The Doran team, with drivers Memo Gidley and Dion Von Moltke, turned what could have been a poor weekend into a strong day for the #77 McDonalds/PR Newswire Daytona Prototype this past weekend at the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway.
The Doran team took to the track on Friday’s first practice session and came away not happy with the performance of the #77 car. However, with a compact two-day show like the one at VIR and only two practice sessions, the team had to rely on experience to quickly come up with something that would work better.
“The true test of a team that has a lot of good momentum is being able to recover from a bad handling racecar on a short weekend and turn it around,” said Gidley. “I was really happy with the team because there was no sense of panic, but the car went from not great in the first practice, to pretty good in the second and last practice before qualifying.”
Then, new co-driver Dion Von Moltke put the #77 McDonalds/PR Newswire car eighth in qualifying, a great position after not a lot of practice. “I was really happy that Dion adapted to the new setup so quickly and put our car right in the mix of things,” said Gidley. “I really like his attitude… he just gets in and gets it done with no excuses.”
After starting eighth, Dion held his position early and was having a nice run until he started to struggle with rapidly-deteriorating rear tires, making long green flag runs difficult to maintain a competitive pace. A mistake in the pits involving a missing stop board meant Dion would miss the #77 pit box and lose another thirty seconds as the crew pushed the racecar back into the pit box.
Upon re-entering the track, it was not long before Dion and the #77 car were put a lap down by the race-winning #01 Telmex car. “In racing, everything and everybody is pushed to the limits and sometimes mistakes happen,” said Gidley. “It was nice that the team remained calm and then worked on a plan to try to get our lap back.”
A yellow flag at about half distance saw the #77 get a wave by and get its lap back and then immediately come into the pits to put Memo in the car. Although successfully getting the lap back, Memo was still nearly a lap behind the leaders and really needed a yellow to have a shot to get the McDonalds/PR Newswire car back into the top ten.
For the next forty five minutes, Memo set some blistering times, ultimately setting the fourth fastest lap of the race in his quest to catch the pack. A yellow flag with less than ten laps remaining bunched up the field followed by a five lap shootout would see Memo muscle the #77 into eighth place before the checkered flag fell.
“Those last five laps of green were so much fun… everybody was letting it all hang out!” said Gidley. “We lost a lap early on, had a pit mistake, and even with not a lot of help with yellow flags the Doran team still managed to finish eighth with a few passes at the end… that was a good day.”
True to Gidley style, immediately after the race and after saying thanks to his crew, Memo jumped in his rental car and headed towards the airport to catch a red-eye back to California for his second race of the weekend, DJSA Outlaw race #2 at the Camp Far West Lake in Wheatland, CA. Gidley, the Muscle Milk Extreme athlete, caught his plane in North Carolina, arrived in the San Francisco airport at 1:00 am, and was in his bed at home by 2:30 am, only to be awakened by a loud buzzing alarm at 5 am. “That wake up alarm came sooner than just about any alarm I have ever had!” said Gidley. “After a few minutes of telling myself to get up, I jumped into the truck and started the two and a half hour drive to the Jet Ski race.”
Perfect weather saw the largest turnout in DJSA history, with the 850 Expert class having a full grid of fifteen riders filling the starting line of the first of three motos. In race #1, Gidley, jumped out to a good start, only to get forced wide on the outside of turn one, slipping back to sixth. Then a few corners later, Gidley had the first of three crashes, ultimately finishing eleventh in a disappointing moto #1. “The first moto was very disappointing for me because I was just making all sorts of mistakes and not riding to my potential,” said Gidley. “I was determined to turn it around.”
In moto #2, Gidley was sixth rounding turn one, and by the end worked his way up to fourth by race’s end.
And then in the highlight, moto #3, Gidley blasted off the start and was second rounding the first turn. Gidley chased leader Pete Zernik in the #149 ski for a lap before Pete made a slight bobble and Gidley slipped by. Now leading the expert class for the first time and in only his second race at this level, Gidley put his head down and pushed as hard as possible with intense pressure from 2009 DJSA #1 class rider Zernik. Then on the second to last lap, Gidley missed a buoy halfway through the course! This would require Gidley to ride around a penalty buoy, and lost two positions in the process to finish third at the checkered flag.
“Wow, that was a great race!” said Gidley. “I was bummed I missed a buoy because I thought I had a real good shot to finish that last moto first. I rounded a turn only to pound a wave and have my goggles fill up with water; I even think I had a fish swimming around in there! By the time the water cleared up I was past the buoy. But that taste of leading inspires me to work even harder to do it again… I am stoked for the next race in two weeks!”
Round #3 of the DJSA Outlaw series race is Sunday, May 16th.
Round #5 of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 is Monday, May 31st at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut. The race kicks off at 2:00 PM with live coverage on Speed.
Jetski Photo: Eli Kemnitz