MONTEREY, California – May 5, 2014 – Saturday was a good points-earning day for Doran Racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, as its cars finished fifth and sixth in the third round of IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
After two hours and 30 minutes of competition, the team’s #14 Nissan NISMO 370Z RC co-driven by Brad Jaeger and B.J. Zacharias was only 1.769 of a second behind the winner. The Lebanon, Ohio-based team’s other Nissan 370Z, the Tower Events #41 of Toronto-based drivers John Farano and David Empringham, took the checkered flag just 0.529 of a second after the #14 did following 75 laps of competition on the challenging, 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course.
The race had seven full-course cautions. Luckily all the Doran Racing drivers were able to escape all the accidents.
Both of the Doran Racing cars only made one pit stop to change drivers and Continental tires and add fuel. They both came in under the fourth full-course caution around lap 34 about 72 minutes into the race. The #14’s pit stop took only 1:19 and the #41’s took just 1:50. After that fuel conservation was very important to the strategy, but with three additional full-course yellows both cars were able to go the distance and stay on the track instead of revisiting the pits.
Jaeger, of Charlottesville, Va., started tenth and had the #14 up to fifth during his stint. He had battles with several drivers, including Mustang drivers Billy Johnson and Jade Buford, before he pitted while in sixth place. His fastest lap was lap 17, which he turned in 1:37.208.
After the pit stop cycles were completed Zacharias started his stint in ninth place, but with 58 minutes remaining in the race he was up to fourth. The Cincinnati-based driver was still fourth with 45 minutes remaining, only 0.215 of a second behind the third-place driver, Shelby Blackstock. It was during that battle that Zacharias set his fastest lap of the race on lap 49 with a 1:36.833.
About five minutes later Dane Cameron passed him in another Nissan to push him to fifth. Cameron got around Blackstock a little later too.
Zacharias was still digging though, and with about 15 minutes remaining he passed Blackstock to regain fourth place. A podium finish seemed very possible, but with just three minutes remaining Kris Wilson passed him to grab the final podium position. Cameron ended up fourth and Zacharias crossed the line in fifth, just 0.313 of a second behind Cameron.
Farano started 14th in the #41 but he quickly moved into 11th, turning the fastest lap of his stint on lap six with a 1:38.206. He battled Buford too, as well as Ray Mason, Mike McGovern and several other drivers, and by the third full-course caution about 40 minutes into the race he was eighth. He was in tenth place when he pitted, turning the Nissan over to Empringham in great shape.
Most of the Grand Sport cars pitted around the same time, and after all the pit stops Empringham began his stint in 18th place. Empringham had worked his way up to 11th with 58 minutes remaining. He continued to inch up the scoreboard, setting his fastest lap on lap 51 with a 1:37.190. Two minutes later, with about 40 minutes remaining, he was in eighth place, and about 10 minutes later he had moved up two more spots to sixth.
Wilson got by him with about 11 minutes remaining to push him to seventh, but he regained sixth with 4 minutes remaining after two drivers ahead of him scuffled. He was able to miss becoming involved and he took the checkered flag in sixth place, right behind Zacharias.
The race will be broadcast on a tape-delayed basis at 10 a.m. Eastern time on Sunday, May 11 on Fox Sports 1.
The next event is May 24 at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. There are two events on the schedule in June, with the series appearing at Kansas Speedway on June 7 and Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, N.Y. on June 28-29.
For more information on Doran Racing, see DoranRacing.com. The team also has a Facebook page.
The series’ Web site, which offers live timing and scoring, is at imsa.com.
Driver post-race quotes follow:
Brad Jaeger: “It was a great finish and a solid, points-earning day. I didn’t have any close calls; just some close racing. It was all clean, but close.
“Our car had an understeer so we had to be patient, but the Continental tires held up and we had some solid runs. Towards the end of my stint I know I was quicker than the Mustangs I was running with. B.J. did a great job and held on until the end of the race. We’ll take fifth and go on from here!”
B.J. Zacharias: “It was good in the grand scheme of things. It was disappointing in that we had a shot at a podium, but a top-five finish is still good. Our overall goal is at least a top-seven finish, so we’ll take this. If you go back a couple of races and throw out last year at Lime Rock and this year at Daytona we’ve had three top-five finishes in the last five races, so I’d say we’re definitely building momentum.
“The #41 had a great run too, and it was a really good day for Nissan with three cars in the top six.
“I always try to race clean. Our cars are all in one piece, so we’ll see if we can make some improvements for Lime Rock and do even better there. All in all, we’ll take fifth.”
David Empringham: “It was a tough race, with a lot of over-the-top, aggressive driving. In the end the Doran guys worked hard and did a great job. We’ll take the sixth and look forward to Lime Rock.”