourth caution period of the day when the No. 22 BMW got hit in the rear, forcing it into a tire wall.
With 47 laps completed in what turned out to be a 74-lap event the sun poked through the clouds for the first time in four days, shining on the Crown Royal team too as the leaders reported to the pits under yellow to leave the No. 77 car at the point.
Bobbi led the next 16 laps and at one point enjoyed a 3.839-second lead over Colin Braun in the Ford-powered No. 5. When Braun was passed by eventual race leader Scott Pruett, Bobbi held a 3.534-second lead.
After closing the gap over the next 10 laps, Pruett made his bid for the lead going into the Oak Tree Hairpin. Slicing to the inside, Pruett forced Bobbi to the marbles where the young Italian admitted to missing a shift, allowing the car of Andy Wallace into second place at the same time.
Although he was 10 laps from the end of the race, third place was not assured, as Bobbi was facing a short fuel supply, his tires were not as fresh as his rivals' were, and a hungry Max Angelelli was hounding his rear wing.
Three of the afternoon's seven full-course caution periods occurred in the final 20 laps to lessen concerns regarding fuel, however. A combination of the ability to save fuel during the caution periods and Bobbi's sheer determination provided the team with a solid third-place finish.
For the last portion of the race Angelelli was consistently running laps in the car that leads the point standings that were two-tenths of a second faster than Bobbi's at the time, but despite his worn Hoosiers Bobbi still held him off.
"The race was really tough. The last lap with Angelelli behind me was really tough. I had to really push hard on that last lap," said Bobbi.
Due to the extremely competitive nature of the Rolex series, team owner Kevin Doran was happy with the team's result. "It was a hard race, very competitive," he said. "You had to be on your game all the time and every lap you had to be your very best. I'm very happy with third. It's kind of like winning with the season we've had this year. It feels like a victory, so I'm very happy."
The race was televised live on SPEED.
The season finale is scheduled for the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, Mexico on Nov. 4-5. That race will be broadcast on SPEED at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, Nov. 5.
For more information please see doranracing.com and crownroyal.com. The drivers' Web sites are at Matteobobbi.com and fabriziogollin.com.
Other interesting information can be found at grandamerican.com, virclub.com, speedtv.com and restartcommunications.com.