Watkins Glen: Doran-Lista race report

The Doran-Lista Dallara Judd ...

The Doran-Lista Dallara Judd #27 Finishes Fourth in Class Sunday at the Glen

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., June 23 - The Doran-Lista Racing team persevered to finish the Six Hours of the Glen Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series race Sunday at Watkins Glen International and ended up fourth in the top class, Sports Racer Prototype, after starting third.

The crew was forced to change the car's ignition coil numerous times throughout the event after an electrical problem developed with the car and its brand-new Judd 5-liter engine, which knocked it out of contention for the overall victory by the half-way point.

Still, the team took heart in the fact that problems of this sort are not uncommon with new powerplants, and overall the team was very impressed with the engine's performance.

"Fourth is fourth I guess; this doesn't hurt us too much towards the championship," said team manager Kevin Doran philosophically after the race.

"The problem was the ignition coils are burning up," he elaborated. "We replaced the ignition coil three times today, and every time we did the engine would run great for awhile and then the problem would develop again. We replaced a bunch of things trying to find the problem, but with a new engine there is a possibility that something is different with the wiring or the mapping than what we had with the 4-liter engine. It's the same cylinder head and on the surface there is no obvious reason, but maybe there is some vibration or something that is making it run hotter.

"Plus today was a very hot and humid day," he added. The race was run with temperatures in the 80s and very high humidity.

"It must be something with the voltage or the electrical current, or some electrical thing that I don't understand yet," he continued. "We'll send some of the suspect parts to Judd in England so they can try to duplicate the problem on the dyno. Hopefully they'll see the problem, and once an electrical problem becomes identifiable it becomes much easier to fix."

The team's next race is right around the corner: the Paul Revere 250 at Daytona, Fla., on July 4.

"Hopefully they can find something quickly," Doran added. "If not, we'll do our own investigation on our side to see if we can find the problem ourselves."

Switching back to the 4-liter engine that was in the car when it won the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and two other races earlier this year isn't an option, Doran said.

"We don't own any 4-liters any more," he said.

"Really we are developing the 5-liter engine for next year," he continued. "I thought we'd get away with it without too many problems, but something in this new combination changed the whole equation and messed it up. Once we find it and fix it, though, we'll be ahead of the game."

One of the drivers of the car, Mauro Baldi, stated the drivers' position well when he said, "This is the fee we have to pay for this new engine, and I don't think seven points or whatever it is is a high price to pay for this engine, which has very good potential. We're not too upset because we're looking to the future and we want to win again and again and again."

One of the drivers who ended up benefiting in a way from the problems was rookie Fredy Lienhard Jr., who got more laps Sunday than he would have if the team had been dicing with the eventual winner, the Dyson team of James Weaver and Chris Dyson, for the lead.

"Fredy got the chance to learn the circuit, and for a young driver like Fredy, that has to be a big boost towards his confidence," Doran noted.

"When the car was running well, the engine was great," noted another one of the drivers, Didier Theys, who actually ran as high as second once early in the race when one of the Dyson cars pitted.

"Really, it's not that surprising for a problem like this to occur with a developmental engine," Lienhard Jr. added philosophically. "It's much better that we find these problems and get them fixed now rather than at next year's Rolex 24, for example."

The team worked extremely hard on the car's set-up before the race and worked fervorishly not only during pit stops but during the various times throughout the race when they pulled the car behind the pit wall to make more extensive changes.

The first such time they replaced the car's injectors. The second time it was the ignition coil and spark plugs, which got to be a routine as the six-hour event dragged on.

But nothing was easy for the team on Sunday. Just 20 minutes into the race Theys was forced to pit for a rear wing adjustment when his tires were wearing out prematurely, but that problem was more easily overcome.

"The handling is fine now," Theys said after his first stint. "We made a chassis adjustment and gave it more downforce. But for my first stint and a half, it was sliding around a lot."

Lienhard got in the car next, and he went off in the gravel off turn one when he couldn't hold the understeering car steady.

"After I went off, the car was low-level stable," Lienhard said. "We went to a harder tire compound, and that helped."

Baldi was behind the wheel when the electrical problem first developed a little after 1 o'clock, only two hours into the six-hour event. The team dropped back to 23rd place overall at that point and that's where it was when Theys took the checkered at the end of hour six.

In a slight change of plans, Theys and Baldi are scheduled to be behind the wheel of the car at Daytona. Lienhard Jr. will race as his school schedule permits. Fredy Lienhard Sr. plans to be back in action at the race at Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, Canada Sept. 13-15, and perhaps the season finale at Daytona Nov. 8-10.

For more information, see www.doranracing.com, www.lista.com, www.grand-am.com and www.restartcommunications.com.

-dlr/lm-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers James Weaver , Didier Theys , Fredy Lienhard , Mauro Baldi , Kevin Doran , Chris Dyson