The Doran-Lista Dallara Judd ...
The Doran-Lista Dallara Judd #27 finishes fourth at Watkins Glen Friday night.
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., Aug. 9 - A mysterious problem just 15 minutes into the Bully Hills Vineyard 250 at Watkins Glen International Friday night caused the Doran-Lista Dallara Judd #27 to loose power on the straightaway. Didier Theys was able to make it back to the pits, where the Doran-Lista team replaced the car's electronic control module (ECM). The car ran just as flawlessly after that as it had the day before when Theys set a new track record to earn the pole, but the team was down too many laps to catch the leaders and ended up fourth in class and 12th overall at the checkered flag.
The Doran and Dyson teams have won every endurance sports car race run here over the last eight years. Although the Doran-Lista team was dazzling in qualifying, this race will go down in the record books as going to the Dyson team, as Butch Leitzinger and Rob Dyson won in the Dyson Racing Riley & Scott Ford #20 by 20.906 seconds over their teammates, James Weaver and Chris Dyson, in the Dyson Riley & Scott Ford #16. Jack Baldwin and George Robinson were third in the Robinson Riley & Scott Judd, two laps back.
The Doran-Lista team was 12 laps behind at the end, completing 87 laps to the winner's 99.
Theys led at the start, but Leitzinger took the lead for the first time just six minutes into the race. The Doran-Lista Dallara Judd's problem occurred 10 minutes later, and although both Theys and co-driver Fredy Lienhard Jr. and all the rest of the team did their best, they were out of contention for the overall victory from that moment.
"We lost the race at the very beginning, but the problem is still a mystery," Lienhard Jr. said afterwards. "After we changed the ECM we didn't have any more problems, but we don't know what caused the trouble."
"It lost power with absolutely no warning," Theys said. "There was nothing wrong with the telemetry; the dashboard was fine. That is the weird thing about it.
"I put it in neutral and tried to restart it several times," Theys continued. "It ran for three or four seconds and then cut off again for no reason, but that gave me enough momentum to coast back to the pits.
"We'll have to look at each electrical connection and try to see what happened," Theys continued. "Right now it's a mystery."
Lienhard Jr. got in the car under a full-course caution about two hours into the three-hour race. It was needed to tow in a Corvette which had gotten caught in a gravel trap in turn one.
That pit stop went perfectly, but on the restart Lienhard Jr. got loose in turn one and went off course himself. He didn't hit anyone else or the guardrail, and, thinking quickly, he was able to continue and come back into the pits so the crew could look the car over and clean the dirt and stones out of the car's radiator.
"I lost it on cold tires," Lienhard Jr. said. "There was so much dirt and dust flying through the air and there were other cars all around me; I don't know how I didn't hit anything."
The Doran-Lista team can be heartened by the fact that except for the early problem, it had a very good race car.
"The car ran perfectly except for that early problem, and we really don't know what caused it," Lienhard Jr. said. "Actually when I was in it the car was great. The balance was good, and the lap times we were doing were good. We just couldn't do anything to improve our position when we were so many laps down."
The team's next race will be at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va., on Aug. 29-Sept. 1. It is a 600-mile or six-hour enduro. The Doran-Lista team conducted a very successful test there a few weeks ago, so hopes are high for a great showing.
"We lost four points in the battle for the championship, so we need to do well in the remaining three races," Theys noted. "I think there is only a nine-point difference between us and Weaver's team now."
The point standings will be updated by Grand-Am in a few days, per its policy.
Friday's race will be broadcast on SPEED Channel at 1 p.m. ET Sunday. That coverage will re-air at 8 p.m. ET that night and again at 1 a.m. ET on Monday.
For more information, see www.doranracing.com, www.lista.com, www.grand-am.com and www.restartcommunications.com.