MONTEREY, California – May 18, 2009 – Coming off a pair of competitive 5th- and 7th-place finishes in Rounds Two and Three of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, the Doran Racing / McDonald’s team just missed scoring a top-10 finish in Round Four of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, the Verizon Festival of Speed at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Persevering through gearbox and handling issues, the #77 Doran / McDonald’s Doran-Dallara Ford co-driven by Memo Gidley and Brad Jaeger qualified and finished 11th.
The weekend began on a promising note, with a good setup that produced a 6th-fast time in the first practice session. With some tweaks in between and Gidley at the wheel for the second session, the #77 car sat atop the time sheets for most of the session. In the final ten minutes with other teams putting on new tires, the times dropped but the Doran Racing team was again the 6th-fastest car on the track. With temperatures heating up for qualifying, the team found the car developing an understeer condition and made several changes that helped, but did not cure, the problem. As a result, co-driver Brad Jaeger qualified the #77 Doran Racing / McDonald’s Doran-Dallara Ford 11th on the grid.
“In practice the track was a bit cooler and our setup was good and we were turning good times, but as soon as the track temp went up and got hot in qualifying we lost a lot of front grip,” said Jaeger. “We tried to fix it for the race, we did some setup changes and it helped a little bit, but ultimately it wasn’t enough and the understeer came back, which made it hard to pass cars and hard to turn a quick lap time. I was up to sixth at one point; when we came in for the driver change Memo went back out in 12th. We were hoping for a yellow there, but there was just an extremely long time of green laps, especially for Laguna Seca where there are usually a bit more yellows spread out through the whole race due to the gravel traps and cars getting stuck. It was the longest time I’ve run under green conditions at Laguna and that hurt us a bit in pit stop strategy. The race definitely didn’t go as well as me, Memo and the entire Doran team were hoping it would, but we kept it on track, kept it in one piece and had a finish. We’ll move on and look forward to the next race.”
Brad Jaeger is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio and recent graduate of Vanderbilt University where he was a member of their Formula SAE team. His racing resume includes karting, Sports 2000, Skip Barber, F2000, Star Mazda and the Indy Pro Series. This is his second season of competition in the Grand-Am Daytona prototype class.
Memo Gidley, the very talented and widely respected American driver who was born in La Paz, Mexico, now makes his home in Novato, California. He has made a name for himself as one of the most committed drivers in the paddock, driving and winning in everything from karts to Indy Cars and stock cars to prototypes and has recently expanded his winning ways to jet skis.
“We actually unloaded a pretty good car; it wasn’t quite there in first practice but I was pretty happy with it,” said Gidley. “We made a couple of key changes and the car really got going and we ended up sixth in the first practice. I was very optimistic at that point and so we made a couple more changes and were actually P1 for most of the second session. The race started off pretty well; Brad qualified 11th and we cycled up and down in the field a little bit because of pit stops, but ultimately, similar to the last race in New Jersey, we kind of missed the window of when we should have stopped and done a driver change. There were a couple of yellows in the first 45 minutes, but then there were essentially no yellows at all until right toward the end with about 15 laps to go. So unfortunately we had to make a green flag pit stop to change drivers and when I was exiting the pits, something went wrong with the gearbox and it wouldn’t shift for about a lap and a half. Finally I figured out that by backing off the throttle and pulling super-light on the lever I was able to get it to at least shift and so we stayed out, but at that point, because we were so close to the tail end of the lead lap we went a lap down. It was disappointing for the whole team because the car felt so good in practice we were sure we’d be fighting for a place on the podium.”
During the 2008 season, the Doran Racing team scored eleven top-10 finishes, including eight in a row. In 2009 after falling victim to an engine electrical failure in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Doran Racing / McDonald’s team has shown its true colors as one of the Grand-Am series front-runners. In Round Two at Virginia International Raceway on April 26, the duo of Gidley and Jaeger qualified the car in 9th and finished 5th. In Round Three at New Jersey Motorsports Park, during a race-long downpour that made racing extremely difficult, the team qualified 10th and were headed for a podium finish until a late-race yellow flag failed to materialize despite several cars in the tire wall; the Doran / McDonald’s car fishtailed across the finish line in 7th. Factoring in the results of the Verizon Festival of Speed at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Doran Racing is currently 8th in the team points championship and Gidley and Jaeger are tied for 8th in the driver’s championship.