Through The Esses - Donohue's Out Of The Box Porsche-Riley Analysis
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Photo courtesy of the Grand American Road Racing Association
© Andrew S. Hartwell

A few weeks ago we talked with David Donohue about the Brumos Porsche Grand Am Daytona Prototype team's switch to a Riley chassis. After campaigning a Fabcar chassis for three seasons, the decision to go with a new car was made and Donohue and his co-driver Darren Law took to the track at Barber Motorsports Park just three days after the car was completed by Bill Riley's shop.

Barber was the first run and a lack of preparation and testing time found them well out of the hunt. Watkins Glen followed shortly thereafter and again this experienced team found themselves entering the fight with a new pair of boxing Gloves. By the time they got to the third race at Sears Point (Infineon Raceway) the team had only just started to learn how to tie up the laces.

Donohue has read and heard about people making comparisons between the Brumos team's delicate start with the new chassis and how the Alex Job Team (AJR) came to the ring ready to throw a knockout punch in the first round. He spent some time telling us that there are simply too many variables to judge the performance of one team over the other in any meaningful way. He suggests fans of both teams keep in mind that what is happening today is by no means a certain harbinger of what is to come.

Our out-of-the-box start from Barber, as far as the team is concerned, simply wasn't satisfactory. We took delivery of the car three days before we showed up at the track, and we only had one test day at Mid-Ohio before that first race. At Watkins Glen we really didn't show much speed either, but we ended up with a pretty good finish. And this past weekend at Sears Point (Infineon Raceway) we finally began to show some signs of real progress regardless of the result.

We are doing all of our learning on the race weekends. This means we are quite limited on the amount of time to try things and try to figure out which buttons to push to get what we want out of the car. We are making headway, but we are making changes to the car on the morning of the race. We are really using these races to experiment and learn the car. For this season, we really don't have very much to lose.

I think we were reasonably competitive at Sears Point, unfortunately I got into the rear of a GT car and then the #89 rear-ended me at the same time while trying to avoid the whole mess. That rear end impact caused enough damage that we lost about 100 pounds of down force which pretty much took us out of the hunt for running up front. We finished eighth but the car went from an understeer to pretty much of an oversteer in every corner. Especially in the high speed corners where you should be brainlessly flat. Instead we were not quite so brainless! It was a challenge to drive.

I have to admit that I am bothered by the way everyone keeps comparing us to the Alex Job team and how they came out of the box and sat on the pole at Daytona. There are a lot of parallels here and a lot of things that aren't fair to compare the two teams. For example, Alex didn't take delivery of his car three days before its first race weekend. He had more time with the car and was able to do a bit of testing. He wasn't new to Grand Am either. He ran our car in 2003 at the Rolex 24. Plus his engineer, Greg Fordahl, was our engineer from late 2003 into 2005.

Greg has been Alex's engineer on the GT program in the ALMS for years, and because he was with Alex when he supported our Rolex effort in 2003, he got on our radar screen' as a full time engineer. He is very good and got a lot of DP experience with us at Brumos, and even though he is with the AJR Crawford effort full time, we still go over and ask him questions! He is very bright and a real stand up guy.

Engineering our cars nowadays is Rick Mayer and Hayden Burvill. They were both also with us last year. Rick lives in Florida near the shop, which is very valuable. We worked together before when I raced the Panoz LMP 900 car