Tag Archives: Corvette

New Millennium, Sir? Part Three

Running on Rails

The engine failure of the #12 Ferrari appeared to hand victory to the #16 Dyson Riley & Scott Ford. As daylight broke they had a 23 lap advantage over the #2 Corvette, OK there were seven hours to go, but this was Dyson we were considering. That should have been enough but there were worried expressions in the Dyson pit. It was reported that the leader had taken on water to counteract overheating at their first pit stop some 16 hours previously. During the night the problem went the other way as it emerged that the engine was running at 120 degrees C not the normal 200. Something was amiss and even a crew chief as experienced as Dyson’s Pat Smith was unable to figure out a quick fix. Could they hold on?

A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall

The other Dyson car, #20, lost two hours having the input shaft to the transmission replaced, so was well out of contention.

Up Front

Third overall was the GT Class leader, Jet Motorsports BMW M3. They were three laps up with five hours to go when the engine failed after an oil leak, another car gone.

Both Of The Crowd Were Entertained

The miserable conditions continued, making everyone rather grumpy, just wishing for this damn race to be finished. Even at Corvette things got a little tense. Well known, and sometimes respected writer, Andrew Cotton, popped his head into the Pratt & Miller pit to catch up with Andy Pilgrim and file some copy for the Daily Telegraph back home. There were a couple of off duty local cops acting “security” for Dale Senior and one decided that Andrew’s presence was superfluous and told him to get lost. Like any Brit abroad, Andrew ignored the cop and tried to help matters by declaring that he was not interested in Senior. He only wanted to speak to Pilgrim. The next step was that Andrew was threatened with arrest if he did not leave immediately, a plain dereliction of duty. The cop should have tasered and cuffed him there and then for ignoring an instruction from an Officer of the Law. It would not have happened in Sheriff Bill Gillespie’s time.

Of course when this incident reached the ears of GM PR, they had a collective heart attack, but all was eventually smoothed over, the Telegraph got their copy and Andrew, or his father I think, got a free breakfast.

The Cruel Sea

As the race trundled on the leading R&S extended the gap to #2 Corvette to over 28 laps. Then at around 9.30am, and with less than 4 hours to go, the call came. Butch Leitzinger parked the Riley & Scott at the East Horseshoe with an engine failure. I remember seeing the crew as they struggled to come to terms with this cruel fate, it was hard to witness, like there had been a death in the family. Rob Dyson could only say “I am not sure I want to come back to this place”. He did.

Double Dutch

The Rolex is about more than the struggle for the lead, each team has its own story to tell. Cor Euser brought a brace of Marcos from Holland, both got to the finish.


Embracing the original “Run what you Brung” philosophy was the Canadian Porsche 911 GT1 entry, it ended up third in class.

Rocket Ron

The clocked ticked on, eventually it was 1.00pm, the race was run and we all gave thanks. The #2 Corvette had scored an unlikely win, but fully deserved none the less. It was the early stages of what would turn out to be long series of wins and championships for the Pratt & Miller team. Anyone interested in reading more about this should consider THIS. The disappointment of seeing good guys like Weaver, Brabs and Nishy robbed of their races was offset by the celebrations of the Corvette guys, who could resist such passion?

Lightning Performance

The decimation of the prototypes promoted the White Lightning Racing Porsche 996 GT3 R,  driven by Christian Menzel, Lucus Luhr, Mike Fitzgerald, Randy Pobst, to second place overall.

GT Winners

They were also GT class winners.

Manfred’s Wagen

Third overall were Wolfgang Kaufmann, Cyril Chateau and Lance Stewart in the Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3 RS. Another great result.

The Final Podium

Next up was the crew of #3 who scored second place in GTS. Hard to imagine back then that this was Dale Earnhardt Snr.’s final podium. He would be fatally injured two weeks later on the final lap of the Daytona 500. His plans to leave NASCAR and come into endurance racing never came to fruition but had he lived the shape of Le Mans and the ALMS in the following years would have been very different.


This would have become a familiar sight.

Downing’s delight

In the end the SRP1 class went to the Kudzu Mazda, here advertising the HANS system that owner/driver Jim Downing was advocating to all. Had Earnhardt been wearing one of these devices in the 500 he might well of survived his accident. They are mandatory now.

Archangel Motorsport

SRP 2 was won by Archangel Motorsport.

Hamilton Safe Motorsports

The final class winner was Hamilton Safe Motorsports who came out on top in AGT.

Champions All.

24 Hour races at Daytona International Speedway are regarded as amongst the toughest around, any of the 310 drivers who competed at the 2001 edition would have agreed and so would their crews. So the celebrations go on into the night, it is a Daytona tradition.

John Brooks, January 2011

New Millennium, Sir? Part One.

Horologists celebrate!As with most things that the last lot in power (the Blair/Brown Cabal) here in the UK touched, the Millennium Celebrations got screwed up. The Dome became a byword for the kind of badly executed, wildly over budget, grandiose gesture projects that were supposed to keep us all dazzled. Fiddling while Rome burned, they even got the date wrong, as us Gregorians reckon that the new era starts in 2001 not 2000. Whatever.

In many ways the first major motor sport event of this Millennium, the 2001 Rolex 24 Hours, marked a more significant point than the 2000 edition held the previous January. Sure that had kicked off the Grand-Am set of races, and with a bang, but as those of us who have been around the tracks a while will tell you, organisations and their acronyms come and go. Yes, there had been a major battle between the factory teams of Viper and Corvette, eclipsing the supposedly faster prototypes, even the debuting Cadillac, but if Grand-Am represented anything it was not factory based competition.

As if to emphasise this point, by the start of 2001 both Dodge and Cadillac were gone, leaving Corvette’s team, Pratt & Miller, to try and beat the faster hoards of prototypes.

The Intimidator

The big news from the Corvette camp was that NASCAR superstar, Dale Earnhardt Snr. was joining the line up in the #3 car (what else?). And that his son, Dale Jnr. would be with him plus regulars, Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins. The #2 Vette would be the insiders’ favourite though, whatever the fans thought, the combination of Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell, Franck Freon and Chris Kneifel would be amongst the best in the field.

Despite the lack of experience in driving endurance cars (or in the rain or at night) Earnhardt applied himself to the task in hand, really impressing his fellow drivers and the whole team.

That should have surprised no one, sportsmen do not reach the Olympian heights that Senior had over many years in NASCAR, without being both bright and hard working.

Andy P and Junior

The process of adjustment to the new scene was greatly helped by the advice and friendship shown to the stars by Andy Pilgrim and Chris Kneifel, who talked through the areas of concern like the completely alien braking processes, the driving at night, the running in the rain. In return Earnhardt was able to bring his intimate knowledge of the Daytona banking to assist his team to be even quicker along the famous pavement.

E Additives

Another big change from the NASCAR environment was that of being part of a squad of drivers but the Father and Son combo adjusted well to this aspect. I was on the fringe of the team due to friendly GM PR guy who kept me appraised of any happenings. He even introduced me to Dale, who considering our relative status, was extremely gracious, not a reaction I always encounter from some in the game.

Night Time in the Switching Yard

The attention of the media was focused on #3, this was, after all, the heartland of NASCAR and Senior was their transcendent Super Star. This left the crew of #2 to get on quietly with preparations for the battle with the prototypes in the search for overall victory. There were stories at the time of Senior’s ambitions to race with Corvette in the following years, especially at Le Mans, he was a serious racer. I wrote about this later HERE

Red Line

Perhaps the Ferrari 333 SP of Risi Competizione was the most popular choice for the top step of the podium at the race’s end. A hotshot team running the car, a driver line up that consisted of Ralf Kelleners, David Brabham, Eric van de Poele and Allan McNish plus the beautiful, sonorous Ferrari seemed to be the obvious selection. McNish has had his eye on a Rolex since winning his class in 1998 at Daytona, the year before the watches were awarded to all class winners not just the overall victors. Of course we are all too gentlemanly to ever mention this small omission in his career, maybe this would be his best chance to get hold of one the fabled timepieces without parting with actual cash. Fastest lap in practice of 1:41.118, if not in Qualifying, seemed to support the argument.

What Might Have Been

Another notable contender was the Porsche powered Champion Racing Lola B2K/10.  Bob Wollek, Hurley Haywood, Dorsey Schroeder and Sascha Maassen would bring experience and speed to job in hand. The standard of the Champion Racing outfit was top line and with some assistance from Weissach this was more than a dark horse.

EFR on a charge

There were two Dyson Racing Riley & Scott Mklll Fords, that were always contenders for victory when they entered a race. They had won the Floridian classic in ’97 and ’99 and were looking for a hat trick.

Saint Crispin’s Day?

Any team that could count on the talents of James Weaver, especially if joined by Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger, was going to be there or thereabouts. No Question.

So the question would be could the faster prototypes run reliably enough to beat the Corvette pair? Or would there be a repeat of the 2000 race that fell into the hands of the GT1 machines after the prototypes imploded?

Lap One and Carnage

Weaver got the jump on Jon Field’s Intersport Lola at the start and as the competitors made their way into the infield all hell broke loose. Norman Simon in the Bob Akin Motorsports Riley & Scott pirouetted, he reckoned he was tapped into the spin, others felt that too much aggression on cold tyres a more likely explanation.

Grosse Scheisse!

Ron Fellows nearly ran his Corvette into Broward County trying avoid any possibility of contact, it was no way to start a 24 Hour race.

Master James

The race settled down after the indiscretions of the first lap, Weaver lead from Kelleners and Field and others in SportsRacing Prototype class all took spells in front during the opening stint.

Grand-Am was itself about to embrace a period of change, trying to find a formula that would give their competitors stability of rules and some form of cost capping to try and rein in budgets and keep the ALMS,  ACO and FIA at bay. In 1999 the Grand-Am President, Roger Edmondson, had formed an alliance with John Mangoletsi and the European based Sports Racing World Cup with a plan for to run two races in 2000 at US venues with a combined grid of prototypes. Problem was that most of Mango’s Barmy Army, as we were almost affectionately known, did not want, nor could afford, to race on two continents. So only a handful of SRWC entries made the trip to Daytona and Road America that summer, so the concept was quietly dropped.

Grand-Am did not want to allow in the likes of Audi and similar factory teams to race in their series, they would destroy the opposition and lead to a dependence on their revenue streams, just ask the ALMS how that one worked out. However the technology that they and other manufacturers had introduced to prototype and GT competition could not be unlearned. The likes of Lola and Riley & Scott were forced by the demands of customers who wanted to race at Le Mans to follow in the escalation of technology and, of course, budget. It is around this time that the concept of the Daytona Prototypes began to appear in the thinking of the Grand-Am top brass as the answer to the conundrum. The final designs were still some time away but it was clear that Grand-Am and its showcase 24 hour race would operate to different rules and specifications to the rest of endurance racing. With the financial muscle of NASCAR and its allies behind the project, in particular Sun Trust Bank, it was possible to march to a different drum.

Class Acts

Dale Earnhardt Snr. was not the only star to be seen at Daytona that year. Paul Newman or simply PLN when racing, was an enthusiastic part of the Gunnar Racing Porsche team.

All The Stars Come Out At Night

Unfortunately the 911 GT1’s performance did not match its looks and the elegant GT was an early retirement.


Another competitor getting an early bath was the Saleen S7-R of Paul Gentilozzi, a suspension failure led to retirement. The GTS category was thinning out.

Part two of this Retrospective tomorrow.

John Brooks, January 2011

Last Charge

Thundering Herd

Another chapter closes, the FIA GT Championship ran between 1997 and 2009. I was at Hockenheim to witness the birth of this Brave New World back in the last century, so I thought that a visit to Zolder to pay respects to the final round was appropriate.

The duel was between Maserati and Corvette with the Italian SuperCar coming out on top.

Next stop would the FIA GT1 World Championship, same result though.

John Brooks, January 2011

Corvette Racing The GT1 Years

Buy This Book!

Since bursting on to the endurance scene in 1999, the Pratt & Miller built Chevrolet Corvettes have been an integral part of GT Racing both in North America and Europe. They have seen off challenges from ORECA Vipers and ProDrive’s 550 Maranello and DBR9 projects to earn the title of GT1 World Champions. The only car that might have contested this situation was the Maserati MC12, however as the Italian was ineligible to compete at Le Mans (too wide) the Heavyweight title fight never took place.

To back up the achievements of the factory, the C5R and C6R were also campaigned with great success by private teams winning several titles and 24 hour races.

The end of the line for the factory cars came at Le Mans in 2009 but the customer cars can still compete till their homologation runs out at the end of this year. So they still rumble on the FIA GT1 World Championship.

Time perhaps to reflect and celebrate the achievements of this American Iconic Racer.

Hold the Back Page

Step forward Nigel S Dobbie who is the author of this mighty tome “Corvette Racing The GT1 Years”

333 pages sounds a lot and yet considering just how much information there is contained between the covers, the book could be twice as thick. The story of the programme is traced year by year with commentary on each of the significant races that the Corvettes took part in . There are whole chapters dedicated to profiling the factory drivers, comparing the various liveries, tabling the results and recording the history of each chassis. I cannot imagine that there is a question about the Corvette GT1 projects that is not answered somewhere in this book. It is surely the standard reference book on the GT1 Corvette and is a work of considerable scholarship.

Oooh Look at the pictures………….

OK, time to declare my interest.

Nigel showed great wisdom and taste in contacting me to supply images from the early years. I was lucky enough to be at the first public test during the run up to the Daytona 24 Hours in 1999 and pounded the ALMS beat for the first few years. So perhaps there was some logic to that. However the majority of the photography in this well illustrated book is that of the author and it is of a highly professional standard.

In conclusion, if GT1 Racing or Corvettes floats your boat, you will want to buy this book. At £59.99 it is not cheap but for what you actually get it represents extremely good value.

Nigel has set up a website HERE where you can see other reviews and more importantly order a copy.

Go on you know you want to.

John Brooks, January 2011