Practice is over for South Jersey doctor Jim Lowe.
Lowe and his Doran Racing teammates are set for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, a 24-hour race that starts at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Doran Racing brought a new car to Daytona Beach, Fla., this week. The team qualified 14th for the race, but Lowe, a neurosurgeon based in Linwood, said the car has been impressive.
“We have compressed as much knowledge as we could about a new car in the small amount of time available to us,” Lowe said in a news release Friday. “We finally got the car set up about where we want it for a good run this weekend. Paul (Tracy) and I ran in the last shake down session this morning with minimal changes that will only make it easier for us to race the distance. Overall, I think the five of us are going to be very happy with the speed we are going to get out of the car and the competitiveness of the car. At this point, we are pretty confident.
“I think the key issue will be how we compete not only with the other Fords, but how the Fords are against the BMW, which seems to be the engine that had the most pep in practice and qualifying.”
Lowe’s car ran a 1-minute, 42.869-second qualifying lap, which was just more than two seconds behind the pole-sitting Chip Ganassi Racing team. But in a 24-hour race, it’s not always about who has the fastest car. Running a clean race is key, and Lowe said his team has a shot.
“Like anything else, with a 17-car class ,which is relatively small, you certainly have a real good opportunity to be up on the podium or better if you do everything right, have a little luck, and everyone keeps their nose clean during the race,” Lowe said. “On the flip side, with that kind of field you could be leading and make one dumb mistake and will ruin your weekend and all your preparation. Everybody realizes that.
“We have a bunch of very experienced, mature guys doing what they do very well. I’m going to sleep tonight with a really good feeling about starting my eighth Rolex.”
Lowe said it has taken some getting used to the new car.
“Paul is probably our best barometer on how well the car is performing since he’s run with several different setups so far,” Lowe said of Tracy, a former IndyCar driver. “Today was my first time to get some good laps even though most were in traffic. I can only compare it to our prior Gen 2 car. The car just turns better as it is set up now. It certainly delivers power, in what feels like an earlier, faster fashion as you are exiting the corner.
“But overall the feel and response of the car feels more solid and planted. No drama under heavy braking and it’s easier to drive. I also have a seat that fits me perfectly that will make a big difference in how I feel Sunday afternoon. “
Lowe’s newest teammate, David Donohue, said he was impressed with the car. That means something, since Donohue is a former Rolex 24 winner (2009).
“It’s quite a switch from what I’m used to," Donohue said in the news release. "It’s definitely different from the Corvette and even the Porsche Riley I drove before the Corvette. I thought it was fairly easy to drive. The lap time that can be gained is all in the driver just getting on the throttle earlier. The car was also really well tempered.
“I think it’s a good 24-hour car because it didn't give any surprises. It wasn't knife-edged and was comfortable. The brakes were fantastic. It’s just amazing that Kevin (Doran, the team owner) was able to build this car in such a short time and have, from what I can tell, zero issues from the time it first started up. It’s really impressive. I definitely did not get up to pace, I was in the high 43s and there is certainly more that can be gained there. That will be easy to come by. Once the green flag drops, you really race the track and the traffic. It seems the car does a good job of doing the work for you. I’d like to be a busy boy changing suits at the end of 24 hours tomorrow for each of the podium ceremonies.”