Tag Archives: Rolex 24

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Inside Job

The role of Team Photographer with a endurance sportscar outfit is a delicate one requiring tact, patience and perseverance, as well as skills behind the lens. It is a strange kind of hybrid position, not one of the bosses or drivers or sponsors but also not really one of the guys………the photographer does not do all-nighters mending the damage caused by the latest hero’s antics on track……..nor do they pull the seemingly endless long days back at the workshop preparing the cars in the first place. If you believe some of the others in the team they just point and shoot.

One analogy that springs to mind, it is like the position of the governess in a Downtown Abbey-style house, not family nor servant, neither upstairs or downstairs……….. Most of us who try to chronicle the progress of a team round the clock are tolerated at best.

Like any rule there are exceptions that prove matters. One such example around the turn of the century was to found at Dyson Racing, a no bullshit outfit with all feet firmly on the ground. If you could win the approval of Pat Smith and the guys and gals from Poughkeepsie then you were the real deal. Dr. Brian Mitchell was their bard, their recorder of memories, and as the years pass these recollections become more and more precious to remind those involved of the good times and the good people.

Brian was without question one of the guys, his commitment to the task was clear and unambiguous, the team certainly recognised it. On the odd occasion when I would show up for a Dyson pit stop in the middle of the night at places such as Daytona he would be on hand, part of the process just as much as the man with the tyre or the stopwatch.

So it is illuminating to see his work, a couple of decades down the line, a reminder of a tough week that ended in triumph as Dyson Racing took their second Rolex 24 victory in three years. The times were a-changing with a new century and a new approach on the way, progress they called it………….

Enjoy the view from inside the winners’ tent and share their achievement or at least their pride and joy standing on the podium…………we all know in our hearts it is transitory at best but the view from the top compensates for all that.

John Brooks February 2019

Reunion Dues

 A new year, a new beginning – we kick off 2019 with a fresh approach and a new contributor to our site, Martin Raffauf. Martin has been a familiar figure in the IMSA paddocks for well over 30 years working in a variety of teams. At the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1998 Martin was part of the Moretti Racing crew honoured by the ACO, being awarded the prestigious ESCRA Trophy. So a big welcome to Martin who brings us the behind the scenes story of the winning team from the 2002 Rolex 24 Hours. In a neat postscript to that tale he returned with the same guys and the sister car some 15 years later to Daytona International Speedway………..so enjoy the first of hopefully many pieces to enjoy.

Perseverance pays off – 2002 Daytona 24 hours > Replay 2017 (The reunion of car and team at the 2017 Daytona 24 Historics race)

2002 was a transition year for the 24 Hours of Daytona. It would be be the last season for the open cockpit sports prototype cars that had basically run in IMSA, USRRC and Grand-Am since 1994. In 2003 Grand-Am was switching to the new Daytona Prototype, a closed cockpit car built to a completely different rule set.

Doran-Lista Racing entered one car at this race, a Dallara SP1-Judd. The team was basically a partnership between Fredy Lienhard, the Swiss Industrialist, and Kevin Doran, who ran a race team out of his shops near Cincinnati, Ohio. The team was sponsored by Lista, Fredy’s company in Switzerland (with a US manufacturing plant). Lista was and is involved in the production of industrial cabinets, work shop equipment and office furniture. Fredy had started racing in IMSA in 1995 running a Ferrari 333 SP. For the 2002 season he purchased two Dallara SP1 LMP Chassis (#001 & #005). These were the cars built for the French Viper Team Oreca outfit with Chrysler and PlayStation sponsorship to compete at Le Mans in 2001. The SP1 was a descendant of the all conquering Audi R8, which was also built by Dallara. The engines used were the 4.0 liter Judd GV4 V10, which was a derivative of their earlier 3.5 liter F1 engine. Subsequently the GV5 evolution was also used. The engines ran under the ACO/FIA restrictor formula and horsepower in this restricted form was probably in the range of 610 hp, maybe a little more in sprint trim. Most of the cars we would run against were older designs, like the Riley & Scott Mk III, and Risi Competizione’s Ferrari 333 SP. In addition Riley & Scott had developed a new Mk III C, and would run this as a factory entry for Jim Matthews.   Most of these cars were well sorted and a known quantity to those running them. The Dallara was almost brand new to our team, and though we had raced it at the Daytona Finale in November 2001, the team was still learning the car and sorting out the setup.

The Major competition to us at this race would come from the Riley & Scott Fords entered by Dyson Racing, the Risi Competizione Ferrari, the Champion Racing Lola Porsche, Jon Field’s Lola Judd and the Factory Riley & Scott Mk III C.

The driver lineups were very good. We had Fredy, Didier Theys, Mauro Baldi and Max Papis. The Dyson cars would be led by James Weaver supported by Rob and Chris Dyson, Butch Leitzinger, Elliot Forbes-Robinson, Dorsey Shroeder, and Oliver Gavin. Jim Matthews’ team consisted of himself, Scott Sharp, and Robbie Gordon. The Champion Porsche was driven by Andy Wallace, Hurley Haywood, Sascha Maasen and Lucas Luhr.  The Risi car had Stefan Johannson, Eric van de Poele, David Brabham and Ralf Kelleners.  So the driving competition would be stout, plenty of winners and champions in that group.

The Dallara was very quick in Practice and Qualifying. Didier Theys duly took Pole Position, so we felt good about the car’s potential. However, we had no idea if it would run for 24 hours. It was nice to see the fax on the Doran Racing truck blackboard the next day, from the Dallara Factory in Italy, congratulating us on the Pole and wishing us success in the race.

That night Kevin (Doran) called a team meeting in our food tent which was behind the pits, down near pit exit. He thanked us all for the work so far, and remarked that we had a fast car, but he was not sure if we had a reliable car, as we had no experience with it over this distance.  He asked us to not lose hope or focus, as strange things had happened in the past in the various Daytona 24-hour races. I mentioned that I had seen several as I had been coming to this race since 1971. I witnessed things such as Pedro Rodríguez’ 917 losing a lead of over one hour in 1971 while his mechanics rebuilt his gearbox. He went on to win anyway. In 1992 the attrition rate had been very high, and a Dan Gurney entered Toyota won the race after spending more than two hours in the pits rebuilding the gearbox. So anything could, and usually did, happen, at Daytona.

The race started well for us, with Didier taking an immediate lead and we ran strongly for the first 10 hours. The Champion Lola Porsche came to the pits on the warm-up lap to replace a spark plug, and spent most of the first hour in the pits. The Risi Ferrari challenged for the lead during the first five hours but eventually dropped out with a broken transmission. Both Dyson Fords were out of contention early on and retired mid-race with engine failures. The race soon settled into one between us, the R&S factory car of Jim Matthews, the Ascari and the Field Lola B2K/10. After 10 hours the Ascari’s engine went bang and then we started having electrical problems, and the battery needed to be changed. This was an awful job on this car, as the smallish, lightweight battery was stuck in the bottom of the right front side of the cockpit underneath an electrical panel, so was hard to get at. The Matthews’ Riley & Scott then took the lead but was soon in trouble with its own electrical issues resulting in no headlights. This took a while to fix, as they could not figure out what the problem was. We watched each other closely, as we were in adjacent pits separated only by a break in the wall. This meant that through the night we would leapfrog each other for second place, depending on the timing of the various problems.

Meanwhile the Jon Field Lola was circulating at a slower pace, but had pulled out a lead of a few laps.  Around 4 am, the Matthews’ car pitted with a broken exhaust which had to be changed.  That was a messy job on a 6.0 liter Elan (Ford) engine while it was hot. We thought we had finally left them behind, when we had to change another battery. So, at daybreak we were about 7 laps behind the Field Lola-Judd and about 15 laps ahead of the Matthews’ car. Max Papis was driving and pushing hard to try and close the gap to the Lola. At around 8.30am, the Lola broke a drive shaft and was towed back to the pits as it was in a dangerous place on the track.  

After some work, it went out again, but stopped almost immediately with a broken input shaft in the transmission.  Max then took the lead as he made up the laps on the stationary car.  Tatiana Fittipaldi (Emerson’s daughter) was in our pit, as she and Max were dating at the time. So, we were giving her a blow by blow account of the race progress, as Kevin and Max discussed the race situation over the radio, and the rest of the crew listened in on our headsets.  At this time we were trying to slow Max down, as we had a large lead over the second placed Riley & Scott.  And since the Dallara was an unknown car at this distance, we did not want to push any harder than we had to.

At about this time with 6 hours to go, I asked John Judd Jr., our engine man, “Well the engine ran for 24 hours on the dyno right?”.  He said, “Actually no, we never got one to run for more than 20 hours on a dyno”. Great, I thought to myself.  I’d hate to come this far and have it blow up now. He said, “We just keep going and see what happens.”  Most of the other teams were surprised it was still running now after 18 hours. Jim Matthews told me later, he fully expected us to drop out with engine failure. In 2000 he had run a Reynard-Judd (the same engine we had) and finished the race, but he had spent some 5 hours in the garage changing gearboxes, so it was not a full 24 hours of racing.

Since about the 12-hour mark, Kevin had been having us check the rear wheel bearings on each pit stop. As again, we had not run this car for that long, and didn’t know what to expect. The right rear had started getting loose. If we were racing for the lead, we would have left it, but since we had a cushion, Kevin decided we would change it.  We just changed the whole upright, which caused us to lose about half our lead.  Luckily the car had no other issues as the clock ticked on. With about 20 minutes to go, we called Mauro Baldi in, to put Fredy in for the finish. It was his car and his team, so it seemed fitting, and the crew wanted him to finish the race. He took the Checkers and became the second Swiss to win Daytona after Jo Siffert some 34 years prior. It made front page news in Switzerland, so we were all happy for him. I had been fortunate to be on a team that won Daytona for the 3rd time (1981, 1998, 2002).

Fredy was a master at matching business to racing. He used racing as a marketing tool for his business and was very good at it. I asked him once how he related the two. He explained how business could learn a lot from racing.  Teamwork, preparation, determination, organization, and planning. Fredy was successful at both, and we were proud to be associated with him.

Fredy still owns the winning car. Today It sits in his museum/ automotive learning center, Autobau, in Romanshorn, Switzerland.

2017

Fast Forward to 2017, 15 years later. The winning Dallara from 2001 has been part of the collection in Fredy’s Autobau for years, while the backup car, #005, has sat in Kevin Doran’s workshop on display in Lebanon, Ohio since 2002. For 2017 Fredy Lienhard decided we should run the car at the HSR Daytona 24- hour historic races. It would be a reunion of sorts, 15 years later. Chassis #005 would be prepared and entered.

The HSR (Historic Sportscar Racing) sanctions various vintage races in the USA, one of which is run every  year at the famed Daytona International Speedway in Florida. It is a format very similar to the Le Mans Classic in France.  Groups of cars (6 groups) basically run four times for a little less than one hour.  For example, the Dallara, in group D (Sports cars from 1994-2003) would run at 4pm, 10pm, 4am and 10am over the course of the 24 hours.  Cumulative time would determine the finishing order. Although, this is not really a race per se, as a lot of the cars are not driven too hard, as they are of course, old.

Some of the old team were still around.  Fredy, his son Fredy Jr., and Didier Theys would do the driving, (Fredy and Didier were two of the race winning drivers in 2002, while Fredy Jr, did drive in some of the IMSA races he did not drive at the 24 hours that year) Kevin Doran’s organization would prepare the car.  A few of the old crew from 2002 were available including myself, Dave Doran, Don Caesar, Glenn Smith, Dee Drook and Russ Faber, and of course, Kevin Doran, the team leader.

The car was prepared, and gone thru, as it had been sitting for some years. A five-liter Judd V10 was installed (the engine we ran in late 2002, not at the 24 hours, which was the 4-liter version) A paddle shift system was installed to assist the drivers. This was a modification that was not used in 2002, as then the car had a regular manual transmission shifting system. The team had tested the car some weeks before, and all had worked perfectly. Didier had done a 1:42 lap at Daytona, a few tenths slower than his pole time of 15 years before.

We unloaded the car with high hopes on Tuesday of the race week. It looked pristine sitting in the garage.

Wednesday practice started, and so did the problems. Didier completed a few laps, turned it over to Fredy and then Fredy Jr.  Fredy Jr, noted there were some issues with gear shifting that just did not seem quite right. He attributed it to his lack of recent experience in the car, and not having driven the paddle shift system in 2002. We all agreed. Actually we should have paid attention to what he was saying. Usually when a driver tells you something is not “quite right”, it isn’t. The issues got worse, the car would get stuck in gear, jump from 4th to 2nd, that kind of thing. We returned to the garage and removed the gearbox internals, which on the Dallara is a side removal on the right, not a rear removal.  None of us really remembered the process for this, so the first time was a bit ragged, but we would get much better at it as the week went along!

The ragged shifting had destroyed several gear dogs and dog rings, and there were a few pieces broken in the paddle system. All this was replaced, and we went out again. A little better, but still the same issue, out came the gearbox again. More destroyed dogs, this time a bad sensor was found on the box, which may have contributed to the original problems. In the meantime the engine had started acting up. Didier reported that upon shifting into 6th gear in the Daytona east banking, the engine would seem to lose about half the cylinders. The Judd support guys, along with Kevin and Noah Bailey (team data engineer) pored over the data, and the determination was that one of the ECU boxes might have gone bad. This was replaced.

The new ECU fixed the engine issues, but the gearbox was still acting up. At this point it was Friday, and the race was starting on Saturday. We had already missed qualifying and would be starting in the back, so Kevin decided to just put the manual linkage back on, rebuild the internals once again, and we would go with that. Saturday morning in a warm up, all worked perfectly, engine and transmission. The team was very relieved. 

The race got underwayand we maintained competitive speeds.  Our main opposition was another Dallara, a later Oreca one, A Riley and Scott MK III C with a large engine, and some Generation 2 Grand AM DP (Daytona Prototype) cars.  There were of course many GT cars from that era running also.

In the first night session, Didier Theys had a scare when the right rear Avon tire disintegrated in the east banking in 6th gear.  Luckily, he got it back to the pits without major damage.  In the last stage at 10 am Sunday, Didier started, passed all 5 cars in front of him, and set the fastest race lap at 1:40.7. He came in for the mandatory 3-minute pit stop, and turned the car over to Fredy Lienhard Jr.  We looked like we may get a podium finish, but it was not to be as another Avon tire disintegrated. Fredy was able to get the car back to the pits without damage, but the loss of time due to extra stops and tire failures cost us and we ended up 4th overall, and 2nd in D-1 category behind the other Dallara of Flourent Moulin who won the D group race.

It had been a grand event. The team’s other car, a 2006 FIA GT3 Ford GT had won its class and finished 10th overall in Group E. It was driven by Brad Jaeger, Lyn St. James and Memo Gidley.

What would become of the grand old Dallara? The future is undecided. But for now, it was back to the showroom! It had been a great journey back in time bringing back all the memories of the Rolex 24 in 2002.

Martin Raffauf, January 2019

Light Blue Touch Paper

The first rays of sunshine arrive from the East, over the Atlantic. For those still circulating at Daytona International Speedway it signals that they have made it through the dark………the Chequered Flag is almost in sight……

Not for everyone though, some will suffer the heartbreak of a late problem at the Rolex 24. Daylight is visible in the sky as James Weaver punches onto the Tri-Oval banking after the Bus Stop at NASCAR Three. Under acceleration the Ford V8 emits a blue flame, a signal confirming the damage to an exhaust valve, dramatically reducing power. A 27 lap lead over the pack would evaporate, as following the demise of the Cadillac SRP challenge, the Viper/Vette GT train gained a handful of seconds every lap. The clocked ticked away, the gap shrank, the maths played out and the inevitable happened, victory slipped from the Poughkeepsie team’s grasp. The only consolation to “the death of a thousand cuts” would come later in the season when the 45 points scored by James Weaver for staggering round to fourth place would give him the inaugural Grand-Am Drivers’ Title.

John Brooks, January 2018

Analogue Racing

Twenty years ago this week I jumped on a plane and headed for Florida, destination Daytona International Speedway, It was the first phase in what I laughingly now refer to as a career in motorsport. Since the early ’80s I had combined a real paying job with the weekend vice of shooting races as a member of the media. I had witnessed the final stages of Ayrton Senna’s pre-F1 career, watched with awe as Group C flowered and was eventually destroyed by dark forces and followed the re-birth of endurance racing in the ’90s. I was hooked.

Now it was time to leave behind the comfortable existence of a monthly salary, an chunky bonus most years and a new BMW 7 or 8 series every four to six months. I was going to be a full time motorsport photographer following in the footsteps of those guys I knew in F1 who had made it to the Majors. They were doing very well, better than me or so they would have you believe. What they did not tell me was the the bit about the pain and penury, the uncertainty of where the next job or cheque would come from and the sheer grind of endless travelling for a living. All this while trying to keep clients and the bank manager happy.

No matter, I was gung-ho on my way to Daytona. My flight and a fee were being paid for by the charming Laurence Pearce of Lister Cars fame, it was always going to be like this I told myself…………roaming the planet on someone else’s dollar, creating art………Terry Donovan eat your heart out………..

I had shot in the USA the previous year when following the FIA GT circus to Sebring and Laguna Seca, now I was about to find out how things were really done in America.

The 1998 Rolex 24  was a race run in a time of great upheaval and transition, both on and off the track. On a broader scale the world was shifting on its axis from analogue to digital, the new-fangled internet and email was here to stay, and old farts like me would have to get used to it, embrace it even, Dot-Com was the buzz word on everyone’s lips. A new century beckoned and a totally unjustified optimism was all around, as if we had all bought into Donald Fagan’s vision:

A just machine to make big decisions,
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision,
We’ll be clean when their work is done,
We’ll be eternally free, yes, and eternally young

On the tracks the world was also going through a revolution, especially in the rarefied arena of endurance racing in North America. In the post-Andy Evans era, Daytona in 1998 was the first battleground in the looming conflict between the traditional powers, aka the France family, and the new broom, Don Panoz, controller of three tracks, and his plans for sportscar racing in North America that would evolve into the American Le Mans Series. We all know how that turned out in the end.

For a foot-soldier such as I this all seemed remote, all I could see was the beautiful Florida sunshine, a real contrast to the grey, soggy conditions back home. At the track there was the amazing banking, there were also a lot of fences and gates to negotiate and even more security guards to deal with, all dressed in blue, seemingly  with an agenda all of their own.

On track the cars were something of a throwback, the favourites for victory came from the various Ferrari 333 SP teams or the Ford-powered Dyson Racing Riley & Scott MK III pair. These fine cars would have been nowhere if faced by the top practitioners in Europe such as the Mercedes-Benz CLK LM or the Toyota GT-One who were in a different league of performance and, of course, budget.

Indeed from the European scene three Porsche 911 GT1s, a brace of Panoz GTR-1s and a Lister Storm GTL were on the Rolex 24 GT1 entry list creating a problem for the local officials who wished for the top step of the podium to be the property of the prototype class, cunningly renamed Can-Am. What relationship these cars had with the Group 7 legends of yesteryear was unclear but it made the PR guys feel warm and everyone pretended that it was absolutely logical.

Another PR canard doing the rounds at the race was the insistence that the 1998 Rolex 24 would be a re-run of the Ford v Ferrari battles of the ’60s, Phil Space and his mates in the old press rooms would have been proud. Like the Can-Am non-connection no one was fooled but we were all too polite to mention it.

Perhaps the whole paddock that year would have wanted to see Gianpiero “Momo” Moretti finally achieve a win at Daytona. He had first raced the 24 Hours at the tri-oval in the 1970 edition driving a Ferrari 512S no less. 28 years and fourteen attempts later he knew that time was against him but 1998 was as good an opportunity as ever. As Momo put it at the time, “With all the money I have spent at Daytona I could have bought a thousand Rolexes easily, but I wanted to win this race.”

His Ferrari 333 SP was run by the vastly experienced Kevin Doran and he had a stellar line-up with Mauro Baldi, Arie Luyendyk and Didier Theys, it was now or never.

Joining Momo on the grid, though a few rows back was another driver who had raced in the 1970 Daytona 24 Hours, Brian Redman. Back then Redman was a key part of the JW Automotive squad and the 1970 race was eagerly anticipated as it would see the first full contest between the Porsche 917s and Ferrari 512s. Brian achieved the bizarre feat of finishing both first and second in that race as he drove the winning car of Pedro Rodriguez and Leo Kinnunen for a couple of stints while waiting for his own 917 to have its clutch replaced. The Finn was placed on the naughty step for ignoring team orders to slow down while enjoying a huge lead, his punishment was to witness Redman pounding round in his car.

In 1998 Redman joined 1990-Le Mans winner Price Cobb in a Porsche 993 Carrera RSR but there would be no fairy-tale for the veteran Brit, a broken gearbox on Saturday brought his career in 24 hour races to an end.

Opposition in Can-Am Ferrari ranks came principally from the Scandia Racing example crewed by Yannick Dalmas, Bob Wollek Max Papis and Ron Fellows. Dalmas took pole with a 1:39.195 lap, just shy of 130 mph average speed, this was a serious effort at winning outright.

Doyle-Risi Racing had left their 1996 Daytona-winning Oldsmobile-powered Riley & Scott behind in favour of a 333 SP, backing up Wayne Taylor behind the wheel were Fermin Velez and Eric van de Poele, another serious contender for overall victory.

There were arguably five serious Riley & Scott contenders, all Ford powered. Two from Rob Dyson’s crack outfit based at Poughkeepsie. #16 for James Weaver, Elliot Forbes-Robinson and Dorsey Schroeder as well as the Guv’nor, seen here at the wheel.

In #20 Rob was joined by Butch Leitzinger, John Paul Jr., and Perry McCarthy. Rob was keen to repeat his Daytona triumph of the previous year, his cars were always in contention down in Florida, in 1998 they started from 4th and 5th places.

Henry Camferdam enlisted Scott Schubot and Johnny O’Connell in his R & S MKIII, they started at a respectable sixth spot.

Michael Colucci ran a pair of Rileys in association with turkey-magnate Jim Matthews. Matthews was partnered in #39 by the ‘dream team’ of multiple champions Derek Bell and Hurley Haywood plus David Murry.

#36 had Eliseo Salazar, Jim Pace and Barry Waddell on driving duty with Matthews hedging his bets as an entry in both cars.

Back at the turn of the century some frankly weird contraptions would show up and ‘race’ at Daytona during the 24 Hours. This pioneering spirit was very much in the ‘run what you brung’ tradition and is somewhat missed in these politically and corporately correct times. In 1998 the Chevrolet Cannibal was oddball of the year, in fact there grounds for thinking that it would be oddball of any year.

1998 also saw the Mosler Raptor take to the tracks, designed it would appear by Captain Nemo, with the distinctive split screen. At home at Turn Three or 20,000 leagues under the sea…………….

Other left field entries would include the Keiler KII which was a development of a Chevron B71. Powered by the ubiquitous Ford V8 it was a good example of the can-do engineering spirit that ran through the North American racing scene in the last decade of the century.

As mentioned earlier the GT1 class should have provided stiff opposition to the leading prototypes. However the powers that be decided that a Can-Am car would triumph, so the regulations were changed, not for the first, or the last, time in Volusia County. The Panoz pair with an all-star line up of Eric Bernard, David Brabham and Jamie Davies in #99 and Andy Wallace, Scott Pruett, Doc Bundy with 1987 World Champion, Raul Boesel, in #5 should have been rattling the Ferraris and the Dyson squad in the speed stakes. However………….

The Porsche 911 GT1 trio should also have been there or there abouts, but USRRC, no doubt under instructions from above, had other ideas. Ballast was added and there were smaller restrictors if the GT1 had carbon brakes or electronic engine management – hello the computer age! – the final cut was reducing the fuel tank size from 100 to 80 litres to match the Can-Am cars. It was all a bit farcical and it fuelled the rivalry between Panoz and what was to become Grand-Am. The ‘not invented here’ attitude was alive and flourishing.

There was the usual pre-race ballyhoo, speeches, songs, prayers and parades. Former heroes rumbled round the track at a dignified pace, provoking this cop to bellow incomprehensible instructions to move which were largely drowned out by the engine noises, this despite being in a place that was allowed by our passes……….my way or the highway…………..it was easier to leave than try and argue.

A full grid of 74 cars took the start under blue skies. As I have learned with 24 Hour races, and the Rolex in particular, everyone heads off for the first corner with optimism in their hearts but it does not take long for the cracks to appear in even the best racers. One by one the favourites are hobbled to a greater or lesser degree, Daytona International Speedway has a deserved and hard earned reputation for being cruel to the aspirations of racers and their teams, the 1998 Rolex 24 would be no exception to this rule.

The race ran to plan for the leaders till the second hour. A Full Course Caution was spotted by Andy Wallace in the Panoz as he headed into Nascar Four and he lifted off just as James Weaver’s R & S was following him a full pelt, the resulting collision effectively ended both cars chances though both plugged away after extensive repairs, neither was running at the finish.

Doyle-Risi was next to stumble. First a pit official waved Eric van de Poele out of the pits even though the exit was closed, then the mistake was compounded by neglecting to inform Race Control, a two lap penalty was the consequence. Shortly after night fell the Belgian crashed out at the West Horseshoe, knocking out both himself and the Ferrari from the race.

The lead was taken on by the Scandia Ferrari with the #20 Dyson car giving chase. Around 04.00 on Sunday advantage switched to the latter as the 333 SP suffered first a sticking throttle, then the transmission caught fire, another leading contender was out.

This left Dyson on target for a successive victory but the Racing Gods had other ideas. The engine started to give concern and with about three hours to go matters came to a head with the car being forced into the pits while smoking and leaking fluids………..another dream dashed.

While Dyson were suffering despair the Moretti Ferrari was now in a lead that it would not surrender. Momo took the final stint, he had earned that right the hard way.

There were emotional scenes on the podium, a dream had come true, Momo had his Rolex. The Italian veteran would have an Annus Mirabilis in 1998 taking victory at both the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Watkins Glen Six Hours, throw in a finish at Le Mans and it was time to leave the stage.

What of the other places? In spite of the best efforts of the USRRC to slow the GT1 entries they were there at the Chequered Flag, surviving the carnage that had engulfed the Can-Am runners. The Porsche 911 GT1 Evo of Rohr Motorsport finished second some eight laps down on the winner.

This was despite an all-star driver line up, almost an embarrassment of riches: Allan McNish, Jörg Müller, Danny Sullivan, Uwe Alzen and Dirk Müller enjoy the applause but no Rolex watches despite the podium and the class win, still rankles with a Wee Scot or so I am told. Not that any of us ever remind him, oh no sireee…………

Third spot was occupied by another Porsche 911 GT1, the Larbre Compétiton entry of Christophe Bouchut, Andre Ahrle, Patrice Goueslard and Carl Rosenblad………….a top class effort, much as we have come to expect from Jack Leconte’s outfit.

Porsche also took GT2 honours with the evergreen Franz Konrad guiding his squadron of gentlemen drivers to victory in the 911 GT2. Toni Seiler, Wido Rössler, Peter Kitchak and Angelo Zadra all did their bit in this fine result.

The final class winners were PTG and their BMW M3. Bill Auberlen, Boris Said, Peter Cunningham and Marc Duez climbed the top step of their podium at ‘The World Center of Racing’ to receive their trophies, no false modesty at DIS.

The eternally youthful Bill will line up for the factory BMW outfit this weekend, as will his fellow class winner from 1998, Dirk Müller. Dirk will be hoping that his Ford overcomes Munich’s finest.

What did I learn from the experience of my first Rolex? Well like most Europeans who go racing to North America I had the idea that we were more professional in Europe, with our F1, our Le Mans, our traditions. I soon realised that was complete bollocks, the driving, engineering and every other aspect of motor sport on that side of the Atlantic was the equal of anything over here. Just look at the record of Penske, Pratt & Miller, Chip Ganassi and see the facts as they are.

If some of the officialdom was dodgy or the decisions were difficult to understand then consider some of the horror stories perpetrated over here. If security was inclined to make things up on the hoof, then recall dealing with Belgian police, the CRS or any of the private security firms now involved……….I rest my case. It certainly opened my eyes and made my decision to follow the ALMS in the early years a certainty.

Did I learn anything else? Well don’t go drinking with Julian Bailey in an airport bar, we almost missed the flight home as we got well refreshed. We picked up the last call and boarded the plane to jeers of those who knew us, I think I slept well that flight. It was the first chapter in a grand adventure…………..maybe I am due a new one soon.

John Brooks, January 2018

Daytona Diversity

1999 Rolex 24 Hours

One of the many attractions of the Rolex 24 Hours around the turn of the century was eclectic nature of the entry list, you never could tell what would show up next. So here high up on NASCAR Four in 1999 we have the Intersport Lola leading the Spirit of Daytona Mitsubishi Eclipse, while a Ferrari 348 tours along presumably heading for the pit lane.

The Ferrari was the slowest of the trio, nearly 8 seconds off the local Japanese GT with the prototype a further 20 seconds up the road. Another difference to most other races was the driver line up, six for the 348, 3 in the Eclipse and four in the Lola. Only the Eclipse finished the race, 253 laps down on the winner, good enough for 39th place after posting 455 laps

John Brooks, August 2016

All the Stars Come Out at Night

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The Rolex 24 is back to its former glory, at least that is the conclusion that any savvy observer would draw from the action on the banking last weekend.

Not all the fireworks were fired into the Floridian sky on Saturday, some were constrained by a Nikon body, like this stunning image created by my old mucker, Dave Lister. Great photography is a combination of talent, hard graft, opportunity and the often-overlooked imaginative client, that alignment of planets was to be found in Volusia County last week.

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Speaking of stars, Pipo Derani stood out on track and was major factor in the overall victory for ESM, Ligier and LM P2, so bravo!

Another element that brought a smile were the grumbles from the DP clan about Balance of Performance. In fact IMSA should be congratulated in this respect, they achieved a pretty good score throughout the field.

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The new GTD class was a great success; close, competitive racing as one former promoter used to declare when two cars finished at the head of the field on the same lap. Victory fell at the last gasp to the Magnus Racing Audi – how odd that sounds. Their photographer caught this colourful shot precisely at the point when the tectonic plates shifted in Florida, missed that on the telly.

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The Jewel in IMSA’s crown is the GTLM grid and the class of 2016 is set to shine brighter than ever. Corvette had the legs of the others, so the win was well deserved. But, and you knew there was a but coming, am I the only one who thought Ollie Gavin deserved some form of sanction for punting Earl Bamber’s Porsche out of the lead?

Rubbin’ is Racin’  I suppose.

John Brooks, February 2016

Yellow Streak

2014 JB General

Delving into the archives on another project I stumbled across this attempt at ‘art’ in the bygone era of film…………such shots were almost always a leap in the dark with no idea till later as to how they would turn out, if they worked you were a genius, if not quietly slip the slide into the bin and say no more. All you could do is check the light meter, the aperture, the shutter speed and take a deep breath.

This 333 is headed for the back stretch chicane at Daytona International Speedway on route to 4th place in the 1999 Rolex 24.

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It was driven by the non pro crew of Lilian Bryner, Enzo Calderari, Carl Rosenblad and Angelo Zadra, a pretty good result for the Europeans in this tough race.

John Brooks, November 2014

I have no good answer to that question……………

1998 Rolex 24

The first trip to the Rolex was back in ’98. I was invited by the charming Laurence Pearce of Lister Cars fame. Back then the WSC rules allowed for some pretty strange contraptions, certainly The Cannibal was right right up there in the Wacky Racers stakes.

1998 Rolex 24

Then there was this Sci-Fi effort from Mosler, the Raptor…………they missed Captain Nemo’s name off the roof.

Rather than plagiarise anyone else’s work I suggest that if you want to know more about these unusual racers you could do worse than read this excellent piece on the Daytona International Speedway website;

HERE

I somehow doubt that we witness anything quite like this pair on the banking in the next week, but you never know…………

John Brooks, January 2014

 

The Stig Prowls the Infield

1998 Rolex 24

1998 Rolex 24 saw the original Stig, Perry McCarthy, as part of the line up for Dyson Racing. As usual the Daytona International Speedway was not kind to guys from Poughkeepsie with both of their Riley & Scott MK111 prototypes going out late in the race. For #20 it was especially cruel, they were cruising towards Victory Lane, with a handy lead over the Momo 333SP, then the Racing Gods decided otherwise…………..

John Brooks, January 2014