Tag Archives: Alex Job Racing

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Going Round and Round – Part Three

2001 ALMS Texas

The last visit to the territory of NoRight was for the first American Le Mans Series round of 2001. Arriving from the wintery UK and expecting a repeat of the sweltering heat previously encountered in September I got a shock. The conditions in Texas during March were more Donington than Dallas, damp, cold and grey.

2001 ALMS Texas

The series had lost the Vipers of ORECA, the BMW V12 LMR had retired and Schnitzer now had M3s to join PTG in the fight with the Porsches for the GT class. Overall the numbers were down, 34 entries had participated at Las Vegas, here in Texas four months later that was reduced to 22. Certainly the grid was not helped by the competition at Grand-Am who had 35 cars turn up at Homestead the same weekend. A big incentive was not having to take on the Audis or the Panoz, Dyson Racing could bring along the Riley & Scott to win, that would have been unthinkable in Texas. The vastness of the Texas Motor Speedway and the reduced car count gave a feeling that the ALMS was somehow losing momentum, in danger, perhaps, of stalling.

2001 ALMS Texas

On a positive note Champion Racing had acquired an R8 to give the Joest pair a run for their money, though they would take some time to get up to speed, including drivers who could take full advantage of the Audi’s potential performance.

2001 ALMS Texas

Perhaps most importantly, at least it seemed that way at the time, there was a new Panoz, the LMP07. In addition Doctor Don put his hand into his pocket and ran a pair of the old LMP1 cars to pad out the field at the sharp end.

2001 ALMS Texas

One thing that was familiar was the lack of a crowd and the lack of decent locations or backgrounds to execute my art…………..even the light deserted me until the race started.

2001 ALMS Texas

I do recall a few things about the second ALMS race at Texas Motor Speedway. The Australian Grand Prix was also running that Saturday evening after the track action had finished, time zones are a wonderful thing. So we all got in our rental cars and drove 50 miles (all journeys in Dallas are 50 miles or more, it’s the Law) to a sports bar where the Grand Prix was being televised. I had just acquired my first digital camera; it was powerful Juju back then, the ability to see your work instantaneously, no waiting for the film processors to do their work. Instant gratification, how very 21st Century?

I was sitting with Dindo Capello and Michele Alboreto watching another dull Schumacher/Ferrari procession when I piped up.

“Dindo, did you damage the car today, during Qualifying?”

“What do you mean, damage?” said the completely innocent Italian, butter would not melt, his eyes showing the hurt he just endured when such an outrageous suggestion had been aired.

“When you hit the chicane and scattered the poles”

“No, no that was not me”

“Well, how do you explain this?”

I flicked the back of the camera to show cart wheeling poles from the chicane that Dindo had driven over. It was a magic show, that Michele had been keenly observing as Dindo squirmed, his mistake now public.

Michele seized the moment, grabbed the camera and got all the Audi crew to see the evidence of his friend’s indiscretion. I recall it cost Dindo a round of drinks. From that point on Michele and I got on like a house on fire.

2001 ALMS Texas

Another new car making its début in Texas was the Callaway C-12 R, it was a handsome beast even if the results never reflected the potential.

2001 ALMS Texas

In real terms the race was largely settled before it began, the Pirro/Biela R8 had its pole position time disallowed as their Audi’s rear diffuser was 2mm higher than the rules allowed, so they would start at the back of the field. Dindo Capello led away at the Green Flag, he was joined in the Audi for 2001 by Tom Kristensen as Allan McNish had jumped ship to Toyota in preparation for their 2002 Formula One campaign.

2001 ALMS Texas

Most cars start slowly and develop but the LMP07 went the other way. The race at Texas was the only time that it looked like a winner, a late race stop for fuel denying a début win for Brabham and Magnussen, thereafter it was a dog. The team dropped the car after Le Mans, reverting to the trusty LMP1, a decision justified with victories at Portland and Mid-Ohio.

2001 ALMS Texas

Kelly Collins had a massive crash in the factory Corvette after a puncture, he was lucky to walk away after the heavy impact. The guys at Pratt & Miller faced some sleepless nights to get a new car built up for Sebring less than a fortnight later.

2001 ALMS Texas

GT was the property of Alex Job Racing with the paring of Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen overcoming the BMW challenge.

2001 ALMS Texas

Tom Kristensen brought his R8 home for yet another Audi 1-2 and the Panoz was third. Once more the crowds stayed away in droves missing another good battle and a tight finish. Plans to run again at Charlotte late in 2001 were quietly dropped and that was the end of the Roval experiment. And yet the ALMS had not finished with stadiums as we shall see in Part Four.

2014 Nurburgring 24

What went wrong? Why did ‘Takin’ It to the Streets’ not work? I can offer some thoughts………….

Simply that sportscar races held on these hybrid tracks were artificial, driven by TV and marketing demographics, planned by those who had little feel for what they were doing. We would all show up with the “Hey another day at the office attitude” and none of the anticipation that the mention of Le Mans or Nordschleife or Spa brings. Sportscar fans are usually amongst the sharper knives in the block and even the dumber ones could sense that this was ersatz racing, endurance lite and avoided it like the plague. If the real fans did not care why should casual spectators spend their time and money?

2002 ALMS Miami

This failure and the failure of street events such as Miami and Washington (for different reasons) pose a question. Is there a future for sportscars given the need to increase attendances to get greater coverage, to get more sponsorship $$$, to get greater coverage? Or should we just give up and admit that F1 and NASCAR have sucked the life out of the sport below their Augean stables? Perhaps the answer lies with a different question. Instead of chasing new markets should we not just consolidate our existing strengths and concentrate on improving the show……….sort of “Build it and they will come” philosophy?

Blonds Have More Fun

Blonds Have More Fun

Well the numbers that attend Le Mans and the other classics attest to the popularity of the endurance form of racing……sometimes. There are many who would no more stop breathing than fail to turn up at their favourite event be it La Sarthe or Sebring; these folks would no more go to a Grand Prix or Daytona 500 than fly to the moon. Some of the more extreme cases plot their trips throughout the year and there are many websites run by the fans for the fans. Even the absence of a historical lineage is no obstacle to success as the instant classic status of Petit Le Mans proves.

Derek Pye

Derek Pye

Maybe that is it, in this age of hundreds of cable channels, the internet and all day drinking hours, for us to get off our backsides and go to a race meeting without the incentive of making a buck, requires that the venue/event has a sense of occasion, a promise of a place in history ……….most of us Sartheophiles reference our personal index of the years by the who-what-why of 24 hours between 3.00 pm on two days in June. I suspect the same is true of the guys on Sebring’s Turn 10, even for the most part, like the 60’s, if you can remember it you weren’t there.

2000 ALMS Laguna Seca

Our fables are not of dragons and wizards but of Ickx in 1969 or 1977 or Andretti in 1970 or of Pedro and Seppi just about all the time. In an age when almost everything is pyrite to find the genuine article is exciting and precious, so seeing a McNish or a Lotterer on a charge is the real deal but only given the right setting.
It would seem that the best hope for the healthy future is to learn from the past, successes as well as failures and go for fewer “classic” events at the remaining few real tracks. Quality over quantity……..F1 and NASCAR are on the opposite course, so that’s proof enough for me.

 

LMES…….this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

John Brooks December 2004

Excuse some of those conclusions, hindsight is a wonderful thing or a complete embarrassment. The answer would appear to be the FIA World Endurance Championship……………..

More in the final part.

John Brooks, December 2014

 

The Book of Job

Server Migrations, don’t ya just love ’em? Still without the amazing Wouter of www.ultimatecarpage.com fame (go there and lose an hour or three) I would be sitting here in the dark. However the juju that is the internet has consumed the last post. As it was rather good I offer it again for your amusement. And welcome to Greg Brown, Porschephile and much respected author, in his first piece for DDC. It is a pity that he had to write this polemic but trashing something as important as the Sebring 12 Hours cannot be allowed to pass without comment. Make your own mind up……….

 

 

Alex Job has seen it all in his long and successful career as a driver and, for the last 25 years, as a championship winning team owner. But even his broad experience with the vagaries of racing couldn’t have prepared him for the chaos and absurdity that marked the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2014.  But first, the good news, which amply demonstrated the difference a year can make.
 In 2013, Porsche’s aging 997-based 911 GT3 RSR couldn’t get close enough to sniff Sebring’s winner’s circle after being left in the debris of its far more potent rivals from BMW, Corvette, Ferrari and Viper. This year, however, the factory-run CORE Autosport 991 911 RSR of Patrick Long, Michael Christensen, and Jörg Bergmeister exhibiting a competitive pace, as well as excellent pit strategy, and taking advantage of fortuitous yellow flags, not only saw the circle, but saw it from the inside as the winner in the prestigious GTLM division of the classic enduro.
Moreover, Porsche also scored its first ever victory in the Tudor Championship’s very competitive GTD class through the efforts of Utah-based Magnus Racing’s GT America, piloted by team owner John Potter, veteran Andy Lally, and Porsche factory test driver Marco Seefried, the trio overcoming an early collision and later transmission problems, to capture the team’s first Sebring win.
Unfortunately, these two victories were marred by a race noteworthy for long delays with over five of the 12 hours being run under the yellow flag, (three of those coming within the first half of the event). Virtually all of these interruptions were due to either unforced driving mistakes , or incomprehensible decision making by race officials. While surviving the various crashes throughout the day might well have been considered victory in itself, reaching that checkered flag first remained the object of the exercise, which why it was a shame that the success of both (albeit deserving) Porsche winners came in part because some unintended help from the apparently clueless Stewards in Race Control.
The potential of Job’s two new 911 GT Americas: the WeatherTech’s #22 entry and its sister, the Team Seattle’s #23 car, gave him reason to be optimistic about a podium finish. After all, Alex Job Racing has won no less than 70 races and five championships since 1995, including, two Rolex 24 class triumphs and, perhaps most impressively, two Le Mans GT class victories. This year he was going for win number ten at Sebring, with most unwilling to bet against him accomplishing that goal.
Unfortunately,eight hours into the race, his WeatherTech entry, having overcome an early tire puncture to run with the leaders up front, was dealt a huge blow with a penalty it clearly did not deserve. Driver Cooper MacNeil was incorrectly given an 80 second stop and go penalty for “avoidable contact” with GT-D Ferrari 458 Italia. This penalty was given despite the fact that the Porsche in question was one of the factory 991 RSRs, something clearly evidenced in the video tape of the incident by the highly visible Michelin tire sticker on its roof. In spite of that, and inspite of the fact that all the GT-D entries ran on mandated Continental rubber, the five officials who reviewed the tape before handing out the penalty made their incomprehensible decision. But which of the two CORE RSRs was it? The answer ironically was both though only the #911 car was ever cited.
Job, who immediately appealed the penalty, was told simply: “Bring your car in for the 80 seconds,, or we’ll stop timing and scoring it.” Faced with such ignorant intransigence, Job had no choice but to call in MacNeil, virtually ending any chances for a win.
Nor was Job’s mood improved by what happened after the race. “I went to the tower to see the video. As they showed it, I and they could clearly see the # 22 was obviously way ahead of the incident and that it was one of the white RSRs which made contact with the Ferrari. You could almost visualize the ‘oops’ coming from their lips. Having reviewed the video, they told me they would discuss the situation and do whatever they could. At the very least, I think they needed to calculate the lost time, the 80-second hold plus the time through the pits. I believe we were running second, so that’s a lot of lost track position.”
But what was done, and the penalty stuck, leaving the WeatherTech car a very disappointing fourth in the results. It was some consolation to Job that his other GT America did extremely well in the tough GTD class to finish third, but it had to be a bittersweet result for the man who’s been competing at Sebring for 25 years and was set up for another win. As for the impact on the finish in the GTLM category, where Porsche’s margin of victory was less than five seconds, had Long, Christensen and Bergmeister been hauled down pit lane to serve an enforced 80-second stop, it would have been the Viper folks celebrating, and not the Porsche camp.
Following the race, IMSA’s vice president of competition and technical regulations Scot Elkins admitted, “The series tonight actually made a couple of incorrect calls during the event. The nature of racing is, that it makes it very difficult for us to take those back. There’s nothing we can do in terms of taking time away and doing anything to the results. We’re sorry, and we made a mistake. We have some things in place to fix it for the next time.”
You better hope so, Scot. After the snafus at Daytona and the insanity of Sebring, some teams are wondering if their future lies with IMSA, or perhaps the Sports Car Club of America’s World Challenge, for which the GT America Porsches are also eligible. The bottom line is simple: if you’re a big time racing organization, then act like one.
Greg Brown, March 2014