Talking With Kevin Doran At Sebring
© Andrew S. Hartwell
During the wonderful - but too damn hot - Sebring 12 hours ALMS event, I had a chance to chat with Kevin Doran, a long time racing team manager. He, and team owner Fredy Lienhard, make up the primary partners of the Doran-Lista race team that currently runs a Dallara-Judd prototype in the Grand Am and ALMS series. Kevin Doran has been around the game of sportscar racing for a long time and his experiences have provided him with a wealth of knowledge - and a storehouse of opinions.
I love talking to Kevin Doran. And talk we did at Sebring.
We started out by talking about the Dallara a car that has won 3 Grand Am races already this year and a car that was running it's first ALMS event at Sebring. Our conversation took place before race day. Unfortunately, in the race, Didier Theys found himself zooming along the Ulmann Straight with no brakes to slow him down, putting him into the barrier and out of the race in the very early going.
But that history had not yet been written when we spoke. I think you will find his commentary frank and frankly, refreshing.
On the Dallara at Sebring: "It's a great car we just haven't ever tested with the diffuser. And the wing with a different wing end plate loses some efficiency and a little bit of downforce but the diffuser adds a ton of downforce so in actual fact you run the wing with a lower setting than you do in Grand Am. The engine and restrictor are the same as Grand Am. Really the changes boil down to the diffuser, carbon brakes, and the single rollover hoop. The rest is just some detail changes like cockpit openings, where you can put the radio, where you can put the fire bottle, and things like that. It's more busy work than anything else.
On the need to switch tire brands when switching between Grand Am and the ALMS: "We are running on Yokohama's here. We have been with them for six or seven years and we have always liked working with those guys. Goodyear has a fantastic product also and, the way the series are split right now it is unfortunate that we have to change back and forth but Goodyear's been good enough to give us a fantastic product and fantastic service. And Yokohoma has been kind enough to continue to support us when we come to ALMS.
"I was irritated that Grand Am went to a spec tire. In the long run it is probably a good move for them but in the short run it was really difficult for us as we had a tire company as a sponsor. But we are one of the few teams so I guess it is better for Grand Am in the long run. And now they are going to the prototypes which is going to be a chassis specific to this series, it won't cross over to this series at all
On the future of Daytona Prototypes in Grand Am: "We are one of the people that are seriously looking at the formula to see about building chassis for sale. It looks like I would have to have some customers before I start building a car. If I built one I probably would run a factory team but we would have to have a customer or two outside of our team before we start building.
"We are considering running an existing LMP car in Grand Am later this year, using one of the new engine packages, in conjunction with another team. I see most people using an interim car in 2003. I don't really see too many companies outside of Fabcar having a prototype ready for Daytona 2003.
"We have several concepts started for our own car but you couldn't go to manufacturing today with it. At this point I'm the designer but on this project I would definitely use professional engineering help. I don't think I would be the chief designer I think we would use Ron Mathis or somebody to help. You can't run a company and design a car and be everything to everybody. I want to have my hands in there and be close to the drawing board but I would need a lot of help to build a car of this magnitude.
On the Daytona Prototype concept overall: "I think you need to look at the facts and they are that the teams will be forced to choose between Grand Am or the new IMSA as teams will not be able to cross over. I don't see anybody crossing over in 2004. They have pretty much drawn a line in the sand.
"Personally I think that is a risk that Grand Am should have thought stronger about before they took it. Will it work or not? I don't know. Racing as it is is not very good so you need a change. Hopefully it is the right change.
"Both series haven't been very good. We have an exceptional field here at Sebring; there was an exceptionally good field at Daytona. Grand Am went to Homestead and had the poorest field I have seen in 5 years and I suspect that when ALMS/IMSA shows up at their Sears Point event you're going to see the poorest field they have seen in years too.
"The new series has created interest because it is new and something different. In the end, from my point of view nothing changes because it is still racing. It is still four wheels and a motor. From the fans point of view maybe it will be interesting enough to turn this sport around."
And if fortunate journalists like me can continue to collar Kevin for interviews, then interesting times certainly lie ahead, no matter what happens with the Daytona Prototypes or within IMSA.