Donohue beats Montoya at Daytona

by Gordon Kirby on 26th January 2009

The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series couldn’t have asked for a more perfect start to the season at Daytona over the weekend. A tremendous duel to the chequered flag between David Donohue’s Brumos Porsche-Riley and Juan-Pablo Montoya’s Ganassi Lexus-Riley highlighted a seriously hard-fought Rolex 24 hour race.

Donohue and Montoya were only car lengths apart through the race’s final two hours as Donohue came through to score the biggest win of his career. The 42-year old Donohue is the son of the great Mark Donohue who won Daytona’s 24 hours 40 years ago driving a Lola T70-Chevrolet for Roger Penske, so the victory was particularly fulfilling for Donohue who also qualified his Brumos Porsche on pole.

Driving one of a pair of Brumos Porsche-Rileys, Donohue beat Montoya by just 0.167 of a second after wrestling the lead from the Colombian with just forty minutes to go. Montoya drove superbly as he tried to find a way around Donohue but the latter’s Porsche engine was reckoned to make between fifty or sixty more horsepower than Montoya’s Lexus engine and Donohue used his power advantage perfectly as he leaped away from Montoya on every lap as they accelerated down the speedway’s high-banked turns and long straightaways. Montoya drove his heart out but once Donohue got in front there was nothing Juan could do other than hope for Donohue to make a mistake.

“I tried but with the amount of power they had for this race I’m actually surprised we finished second,” Juan remarked. “I think Scott (Pruett) and Memo (Rojas) drove their asses off as well. We stayed on the lead lap most of the race but I was actually surprised we were fighting for the win. The Brumos and Penske cars would just drive away from us easily. I drove my butt off. I knew that if I hit any traffic in a bad way I was done and I did. Once they got by they just kept driving off when I was in their draft.

“I couldn’t have gone a tenth of a second a lap faster. Every corner was 110 percent. It was fun because we drove like that the last two hours and didn’t make any mistakes and when you do that as a driver it brings a lot of pleasure.

“We knew that if any of the Porsches didn’t have a problem they were going to beat us,” Montoya added. “Every stint except the last, they drove away from us, so we did what we could. In my mind I gave 110 percent. I know I couldn’t have gone any faster and I wasn’t going to dive-bomb him on the last lap and hit him in the side.”

Donohue remained inch-perfect all the way as he drove a race that would have made his late father proud to score a great victory for himself and the Brumos team. It was the team’s sixth win at Daytona and its first in this race in 30 years. Donohue’s co-drivers were Darren Law, Buddy Rice and Antonio Garcia.

“We came here ready to run hard and we ran hard the whole time,” Donohue said. “We ran our tails off the entire time. It was a 24-hour sprint race, no doubt about it. Was I surprised there were six cars on the lead lap come daybreak? Not really. Daytona Prototypes have proven their durability over the years and when you beat a Ganassi or a Penske you’re in great company.

“There’s no doubt we had the top end but you really had to know how to use it. We couldn’t just sit there and drive by, we really had to plan it. It wasn’t so easy because Juan protected a lot and I had to plan it and seize the opportunity when it came.”

Donohue was asked what it meant to win the race on the 40th anniversary of his father’s 1969 victory. “I think it’s a nice thing to write about but to be perfectly honest he’s been gone for quite some time,” Donohue reflected. “It’s a nice story line for sure and I’m very, very proud of my father and his accomplishments and it’s nice that just co-incidentally we happened to nail it on the 40th anniversary of his win in the Penske Lola. But it’s our guys who have been doing the hard work and putting in the effort to win this race and I feel more of an attachment to the effort my guys have put into this and to Brumos and Hurley Haywood and Bob Snodgrass and Porsche.”

Brumos Porsche is based in nearby Jacksonville and Donohue spoke warmly about Brumos founder Bob Snodgrass who passed away two years ago. “Bob Snodgrass was Brumos,” Donohue observed. “He was the passion and spirit behind Brumos. Daytona and Watkins Glen are Brumos’ two home tracks so it’s great to come back from all the problems we’ve had over the past few years and win this race.”

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