Doran-Lista finishes second in inaugural VIR 500 at Virginia International Raceway Sunday. ALTON, Va., Sept. 1 - The Doran-Lista Dallara Judd ...
Doran-Lista finishes second in inaugural VIR 500 at Virginia International Raceway Sunday.
ALTON, Va., Sept. 1 - The Doran-Lista Dallara Judd #27 was definitely the car to beat in the VIR 500 Grand Am Rolex Series race at Virginia International Raceway Sunday. Although the team had more than a lap lead over the entire field, it encountered some problems after the half-way point and ended up second at the end of the five-hour, 153-lap enduro.
The event was won by Andy Wallace and Chris Dyson in the Dyson Crawford Judd #16.
Doran-Lista driver Didier Theys of Scottsdale, Ariz. still leads the driver point standings, 257 points to Chris Dyson's 215, also unofficially, with two races remaining on the schedule.
Just as Sunday's race proved "it's not over until it's over," both championships will go down to the wire and there is still time for the Lebanon, Ohio-based Doran-Lista team to come out on top.
The Doran-Lista Dallara Judd #27 led the first 106 laps of Sunday's race and the eventual winner led the last 47. There were three full-course cautions for 19 laps.
The honors for the fastest race lap also went to Doran-Lista Racing when Theys turned the 3.27-mile, 17-turn long course in 1:39.618, or an average speed of 118.171 mph. Grand-Am officials said that was the fastest lap ever run at this track in racing competition.
The Doran-Lista Dallara Judd was consistently a second and a half faster than any other car in Sunday's race. After starting second, Theys had the lead by turn one and he was 5 seconds ahead of Wallace by lap three. He had over a minute lead when the first full-course caution waved on lap 27 to retrieve a Mosler that was stuck in the mud on the frontstretch. Although qualifying for the top two classes was rained out Saturday, there was no rain on Sunday.
Team manager Kevin Doran was going to call for the team's first pit stop in three laps anyway, so he used that yellow to bring Theys in for tires and fuel. Less than 33 seconds later Theys was back at speed and still in the lead.
The green waved again on lap 33 and Theys started to rebuild his lead over the Dyson #16. Six laps later the paced slowed again, however, for the worst accident of the race. Darren Law hit the wall in his Picchio BMW #70 nearly head-on but somehow escaped injury, although both the car and the guardrail were severely damaged.
The race got going again on lap 50 with the Doran-Lista #27 still in command. The Doran-Lista team made its second pit stop on lap 65 under green, pausing just 41.881 seconds for fuel, tires and for Baldi to relieve Theys.
Dyson spun in turn three on lap 66, but unfortunately Baldi did the same thing himself on lap 85 and again on lap 101 while leading. The first time the problem occurred in turn four, but after spinning in the wet grass and mud, Baldi was able to get back on the track under his own power. The second spin happened in turn three, and although he was able to return to the action that time too, there was some damage to the Dallara's splitter which compromised the car's aerodynamics.
While the #27 was in the pits to replace the car's nose and splitter, the Dyson #16 took the lead and was never again headed. Baldi was able to get back on the lead lap when the Dyson #16 pitted on lap 110. There still seemed to be time for Baldi to catch and pass the Dyson car, but unfortunately that chance disappeared when Baldi mistakenly thought he heard instructions to pit over the radio. He pitted on lap 121 and again on lap 126. On that last stop Theys got into the car for the final laps, but time ran out and the team took the checkered in second place.
"VIR is a fantastic racetrack; it's too bad we didn't have a fantastic race," said Doran afterwards. "The car was probably the best it's been all year, and we just gave this race away twice. It's unfortunate, to say the least.
"The people at VIR are great hosts, and I think this race will become a great event on the Grand-Am schedule," Doran added.
"The car was perfect," Theys said before dashing to the airport for a flight back to Phoenix. "The pitstops were perfect. We had a little bit of understeer for the whole race, but the car really performed well here."
Baldi was very apologetic to his teammates after the race. "We should have won this race, and it's all on my shoulders that we didn't because I did a couple of off-road excursions," Baldi said. "I don't know why. It was an important race for us because of the championship, and I'm sorry that it happened. In both cases I wasn't really pushing the car, either; I was driving hard, but not pushing hard. Both should have been quick spins, but with the rain we had earlier, I got stuck in mud.
"The pit stops was just a terrible misunderstanding with the radio," he said. "I heard twice 'Pit now; pit now,' so I pitted, but Kevin says no one was calling me in.
"I'm disappointed for myself but even more so for the team," Baldi continued. "I'm very sorry, but no words can repair it."
Another member of the Doran-Lista team, Fredy Lienhard Sr., has been successful not only as a race car driver but also as a businessman following his personal motto: "When you fall down, get up twice."
The Doran-Lista team will try to do just that in the next two races in its pursuit of the 2002 team and driver championships.