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Grand Am Road Racing Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Sports/Touring Car Racing Topics:  Grand Am Road Racing, Rolex 24 at Daytona

Grand Am Road Racing Media Conference

David Donohue
January 27, 2009


ASHLEY JONES: Thank you, good afternoon, everyone. We are joined by our Rolex 24 winning co-driver David Donohue. Sunday's victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the end of a seven-year quest for David Donohue and Brumos Porsche to win America's biggest sports car race in a Daytona Prototype.
David has been with the team since the beginning of the Daytona Prototype era in 2003. He won three races and finished second in the championship that year with Sunday's victory his first in six seasons. Donohue's Teammate Darren Law joins him as the only drivers to compete in every Daytona Prototype race. The two have been regular co-drivers of the No. 58 Porsche since 2004.
Sunday's victory also marks the anniversary of his father's victory in 1969 24-Hour event. The late Mark Donohue also won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race, Indianapolis 500, and championships in the Can-Am and Trans-Am series all from Penske Racing.
David, thank you for joining us today. How draining was your intense final-hour battle with Juan Pablo Montoya, and has the fact that you've finally won the Rolex 24 sunk in yet?
DAVID DONOHUE: I don't think so, to be quite honest. It's a bit overwhelming coming home to so many well-wishers and people wishing me congratulations and so forth.
It's quite a team effort, you know. I got a lot of the spotlight since that last hour was pretty dramatic, and I just would like to really highlight the amount of effort it took just to get the cars to the track and how great the team had been to get not just our car into Victory Lane, but both cars on the podium, really is a testament to the effort that Brumos has put into this.

Q. I just wondered when you did take the lead, how confident were you that you could hold it on Sunday?
DAVID DONOHUE: I was pretty confident. We had overtaken both Ganassi cars several times throughout the race. We overcame a three-lap deficit at one point through the luck of yellow flags, and just hard running.
We had initially set a fairly brisk pace, which only seemed to get faster early on in the race. Our intent was to baby the car and not run over the curbs and so on and so forth to get it to last. The result was fairly early in the race. We were pretty much flat out. It wasn't really much left in the car in the car.
We were mostly able to stay in front because I knew we had done it before. Just the challenge was negotiating traffic. Well, the first challenge was getting by him in the first place, which had to -- the only way I could do it is manipulating traffic. But it seemed I was getting bogged down in traffic every third lap or so.

Q. In terms of excitement, where did that finish rank for you?
DAVID DONOHUE: Well, mostly in retrospect it ranked pretty darn high. At the time everyone would say to me how excited they were, and they were yelling at the TV and all of that. But I have to be perfectly honest, I didn't care who was driving the other car. I was just driving my heart out, and mostly for my late boss, Bob Snodgrass, who passed away two years ago.
But he was really the father of Brumos and the passion behind Brumos and the reason I'm part of the team. I had met him back in '93. And I was really driving for him, and for the effort that our guys had put into this. Because they've really been in the bottom of the barrel, so to speak.
We were saddled with some uncompetitive equipment in '04 and '05 and early '06. And these guys just stuck to it. And Brumos Racing stuck to it. And Brumos Porsche. And Porsche stayed with us the whole time. And to lift ourselves up, you know, to plagiarize some words, dust ourselves off and get right back at it, it's just I couldn't be more proud. I'm more proud of what our guys have done than anything I could have done individually.

Q. Was the plan all along to pull Garcia out of the car for the last ten and put you in? Or was that a response to circumstances?
DAVID DONOHUE: Oh, you know, I couldn't really answer that. I wasn't really asking too much questions, to be honest with you, towards the end of the race. We were all on the edge of our seats as much as a lot of people were. I know the last stint, Buddy and Antonio and Darren, they couldn't even watch the race. They were behind the pit stall behind the tent, not even able to see the track where they were having a conversation among themselves.
But I was at the ready. They knew I was at the ready. You know, I was worried that they were going to put me in solely for the privilege of being the last driver, but I think Antonio said he was getting a little bit tired and he was wearing them down. If he had an option, he was going to get out. We had practiced driver changes. We knew they were pretty quick. It was a little bit of a risk to do the driver change because we had to get out in front of the 59 car to have a sincere shot at it.

Q. That was my next question. Could you have gotten out ahead of Juan Pablo had you not made the driver change the same?
DAVID DONOHUE: I don't think so. Because I was ready to go. I waited for the car to leave. They had to put water in the car. We were losing a lot of water. We were losing a lot of oil. So the car was quite literally on its last leg. And Porsche did a wonderful job with the engine, but what a lot of people don't realize with Porsche, is they're well renowned for their reliability. But they tend to design things to last just enough. Just enough is perfect. Which means 24 hours is 24 hours. 24 hours and 30 minutes -- or 30 seconds, rather, is too much. And I think that's what this thing had in it. If they tried to start up right now it might not last, who knows.
But we were not easy on the equipment at all since the beginning of the race. We really revved the thing out as high as it will go, and really beat the car up very, very hard, and I think so did the other top four finishers. We just happened to not break like a lot of the other cars had a little misfortune.

Q. You watched this thing, as you know, since the DP first hit the track. I was there for that test in 2002 in which you participated. You not only have been there for every race, but every test with the exception of this past winter, I guess, or fall.
DAVID DONOHUE: I missed one.

Q. When you had your shoulder worked on. But you were unusually confident coming into this race. And I don't wish to take anything away from you or the program prior to this, but I felt a sense that either the 58 or the 59 would end up in first place, and at the end of that turn would have to be the 58 more so than the 59. But yet you had that confidence. What gave you that confidence, David?

Q. I think a couple of things. You know, we did a ton of testing. Which it was something people don't realize. We did a ton of testing at Daytona in preparation for this race. I say that kind of tongue-in-cheek. Darren did all the driving, of course, and development work along with Joao and J.C. and Hurley, you know, the key drivers of the team on a regular basis. And our engineer really refined a good mechanical set-up as well as a good aero package that was raceable and fast.
We've had some management changes within the team. Management moves, not changes. It sounds like we've cut people loose and got new people; I think they kind of moved people around and got things working a lot better. The organization has just gotten better.
It was just -- I believe attitude is contagious to a large degree, and if we all had a winning attitude, went in there with confidence and didn't give up.
My dad won this race in '69. They had an hour and a half stop to weld up some broken exhaust manifolds. I said that to some of our guys probably Thursday or Friday before the race. When something goes wrong, and it will go wrong, which it did for us at one point, don't give up. Just keep plugging away, because we'll come back at this thing. We've got a great car and a great crew. You know, it worked out.

Q. I want to point out even though he won that race with an hour and a half in the pits, you still did it by 30 laps at the end. And that was hardly the case here. I noticed also something about your crew. They really performed pit stops, over-the-wall stuff as good as I've ever seen them do it. Hasn't that become as much a critical factor in a car winning a race like this as anything?
DAVID DONOHUE: Absolutely. I'm glad you brought that up. Because that's just another feather in their cap how much work they've put into this. They did a lot of work on the pit stops and getting them fast and getting them efficient. Being calm while doing it.
And I think as a team, we spent less time in the pits than anybody else. I don't know that for an actual fact, but I'm told if not the least amount of time in the pits, we're one of the least. And that hasn't always been the case for us.

Q. That's an act of accomplishment when you consider you were going up against guys like Penske who pride themselves in that, and people like Chip Ganassi who I know have an actual practice set-up, a fake pit, if you will, in their facility in Indianapolis where they test going over the wall and swinging out and such. That's pretty good.
DAVID DONOHUE: Yeah, I cannot be more proud of our team. I say "our team"; it's two cars, 58 and 59. They both did just a tremendous job. You know, case in point is both cars on the podium after 24 hours within 10 seconds of each other, and it's not because of some lame late-race yellow. That was a duel to the finish.

Q. It was one of the most stirring finishes I can ever remember seeing, absolutely. We all know what your dad is to this sport and this stuff. But I want to know, have you been able to put together what this means to you not in -- not relative to any other factor? What does this victory mean to you?
DAVID DONOHUE: Easily this is the biggest career achievement that I've had so far. And I hope to repeat. I hope to get a championship and repeat along with Brumos. And for me it's -- it's fulfilling a dream of Bob Snodgrass's and I just wish I could have seen his face, that's all.

Q. There was a question I wanted to ask in the news conference but refrained from doing so. However, at this time, here it comes. When you look at what -- I was thinking back in '99, was it?
DAVID DONOHUE: '98?

Q. '98 that your team's car won first, and you took second or third was it?
DAVID DONOHUE: Oh, that was probably 2000, I think, yeah.

Q. Okay. At any rate, your average speed was much greater than theirs by well over a mile and a half per hour. When you look at the advancement of the Daytona Prototype, and they have been considerable, not altogether unexpected, but truly there had to have been times when you sat down and wondered if you would ever see this day or even not even this day, but in a day which you would win. Did that ever occur to you?
DAVID DONOHUE: Yeah, often. It's a very cruel sport. And this race in particular is a very cruel race. A lot of teams -- I keep reiterating how great our team is. But there are a lot of great teams that put a lot of effort into it as well. And this race is truly, more so than any other, a team race.
Only one guy can lose it. Or one guy can lose it, but no one guy can win it, one person on the crew. It just is a collective effort. That's why I said I feel a little bit strange, because I'm in the spotlight here because I finished the race and I put it on pole. But all I'm doing is showing off all the hard work these guys have done to get that car in front of the public.
You know, I am just so privileged and honored to be able to get that part done. Truth be known, Darren and Buddy and Antonio could easily have been in this very same position. The dice roll in my favor, and I happened to be in the seat at the right time.

Q. Congratulations. I just wanted to ask two questions. The first of which is you talked about the testing and you talked about that in the post-race press conference. Without revealing any secrets, what did you guys find that you didn't have before? You start to improve performance at the end of last year, but if you could touch on generally what you found and what you came up with that you didn't have before.
DAVID DONOHUE: You're kidding, right? I'm not going to do that (laughing). We just found a way to get infield grip. Mechanical grip with a ton of aero on it. It's a closely guarded secret. In detail I couldn't tell you anyway because they won't tell me, necessarily. A lot of people put in a lot of really hard work. Not just an analysis point of view, but sometimes just shooting from the hip.
Some worked, some didn't. Joe LaJoie, our engineer, has a handful of things in his pocket to be able to manipulate the car to get what he wants. It's become a great relationship between all of us on the team. Darren can say one thing, and I'll say another thing, and because we've been together long enough, Darren and I have been teammates for six seasons. Joe's been with us for two. He now knows if I say one thing, if I say A, and he says B, he knows it's actually E or something like that, you know. And sometimes we'll say the same things, and he'll know exactly what to do.
It's become a great relationship with the team and at the top, as well as the guys getting the work done on the car.

Q. With the time off and what you've found, how do you think that will carry over to the rest of the schedule and the rest of the season?
DAVID DONOHUE: Well, I hope it just carries over and we can dominate the whole season, to be honest with you. I doubt that will happen.
Penske has certainly shown their strength. They did a ton of testing as well, just not at Daytona, something a lot of people don't realize, because they've got many, many sets of the new tires, the Pirelli tires. So they've got a lot of experience on the new tire compared to everybody else. We expect them to be a serious threat and challenge all year long. And they've got some kits as far as the Porsche engine and so forth.
Ganassi is a threat. They've clearly learned more about the Dalara, which has shown its strength a bunch of times last year. So they'll be more consistent. And the aim is right there as well. So there are a bunch of teams that are ready to contest for a win.
So, you know, winning the Rolex 24 among such credible competition, not to mention just the circumstances of the last hour, but just the credible competition makes it sweet and rewarding.

Q. As you mentioned, you're a part of two Brumos cars that finished first and third in the DP class, and two TRG cars finished 1 and 2 in the GT class. Why do you think that these teams from only two shops performed so well?
DAVID DONOHUE: Well, I know what some people would say, Porsche, Porsche, Porsche. But we're really quite independent of each other. We really didn't know what was going on on the GT race, on the GT side.
The Porsche outnumbers the rest of the cars, to be honest with you. The one thing you have to realize with Porsche is because they sell customer race cars, and a lot of other car companies don't, and they continue to update and put competitive products out there, they're sort of the backbone of sports car racing to a large degree.
They're one of the only companies that continue to put out quality products for GT Racing. From our perspective, you know, Porsche has always been a threat on the GT side, and it just so happened to align itself with the overall victory in the DP.
We've been in contention the last two years, for sure. Last year we had a high-pressure fuel leak which cost us an enormous amount of time to repair. We were leading in that race. And the year before that we got hit while contesting for the lead.
So there is no doubt people should realize that we've been competitive for the overall victory several years now, just never been able to see it all the way through.

Q. Also, do you see in the people in the part of the teams, you know, over and above the engine part, do you see similarities in those two teams that result in such good work and a hard race?
DAVID DONOHUE: Well, there's a lot of experience on both fronts. There's no questioning Kevin Buckler's resolve, and especially in these long races. And his ability put together some quality people and get cars to run up front and win championships and races.
To be honest, I've got to be totally honest with you, they're on the completely other side of the garage. And I'm not one of those guys that goes wandering around all that often. I pretty much stay huddled in my own stable and focused on our own race. So I'm afraid I can't answer in detail your questions, because I focus so much on our own program.

Q. I'm thinking I'll bet it was harder than heck for you to stand up there on stage, be calm. And after the victory did you maybe think about or maybe even in your mind talk to your dad on those last few laps?
DAVID DONOHUE: I'm sorry, but no. All I could think about is how many times we've tried this, and, you know, how much it meant to everyone on our team, and my teammates in particular.
You know, quite honestly, I wish Hurley was in our car so he could get a sixth win and I could do it with him. He's such a good friend of mine. And what Bob Snodgrass would think.
But every time my mind would wander to something like that, I would think if I keep thinking like that, I'm going to blow breaking the next time. So I was really focused on running clean laps.
The question was posed earlier did I think I could stay out in front, and I quickly realized that if I drove defensively he would just eat me alive. So I just drove more offensively and tried to be smooth and not slide on the tires too much.
I was getting a lot of warnings. There was a lot going on in the car that last hour. I was getting six to 12 warnings per lap which I had to reset and make sure the pits knew what was going on. Eventually they told me to ignore them all, I had to reset them all because it would override the dashboard. I was more concerned with finishing the darn race, and wishing someone would put nitrous on the stopwatch and make the race end sooner than it did.

Q. I wanted to say congratulations on the way you built up your team. Lot of times people forget it is a team effort, and they were there 100 percent behind you. Congratulations.
DAVID DONOHUE: Thank you very much.

Q. Right after the final pit stop when you came out, it appeared you went right after Juan Pablo. Was that part of the plan? How did you set up the winning pass, and could you talk a little about that?
DAVID DONOHUE: Well, Montoya was leading so I had to go after him. You never know when you're going to get an opportunity to pass. So I had plenty of runs on him. People talk about the straightaway speed. I didn't have enough to pass him on the straightaway. I had to get to the bottom. If I was going to do that, I had to force him high so that I could complete the pass on the breaking in the one or into the chicane. He was driving very well, protective of that lane. It wasn't until we caught some lap traffic that I don't know if he got slowed a little bit by it or I got a run because of it.
When I got clear of him I pulled down to take that lane away. That was the only way I was able to take that position. I was very confident that once I got in front I could stay in front without having to drive him into the grass or anything stupid like that in such a long race. If I just raced clean, I could get the job done, and the car just stayed with me, and it did.

Q. Montoya's got a reputation of making a car very wide. Were you at all worried about how cleanly he was going to drive?
DAVID DONOHUE: Well, there's nothing I can do about it, so, to be honest, I wasn't. He had already hit me a bunch of times for whatever reason. But that's just the nature of the game, I guess sometimes. I like to think that I don't drive that way, so I left any of the consequences up to Mark Raffauf, our series competition director. And I told him that in the past. I want to race clean, I want to have a good reputation coming out of all of this.
I race against guys the way they race against me. Fortunately for the regulars in my series and in the Rolex Daytona Prototype series, we can race clean up front and hard. And there is rubbing and some moving around and bumping, but we spend the whole season together, so we don't want to be just taking each other out of each race because there is too much money and effort wrapped up in this, like I keep saying to our team. And if you get mad at somebody and knock their car out and cause them a bunch of grief and work, you're not just punishing the driver, but I've got friends on these other teams, too, and I want to keep them as friends.

Q. Was that the final stint where he bumped you or was it earlier in the race?
DAVID DONOHUE: No, it was earlier in the race. He was clean on the last stint.

Q. On the speed coverage they talked about you had switched to reserve towards the end of the race with a few minutes left. How close were you on fuel?
DAVID DONOHUE: I didn't know at the time, but my guy on the radio, Mike Carlucci [phonetic], our team director, kind of said we were close, tongue-in-cheek. So I didn't know, but we had a lap of fuel on reserve, so by going to reserve a little early, we guaranteed we were going to make it around without a stumble.
With Montoya that close, a stumble could have set up a pass for him, and sometimes the way this reserve thing works, it's not always a precise science as people might think. Sometimes it takes a little while for the engine to catch up again after you go to reserve. It's not an instantaneous switch. So again, if I got a stumble and it didn't clean up right away and get going, he could have passed me as if I was out of gas.
It's hard enough to get that first pass done and get the opportunity for that first pass. You never knew if I was going to get it again. Especially on the last lap. The way we were running, there wasn't much opportunity for passing

Q. My other question, you guys were running the old body works, still. Do you see an advantage in that? Have you thought about moving to the new body work at all?
DAVID DONOHUE: It seems to be working pretty good for us right now. Or as my dad would say, pretty well for us right now. But I don't know that we have any plans to make a switch. But I never say never. Our guys are pretty methodical. We have a good, competitive package.
I was one to complain about the old body work a lot last year. Really wanted the new stuff. But there is a learning curve when we go to the new stuff. It works differently. You can tell by looking at the aero packages of the cars, both at places like Daytona and higher downforce places like Barbara or Laguna. The packages are quite different in the old body work and new body work.
We sat on pole three times last year, so we must be doing something right. We never really capitalize on a win. I don't know that we can attribute that to just the body work.
ASHLEY JONES: Thank you so much. We appreciate your participation today. Congratulations to David Donohue, and the No. 58 Brumos Porsche this weekend.



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