Kevin Doran will be looking to add to his impressive resume in the Rolex 24 At Daytona when he returns to the opening IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race of 2021 in a brand-new role.
Doran will be engineering the No. 33 Sean Creech Motorsport Exelixis/iMonza Ligier JS P320 Nissan driven by João Barbosa, Lance Willsey, Wayne Boyd and Yann Clairay.
Based in Lebanon, Ohio, Doran has built one of the top car preparation and management organizations in the country. Doran’s accomplishments are legendary in endurance sports car racing.
Doran won the Rolex 24 five times in various roles. Coming to the event for the first time in 1985 as a crewman for Holbert Racing, he helped guide Al Holbert, Derek Bell and Al Unser Jr. to back-to-back Daytona victories in 1986 and 1987. He won as team owner/crew chief for Gianpiero Moretti in 1998 and Fredy Leinhard in 2002. An original Daytona Prototype constructor, Doran became the first DP car builder to win the Rolex 24 overall in 2004.
“This is such a huge event,” Doran said. “I was so young when I came here for the first time with Al Holbert, I was amazed by the status of the event, and how it’s continued to grow over the years. It goes well beyond a race. It’s a mega-event, and in the end, those are the races I like: the Rolex 24, Sebring, Le Mans, Indy 500. I’ve done them all; they’re the top four events. The energy from the crowd and all the excitement of the international gathering. Hopefully, it will have all of that this year despite all this COVID mess!”
Doran has accumulated a warehouse full of memories from his Daytona experiences.
“The first victory had special meaning with Holbert,” Doran said. “We led for around 21 hours in 1985 but finished second to Preston Henn. To come back and flip the tables in ’86 was something. Henn’s guys led a lot of that one, and we came from behind to win.”
The following year, Holbert took over the role of team manager and added Chip Robinson as driver. With the drivers suffering from overheating issues due to fumes in the cockpit, Holbert drove a critical stint to preserve the second-consecutive victory for the No. 14 Löwenbräu Special Porsche 962.
In 1989, Doran prepared a former Holbert 962 as a second entry for Jim Busby, driven by IndyCar legends Mario and Michael Andretti.
Doran made his debut as a car owner in the 1993 Rolex 24, entering a Nissan NRTI-90 for a driver lineup including Gianpiero Moretti, Derek Bell and John Paul Jr. Coming back from a 32-lap deficit, the team was leading by two laps when the engine let go with less than two hours remaining.
Doran and Moretti moved to the new Ferrari 333SP in 1995. After coming close many times, the veteran Italian finally broke through in 1998 with a popular victory shared with Mauro Baldi, Didier Theys and Arie Luyendyk.
“Probably the most fun and exciting one was when Gianpiero won in ’98,” Doran recalled. “He tried so long and so hard to win that race, to be able to go to victory lane with him was really memorable.”
Doran won with Leinhard, Theys, Baldi and Papis in 2002 in a Judd-powered Dallara. Two years later, Bell Motorsports took the Doran-manufactured Pontiac Doran to victory with Christian Fittipaldi, Terry Borcheller, Andy Pilgrim and Forest Barber.
“I’ve run this race with everybody,” Doran said. “I’ve had such a cool history at the Rolex 24, through the heyday of sports car racing. I got to race with a lot of my heroes.”
Next weekend, Doran is looking to add to that history when he returns to the Rolex 24 in a new role with Sean Creech Motorsport.
“Sean’s put together a stellar lineup,” Doran said. “João is a super-star on my list since the early 2000s. I remember him at Le Mans, driving by the Audis in a privateer Dallara-Judd that was similar to the one we won with at Daytona. I was super-impressed, and he’s someone I’ve always wanted to work with.
“I worked with Yann three years ago in LMP3 with the Extreme Speed team, and he helped us win the championship with Kris Wright. He’s a great driver, and super familiar with the LMP3. Everybody on the team is on top of it; it’s a stacked group, and it would be super-cool to win it one more time.”
Official practice for the 59th Rolex 24 At Daytona will begin Thursday, Jan. 28, with the twice-round-the-clock classic taking the green flag at 3:40 p.m. on Saturday.
Source. Sunday Group