Adding to an already impressive list of race results during the 2009
season (including a 5th at VIR and 7th at New Jersey), the Doran Racing
team and drivers Memo Gidley and Brad Jaeger teamed up to put the #77
McDonald’s/South African Airways Doran/Dallara Ford car on the second
row of the starting grid – and bring it home in 8th place — at last
weekend’s Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham,
Lebanon, Ohio (July 21, 2009) – Adding to an already impressive list of race results during the 2009 season (including a 5th at VIR and 7th at New Jersey), the Doran Racing team and drivers Memo Gidley and Brad Jaeger teamed up to put the #77 McDonald’s/South African Airways Doran/Dallara Ford car on the second row of the starting grid – and bring it home in 8th place — at last weekend’s Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.
It was a result made all the more impressive by the fact that the team had not planned to compete in the event until additional sponsorship came through early on race week. A flurry of phone calls resulted in drivers and crew heading for the airport and the team scrambling to get the transporter loaded and on the road for the 500-mile trip from its home base in Lebanon, Ohio to the manicured jewel of a racetrack that is Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.
Once at the track, the Doran team ‘unloaded fast’ with a car that was quick right from the start, setting the 5th-fastest lap in the first practice session, 3rd in the second session and 4th in the final session before qualifying at 1:00 pm on Saturday afternoon. In a reversal of the team’s usual practice, Memo Gidley qualified the car and started the race, handed it over to co-driver Brad Jaeger for the middle stint, and then got back in the car to bring it home to the checkered.
"The Doran team did a great job getting it all together in an incredibly short time and the car was great just as it rolled off the trailer," said Gidley. "We were right there with the championship leaders during qualifying and had a good shot a being on pole. As it was, we qualified just 2/10ths of a second off the pole time and lined up on the second row, our best start so far this season. I moved up to third almost immediately and set a fast race lap that stood until the closing stages of the race. We were running with the leaders until a miscue with Grand-Am during the first yellow pretty dropped us to the back of the field and left us playing catch-up for the rest of the race. Given the circumstances, I think the team did a brilliant job and we definitely had one of the fastest cars on the track."
At the first yellow, a communications problem with track officials resulted in them opening the pits late and forcing Gidley to do an extra lap under yellow. That resulted in the #77 car dropping to the tail end of the field when the McDonald’s car made their pit stop for fuel and a driver change.
"It was both a happy and frustrating weekend for me," said Jaeger. "I was happy to get the call that we were going racing, but I just couldn’t get a handle on the car’s setup and that problem with the first pit stop really cost us a lot of time. We fell back to mid-pack by the time I got in, but I had a decent pace during my stint and was able to pull away from the Penske Racing car that was behind me, so I felt pretty good about that. Then we had some issues with the front tires just going completely off to the point where I could barely get the car to turn in and Kevin Doran immediately switched race strategies so Memo would have new tires for the finish of the race. The team did an excellent job throughout the weekend and I’m hopeful that we’ll be back on track with the McDonald’s car soon."
By the time the final pit stop and driver change was completed, Gidley inherited a car that was two laps down on the leaders and set off on a mission to gain as much ground back as possible. In closing laps he made up twenty second, passing the race-leading #99 car to gain one lap back. After a final stop under yellow for fuel and tires, Gidley re-joined the battle in 10th, one lap down on the leaders. With fresh tires on the car, he was able to carve through the field up to 8th place before the checkered flag finally fell.
"This was probably the best car we’ve had so far this season, and certainly the best car I’ve driven at this track," said Gidley. "We tuned the fourth fastest lap of the race and were faster than all the cars that ultimately finished on the podium. If not for that mix-up on the first stop, we could have been fighting for a podium or a win, but that’s the way it is in racing that’s this close and competitive; everything has to go exactly right. Hopefully we’ll get another chance soon, because the Doran/McDonald’s team is ready for a breakthrough."
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.
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 duo of Gidley and Jaeger qualified the car in 9th and finished 5th In Round Two at Virginia International Raceway on April 26. 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. And this latest result at Barber Motorsports Park confirms that the Doran Racing / McDonald’s team is one of the Grand-Am series’ front-runners.