Doran team announces Rolex 24 driver lineup
Doran Racing today announced a 'dream team' of top drivers and sponsorship from a high-profile global company as the team prepares for this weekend's 47th Annual Rolex 24 at Daytona.
|Doran's McDonald's livery|
Piloting the #77 Doran-Dallara Ford will be full-season drivers Memo Gidley and Brad Jaeger, joined for the legendary, twice-around-the-clock endurance event by Matteo Bobbi and Fabrizio Gollin. Adding major marketing muscle to the effort as a full-season sponsor is one of the most instantly-recognizable names in the world, McDonald's, the world's leading food service retailer. With the announcement, McDonald's becomes the first company of its kind to sponsor a car as a primary or associate role within the Rolex Series.
"We have four extremely capable drivers, all of whom have experience with this team and this race, a well-sorted car capable of running at the front and one of the most famous companies in the world on board as a full-season sponsor," says Kevin Doran, whose team won the Rolex 24 in 1998 and again in 2002. "The team scored eleven top-10 finishes last season, eight of them in a row. We ran consistently in the top-10 in the three-day ‘Roar Before the Rolex 24' testing session at Daytona International Speedway, so we have the knowledge and the tools and having McDonald's on board provides us with the resources and motivation to take the effort to a whole new level. We expect to make additional sponsor announcements as companies with which we are in discussions decide to take advantage of a hot team on the way up. This is a great organization presented with a great opportunity and we expect to put the #77 McDonald's car up front this season."
The full-season co-drivers of the #77 Doran Racing/McDonald's/Doran-Dallara Ford are Memo Gidley and Brad Jaeger. Gidley, the very talented and widely respected American driver who was born in La Paz, Mexico and now makes his home in Novato, California, 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. 2009 will mark Gidley's fifth season in the Grand-Am Rolex DP class, and his third season with Doran Racing.
“I'm excited to have McDonald's on board this season because they're a company built on efficient teamwork and attention to detail, which are the core values of Doran Racing and the foundation of success in racing," says Gidley. "The team has been working hard in the off-season and have made a lot of improvements, both major and minor, to the car. In the last big test at Daytona a month ago, it proved very consistent and easy to drive. All the drivers are fast and steady and everybody got plenty of laps during the test, so the entire team is comfortable and up to speed. This is my third season with the Doran Racing team, and this is the strongest we've been heading into the Rolex 24. A 24-hour race is the essence of unpredictability, but luck aside, we're set for a strong performance."
Gidley’s co-driver in the #77 Doran Racing / McDonald's Doran-Dallara Ford is Brad Jaeger, 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. He co-drove his first prototype race for the Doran team in the 2007 season finale at Miller Motorsport Park and was Gidley's full-time co-driver during the 2008 season.
"The whole team is excited about the 2009 season and we're ready to go out there and win the Rolex 24," says Jaeger. "I'm happy with my teammates and the testing we've done was very productive. We made gains in the speed and handling of the car and the updates we wanted to do have been completed and tested so we're way ahead of where we were last year in terms of reliability going into the 24-hour. All the mechanics and team staff are back from last year and the chemistry is great. Everyone has bonded really well, everyone knows the car, knows their job, and knows what it takes to run at the front. We'll use the final pre-race practice session to make sure the car is fast and comfortable to drive and then we'll be ready for the big one."
Joining Gidley and Jaeger in the #77 car will be Matteo Bobbi and Fabrizio Gollin, both of whom are highly-experiences endurance racing drivers and veterans with Doran Racing; the duo were the team's full-time drivers in 2005-2006. Bobbi began his career in open-wheel racing, competing in Formula Renault, Formula 3 and Formula Nissan during the 1999-2001 seasons. He tested successfully with the Minardi F1 team, but moved to sports cars in 2003 winning the FIA GT World Championship driving a Ferrari 550 Maranello. He came to the U.S. in 2005 to drive for Doran Racing and scored a podium finish at VIR. He returned to FIA GT racing in Europe in 2006. His plans for 2009 include not only the Rolex 24 with Doran Racing, but also the 24 Hours of Le Mans with team Racing Box in a Judd-powered Lola B/09 MM P2.
"I've very happy to be back in the Doran Racing family, and excited about racing in the Rolex 24 again," says the 31 year-old native of Milan, Italy. "It’s a good opportunity for me to drive the Dallara/Ford. I got to drive it at the last test and it's a good mechanical package with good speed and balance. The test went very well and I'm happy with my teammates, Memo and Brad, and of course with Fabrizio, who I have driven with many times. In twenty-four hours it is difficult to say what will happen, but all the drivers are ready, we are all focusing and Kevin and the Doran team are ready to give one hundred percent effort… and more. We are ready to fight for the win."
Like all top drivers, Gollin, who was born in 1975 in Camposampiero, Italy, has open-wheel racing in his background, including competing in the F3000 series from 1996 to 2001. He switched to sports cars in 2002, competing in the FIA GT Championship; he won the title in 2004 with BMS Scuderia Italia. Like Bobbi, he made the pilgrimage to the U.S. in 2005 to race with Doran in the Grand-Am Rolex series. His long-distance credentials include wins in the Spa 24 Hours in 2004 & 2007. Last season, he drove with Doran Racing at the Rolex 24 and raced the remainder of the season for the Phoenix Carsport Team in a Chevrolet Corvette C6-R.
"This is the fourth times that I do the 24 hours of Daytona with the Doran team," says Gollin. "This year I know we can do a really good job because all packages -- drivers, team, car and engine -- are very consistent and strong. This year I'm very optimistic."
Doran Racing won the Rolex 24 in 1998 and again in 2002. In 2008, with drivers Gidley, Jaeger, Gollin and Gabriele Gardel, the team qualified 16th and, after working through the mechanical 'teething problems' typical of a new car, finished 16th. The remainder of the season was more successful, with a 2-car Doran Racing team scoring eleven top-10 finishes, eight of them in a row.
The 2009 #77 Doran Racing/McDonald's/Doran-Dallara Ford is a refined, updated version of the car the team campaigned so successfully in 2008. It features a Doran chassis fitted with Dallara bodywork featuring enhanced aerodynamics and increased downforce. Power is provided by a 500 horsepower Roush-Yates Ford V-8 engine.
On track activity at the famed Daytona International Speedway begins with morning practice followed by a 20-minute mid-morning qualifying session 11:00 – 11:20 am, Friday, January 23. The green flag scheduled to wave for 47th Annual Rolex 24 at Daytona 3:30 pm, Saturday, July 24. The checkered flag will greet the survivors 24 hours later, at 3:30 pm, Sunday, January 25. Start of the race will be broadcast of FOX, starting at 3:00 pm ET, Saturday, January 24. SPEED will pick up the coverage at 4:30 pm ET, and follow the race to its conclusion beginning at 7:00 am ET, Sunday, January 25.