scorecardresearch

IndyCar2018kTwice a championship runner-up in USF2000, Spencer Pigot has carried on up the Mazda Road To Indy, and won the Pro Mazda title last season. That earned him a scholarship for the 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series, and so he heads into the 2015 season with widely respected junior formula team, Juncos Racing, and armed with the sexy new Dallara IL15 and its 500hp Mazda AER engine.

So who knows? Spencer may be in the Verizon IndyCar Series as soon as 2016, but he already has clear ideas of how he wants the series to be in 2018.

 

Pigot portraitDoes the 2018 IndyCar need more power?

Obviously I’m speaking without experience of the current car, but yeah, I’d say so. Ten or 15 years ago, the cars had a ton of horsepower and not a lot of downforce compared with, say, a Formula 1 car and they were spectacular to watch. More horsepower and less downforce helps the really talented drivers to stand out, not just because of car control but also they have to work hard to preserve tires over a whole stint and also avoid mistakes.

One of the things I really like about American tracks is that you do get punished for your mistakes. On street tracks and ovals, it’s pretty obvious you’re going to hit a wall or a tire wall if you get a corner wrong, but also the road courses like Mid-Ohio, Sonoma, Road America… they don’t let you get away with anything: you’re going to end up on grass or dirt or a sandtrap, and I think that’s the way it should be. So many of these new tracks being built all over the world have asphalt run-offs so it doesn’t hurt you to make a mistake – Pigot mistakesit may even help you because it opens up the corner! – and that’s not right.

Is it important to listen to potential new manufacturers about what types of engine to run, and therefore should IndyCar be thinking in terms of hybrid engines for 2018?

I think making the engines relevant to street cars is a good way forward. A lot of manufacturers are making small turbocharged 4-cylinders to replace their old V6s, and turbocharged V6s to replace their V8s. I think IndyCar needs a third manufacturer so giving the chance for a company to prove their technology on track, and take stuff from their track engine and apply it to their street car engines has got to be a good way to go. America is a massive market for just about every manufacturer, which is why you see a lot of factory teams in the TUDOR Championship. But you don’t see hybrid engines… I don’t know if it’s possible yet to build hybrids to race standard for a reasonable price; those F1 engines and WEC engines would be too expensive for most teams in IndyCar. As long as the engines are powerful and the cars are fast, I don’t think it’s a big issue what type of engine it is, so I think letting manufacturers themselves be your guide is a good plan.

Which brings us neatly onto another hot topic – spec cars or not?

I like spec cars because it’s then down to the driver and the engineer: it’s not necessarily down to who has the biggest development budget. You look at Formula 1 and a lot of the time you see teammates side by side on every row because there are big gaps between teams. You don’t know if the guy who’s qualified 16th is maybe more talented than the guy who’s sixth. The great thing about IndyCar is that you have Pigot underdogssmaller teams challenging Penske and Ganassi every week – maybe not the same smaller team each time but there’s always someone with a smaller budget mixing it with the big teams at every race. Everyone has a chance, and it’s better racing. [RIGHT: Dale Coyne Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing mixing it with Team Penske and Andretti Autosport at Long Beach, 2014.]

And how about team development? Should teams be allowed to do more to the cars? How spec is “spec” in your view?

I think IndyCar is probably a bit too strict at the moment: there are too many areas where the teams can’t do anything to adjust. I think the series should be opening the boxes a little to allow more development, because being able to lead a team in a particular technical direction with what’s basically a spec chassis used to be one of the skills of the best IndyCar drivers. And engineers, actually.

Should the Indy 500 be a more open-rules race in order to attract other teams?

Hmmm… I kind of think the opposite; that if the Indy rules were opened up, everyone would know the big teams were going to do whatever it took, and so that would be the one race where a small team or a team doing a one-off couldn’t win. So I doubt if it would attract extra teams. I like the Indy 500 as a championship race, the biggest in the series – the world, actually – and everyone runs the same stuff, except for the engine and aero kits. Everyone’s basic potential is the same, so anyone can win, in theory.


 

Pigot ovals

Interesting take… and you’re the first person to point out that opening the rules for that race might put off as many people as it attracted. Regarding ovals in general, the junior formulas on the Mazda Road To Indy don’t get to run on all the ovals because of their lower speed. As a rising star trying to reach IndyCar, how important do you feel it is to keep a bunch of ovals on the schedule?

I’ve got to say, I think it’s essential to keep ovals because the track variety makes IndyCar unique. Oval racing is such a different challenge. When I started racing, I thought it wouldn’t be that difficult, and now I’ve done them in USF2000 and Pro Mazda, I realize it’s incredibly hard to get the car setup and driving style just right. Thankfully, I’ve never raced an oval where you’re just flat-out all the way around; you have to really drive the car, and it’s a challenge.

And I think the races are really exciting to watch, really good for the fans: some of IndyCar’s races at Texas Motor Speedway [ABOVE] and Iowa have been awesome, and it amazes me more people don’t go to watch it. I hope the ovals never go away, and I do believe it’s really important for us to grow up racing on them because they are so challenging and different. Thankfully this new Indy Lights car is going to give us a lot of good preparation, because without that experience in your background, I imagine a full IndyCar around some of these ovals would feel pretty sketchy!

IndyCar 2018 - Closed cockpit or open cockpit?

It’s a weird subject because you never want to see someone get hurt but for me, open-wheel racing means also open cockpit. I’m sure IndyCar will keep on pursuing safety in terms of the cockpit, and the cockpit surround, but I hope we don’t go to a fully-closed cockpit. I liked Will Power’s idea – some overhead protection but not fully enclosed. Plus, I think it’s sad for the fans that they can’t see anything of the driver except the helmet, so I think it’s important to at least keep that view and more easily identify the driver.

Do you think there should be any alteration to the format of the races – More double-headers? Split Pocono into two 150-mile events? that kind of thing – just to mix it up?

I’m not sure the double-headers – one on a Saturday, one on a Sunday – really works. Detroit on Saturday last year looked kind of dead. Sunday will always be bigger. I know it wasn’t deliberate, but having two slightly shorter IndyCar races on the Sunday at Toronto, I thought, worked really well. I think if you have a really good support-race package to go with IndyCar practice and qualifying on the Saturday, having two IndyCar races on the Sunday might be a better format. I mean, it’s not like the crowd are there on Sunday to see the USF2000s, are they? Doing a double-header of shorter races at Pocono or Fontana might also work, but if someone crashes in the first race, they may not make the second race because oval crashes are higher speed so there’s more damage done.

You’re half my age and about one-third of the age of the decision makers in IndyCar, so you Pigot Wilson youngfansremember being 10 years old a lot better than many of us. What first attracted you to the sport and how can we make 10-year-olds into longterm fans?

Well I was at race tracks a lot because my dad used to work on Autocourse’s CART Indy car yearbooks, so I was always around it. And to be honest, I think that’s the trick: getting people to experience it in person. Every kid I talk to at the track loves it, and that means the races they can’t go to, they’ll watch on TV. But there has to first be that experience of it for real in order to appreciate the speed and the sound; standing there at Long Beach or St. Pete as they go by at 180mph, it’s a real sensation blast, real energy. That’s the only way to get someone hooked for life.

I think a lot of the city street races and also Milwaukee are very good at having facilities for the whole family, so that gets people through the gates, and it offers people more for their money. But if you want to make a connection that lasts forever, you’ve got to get the people to love the main event, too. That’s why Barber and Mid-Ohio have decent crowds. This country’s classic tracks like Road America [BELOW] would also get a good crowd, I believe. IndyCar can’t just look after the spectators who’ve come to enjoy a fairground ride or whatever. You’ve got to make it appeal to the fans who’ve come purely for the love of racing. And I think having massive power to make the cars spectacular and difficult would be a big part of that.

Remember to keep sending your thoughts and ideas to IndyCar2018@Racer.com

Pigot roadamerica

Wayne Taylor Racing’s efforts to pit Jordan Taylor in the final minutes of last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona to avoid running over the maximum drive time were unsuccessful [details here], leading IMSA to vacate the Corvette DP team’s third-place finish in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season opener.
 
A number of penalty options were available to IMSA, including exclusion from the event, and the sanctioning body ultimately chose a less harsh ruling. The No. 10 WTR car has been placed at the bottom of the Prototype class in the final standings, leaving Taylor, his brother Ricky Taylor, and Max Angelelli without a meaningful result at the series’ biggest event.
 
Although IMSA did not disclose the amount of time Jordan Taylor went over the rule that limits a driver to no more than four hours in a six hour span, multiple sources have put the overage at approximately 2min10sec. Some have put it more than 10 minutes. Teams are responsible for monitoring their own drive time calculations, and IMSA also records the drive time for each driver during long distance events.
 
In this case, it appears WTR and IMSA were aware Taylor was in jeopardy, but the reaction from the team happened a bit too late.
 
“It came to our attention right as the clock was about to expire on [Jordan Taylor’s] drive time, and there was a clear violation,” IMSA race director Beaux Barfield told RACER Friday morning. “And even in the tower, that’s an unofficial accounting until after the race when we do a full review.”
 
The decision to leave WTR with last-place points in Prototype, rather than opt for outright exclusion, can be attributed to a less rigid mindset adopted by IMSA.
 
“In the context of an entire 24-hour race and what we want the rule to achieve, we felt exclusion was too great of a penalty,” Barfield explained. “It was within our discretion to adjust the penalty for that rule going forward as a standard outcome for that violation.”
 
WTR owner Wayne Taylor accepted IMSA’s decision.
 
“Obviously, we are disappointed that inadvertently having Jordan drive a few more minutes than permitted has resulted in the issuance of these penalties,” he said in a statement released by the team. “We fully understand IMSA’s stance on this and will not challenge the penalties levied against us. We will move forward and continue to do our very best to succeed in our goal of winning this championship, which is one of the most difficult championships in all of motor racing. We look forward to the next round of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship at Sebring.”​

Ferrari F1 car 2015

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}

Ferrari has unveiled the new SF15-T 2015 Formula 1 car that it hopes will get it back in the hunt for victories with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen this season.

After a disappointing 2014 campaign that has prompted a major management and staffing overhaul, the team is determined that the changes it has made will help move it back up the grid.

The James Allison-designed car features a long protruding nose and an aggressive sidepod concept. But key to Ferrari's hopes will be what is underneath the skin, with the Italian team's power unit having been one the weak points of its 2014 season.

The team has undertaken a comprehensive overhaul of its engine in the hope of closing the gap on the benchmark Mercedes. As well as new management, Ferrari has a change on the driver front too with Vettel lining up alongside Raikkonen this year.

Vettel is due to give the car its first official run at Jerez in Spain on Sunday, when F1's first pre-season test starts.

1422616016

Originally on Autosport.com

072014 toronto BC 371096filippi sm

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}

CFH Racing announced today the addition of Luca Filippi (LEFT) to the team's driver lineup for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Filippi will drive the Fuzzy's Award Winning Vodka Chevrolet at all road and street course events during the upcoming year. He replaces Mike Conway (pictured, TOP), who is switching to full-time duty with the Toyota World Endurance Championship team.

Ed Carpenter, the only owner/driver in the series, will continue to contest the No. 20 car at the oval events. CFH Racing's two-car effort is rounded out by Josef Newgarden, driver of the No. 67 car in all races.

"It's a great feeling. I can't wait to race and share the No. 20 with Ed this year," stated Filippi. "I have to thank Ed, Fuzzy's Vodka and CFH Racing for this fantastic opportunity and I look forward to the successes we will enjoy this season!"

After beginning his career in karting, Filippi worked his way up the European formula car ladder. His skill and speed caught the attention of the Formula 1 paddock and Filippi was hired to be a test driver in 2005, 2007 and 2008 by several different teams. The Italian has a variety of accolades in multiple series, including second places finishes in the GP2 Championship, the Auto GP Championship and the GP2 Asia Championship.

Carpenter, who co-owns CFH Racing alongside Sarah Fisher and Wink Hartman, welcomes the addition of Filippi. "I am very excited to announce that Luca will be joining the team and driving the No. 20 Fuzzy's Award Winning Vodka Chevrolet for the road and street course events in 2015," said Carpenter.

He continued, "We have seen the potential that Luca has shown over the past two seasons in his limited races and we feel that he will allow us to continue to compete for wins. I cannot wait to get the season started so we can work towards our goal of claiming the entrant points championship."

Filippi made his IndyCar debut in 2013, competing in four races with Bryan Herta Autosport. In 2014, he participated in four races with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. The 29-year-old will drive for CFH Racing in 11 of the 17 events on the 2015 calendar. Filippi's schedule includes racing on the streets of Long Beach and Toronto, two of the three venues the team won at in 2014. Carpenter claimed the third victory on the oval of Texas Motor Speedway.

With CFH Racing entering two cars in 2015, Newgarden will have a teammate for the first time in his IndyCar career. "Having Luca join the CFH group is very exciting. He brings such a wealth of open wheel experience and talent," Newgarden said. "It's critical to have a fast driver in the seat next to you that pushes you every weekend and that you can learn from. He's going to be a tough guy to beat and that's exactly what we need to elevate our street and road course game."

Filippi recognizes the benefits as well. "Josef will be a very strong teammate to work with on the road and street courses. I'm looking forward to learning from him and watching Ed on the ovals as well," stated Filippi. "I'm really excited!"

Filippi will get behind the wheel early next week as he joins Newgarden and the CFH Racing team at Sebring International Raceway for their first test of 2015. Additional testing will take place throughout the months of February and March as the team prepares for the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Fla. on March 29.

Kaiser1The first official Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires oval test concluded Wednesday to rave reviews on the 1.485-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway circuit. Eleven drivers combined for a total of 1,200 incident-free laps aboard the new Mazda-powered Dallara IL-15 as teams worked on initial setups in preparation for three oval races on the 2015 schedule. Despite three oval racing novices, the field was covered by just nine-tenths of a second.

"It was a good oval test day; all were pretty well behaved," noted Tony Cotman, Indy Lights Race Director and Dallara IL-15 project manager. "I'm sure there are a few surprises on the time sheet but that's what we like. It's interesting to watch teams approaching things from different perspectives. The speeds were quick especially considering how much downforce teams were running. Running in traffic and race craft is a totally different challenge so there's a whole lot more to learn. Hopefully they are tuned up for the next oval test at Chicagoland [May 14]."

Juncos Racing rookies Kyle Kaiser pictured, ABOVE) and Spencer Pigot (BELOW) posted the quickest times of the test. Kaiser, 18, of Santa Clara, Calif., notched a best lap of 188.851mph (28.3081 seconds) narrowly missing the lap record set by the late Paul Dana of 189.745mph (28.1746) in 2004 by 0.1335 seconds.

"Today was a nice way to finish the week of testing," said Kaiser, a Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires graduate who was also quickest at the Palm Beach International Raceway test earlier in the month. "The team continues to demonstrate their ability to adapt to this new car. It's still early and there is a lot of work ahead, but we are making steady progress. It was my first time driving on an oval at this speed and the team gave me the perfect car to make the transition seamless. I'm looking forward to NOLA in a few weeks to continue our development."

Pigot1Pigot, 21, of Indianapolis, Ind., was just over a tenth off Kaiser's time with a best lap of 187.852mph (28.4585 seconds).

"We had a really productive week of testing at Homestead," added Pigot, the 2014 Pro Mazda champion. "We had lots of things we wanted to try both on the road course and the oval. The car was great on both tracks and I can't wait to get back in it and continue our test program."

Scott Anderson of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports ended the day third quickest with a lap of 187.833mph (28.4615 seconds) followed by Belardi Auto Racing teammates Juan Piedrahita (187.710mph/28.4801) – who was at the top of the times most of the day – and Felix Serralles (187.007mph/28.5871).

"The team gave me an awesome car today; it was very fast and very secure," said Piedrahita. "The Dallara IL-15 handles very well on the oval and I can't wait to drive it again. I'm very pleased with my team and I am sure we will have a great year. "

Andretti Autosport's Shelby Blackstock, who impressed in road course testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier in the week with the second fastest time, claimed sixth on the charts (186.136mph/28.7210) followed by RC Enerson of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, a graduate of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, with a lap of 185.373mph (28.8392).

Oval newcomers Ed Jones (185.155mph/28.8731) and Max Chilton (184.757mph/28.9353) of Carlin and Ethan Ringel (182.653mph/29.2686) of Schmidt Peterson - who declared "ovals are officially my new favorite thing" - were separated by Indy Lights vice champion Jack Harvey (184.792mph/28.9298), who is doing the bulk of the heavy-lifting development work for Schmidt Peterson.

The next series tests, in conjunction with the Cooper Tires Winterfest for Pro Mazda and USF2000, will take place at NOLA Motorsports Park on Feb. 18-19 and Barber Motorsports Park on Feb. 24-25.

Sauber 2015 F1 car

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}

Sauber unveil its 2015 Formula 1 car, the C34, on Friday.

After a disappointing 2014 F1 campaign, where it failed to score a single world championship point, the Swiss-based outfit is hoping it can rediscover the form that had it fighting for podiums in previous seasons.

Sauber has opted for a bold new look for the season ahead, with its color scheme switching from white and gray to blue and yellow. The Ferrari-powered car also has a striking nose design featuring a more rounded front edge than seen on the other 2015 cars so far.

Sauber's design team has focused on three areas for improvement over last year's car: better performance in slow-speed corners, weight reduction and improved braking stability.

The car features slimmer sidepods compared to the C33, and the team has overhauled its radiator concept and now mounted them horizontally.

Packaging around the rear of the car is much tighter, and Sauber's quest to get under the weight limit to allow maximum ballast has been boosted by the raising of F1's minimum weight limit to 702kg.

The team also has an all-new driver lineup for 2015, as Marcus Ericsson joins F1 rookie Felipe Nasr in place of Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez. Ericsson will be the first man to drive the car when he takes to the track at Jerez on Sunday.

Sauber plans to use an interim version of the car for the first test, which will include some parts still from the C33. These will be replaced with bespoke 2015 components ahead of the season.

Sauber 2015 F1 car

Originally on Autosport.com

yaris1

Toyota Yaris WRC

Toyota has officially confirmed it will return to the World Rally Championship in 2017 with a Yaris WRC.

Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda announced during a press conference in Tokyo on Friday that the world's biggest carmaker would end a WRC absence stretching back to the end of 1999.

The firm's motorsport arm – Cologne-based Toyota Motorsport GmbH – will develop the Yaris WRC for the next two seasons before its world championship debut. The Tokyo press conference was the first time the Yaris WRC had been shown in public.

"When I was in Finland last year, many fans asked me when Toyota would return to the WRC," Toyoda said. "People talked about Toyota's history in the WRC (BELOW). I was filled with surprise and gratitude that so many people still remembered.

Carlos Sainz, Toyota, WRC 1999

"I started to feel strongly that we must return while people still remember. We are doing this to make better cars, to make people smile."

He described Toyota's 2017 program as a new start rather than a comeback, given how long it had been away.

"We decided to return to the WRC and we plan to start competition again in 2017," said Toyoda. "Last time we competed was in 1999, that makes me think we are not announcing a return... but perhaps a start.

"We must begin again from scratch and carefully prepare both team and cars."

WRC Promoter's Oliver Ciesla welcomed Toyota back to the WRC, saying its arrival was a major endorsement for the series, which currently has three works teams in Volkswagen, Citroen and Hyundai alongside Fords run by ex-factory squad M-Sport.

"Toyota has a long and distinguished history in motorsport, particularly in world rallying, and we're delighted to welcome one of the automobile industry's giants back to WRC," said Ciesla. "Toyota's announcement brings a fifth manufacturer into WRC, including three of the world's five biggest-selling auto companies. The last season in which so many manufacturers were represented was 2006."

Toyota departed the WRC as champion team in 1999, having clinched a seventh world title in 10 years.

Toyota Yaris WRC

Originally on Autosport.com

B8cjUjYIEAANtxXABOVE: Only yesterday, this shot of construction work on the new Brazilian IndyCar circuit was posted on Twitter by IndyCar consultant Tony Cotman's NZRConsulting group. But now...

 

Related Stories

{loadposition legends}

RACER is continuing to gather facts, but according to Terracap, the government agency that owns the Autodromo International Nelson Piquet circuit that was scheduled to host the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener on March 8, the event has been canceled.

The decision to cancel the event was apparently made in response to ongoing local financial troubles.

"The track sold out all their hospitality, were delighted with ticket sales – sold 2/3rd of all seats with a month to go and there was really enthusiastic response from the fans," IndyCar boss Mark Miles told RACER. "It's a shame, it has nothing to do with the Verizon IndyCar Series, and we were all looking forward to a great start to the year in Brazil. There's an appetite for our series in Brazil."

The loss of the Brazilian round will not impact the financial support for the paddock, according to Miles. "Without going into details, it won't change the Leader Circle distribution for our stakeholders," he confirmed.

Provided the event remains canceled, it would significantly alter the off-season test plans for IndyCar teams. The series has introduced aero kits for 2015 – original bodywork created by engine manufacturers Chevy and Honda, and had scheduled their first appearance in competition for St. Petersburg, the round following Brazil.

Private testing has been conducted by many teams with their spec 2014 Dallara bodywork in preparation for its final use at Brazil, but with Brazil off the calendar, the shortened, 16-race season would kick off with aero kits in place. Aero kits delivery has been schedule for no later than March 1, yet with this twist, it could lead Chevy and Honda to accelerate the timeline for their distribution and use.

A pending announcement from the series should provide additional clarity on the situation.

660x440 LEDE 1985 Henns Swap Shop Racing Porsche 962 GTP 8 Daytona Winner cWith the 2015 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in the books, let's look back and weave our way through the wild tale of the 1985 SunBank 24 Hours of Daytona. 30 years later, some of the details are still hard to believe.

The polesitter had to be bailed out of jail on a $125,000 bond before he could dominate time trials, the winning team relied on a feisty, flu-ridden Frenchman, a borrowed Belgian, a man known as "Super Tex," another simply known as "Senior," and just for kicks, a NASCAR star decided to pass 14 cars on the opening lap – before pitting moments later and handing everything back to Daytona Beach's sun-tanned racing gods.

And it didn't stop there.

Buried within the 76-car field, a young punk from Northern California was busy opening his endurance racing account at the 24 Hour. One of his fiercest rivals in the years to come would also make his Daytona debut, lasting all of 12 laps before retiring – the first car out of the race. Fathers raced against sons, legends of Indy car and stock car battled in a diverse array of untamed IMSA GTP machinery, and we even had the birth of a new class that survives in modified form today.

State-of-the-art IMSA cars weren't dressed or constructed from carbon fiber in 1985, nor were they connected from end to end by electronics. Data acquisition was in its infancy, telemetry sounded like an obscure form of math, and no one had heard of the Internet or cell phones. It was an analog time in America, and our longest endurance race fit perfectly within those pre-digital days.

It was tubeframe GTUs carrying small-displacement engines that were lovingly low-tech and highly reliable. Their big brothers, the tubeframe GTOs, were hulking creations that belched flame from unrepentant V8s, V12s, and tightly-wound turbos.

IMSA's biggest draw, the Grand Touring Prototypes, was peaking in terms of car counts and interest, and thanks to Porsche's decision to build the 962, the turnkey chassis was the closest thing to a surefire win at Daytona. The rest of the GTP class was filled with offerings from Jaguar, March, Lola, Royale, Alba, and engines from Buick, Chevy, along with a few holdover silhouettes like the Porsche 934 and 935. Half were ticking time bombs, and the other half couldn't be killed. Reliability, for many GTP teams, was an abstract term measured in hours, and they rarely added up to the number 24.

Marshall Pruett Archives 182 Lights Winner 1985 Daytona cAnd then you had GTP Lights – better known today as Camel Lights, in deference to IMSA's longtime tobacco sponsor – which came to life with minimal fanfare. The 700-kilo prototypes (RIGHT) used the same trusty 1.3-liter twin-rotor Mazda engine that powered most of the GTU cars, and with the fastest Lights entry lapping a full 20.2 seconds shy of the GTP pole, the little cars prepared for two days of potential trampling.

 


 1985 Conte Racing March Buick 45 Daytona Pole Winner Pruett Archives cBy the numbers, 29 GTPs, 3 GTP Lights, 27 GTOs and 17 GTUs took the start at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, but the fun started well before the green flag waved.

To get a feel for the raw power and speed demonstrated by the GTP and GTO cars, Lew Price's brand-new Lee Racing V8-powered Lola Corvette was merely the 14th-fastest GTP car in its class, yet still managed to crack 205mph entering Turn 1. We know this precious fact because that's the speed that Price achieved when the rear wing tore off the car and sent the Englishman for the scariest ride of his life during pre-race testing.

Once it came to a stop – minus most of its fiberglass bodywork, Price looked like he was strapped into a shaved aluminum cat. The turbocharged Porsches and Buicks were capable of greater top speeds, and as we'll learn a bit later, the best GTO cars were even faster on the banking.

What an absolutely terrifying race to attempt in the slower classes.

The GTP pole went to General Motors and its rabid, when-will-it-blow Buick turbo. Strapped into the back of Conte Racing's March chassis (ABOVE), the new production-based 3.5-liter V6 was always a candidate for self-ventilation, but while it lasted during time trials, the semi-nuclear mill could move mountains. And on the odd occasion when the engines remained in one piece, their transmission-shattering torque left numerous Buick drivers idling into the race results as a DNF.

While IMSA's Daytona Prototypes and P2s squabbled over pole position last week – fighting for fractions of a second until Ozz Negri claimed the top spot by 0.108 seconds, let's take a moment to celebrate the pole-winning lap set by John Paul Jr. in 1985 where he put a full 1.7 seconds between himself and second place. Fifth was 3.9 seconds arrears.

The fact that Paul Jr. was free to sit in the car, much less earn the pole, was newsworthy at the time. Jailed after being indicted for a number of crimes associated with his drug-trafficking father John Paul Sr., it took $125,000 handed over to the great state of Florida by Phil Conte to pry Paul Jr. from his holding cell.

The embarrassed 24-year-old rewarded Conte's faith with a stellar performance in qualifying, and a reported audience of 33,000 watched as Paul Jr. led the field into Turn 1 and held the point for the first hour of the race. Deep in the GTP pack, NASCAR legend Bobby Allison – a surprise name on the entry list – spooled up Buick's fearsome hand-grenade – and rocketed from 19th to fifth by the end of the 3.5-mile lap. Two laps later, the eldest member of the Alabama Gang brought the Pegasus Racing March to pit lane in search of remedies for its electrical woes.

Out front, Paul Jr. was on a mission, but later, a blown tire with co-driver Bill Adam at the controls would cause enough bodywork damage to rob Conte's team of a meaningful result.

The lead changed hands and it wasn't long before the central theme for the 1985 race began to emerge. The armada of bullet-proof Porsche 962s might have lacked almighty pace over a single lap, but their pounding, machine-like march in the race was beyond anything the rest of the GTP runners could match. Not for hours on end.

1985 Holbert Racing Porsche 962 GTP 14 Daytona cHolbert Racing's Lowenbrau-liveried 962 was the closest thing Porsche had to a full works program, and once Conte's March-Buick blinked, the trio of Al Holbert, Derek Bell, and Al Unser Jr. locked onto the lead and dared their rivals to set off in pursuit.

Few, if any, were truly up for the task, but that didn't stop a fellow 962 team from giving it a shot. If the Lowenbrau Porsche was driven by three hunter/killers, Preston Henn's Swap Shop 962 was staffed by, well, an eclectic mix of aging open-wheel legends in A.J. Foyt and Al Unser (who was making his 24-hour debut), and the supremely talented sports car ace Bob Wollek.


Marshall Pruett Archives Bob Wollek c

Pitting Wollek (ABOVE) against any of the Lowenbrau drivers was like sharpening steel on steel. Pulling the Frenchman out of Henn's 962 meant softer grades of metal was subjected to Holbert's scything driver rotation.

With no disrespect to Foyt, the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans victor and 4-time Indy 500 winner, or his friend Unser, then a 3-time Indy 500 winner and a complete newcomer to endurance racing, the team needed a bit more speed to keep the Lowenbrau 962 from disappearing into the night.

And here, friends, is where the real amusement begins.

Backtracking to how the Lowenbrau and Swap Shop lineups were formed, New Mexico's first family of open-wheel racing could have ended up in different 962s.

"Al Holbert called me up and asked me to be his third driver," Unser Jr. said earlier this week. "Of course, I accepted because of his performance in the past and I knew the team was really good and I knew they had a real shot at winning. And then a couple of weeks went by and A.J. called..."

Being asked to drive with Holbert was an honor, but a request from a certified, deified Brickyard hero like Foyt left the young Indy car star caught in a bind. Was reversing course with Holbert an option?

"I told him that I had already committed to Al Holbert and couldn't go back on my word, and that took every ounce of strength I had, but I said what about my father?" said Jr. "A.J. goes, 'Really? Do you think he would do it?' I said, 'I don't know, but I could call him and ask him.'

"So I called my dad and he goes, '24 hours? I can't stand it and it's a long race. Chances of winning are slim to none....'

"Dad just went on and on. I said, 'Dad, I'm going down there with Al Holbert. Foyt just called me. Come on down. Drive for Foyt, I'll be in another car, and we'll do it together. He finally gave in."

foyt pruettFoyt (LEFT), who'd won the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1983 with Wollek in one of Henn's Porsche 935s, says he was pleased with his matchmaking abilities for the 1985 race.

"Bob Wollek was known to be one of the best Porsche drivers around the world, and we'd driven together already," he said days after his 80th birthday. "And Al and I go way back. I had no doubts that he could do the job and do it quite well and probably better than 99 percent of the other guys that I knew. If he was still racing, that is definitely who I would want right beside me. It was great to be partners with both of them. Wollek was known to be far better than me or Unser or anybody in those cars, so we knew he would be the fast one on our team."

With Foyt and the elder Unser in the Swap Shop 962, Henn and crew chief Mike Colucci had two of the most famous names in motor racing at their disposal, but history and a combined 7 Indy 500 wins meant little to the Lowenbrau drivers who were lapping 2-3 seconds faster than the open-wheel legends.

Already a few laps down because of the speed disparity, and with Holbert's team threatening to run away with the race before darkness fell over the field Saturday night, a Hail Mary was needed. Enter the borrowed Belgian.

Marshall Pruett Archives 177 Thierry Boutsen Arrows F1 1985 cArrows Formula 1 driver Thierry Boutsen (LEFT) was hired to drive for Bruce Leven's Bayside Racing Porsche 962 team in 1985, and while he and his teammates factored in the early stages of the race, a blown engine after 100 laps left the wiry, determined man from Brussels with nothing to do as nightfall approached. Enter Wollek.

"The thing was the first car broke down from Bayside very quickly, and we were done," Boutsen said from the office of his Monaco-based aviation business. "I had already packed and put my stuff in the rental car. I was leaving the paddock to go to the airport when Bob Wollek stopped me!"


1985 Henns Swap Shop Racing Porsche 962 GTP 8 Daytona Winner 2 c

As time has gone on, the popular version of how Boutsen came to drive for two different 962 teams paints Iron Man Wollek as increasingly weak, and Boutsen as the perfect support system to carry the load – to ease the strain on his ailing friend.

While there's no doubt that Wollek's flu became the entry point for Boutsen to join the Swap Shop team, the affable Belgian admits there was a secondary motive at play.

"Bob said, 'I'm driving with two drivers that are going very slow and I would need some help,'" the 3-time F1 race winner admitted. "Before Daytona, I drove as a replacement driver in a Porsche 956 with Bob in the 1000km of Monza. We won that race, so that is where the relationship got started. When he told me he said the car is good enough to win the race, but I need your support, I said, 'Great, let's go.' I went back to the parking lot, got all of my gear, changed and went from one car to the other."

A steady rain started to fall around 6 p.m., and persisted throughout the night. For the two European road racing aces on the team, rain was seen as an opportunity to claw back time to the Lowenbrau Porsche. Their American counterparts held differing views on the topic.

"The interesting thing I remember very well was that I did a double stint, came out of the car and Foyt went in, and then it started to rain," Boutsen recalled. "He came right away into the pit, and said, 'Well, I'm not driving when it's wet. I happened to be there so I put my helmet back on and went for another double stint, I believe. It was quite an adventurous race."

The Boutsen-Wollek combo was frighteningly effective, paying immediate dividends, and with the two sports car specialists on a hunt for the Holbert 962, Henn's driver rotation started to veer in an obvious direction.

1985 Bayside Porsche 962 GTP 86 Daytona Thierry Boutsen cWollek's flu was a genuine issue – a limiting factor that diminished his endurance, but not his speed, and with his energy depleting, Boutsen (shown left in his Bayside car) became Swap Shop's workhorse. Brilliant Bob and Terrific Thierry drove 15 of the final 18 stints in the 1985 race, with nine of those 15 belonging to Boutsen.

His relentless efforts were even more impressive considering he'd driven the car for the first time – and gotten a feel for its handling characteristics – during the race.

"I was ready physically and I knew the Porsche very, very well, even though I had not driven this car before," said Boutsen. "I needed five seconds to understand that car and the setup, and I just went for it. I was doing double stints all the way after that."

Boutsen's lap times were borderline ridiculous, but with the team's compromised pace before his arrival, and a lengthy pit stop for mechanical repairs, the Swap Shop car was more than a dozen laps behind by Saturday night. Up front, the Lowenbrau Porsche continued extending its lead, and was sitting pretty in the early Sunday morning.

"It was somewhere around 3 or 4 a.m., and we must have had a 25-minute lead over Dad's car just past the halfway point in the race," said Unser Jr. "We had it covered so bad that we were just gone. We had checked out. We weren't even driving that hard by then because we were so far ahead. I mean, Al had the car prepared so well, and with Derek Bell, it was just a great team to be driving for. The car was just super fast, and we were commanding the race easily."

Boutsen was Swap Shop's Hail Mary, and he more than matched the lap times set by the leading car, but there was no way he and Wollek would bridge the enormous gap to the leader in the 12 hours left on the clock. What happened next must have felt like divine intervention.

"A little while before sunrise, we started having problems," Unser Jr. noted. "Then we slowly watched our lead disappear."

The Lowenbrau 962's motor was off-song, lap times began to suffer, and by 9 a.m., the team's 13-lap lead over Boutsen and Company was in jeopardy. Clogged fuel filters were targeted as the cause of the problems, and even with a quick exchange from old to new filters, four laps were surrendered. The problem reappeared around noon, and another round of filter changing was required. The lead was down to six laps when Holbert pulled out of the pits.

Henn's team has finished second at Daytona in 1984, and found no valor in racing for another runner-up result. With Boutsen and Wollek in full attack mode, and their main rival having blinked Sunday morning, Colucci turned up the boost on the Swap Shop 962 and gambled on the outcome. With 3.5 hours left to run, Boutsen and Wollek turning 1:50s with ease, and the Holbert Porsche struggling to maintain its pace as fuel delivery problems continued, the extra engine power was making a difference.

Marshall Pruett Archives Derek Bell cBy 2 p.m., the Lowenbrau juggernaut was now limping its way around the circuit. A pit stop to adjust fuel pressure actually made the problem worse. With Bell (LEFT) in the car, the Englishman ventured out and could do no better than a 2:09 – nearly 20 seconds adrift from Boutsen on the same lap.

Within the Holbert Porsche camp, throwing more replacement parts at the fuel system seemed futile. The problem, it seemed, was more electrical than anything else. With insufficient voltage making it to the fuel system, Porsche's Alwin Springer called for the voltage box to be replaced. The new unit acted as a cure-all; Bell ripped off a 1:49, demonstrated the 962's regained speed, but their lead was down to two laps with one hour left to run. Could the Holbert team hold onto their hard-fought, hardly-there advantage to win their first SunBank 24?

"I was coming out of the chicane, I believe, and it just shut off with absolutely no warning," said Bell. "I coasted to a stop – out in the middle there somewhere on the grass."

He lost a lap when the 962 fell silent, coaxed it back to life, but it coughed one more time and everyone knew the voltage box was to blame. A swift replacement by Bell could save the day.

"I was trying to change the electrical box to get it going again, and I'd got my helmet on because you have to your helmet to listen to what they're saying over the radio," he continued. "Sweat is pouring down your face. I wasn't at my best after 23 hours or whatever it was.

"I've got Alwin yelling in my ear, 'You've got to stick the yellow lead and the red lead and the blue lead and the green lead and the pink lead in this spot and that spot. But I said, 'The trouble is, Alwin, there are eight holes to stick them and I've only got five bloody leads! Where do I put them?"

It takes 1440 minutes to complete a 24-hour race. Bell, Holbert and Unser Jr. moved into the lead after approximately 120 minutes, Lorded over the event until the 1390-minute mark, and were powerless to halt Henn's Swap Shop 962 from sweeping into the lead just 50 minutes shy of the finish.

It was, as Unser Jr. explains, hard for the Lowenbrau team to accept.

"When A.J. and Dad passed us for the lead, it was just heartbreaking," he said. "I remember when the race was over and I was leaving the racetrack, and we were all so tired. I was just so tired. We were stuck in traffic trying to leave, and the emotions just came over me. We were so close to winning that thing. I was so overcome, we just got out of the car and walked to our hotel. I just couldn't be there any longer."

After the race, Holbert – the perfectionist's perfectionist – pointed to "finger trouble" for the voltage box's failure. "We replaced our voltage box, but we didn't replace it thoroughly," he said in a masterful construction of understatement. They had the speed, the had the right car, but good fortune was in short supply.

By 1985, Foyt and Wollek had found a happy medium that worked for both men, but during their first encounters, the strong-willed racers were borderline enemies. In his weakened state, and with the last stint left to run, Boutsen handed the Swap Shop 962 over to his friend for the final hour. It was a small gesture at the time, but 30 years later, it still resonates: Foyt, done with his duties behind the wheel, could have followed Unser Sr.'s lead and headed back to the transporter to pack his gear, but he chose to stay in the pits, held Wollek's helmet as he donned his suit to take the Porsche to the finish line, and then held his gloves as the French ace finished dressing.

Foyt's known for his toughness, but on this day, in that moment, kindness was the only aspect of A.J.'s character on display.

"It took a while, but Bob Wollek and I turned out to be good friends, and he was a hell of a race driver," Foyt declared. "It was a great honor to race with him."

The 1985 Daytona race was Foyt's final 24-hour win. His reluctant friend Unser came away from the race with a perfect winning record in 24-hour races.

"Yes, that was my first 24-hour race, and we won it, which doesn't happen often, I'm sure," he said with a laugh.

After putting up such a fight to try and skip the race, you might say Foyt padded the truth a little bit in order to get his pal Unser in the car.

"Well, Foyt told me, 'We'll go out and win it and it'll be the greatest victory that you'll ever realize,'" Unser continued. "I say, 'Really? Better than Indianapolis?' He said, well, yeah, it will. I said, 'OK.' We won and it wasn't any better than Indianapolis... Indianapolis is still superior to me. I'm not sure where A.J. got that idea, or if he even believed it himself, but that's what he told me to get me to go..."

Combined with his Daytona win in 1983, Foyt's endurance racing record in Florida continued to expand.

"It was a great day that we had out there, and we were fortunate enough to win it twice. I miss not being there," he said.

The 1985 SunBank 24 was Foyt's final win at Daytona, but is wasn't his last endurance racing triumph: He closed that chapter of his career in March of '85 with Wollek at the Sebring 12 Hours, handing IMSA's two biggest prizes to Preston Henn in a span of six weeks.


1985 Roush Mustang 65 Daytona Winner Pruett Archives c

Behind the first seven GTP cars, Jack Roush and Charlie Selix watched as Wally Dallenbach Jr., Doc Bundy, and John Jones claimed GTO honors in the No. 65 Roush Protofab Mustang (ABOVE).

It's challenging to adequately describe the difference between the top GT cars at Daytona in 1985 and the emasculated creations that run in GTLM today. Take your production-based GTLM Corvettes and Ferraris where manufacturers are forced to turn performance levels down to comply with the regulations, and compare them to the tubeframe, silhouette GTO Mustangs where every facet of the car was turned up.

Horsepower limits were governed by reliability, rather than air restrictors, and with a lightweight chassis and giant, gumball tires to handle extreme acceleration and cornering speeds, their sheer ferocity made some of the GTP cars look tame.

"In '85, that was really my first year with Roush Racing and Protofab," said Dallenbach Jr. "One thing that stands out was the horsepower that we had. Jack was making some huge numbers in those cars. We were well over 200 miles an hour in the GTO cars. I remember passing the 962s on the back stretch... Al Holbert came to our pits one time, grabbed Charlie and said, 'What the hell is in that thing?'

"We were over 200 on the banking and that was the time where you had great tires, all that horsepower, and there was nothing more fun to drive because you could 'cowboy' them. If you stepped on the gas pedal, you'd better have a handful of steering wheel because that thing was going sideways. That was the hardest thing, probably, with those GTO cars back then, was to keep telling yourself to drive straight off the corners. You really had to take care of the tires because you could burn the tires off those things really fast if you wanted to."

Rocketing through such a large field with so much power came with inherent risks. Whether it was unexpected contact with another car, or a mechanical problem that appeared, Roush had a plan on how to start the recovery process.

"The traffic was pretty difficult, and you really had to stay on your toes the entire time," Dallenbach Jr. explained. "I remember right before the race Jack got together with all the drivers and gave each of us a $100 bill to put in our uniform. We were all looking at each other like, what the heck is this? He said, 'Listen, if anything happens during the race and you guys pull off or whatever, this hundred dollar bill is to pay whoever can get you back to the garage area. If you have to bribe a tow truck guy or you need fans to push you back, just do it...spend the money...'

"I thought that was a great idea. That is pretty good thinking because a lot of times back then if you broke and they could push you off into an opening, that was it. You were stuck there until your team got you, which could eat up a lot of valuable time. I had to use that $100 bill more than once racing for Jack and it saved our bacon."

The No. 65 Mustang won GTO by a full 38 laps, and for the son of former Indy car racer Wally Dallenbach, the victory set his career in motion.

"That whole deal really put me on the map, winning the 24-hour like that," he affirmed. "What those racecars go through...it amazes me that anybody finishes that race. I think that was our strong point back in 1985 – it was the preparation of our cars for those endurance races. We were pretty much unbeatable that year in the endurance races in IMSA, and everything took off for me afterwards."

The 1985 race launched Dallenbach Jr., and in the bottom-tier GTU class, another future star was making his endurance racing debut – and a case to join the Roush team in 1986.

Marshall Pruett Archives 174 Mazda RX 7 Pruett Example d"I was there making my first start in a little Mazda RX-7," said Scott Pruett, who just celebrated 30 years at Daytona. "It's so much different from then to now. It's how you approach the race and what you do. When I was 24 years old and going there for the first time, it was more of a gentlemanly race. We slept in the back of a van at the track in a parking lot. You ate whatever you could find. No joke.

"It wasn't this regime of what you do now with motorhomes and dozens of people supporting you. It was a group of guys on zero budget kind of winging it and having fun while doing our best. Drivers today would be shocked to try and do it like we did in '85."

Pruett, Paul Lewis, and Joe Varde placed second in the No. 42 Mike Meyer RX-7 (similar to the No. 71 at left), and as he tells it, the young karting ace wasn't sure whether his breakout performance would lead to bigger things.

"We came very close to winning that race, which was incredibly exciting, but as a new guy, you have no idea what was ahead of you, all those opportunities that would come, or the wins that would follow. No clue. That race was the start for me, really, a huge start to my professional career," he said.

Pruett would go on to earn championships and wins for decades, and continues to race today for Chip Ganassi in the IMSA-sanctioned TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. Of the other memories that emerged from the 1985 race, Pruett credits the SunBank 24 for learning to survive in traffic...and some twin-rotor hearing loss.

"You had to drive all the time with one eye in your rearview mirror and one eye looking forward because you didn't want to get run over by somebody else who was going a lot faster than you were in the other classes," he said. "And, two, the other part that was incredibly horrible about that car was how loud the Mazda was.

"That rotary engine just killed you, on the best day, with the noise it made. I probably lost the majority of the hearing loss that I have right now in that race because the muffler fell off about halfway through. I couldn't wish that on anybody. It was almost too painful to drive."

 


 

 Marshall Pruett Archives 175 Al Unser Jr and Sr 1985 c

In hindsight, the 1985 SunBank 24 at Daytona served as the final trial for Holbert and the Lowenbrau 962 team. They'd return in 1986 with the same lineup and beat Foyt and the Swap Shop team by less than two minutes. With Chip Robinson added to the team, Holbert scored back-to-back wins in 1987, leading Walter Brun's 962 to the finish with a comfy eight-lap margin.

Even with a pair of Rolex 24 wins to his credit, Unser Jr. (with his dad, ABOVE) still laments the 1985 loss and the missed opportunity to score a Daytona hat trick.

"I had the car, I had the team...I mean...we had led the whole thing," he said. "No one was going to touch us unless we broke. And that is what ended up happening. I still want that win... But if I broke, then the next person I would want to win would be my father, because he had never won there. He did, it was great, I was really happy for him. I was just distraught for Al Holbert and the Lowenbrau team. That's the way it goes. We came back in '86 and '87 and got it done, though."

For Boutsen, a miserable and early end to the race turned into the most improbable outcome thanks to Wollek. The lowest of lows followed by the highest of highs. Of all the experiences that came from jumping teams in 1985, he says one of the most valuable and enduring gifts he received is part of his life today.

"The most amazing thing has nothing to do with racing; it's my relationship with Preston Henn," he revealed. "I'm now in the aviation business, I sold one of his airplanes a couple of years ago and we have had very good contact through my business. I used him to win the Daytona 24 and he used me to sell his airplanes! The continuation of the relationship is really great. He's a really great man. I admire everything he has done.

"And he gave me a chance in 1985. 1984 was a bad year for me, and winning Daytona really changed many things for me. That is what life is all about. You're not a part or a machine; you are a human being and when you can get something out of racing with a long relationship and friendship, it's much better than anything else."

  • A special thanks goes to Jonathan Ingram and the incredible 17-page race report he wrote for On Track magazine that serves as an invaluable historical account of the 1985 event.

Video: The Champions Issue

The Champions Issue is on sale now. Click here for more information.

FROM THE RACER CHANNEL ON YOUTUBE

 

Robin Miller's IndyCar "fireside chats"

 

TUDOR United SportsCar Championship: Interviews and insights from Marshall Pruett.

Like us On Facebook



Twitter Feed

racer daily bulletin icon