Tag Archives: Kevin Doran

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Evoluzionare

There can be no doubt that one of the truly great racers that emerged from Maranello in the ]ast two decades is the Ferrari 333 SP. Elegant proportions and a V12 wail, it has everything that a classic Ferrari must possess. One of the leaders of this exclusive pack is #012 – here is the legend as seen from the inside. Follow this tale of redemption and rebirth……..

John Brooks, May 2019


Fredy Lienhard, Jurgen Lassig, Piero Lardi Ferrari and the HORAG crew at Maranello picking up Chassis #012 in early 1995.

In April 1995, Fredy Lienhard came down south to Georgia to race his new Ferrari 333 SP in the IMSA race at Road Atlanta.


March 1995 – Swiss Championship race at Hockenheim Germany, which Fredy would win in the first event for the car.

Fredy had purchased a new car, chassis #012 and had raced the vehicle the month before in March, at a Swiss championship round at Hockenheim in Germany, and won with it.  Fredy was a Swiss Industrialist, who loved racing, and race cars as an adjunct to his business, using the platform as a promotion for his customers, and as advertising for his company LISTA, which made industrial storage equipment, tool boxes, and office furniture.


Chassis #012 gets pit service during practice for the IMSA race at Road Atlanta in April 1995.

This was basically the second season of the Ferrari 333 SP and the World Sports Car (WSC) formula in IMSA. There were four 333 SPs entered with their main opposition coming from Dyson’s Riley & Scott pair, plus several other WSC cars, as well as a full field of GT cars. The race did not start well. After 14 laps there was a huge accident on the main straight right in front of the pits, involving ex-F1/Indycar driver Fabrizio Barbazza in the Euromotorsport Racing Ferrari 333 SP, Jeremy Dale in a Spice and several GT cars. The race was red flagged for 90 minutes to allow rescue helicopters to land on the track and take Barbazza and Dale directly to the hospital as they were both badly injured. To stand and watch this from the pits was disconcerting to say the least.  Wayne Taylor who was driving our car (Moretti/ Doran 333 SP) was pretty upset about the accident.  After the race was restarted, Gianpiero Moretti got in our car to continue, leaving the final stint for Wayne.


Chassis #012 rests against the wall at Road Atlanta April 1995. The car was deemed a total write off.

After 42 laps there was again a red flag stoppage due to another massive accident, this time on the back straight involving Fredy Lienhard, Steve Millen’s Nissan 300ZX and some other GT cars. The race was called “done” at that point, as it was going to get dark and take too long to clean up and repair the circuit.


The right side of the car did not look too bad after the crash about halfway through the race.

Moretti came into the pit and said, “I am glad this is over, let’s get out of here. It’s not fun racing when I see my friend Fredy up against the guardrail, and my friend Steve Millen being taken away on a gurney”.


Left side of chassis #012 after impact to left wall on Road Atlanta back straight.

In the ensuing confusion, Fredy, who was unhurt (except for what was probably a concussion, although he did not realize it at the time), walked back to the pits, got in his rental car, and drove to the Atlanta Airport. He said later, he did not even remember doing this. In any case, he got on a plane and flew to Zurich that night. The next day he says he felt terrible, experiencing dizziness and headaches. By this time IMSA was looking for all the drivers involved in the second accident and were somewhat perplexed that Fredy was nowhere to be found. The next morning, they tracked him down in Switzerland and called to make sure he was ok, and ask what had happened.

Ferrari 333 SP #012 was deemed a complete write off. The remains of the car were packed up and the chassis sent to Ferrari and Michelotto in Italy for analysis.


The HORAG crew with Markus Hotz in mid 1995 with the car which was now chassis “#012b” the replacement.

A new chassis was ordered from Ferrari. They provided a “replacement” chassis for #012, ostensibly keeping the serial number the same as the first one was “destroyed” (#012b). This was delivered to Hotz Racing AG, c/o Gaston Andrey in Massachusetts. 


Led by Markus Hotz, a new car was built up at Gaston Andrey’s workshop in the USA by the HORAG crew in time for the IMSA Lime Rock race at end of May 1995. Here Fredy and Jurgen Lassig drove to a 5th place finish in the new chassis #012b.

There, a new car was built up by HORAG (Hotz Racing AG) for the IMSA Lime Rock round held at the end of May.


After Lime Rock in 1995, Didier Theys would co-drive with Fredy for the remaining schedule. Here they are in mid 1995, probably at Mosport event.

The car then ran the majority of the remaining 1995 IMSA schedule finishing all races in the top ten, then was shipped back to Europe.


#012b on track at IMSA Mosport in 1995. Fredy and Didier would finish 5th.
# 012b in the Mosport pit lane, August 1995

Didier Theys sits in #012b at Mosport in 1995

Fredy in #012b at Sears Point, August 1995, partnered With Didier they would finish 5th.

Fredy in 012b at the Donington ISRS race in 1997. The car had sat idle for most of 1996, only doing a shake down run at the Interserie in Most, Czech Republic. He and Didier finished 2nd at Donington.

Fredy and Didier on the podium after winning the ISRS event at Zolder Belgium in 1997 in #012b.

 Fredy and Didier Theys win the first ISRS race of 1998 in #012b at Circuit Paul Ricard.

The race win at Paul Ricard, resulted in a letter of congratulations from Ferrari chief, Luca di Montezemolo.

The Misano ISRS event was a night race, and Fredy and Didier scored 3rd place.

Fredy sits in the pits at the Nurburgring during ’98 ISRS race. The disappointing result was a DNF due to a gearbox issue.

There it ran one race in 1996, and most of the ISRS (International Sports Racing Series) over in Europe in 1997 and 1998.  In early 1999 the car was sold to Ted Conrad.  Fredy had meanwhile, bought new chassis (first #016, then #025) to run in IMSA in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

At the beginning of 2000 it became clear that the 4.0-liter Ferrari V12 would not be competitive under the latest rules package with power output controlled by air restrictors on the engine. The IMSA open rules under which the car had been designed and built, had morphed into the new FIA/ACO regulations. Ferrari refused to modify the engine for the new circumstances, saying this engine was not designed to run with such limitations. Ferrari teams, as early as 1999, had started to struggle against other cars with 6.0-liter engines, as, of course, a restricted 6.0-liter engine was better than a restricted 4.0-liter engine. The BOP (Balance of Performance) back then was just a varied restrictor on the air intake, nothing as sophisticated as today. Hence the 6.0-liter engines always had more torque, and the 4.0-liter lost horsepower due to the air restriction.


The man who came up with the FUDD (Ferrari-Judd) concept and implemented it, Kevin Doran.

Ferrari, never on the best of terms with the ACO or FIA in sportscar racing, refused to modify the engines or do the testing to make the engines run more effectively with the new restrictors. Teams started looking elsewhere at other cars or for other solutions in anticipation of the 2000 season.


Engine installation in the Ferrari chassis in 2000.

After Daytona 2000, where the Lista Doran team ran the Ferrari V12, Kevin Doran got the idea to put a Judd V10 GV4 in the Ferrari 333 SP chassis. Judd had been doing a lot of development on their engine for the teams using it and it was certainly quick. Getting a 4.0-liter engine to be competitive in the ACO/ FIA regulations required a lot of dyno and electronics work and testing, which Judd had done.  This engine was to be installed in chassis #025 which the team had been running since the beginning of 1999.


Judd V10 engine rear view in Ferrari chassis

However, this was not an easy conversion as the V12 engine was longer than the V10 as it had two more cylinders. A bell housing spacer and a few other pieces were needed to make it all fit with the standard Ferrari gearbox and suspension.  Hence the “FUDD” (Ferrari- Judd) was born. The Doran team, led by Kevin Doran and Jeff Graves, completed the conversion between Daytona and Sebring in 2000. The team showed up for the 12 Hours of Sebring with chassis #025 now powered by a Judd engine.  Renzo Setti, the Ferrari factory engine rep who supported us at the races in the US, came, took one look, and said, “Ok, that’s it, I am on vacation now”. The car at Sebring, driven by Fredy Lienhard, Didier Theys and Mauro Baldi finished an excellent 5th place, the first privateer, behind the two factory Audis and the two factory BMWs but ahead of the surviving factory-run Cadillac. After that great start the team ran the “FUDD” for the rest of the Grand-Am season. The results were good, with victories at Miami and Elkhart Lake, and finishing 2nd four times.  At the conclusion of the 2000 season, chassis #025 was sold to Dennis Black and then converted back to a Ferrari V12 engine.


The Judd engine was first installed in chassis #025 which was run by the team in 2000. Here the car sits in the Lime Rock Paddock.

Fredy Lienhard drives the first “FUDD” at Watkins Glen in 2000. This is chassis #025. Note the decal on the engine cover…. powered by Judd V10!

At this time, during 1999 and 2000, the original Chassis #012 from Atlanta in 1995 was sitting in a corner at Kevin Doran’s shops in Ohio. Fredy had retrieved it from Michelotto and wanted it repaired if possible as a show car for his collection in Switzerland.  Crawford Composites in North Carolina repaired the tub, and Doran Racing rebuilt the car with all Ferrari components and returned it to Switzerland at the end of 2000 for display in Fredy’s collection.


For the 2001 season, Fredy acquired a Crawford chassis and continued with Judd engines. 

In preparation for the 2001 Grand-Am season, Fredy had bought a new Crawford- Judd. However, finding optimal setup and handling proved elusive in the first 3 races of the season. 


Chassis #012 in 2001. Note the chassis plate is covered up with black tape…..

So in April of that year, the decision was reached to recall chassis #012 from the “museum”, install a Judd GV4 V10 and continue with a known quantity, being what we had run the year before, a “FUDD”. Judd had continued development of their engine, so the GV4 V10 made good power (about 625hp) and almost as important, improved fuel economy.


Chassis #012 (the original)  was returned from the “museum” and run with Judd engine for the remainder of 2001. Here it has just won the Elkhart Lake race and sits in the victory lane with drivers and crew.

This became readily apparent at the Grand Am Elkhart Lake event in 2001.  This was a 500-mile race on a 4.0- mile circuit. Therefore, would be run over the distance of 125 laps.  It was a nip and tuck battle over the first part of the race between us, various Riley & Scott cars, and the Risi Ferrari, who were still running the V12 Ferrari engine. At lap 75 we pitted and Fredy Lienhard turned the car over to Mauro Baldi. We knew if Mauro could make it to Lap 100, he would turn the car over to Didier Theys, and that would be the last pit stop.  Soon, as the race passed 90 laps, all the other cars pitted, out of fuel, so would have to make another stop before the end. I heard a report later, that in the Grand – Am Race Control Tower, someone said, If Baldi makes it to lap 100, the race is over.  He drove superbly and made 101 laps and pitted almost out of fuel. Theys took over and ran to the end and victory while everyone else stopped to top up their tanks once more.  The Judd work on the engine had paid off.  We had made one pit stop over the last 50 laps (200 miles), while everyone else made two.


Mauro Baldi in #012 at Watkins Glen in 2001, where he, Fredy and Didier would finish 2nd.

We ran the “museum car” for 7 races till the end of the season, winning twice, finishing 2nd once and 3rd four times. At the end of the season, the car was converted back to a V12 Ferrari and returned to the Autobau in Switzerland, where it still resides today.  It usually still stretches its legs at track days in Europe, at least once per year.


Fredy Lienhard and ong-time Ferrari engine man, Renzo Setti, at Mugello in 2018

Postscript – Riding in a Ferrari 333 SP

Fredy Lienhard still owns 333 SP #012, it sits on display at the Autobau in Romanshorn Switzerland. From time to time, he takes the car out to “track days” for his friends and business associates. I worked on his race teams for Kevin Doran for many years, so was fortunate to be invited to one of these events in early 2018 (and 2019) at Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello in Italy.


Myself and 333 SP driver, Didier Theys, at Mugello in 2018 after some laps in Chassis 012.

Weather permitting, I would get the opportunity to go for a “ride”, as a second seat has been mounted in the car for passengers. Although I had worked on these cars for many years, changing engines, gearboxes, installing and removing suspension and brakes, I had never actually been driven in one. The only real race cars I had ridden in were a Porsche 935 in the late ’70s, and a BMW 235-i cup car.  Having had quite a bit of history with this Ferrari, it was with some anticipation that I looked forward to seeing what it was like to actually sit in it at speed.


The water pump system used to preheat the water prior to starting the engine.

Mugello in March can be cold. In fact, the days we were in house at the circuit, there was snow on the hillsides around the track which sits in a valley. So, it was unclear if this was going to work or not.  The 333 SP has to be warmed up with a water heater, especially during cold weather, as there is a danger of the radiators splitting.  The minimum recommended water temperature to start the car is 50C.


Keeping the helmet steady while riding aboard the 333 SP

Despite the cold temperatures, we got the car warmed up, and Didier Theys took a few laps to make sure all was in good order. I suited up, and prepared to get in. The immediate sensation is that this is a tight fit. The second seat, if you want to call it that, is just some padding and some belts next to the driver.  Getting in and buckling up, the sensation is that you are sitting on the pavement. Very different from a road car or race car based on a road car such as a 935 Porsche.  The Ferrari is a 680 HP go kart!  Acceleration is massive, the car just leaps forward. The noise of the engine without earplugs is deafening.  As you exit the Mugello pits, you are on a long straight, the longest on the course, you go over a rise, then descend slightly downhill to the first corner which is a long radius 180- degree right hand corner. At the end of the straight in this 333 SP, the speed is in the neighborhood of 185 mph. Braking here is very, very impressive in this car and this car has steel not carbon brakes. The first impression of a non-driver is that there is no way the car will stop, however it of course does (Didier later told me he was braking 50 meters early, only running at about 80% capacity).  I am convinced the G force under deceleration would throw you out of the car if you were not strapped in tight.


Renzo Setti, John Toohey and myself returning #012 to the Mugello garage after some laps

Due to the “passenger” seat configuration, I found my head was sticking up into the airflow more than Didier. Also, there is a small windscreen in front of the driver about ½ inch tall which helps deflect air which of course is not on the passenger side. The force of the air tended to want to rip my helmet off. So, I had to hang on with one hand and hold the front of the helmet down with the other to see where we were going. All the while, I had to be careful with the spare hand, as right in front of me was the switch panel, with all the ignition and fuel switches. I had to be careful not to hit one of these by mistake!


Mugello’s pit lane

We were on track with other racers. Most of them were GT based such as Porsche GT3 Cup cars and the like.  So, we overtook a lot of people in the few laps we did. Passing was kind of disconcerting, as again the 333 SP is so low, I found myself looking up at the door handles of the cars we were passing! A strange sensation for the uninitiated.  As we zipped through the traffic, the car just leapt from one corner to the next. While the car looks smooth and composed when you are watching it go by, the ride was a lot more brutal and jerkier when on board. The power allowed the 333 SP to just cover a lot of distance very quickly compared to the other cars.  I tried to imagine driving this car at the Daytona 24 hours at night, trying to cope with the slower traffic. A mind- boggling thing to comprehend.  As we progressed, I tried to put myself in the driver’s seat.  I thought, ok, would I stick my nose in this corner to pass this GT car?  Most often the answer was NO! I asked Didier later how he knew these guys would not come over on us in the corner. His response, “My nose tells me, after many years of experience!”  But I guess that is why he is the driver and I am the mechanic!


The Cockpit of #012. Passenger seat on the left! 

Riding in close proximity to the others, in an open cockpit car you notice quickly the exhaust smell of those in front of you. No doubt this was due to my head sticking up in the airflow higher than the driver. Didier said it did not bother him, as the air goes over the driver’s head due to the shape of the front windscreen.


Brakes on #012 today, steel rather than carbon Brembo, still very impressive brake performance

Too soon, it was over, and we returned to the pits. I was left with the feeling, that every race mechanic should take a few laps as passenger in the cars they are working on. Very quickly, you begin to understand what is at stake here, and how fast you are going, what could potentially go wrong and what the consequences might be.


Chassis #012, with the “regular” engine

All in all, an incredible experience to ride in this historic sports racing car, at the famous Italian track which is owned by Scuderia Ferrari. In the USA, we call this a definite “E-ride” (referring to Disney World’s rides ranging from A, the lowest and easiest to E, the most impressive). It was a short glimpse of what is “possible”, and what most of us never encounter. After providing a day to remember for all in attendance, chassis #012 returned to its place on display at the Autobau, where it still sits today.


#012 at Mugello

Fredy Lienhard sits in #012 at Mugello ready for some hot laps.

Ferrari V12 and rear suspension in #012 .

Ferrari enthusiasts one and all!  Didier Theys, Paolo Devolder, Martin Raffauf, Fredy Lienhard and Dino Sbrissa.  Unfortunately Renzo Setti was ill and did not make the 2019 photo……….

#012 carries some good names……….
Mugello…………………

Martin Raffauf, May 2019.

Photos copyright and courtesy of Fredy Lienhard, Kevin Doran, Martin Raffauf and Dino Sbrissa

Reunion Dues

 A new year, a new beginning – we kick off 2019 with a fresh approach and a new contributor to our site, Martin Raffauf. Martin has been a familiar figure in the IMSA paddocks for well over 30 years working in a variety of teams. At the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1998 Martin was part of the Moretti Racing crew honoured by the ACO, being awarded the prestigious ESCRA Trophy. So a big welcome to Martin who brings us the behind the scenes story of the winning team from the 2002 Rolex 24 Hours. In a neat postscript to that tale he returned with the same guys and the sister car some 15 years later to Daytona International Speedway………..so enjoy the first of hopefully many pieces to enjoy.

Perseverance pays off – 2002 Daytona 24 hours > Replay 2017 (The reunion of car and team at the 2017 Daytona 24 Historics race)

2002 was a transition year for the 24 Hours of Daytona. It would be be the last season for the open cockpit sports prototype cars that had basically run in IMSA, USRRC and Grand-Am since 1994. In 2003 Grand-Am was switching to the new Daytona Prototype, a closed cockpit car built to a completely different rule set.

Doran-Lista Racing entered one car at this race, a Dallara SP1-Judd. The team was basically a partnership between Fredy Lienhard, the Swiss Industrialist, and Kevin Doran, who ran a race team out of his shops near Cincinnati, Ohio. The team was sponsored by Lista, Fredy’s company in Switzerland (with a US manufacturing plant). Lista was and is involved in the production of industrial cabinets, work shop equipment and office furniture. Fredy had started racing in IMSA in 1995 running a Ferrari 333 SP. For the 2002 season he purchased two Dallara SP1 LMP Chassis (#001 & #005). These were the cars built for the French Viper Team Oreca outfit with Chrysler and PlayStation sponsorship to compete at Le Mans in 2001. The SP1 was a descendant of the all conquering Audi R8, which was also built by Dallara. The engines used were the 4.0 liter Judd GV4 V10, which was a derivative of their earlier 3.5 liter F1 engine. Subsequently the GV5 evolution was also used. The engines ran under the ACO/FIA restrictor formula and horsepower in this restricted form was probably in the range of 610 hp, maybe a little more in sprint trim. Most of the cars we would run against were older designs, like the Riley & Scott Mk III, and Risi Competizione’s Ferrari 333 SP. In addition Riley & Scott had developed a new Mk III C, and would run this as a factory entry for Jim Matthews.   Most of these cars were well sorted and a known quantity to those running them. The Dallara was almost brand new to our team, and though we had raced it at the Daytona Finale in November 2001, the team was still learning the car and sorting out the setup.

The Major competition to us at this race would come from the Riley & Scott Fords entered by Dyson Racing, the Risi Competizione Ferrari, the Champion Racing Lola Porsche, Jon Field’s Lola Judd and the Factory Riley & Scott Mk III C.

The driver lineups were very good. We had Fredy, Didier Theys, Mauro Baldi and Max Papis. The Dyson cars would be led by James Weaver supported by Rob and Chris Dyson, Butch Leitzinger, Elliot Forbes-Robinson, Dorsey Shroeder, and Oliver Gavin. Jim Matthews’ team consisted of himself, Scott Sharp, and Robbie Gordon. The Champion Porsche was driven by Andy Wallace, Hurley Haywood, Sascha Maasen and Lucas Luhr.  The Risi car had Stefan Johannson, Eric van de Poele, David Brabham and Ralf Kelleners.  So the driving competition would be stout, plenty of winners and champions in that group.

The Dallara was very quick in Practice and Qualifying. Didier Theys duly took Pole Position, so we felt good about the car’s potential. However, we had no idea if it would run for 24 hours. It was nice to see the fax on the Doran Racing truck blackboard the next day, from the Dallara Factory in Italy, congratulating us on the Pole and wishing us success in the race.

That night Kevin (Doran) called a team meeting in our food tent which was behind the pits, down near pit exit. He thanked us all for the work so far, and remarked that we had a fast car, but he was not sure if we had a reliable car, as we had no experience with it over this distance.  He asked us to not lose hope or focus, as strange things had happened in the past in the various Daytona 24-hour races. I mentioned that I had seen several as I had been coming to this race since 1971. I witnessed things such as Pedro Rodríguez’ 917 losing a lead of over one hour in 1971 while his mechanics rebuilt his gearbox. He went on to win anyway. In 1992 the attrition rate had been very high, and a Dan Gurney entered Toyota won the race after spending more than two hours in the pits rebuilding the gearbox. So anything could, and usually did, happen, at Daytona.

The race started well for us, with Didier taking an immediate lead and we ran strongly for the first 10 hours. The Champion Lola Porsche came to the pits on the warm-up lap to replace a spark plug, and spent most of the first hour in the pits. The Risi Ferrari challenged for the lead during the first five hours but eventually dropped out with a broken transmission. Both Dyson Fords were out of contention early on and retired mid-race with engine failures. The race soon settled into one between us, the R&S factory car of Jim Matthews, the Ascari and the Field Lola B2K/10. After 10 hours the Ascari’s engine went bang and then we started having electrical problems, and the battery needed to be changed. This was an awful job on this car, as the smallish, lightweight battery was stuck in the bottom of the right front side of the cockpit underneath an electrical panel, so was hard to get at. The Matthews’ Riley & Scott then took the lead but was soon in trouble with its own electrical issues resulting in no headlights. This took a while to fix, as they could not figure out what the problem was. We watched each other closely, as we were in adjacent pits separated only by a break in the wall. This meant that through the night we would leapfrog each other for second place, depending on the timing of the various problems.

Meanwhile the Jon Field Lola was circulating at a slower pace, but had pulled out a lead of a few laps.  Around 4 am, the Matthews’ car pitted with a broken exhaust which had to be changed.  That was a messy job on a 6.0 liter Elan (Ford) engine while it was hot. We thought we had finally left them behind, when we had to change another battery. So, at daybreak we were about 7 laps behind the Field Lola-Judd and about 15 laps ahead of the Matthews’ car. Max Papis was driving and pushing hard to try and close the gap to the Lola. At around 8.30am, the Lola broke a drive shaft and was towed back to the pits as it was in a dangerous place on the track.  

After some work, it went out again, but stopped almost immediately with a broken input shaft in the transmission.  Max then took the lead as he made up the laps on the stationary car.  Tatiana Fittipaldi (Emerson’s daughter) was in our pit, as she and Max were dating at the time. So, we were giving her a blow by blow account of the race progress, as Kevin and Max discussed the race situation over the radio, and the rest of the crew listened in on our headsets.  At this time we were trying to slow Max down, as we had a large lead over the second placed Riley & Scott.  And since the Dallara was an unknown car at this distance, we did not want to push any harder than we had to.

At about this time with 6 hours to go, I asked John Judd Jr., our engine man, “Well the engine ran for 24 hours on the dyno right?”.  He said, “Actually no, we never got one to run for more than 20 hours on a dyno”. Great, I thought to myself.  I’d hate to come this far and have it blow up now. He said, “We just keep going and see what happens.”  Most of the other teams were surprised it was still running now after 18 hours. Jim Matthews told me later, he fully expected us to drop out with engine failure. In 2000 he had run a Reynard-Judd (the same engine we had) and finished the race, but he had spent some 5 hours in the garage changing gearboxes, so it was not a full 24 hours of racing.

Since about the 12-hour mark, Kevin had been having us check the rear wheel bearings on each pit stop. As again, we had not run this car for that long, and didn’t know what to expect. The right rear had started getting loose. If we were racing for the lead, we would have left it, but since we had a cushion, Kevin decided we would change it.  We just changed the whole upright, which caused us to lose about half our lead.  Luckily the car had no other issues as the clock ticked on. With about 20 minutes to go, we called Mauro Baldi in, to put Fredy in for the finish. It was his car and his team, so it seemed fitting, and the crew wanted him to finish the race. He took the Checkers and became the second Swiss to win Daytona after Jo Siffert some 34 years prior. It made front page news in Switzerland, so we were all happy for him. I had been fortunate to be on a team that won Daytona for the 3rd time (1981, 1998, 2002).

Fredy was a master at matching business to racing. He used racing as a marketing tool for his business and was very good at it. I asked him once how he related the two. He explained how business could learn a lot from racing.  Teamwork, preparation, determination, organization, and planning. Fredy was successful at both, and we were proud to be associated with him.

Fredy still owns the winning car. Today It sits in his museum/ automotive learning center, Autobau, in Romanshorn, Switzerland.

2017

Fast Forward to 2017, 15 years later. The winning Dallara from 2001 has been part of the collection in Fredy’s Autobau for years, while the backup car, #005, has sat in Kevin Doran’s workshop on display in Lebanon, Ohio since 2002. For 2017 Fredy Lienhard decided we should run the car at the HSR Daytona 24- hour historic races. It would be a reunion of sorts, 15 years later. Chassis #005 would be prepared and entered.

The HSR (Historic Sportscar Racing) sanctions various vintage races in the USA, one of which is run every  year at the famed Daytona International Speedway in Florida. It is a format very similar to the Le Mans Classic in France.  Groups of cars (6 groups) basically run four times for a little less than one hour.  For example, the Dallara, in group D (Sports cars from 1994-2003) would run at 4pm, 10pm, 4am and 10am over the course of the 24 hours.  Cumulative time would determine the finishing order. Although, this is not really a race per se, as a lot of the cars are not driven too hard, as they are of course, old.

Some of the old team were still around.  Fredy, his son Fredy Jr., and Didier Theys would do the driving, (Fredy and Didier were two of the race winning drivers in 2002, while Fredy Jr, did drive in some of the IMSA races he did not drive at the 24 hours that year) Kevin Doran’s organization would prepare the car.  A few of the old crew from 2002 were available including myself, Dave Doran, Don Caesar, Glenn Smith, Dee Drook and Russ Faber, and of course, Kevin Doran, the team leader.

The car was prepared, and gone thru, as it had been sitting for some years. A five-liter Judd V10 was installed (the engine we ran in late 2002, not at the 24 hours, which was the 4-liter version) A paddle shift system was installed to assist the drivers. This was a modification that was not used in 2002, as then the car had a regular manual transmission shifting system. The team had tested the car some weeks before, and all had worked perfectly. Didier had done a 1:42 lap at Daytona, a few tenths slower than his pole time of 15 years before.

We unloaded the car with high hopes on Tuesday of the race week. It looked pristine sitting in the garage.

Wednesday practice started, and so did the problems. Didier completed a few laps, turned it over to Fredy and then Fredy Jr.  Fredy Jr, noted there were some issues with gear shifting that just did not seem quite right. He attributed it to his lack of recent experience in the car, and not having driven the paddle shift system in 2002. We all agreed. Actually we should have paid attention to what he was saying. Usually when a driver tells you something is not “quite right”, it isn’t. The issues got worse, the car would get stuck in gear, jump from 4th to 2nd, that kind of thing. We returned to the garage and removed the gearbox internals, which on the Dallara is a side removal on the right, not a rear removal.  None of us really remembered the process for this, so the first time was a bit ragged, but we would get much better at it as the week went along!

The ragged shifting had destroyed several gear dogs and dog rings, and there were a few pieces broken in the paddle system. All this was replaced, and we went out again. A little better, but still the same issue, out came the gearbox again. More destroyed dogs, this time a bad sensor was found on the box, which may have contributed to the original problems. In the meantime the engine had started acting up. Didier reported that upon shifting into 6th gear in the Daytona east banking, the engine would seem to lose about half the cylinders. The Judd support guys, along with Kevin and Noah Bailey (team data engineer) pored over the data, and the determination was that one of the ECU boxes might have gone bad. This was replaced.

The new ECU fixed the engine issues, but the gearbox was still acting up. At this point it was Friday, and the race was starting on Saturday. We had already missed qualifying and would be starting in the back, so Kevin decided to just put the manual linkage back on, rebuild the internals once again, and we would go with that. Saturday morning in a warm up, all worked perfectly, engine and transmission. The team was very relieved. 

The race got underwayand we maintained competitive speeds.  Our main opposition was another Dallara, a later Oreca one, A Riley and Scott MK III C with a large engine, and some Generation 2 Grand AM DP (Daytona Prototype) cars.  There were of course many GT cars from that era running also.

In the first night session, Didier Theys had a scare when the right rear Avon tire disintegrated in the east banking in 6th gear.  Luckily, he got it back to the pits without major damage.  In the last stage at 10 am Sunday, Didier started, passed all 5 cars in front of him, and set the fastest race lap at 1:40.7. He came in for the mandatory 3-minute pit stop, and turned the car over to Fredy Lienhard Jr.  We looked like we may get a podium finish, but it was not to be as another Avon tire disintegrated. Fredy was able to get the car back to the pits without damage, but the loss of time due to extra stops and tire failures cost us and we ended up 4th overall, and 2nd in D-1 category behind the other Dallara of Flourent Moulin who won the D group race.

It had been a grand event. The team’s other car, a 2006 FIA GT3 Ford GT had won its class and finished 10th overall in Group E. It was driven by Brad Jaeger, Lyn St. James and Memo Gidley.

What would become of the grand old Dallara? The future is undecided. But for now, it was back to the showroom! It had been a great journey back in time bringing back all the memories of the Rolex 24 in 2002.

Martin Raffauf, January 2019

The Inauguration

2000 Rolex 24

It’s late January and a familiar yearning comes over me, there is a 24 Hour race about to happen but I am on the other side of the Atlantic. There are, of course, good reasons for this, mainly financial, as revenues fall and costs rise, so my current involvement with the Rolex 24 is confined to looking back over the years……………….

2000 Rolex 24

Now undisputed master of motorsport in North America, NASCAR entered the endurance arena just over a decade ago setting up the Grand-Am organisation to sanction and run its Blue Riband endurance event, the Daytona 24 Hours. This was of course the 2000 edition of Rolex 24 Hours held at Daytona International Speedway.

2000 Rolex 24

For most observers the first race was one of the high points in the whole story of Grand-Am, starting the project at the top level. There were big battles everywhere, in the various prototype and GT classes but nothing was more keenly anticipated than the fight in the GTO category between the Dodge Vipers and the Chevvy Corvettes.

2000 Rolex 24

Two full factory outfits pitted three French ORECA run Viper GTS-Rs against two American Pratt & Miller C5-Rs, each with top line drivers, it was a Detroit Heavyweight Championship of the World Contest. An automotive “Thrilla in Manila” – Beretta/Wendlinger/Dupuy/Donohue/Amorin/Archer/Belloc/Duez versus Fellows/Bell/Kneifel/Pilgim/Collins/Freon – enough to keep everyone on the edge of their seats.

2000 Rolex 24

That would be more than enough excitement for most races but there was more. After a gap of some 50 years Cadillac was back in competition running a Riley & Scott built prototype with victory at Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans the aim. Why, did this conservative marque feel the need to return to the tracks? While other automotive brands were at that time heading towards nostalgic retro-style designs like the Beetle, the Mini and Thunderbird, Cadillac had decided to march to a different drum. Under the rallying cry “Art & Science” the brand was launched on a path to develop their range to be the equal in every respect of the likes of Lexus and the German trio, Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz.

2000 Rolex 24

Another point of view expressed to me at the time was that Cadillac had to change and aim at a younger market, their existing customer base was dying off………..and fast.

2000 Rolex 24

The 2000 Rolex 24 also witnessed the debut of the customer version of the Porsche 911 GT3-R, there were 23 examples that would take the Green Flag at the Rolex, all that dot.com money was burning holes in pockets, or so we speculated. The 996 GT3-R would be the car that would carry GT Racing forward around the world for the next few years. It had the first water cooled engine in a Porsche 911 based racing model.

2000 Rolex 24

Another GT3-R was in the hands of of the youngest driver in the race, 17 year old Gunnar Jeannette and the oldest, Paul Newman. Newman was utterly charming as long as you confined the talk to racing, when at the tracks he just wanted to be another driver and not the movie superstar. Newman won the GTO Daytona 24 title on his last attempt in 1995 and he said at the time, “When we won it in 1995, when I was seventy, well, I’ll give it another five years and come back again.” When asked why he would enter such a gruelling contest of speed and endurance, the 75 year old actor responded, “Just for the hell of it.”

2000 Rolex 24

There were five classes of cars that were eligible to run in the 2000 Rolex 24, two prototype and three GT. The prototype rules were based on John Mangoletsi’s Sports Racing World Cup and had SRP and SRP 2 categories depending on power, engine size and budget. One of the most popular models with the fans was the Ferrari 333 SP, here the Risi Competizione example with Allan McNish on a bus-man’s holiday from Audi duties. There were three 333 SPs on the grid, the howl of the 4 litre V12 was worth going a long way to hear.

2000 Rolex 24

The Ferraris were outnumbered by six Riley & Scott MKllls powered by either Ford and Chevrolet V8 engines. This is the Philip Creighton Motorsports entry.

2000 Rolex 24

Also making a first appearance was Johansson Matthews Reynard 2KQ Judd. This advanced customer programme was a new departure for the then world’s biggest race car constructor. The year before Reynard had acquired Riley & Scott who, aside from providing the MKlll cars, also built and ran the Cadillac programme. A tangled web.

2000 Rolex 24

The prototype scene was finely balanced in 2000, the workhorses of the past five or six years, the Rileys and the Ferraris, were getting long in the tooth but were expected run reliably at the notoriously tough combined infield and banking layout of Daytona International Speedway. Both models had success in the past and would form the foundation of plans to run combined Grand-Am events with the Sports Racing World Cup. The plan was for John Mangoletsi to bring the cream of European prototype racing over to create a set of world class events. A truly Cunning Plan worthy of Baldrick at his finest.

2000 Rolex 24

In the background however was the the American Le Mans Series, running to ACO Le Mans rules, that allowed full factory participation, specifically outlawed in SRWC land. Well, not so much outlawed as price capped. The top class of the category, SRP, had an on the track price limit of $640,000 including engine, SRP 2 was pegged at $201,000. The logic being that no constructor such as Lola or Reynard would sell cars at a loss. However a  manufacturer like Cadillac could just factor any excess costs into their overall project budget and still sell cars under the price limit to any customers well heeled enough to afford them. A bit of a hole in the rules then.

2000 Rolex 24

After a promising first season in 1999, the ALMS was set to expand with Audi due to bring their latest car, the R8, to the tracks of North America to take on BMW and Panoz. Would that prove to be a bigger draw than watching privateers in Grand-Am? The attractions of keeping onside with the ACO, organisers of Le Mans, and the halo effect of the top class factory battle meant that both Viper and Vette would direct their attention to the ALMS.

2000 Rolex 24

Mention of the SR2 class? Well only the Pilbeam of Martin Henderson turned up, a bit disappointing but given that these cars were not originally designed or engineered to survive 24 hour races it was not wholly a surprise.

2000 Rolex 24

There were three GT classes, GTO translating roughly to the Le Mans LM GTS class. Top of the list were three Chrysler Vipers from Oreca, full factory supported entries. Based on the Viper GTS the GTS-R was one of the most successful GT cars in history. Oreca had achieved back to back domination in the GT world during 1998 and 1999, winning the FIA GT Championship, and taking class wins in the Le Mans 24 Hours plus the American Le Mans Series Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles in ‘99. The French team were going to be very difficult to beat.

2000 Rolex 24

The Viper had first appeared on the tracks back in 1994, powered by a V10 8 litre engine, which not surprisingly produced power and torque in abundance. The chassis had originally been massaged and built by our old friends, Reynard, but by this stage in the project, Oreca had taken things in house.

2000 Rolex 24
The main competition would be two Corvette C5-Rs run by Pratt & Miller on behalf of General Motors. During the 1999 season the Vettes had gradually got closer to the Viper squad, going into the Floridian classic they were quietly confident of coming out on top. The Corvette, first raced in 1999 at the Rolex 24, had 7 litres of Detroit V8 muscle to propel them along, it would be a mighty contest.

2000 Rolex 24

But if some disaster befell the factory squads then the out-gunned but still fearsome Porsche 911 GT2 would be around to pick up the pieces but that outcome was not expected.

2000 Rolex 24
The second rank of GTs, GTU was expected to be a walk over for the phalanx of new Porsches but they would face determined opposition from the successful PTG BMW M3 squad, previous class winners at the Rolex.

2000 Rolex 24

The ‘Run What You Brung’ brigade were catered for in the A-GT class. They were tube framed, home built specials, regarded by the leading lights as mobile chicanes and not expected to feature in the grand scheme of things.

2000 Rolex 24
Practice and qualifying dragged on through Thursday and Friday, giving everyone a chance to get back into the groove after the winter break and especially to get used to running in close proximity with 79 other cars.

2000 Rolex 24

Traffic on the banking was manageable but on the infield and at the Bus Stop chicane at NASCAR Three great care had to be taken to avoid problems arising out of speed differentials between the quick guys and the not so quick.

2000 Rolex 24

During the night sessions the problem was even more acute. Somehow the drivers sorted it all out.

2000 Rolex 24

Meanwhile down in the garage areas the teams were racing against the clock to prepare their cars for the struggle ahead. Here Dick Barbour and Tony Dowe try to fettle what was widely regarded as the leading Porsche GT3-R.

The European teams are always pleased to find that the strict curfew regulations enforced at Daytona International Speedway meant no all-nighters, no matter what sociopaths who tend to run teams wanted. The Shark Lounge and Molly Brown’s had their Siren Call……………

2000 Rolex 24

Pole position went to James Weaver in the old faithful #20 Riley & Scott MK lll Ford who rattled round in 1:41.002. Actually the Dyson team entered their No. 20 car as being Lincoln powered. The team’s Ford engines were prepared by Lozano Brothers Racing Engines. “We’re just trying to work with our engine builders and engine developers to see what we can create, and maybe we’ll create something,” said team owner Rob Dyson. “You never know.”

2000 Rolex 24
This was trying tempt the Ford owned brand to come and fight with their American rival, Cadillac. Perhaps Dyson should have painted that car black with gold piping and called it a Cartier Town Car………white-walled Goodyear slicks please for P Diddy Weaver……….Yo!

Dyson had run one of the new Reynards at the early January test sessions at Daytona but reverted to their Rileys for the race itself. “We were planning to have two Reynards,” said Dyson. “Due to a number of problems, we were not able to get even one chassis working. Right after our test here we had to make the decision to run the Riley and Scott. Our objective is to win races. We just felt that we had a better chance of winning the race with the Riley & Scott rather than the Reynard. This is the Super Bowl of sports car racing. This is a race where we’ve been fortunate to win it, and that’s our objective this time.”

“We’ve got high hopes for the Reynard, I think any new car takes three or four months to get sorted out. I think Cadillac need a little more time as do Reynard,” Weaver added.
The Ferrari of Alex Caffi was second on the grid just a tad slower than Master James. A battle royal was in prospect.

2000 Rolex 24

The Italian, nicknamed “The Disco Kid” during his F1 days was typically lyrical about his prospects, “This is a big event, I raced in Formula One, the top of racing cars, but this is a beautiful day in my life because Daytona is very famous, also in Europe. Especially in Italy, nobody forgets the finish of the three Ferraris in the late sixties. This is one of the most famous races and I’m very happy to be here.” A local newspaper reporter’s dream.

2000 Rolex 24

Also pretty content with the way things were panning out was the Reynard team, lining up fourth on the grid. They were confident of being on the race pace and felt that they could be dark horses in the hunt for victory.

2000 Rolex 24

The lead Cadillac was one place down on the Reynard, it was clear that there was plenty of work to do on these elegant cars.

2000 Rolex 24

GTO pole and first blood to Ron Fellows and the Corvette with a lap of 1:45.889. Ron, one of the smartest drivers you will ever meet, was pleased. “This is our first pole with the Corvette so we’re pretty happy. We really didn’t do much since the test. We found a pretty good set up there. This morning we made one little change to the back and off we went to qualify. Right at the end of the second set of tires, I had a perfectly clear lap. The guys sent me out exactly at the right time. I was able to maximize the grip we had with the tires for one or two laps right at the end.”

Corvette 1, Viper 0 but still all to play for.

Fellows was still realistic about the race, “We’re still the underdogs here at the Rolex 24, these guys have won two straight Le Mans’ titles and we’re still chasing them. But we’ve got the package together to race for 24 hours. It’ll be a long race and the fastest car doesn’t necessarily always win, anything can happen. You’ve got to be smart with so many cars. It really won’t thin out until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. The biggest thing is traffic, just staying out of trouble.”

Prophetic words, indeed.

2000 Rolex 24

1:52.028 was good enough to secure pole in GTU class with Dirk Müller on qualifying duties for Dick Barbour Racing’s GT3-R. The loudspeakers were ringing out Friday at 6.30pm telling the faithful all to leave “The World Centre for Motorsport” for the day and head off to get rested in preparation for the race day. What would the Green Flag bring?

2000 Rolex 24

Saturday morning and the Sun punched its way West across the Atlantic, for those of us with business at Daytona International Speedway it was time stop admiring the colours over the ocean and head to the track. The weather was forecast to remain dry but it would get cold, even by European standards.

2000 Rolex 24

There were three clear contests in prospect, SR1 prototypes would head the field and all things being equal win the race. GTO would be a vicious bar brawl between the Detroit duo but if the boys up front did not watch it the Viper-Vette combo could get close, a podium for the fast and reliable GTs was a distinct possibility. GTU was almost certainly a Porsche walkover, numbers and speed would see to that.

2000 Rolex 24
There were, and possibly still are, two schools of thought about how to approach competing in the Rolex 24 Hours. The question is simply, is this a race or an endurance? Flat out racing or stroke it round looking after the car and hope to finish?

Some driven by bitter experience favour the latter approach.

2000 Rolex 24

Take Mike Brockman, Paul Newman’s teammate in 1995, who was back to help his friend attempt to win again. “I’ve done this race a lot of times, I led it once for 13 hours, unfortunately it was the first 13 hours. It took me 15 attempts before I won it, and that was in 1995. Jack Roush, who we drove for in 1995 said it best, we were talking in the morning before the race, and we were talking about race strategy, he said, ‘there will be no racing here until the sun comes up, and not until I say so. ‘If we make it, and the sun comes up, and we’re still alive, then we’ll talk about racing.'”

Well that’s one way of going about things.

2000 Rolex 24

The other strategy is go flat out and devil take the hindmost.

James Weaver, who was as hard and fast a driver as ever graced the tracks, expressed it this way.

“The top sports cars, they’re more than strong enough to race flat out for 24 hours. There’s not much you can do to nurse one of these cars along. If you’ve got a good driver in it, you might as well drive it as fast as you can because you won’t break it. When you’ve got to race against people like Alex (Caffi), they’re going to be going flat out, we’ll take the fight to them, and they’ll be coming after us. It’s just a question of, don’t get too hot headed in traffic. That’s always the game here.”

2000 Rolex 24
Anyhow all the planning in the world usually goes out the window as soon as the Green Flag drops and the field of prototypes were soon flat out on the banking. The initial pace was set by the Lista Ferrari 333 SP driven forcefully as ever by Didier Theys. Almost from the start one of the main contenders for victory, the Risi Ferrari, ran into problems, Caffi spinning to the back of the field on lap 2, then within the hour there were transmission issues and fitting a new gearbox was the time consuming cure. Scratch one top prototype from the race victory.

2000 Rolex 24

With 79 cars starting from the grid, traffic, and how the leaders managed it, was always going to be a major factor. Given the disparity in speed and performance between the classes especially into the braking zones it was vital that the top drivers balance out ultimate pace with due circumspection. The best drivers really embrace the challenge of threading their way through the maze of cars in front of them.

Once again, James Weaver, explains things in his own, unique way. “Personally, the traffic element at Daytona, I find tremendously exciting and a real challenge. It’s like a high-speed video game or racing back from the pub through Piccadilly Circus in the rush hour. It’s just tremendously exciting. You try to judge all the closing speeds, what the other guy is going to do, see if you can recognize the helmet, determine who it is. When a car goes off line in front of you, you see if it’s throwing up dust, so you can tell if you can go off line. There are a thousand and one tricks you can do to make the race work for you.”

2000 Rolex 24

The battle raged up front between the Lista Ferrari and the Lola Ford of Konrad Motorsports with the evergreen Jan Lammers leading the charge. This conflict continued for the first three hours until an oil leak delayed the Lola. The #20 Dyson Riley & Scott took up the challenge shadowed by the leading Cadillac.
The gradual erosion of the lead prototypes propelled the GTO class battle into the the top ten positions overall. The #3 Covette of Ron Fellows, Justin Bell and Chris Kneifel pushing the #91 Viper of Olivier Beretta, Karl Wendlinger and Dominic Dupuy very hard and in case they stumbled there were the three support cars from the the Detroit duo in close attendance.

2000 Rolex 24

The only sign of weakness in the ORECA camp was that Olivier Beretta was ill with the after effects of chicken pox, which meant that Wendlinger in particular would have to take up the slack. He rose to the occasion in a champion’s style.

2000 Rolex 24
GTU was, as predicted, a walk over for the Porsche 911 GT3-R armada with the head of the pack being the Barbour Racing example with Lucas Luhr, Bob Wollek and Dirk Müller behind the wheel.

2000 Rolex 24
Around 6.00pm, just before sunset the leader slowed up with smoke coming from the engine bay. The Doran-Lista Ferrari limped back to the pits but their race was run.

“We had an air box fire,” said team manager Kevin Doran. “It’s kind of a documented problem with the Ferraris. It’s happened six or eight times before with different teams. It happened to us once before, at Portland last year. In a downshift deceleration mode you get an over-run of fuel in the air box, and for some odd reason, you get a backfire out of an air trumpet, and it ignites it, and all that excess fuel burns, and it takes out the injection wiring harness.”

The engine had ingested some of the debris so even re-wiring would be in vain as there was damage to the pistons. Didier Theys reflected on a race win that had got away. “The engine caught fire. We had a backfire and the backfire burned the wire harness, it melted a couple of trumpets, it even melted one of the butterflies. Too much fuel was going into the engine. I don’t know what happened. We’ve had one problem like this in the past, but that was after a pit stop. When you do a pit stop and you don’t clean up the engine properly, too much fuel goes into the engine and it starts to burn.”

2000 Rolex 24
The misfortune that had struck the Ferraris meant that the #20 Dyson Riley & Scott Ford of James Weaver, Rob Dyson, Elliot Forbes-Robinson and Max Papis assumed the lead but the big surprise was the pace of the #5 Cadillac.

2000 Rolex 24

Indeed at the 6 hour point the #5 car was at the head of the field with a 30 second advantage over the Dyson Racing Riley & Scott but it was not to last. A series of problems with transmission, brakes and suspension blunted the Cadillac challenge, but the team just kept repairing the cars and sending them back out, retirement was not even contemplated.

2000 Rolex 24

The head of the field was not the only place that problems were found. Porsche was having something of a nightmare with their new GT3-Rs. Water pumps and consequently engines were failing and in numbers. This was not the way that Porsche does things, “Excellence was Expected” was something of a company motto right from the early days, so to introduce the first water cooled 911 based racer and then have water pump failures caused extremely red faces throughout the paddock.

Bob Wollek summed up the situation ” There was no warning, no light, no temperature going up, it just went ‘BANG’ on the straight.”

2000 Rolex 24

The explanation was simple enough, sand that had been used in the engine block casting process had not been fully cleaned out and the residue was clogging the water pumps causing them to seize and then the engines to fail. In short order entries from Dick Barbour Racing, Larbre, MAC Racing, Racers Group, Skea, Seikel, MCR, PK Sport, Reiser Callas and Haberthur all retired as a result of engine problems. Not good.

2000 Rolex 24

During the long hours of darkness the race stabilised with the Dyson Riley & Scott having a ten lap lead over the chasing pack of Vipers and Vettes.

2000 Rolex 24
The 2000 Rolex 24 was run under unusually cold conditions with the temperature hovering just above freezing for most of the night. This put extra strain on the already exhausted crews who would take whatever rest they could between pitstops.

2000 Rolex 24

A routine stop for the leader, EFR out, Rob Dyson in. Behind the Dyson car and the factory Vipers and Vettes the privateer Chamberlain Vipers ran strongly, moving into the top ten overall as the Porsches failed.

2000 Rolex 24

The Corvette #3 ran flat out to keep up the pressure on the leading Vipers but could not quite close the gap. Here Justin Bell heads out for another stint in the dark.

2000 Rolex 24

Around 3.00am point the race changed course again. The #20 was 13 laps up on the #93 Viper but trouble was on the way as the leader started to slow. A pitstop to investigate led to the team removing the valve covers in order to find what has become a persistent but slight misfire. No broken rockers or valve springs were discovered but the restriction in pace and the unscheduled time spent in the pits cut the lead over the pack of GTO cars to 8 laps.

2000 Rolex 24

Another strong performer was the #6 Cadillac of Butch Leitzinger, Franck Lagorce and Andy Wallace. Early race problems had dropped them down the order to 69th but by 5.00am they were up to second place overall. They were seven laps down on the Dyson lead car and were scrapping with #91 and #93 Vipers. Then problems with the gearbox meant a complete change of transmission which cost them around 30 laps and any chance of victory for Cadillac.

2000 Rolex 24

The sun came up to a sick Riley & Scott up against a charging pack of Vipers and a lone Vette, would Dyson make it to the finish line and score a third win in the Rolex 24 Hours?

2000 Rolex 24

GTU class was firmly in the grasp of the G&W Motorsports GT3-R but shortly after 18 hours they too suffered the dreaded Porsche engine failure. Uwe Alzen was not happy, “We were more than 10 laps ahead and the car was running perfectly. The only problems we had were with a broken seat and something wrong with the jacking system.”

2000 Rolex 24
A surprise at sunrise was to see the Johansson Matthews Reynard still running. Four gearbox changes plus numerous other repairs had seen the crew exhaust themselves. However the warming rays of the Sun gave fresh hope to the survivors still running.

2000 Rolex 24

For the Dyson team the agony continued as the leading Viper and Vette chipped away at their lead till they slipped behind with just two hours of the race to go. The team could see this fate coming as they lost around ten seconds a lap to the GTO pursuers. Rob Dyson was philosophical about the situation, “Specifically, what happened was an exhaust valve had a crack in it starting about one in the morning. We had a high-speed misfire that was due to a crack in an exhaust valve, and those things don’t heal themselves.”
#91 held an advantage over #3 of around a lap but Pratt & Miller were not done yet. There would be a sprint to the finish.

2000 Rolex 24

The #3 Corvette got back on to the lead lap with an aggressive pit strategy and was really pushing in the final hour. Ron Fellows rung the neck out of the Vette but Karl Wendlinger was up to the task in hand and was 32.7 seconds in front when the Chequered Flag dropped at 1.00pm Sunday. Victory, the closest margin in the race’s history, for Viper and Oreca.

2000 Rolex 24

The team had remained calm even during the late onslaught from the #3, “Before I left the pits for the last half hour of the race, I knew the Corvette could be very fast, and that Ron Fellows was a very fast driver,” said Wendlinger. “But I also knew that throughout the race we’d learned how fast our car could run, and that we could win the race with the pace we’d set.”

2000 Rolex 24
Celebrations then in Victory Lane for the French team and much later in the Shark Lounge………………….Hughes de Chaunac, Team Principal of Oreca, was ecstatic, “It is hard to imagine you can win a 24-hour race by 36 seconds. The entire Oreca team did a fantastic job all weekend, Dodge gave us a tremendous racecar and it was our job to perform. The Corvette proved to be a tremendous challenge to the Viper and we respect their programme. It sets up an epic battle for when we race Le Mans.”

2000 Rolex 24

Beaten by the narrowest of margins, the Corvette team was disappointed but rightly proud of their performance, it was the first of many such displays in the following seasons.

2000 Rolex 24

Surviving the carnage in the Porsche GTU ranks was the Haberthur 911 GT3-R driven by Fabio Babini, Luca Drudi, Gabrio Rosa and Fabio Rosa. They finished 8th overall and were worthy class winners.

2000 Rolex 24
Adding to joy in the Dodge camp was the top ten finish for two of the customer cars run by Chamberlain Motorsport.

2000 Rolex 24

The top brass at Chrysler were very pleased, John Fernandez, Director of Engineering and Speciality Vehicles, had this to say. “This is a historical moment. An outright win in one of the world’s most prestigious endurance races by a production-based car like the Dodge Viper GTS-R is rare and hard-earned. In fact, the Dodge Viper GTS-R – now a Le Mans and Daytona 24-hour race winner – is remarkably like the Vipers that you can buy from your neighborhood Dodge Dealer. Not only does it look the same, but it uses the same basic engine, chassis, transmission and suspension. If push came to shove and we needed to, we could have gone out to the Viper Owners’ Club Parking Paddock in the Infield and swapped parts with our customers’ cars. The only significant differences are a full roll cage for safety, a carbon fiber body (versus composite plastic bodywork on the street cars), a dry-sump engine and racing slicks. But having a great production car to start with gives us the edge on the track. And conversely, having a great racing car makes our street cars better.”

2000 Rolex 24
Grand-Am had kicked off their existence and what a way to start.

Grand-Am President, Roger Edmondson and his team were overjoyed with the first event, ” The Rolex 24 at Daytona was not just a great first race for Grand-Am, it was an outstanding motorsport event by any basis of judgement.”

Those of us who had shivered our way through the cold Floridian night would agree whole heartedly. Grand-Am was on its way.

John Brooks, January 2013