TOPEKA, Kan. (March 29, 2005) – It took a grand total of one race for SCCA SPEED World Challenge driver Tommy Archer to match his total victory count from last season, and it could be argued that nobody in the history of racing has received more scrutiny after earning only two victories in two years.-30-
Superficially, the win was a nice way to begin his SCCA SPEED GT title defense. But after scratching the top layer away, Archer’s first-round win at the 53rd Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring may have, ironically, raised a question or two more about him than existed before. The most intriguing of which, it seems, is how good of a driver is Tommy Archer?
It’s a question, apparently, that no one has quite figured out an answer to.
There are whispers that it has more to do with Archer’s No. 1 c3controls/3R-Racing Dodge Viper than Archer himself. But those arguing for Archer point out the range of Viper finishes (from Archer’s first-place all the way down to 24th) at Sebring, saying that if it was indeed the car, then all of the Vipers should have been toward the top of the list.
If that’s the case, then is it possible that Archer is simply that good?
Considering Archer’s 2004 World Challenge track record alone - top-10 in all ten SPEED GT events along with eight top-fives and four podiums – it’s hard not to entertain the thought that the answer to that question is simply, yes.
Most everyone knows how 2004 turned out as Archer used that stretch of high-end finishes to claim his first SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Drivers’ Championship.
Even so, Archer wasn’t necessarily the favorite to enter 2005 and start the year with a win. Teammate Phil McClure switched rides to the No. 2 FirsTier Bank/3R-Racing Dodge Viper during the offseason, moving away from the Corvette he had competed in previously.
With the new ride, some observers thought that the switch might be the push McClure needed to get back to the top after winning consecutive races to begin the 2003 season.
Another popular choice to start this year with a win was Farnbacher Loles Motorsport driver Wolf Henzler, who left many people wondering if he would be the one to beat coming in after entering two events in 2004 in the No. 55 Applied Materials/Jongbloed Racing Wheels Porsche and winning both of them.
From there, the names of other legitimate potential winners roll off of the tongue faster than they can be thought up; among those: Leighton Reese, Lou Gigliotti, Robin Liddell, not to mention the duo brought in by Team Cadillac, Andy Pilgrim and Max Papis – the list goes much farther than this, and the point of mentioning all of those names is that while they all were thought of as possible favorites, it was Archer who topped them all when it mattered – on race day.
Henzler sat on the pole entering the Sebring race after ripping off the fastest time during practice (which was used to set the grid after heavy rains washed out qualifying the day before the race). Archer started second.
Off the line, it took a matter of seconds for Archer, sans the utilization of launch or traction control, to launch from his spot and overtake Henzler. With everyone behind him, Archer could afford to drive through his mirrors, watching the other drivers wear down their cars battling each other while he maintained his lead. It worked, and he won.
Now that the first race out of the way, the REWARDS weight that comes with racing in SCCA SPEED World Challenge makes its first appearance of the year. Adjustments will be made to cars, and team engineers, along with the drivers, will figure out how to adjust.
It’s now (starting with this weekend’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, in St. Petersburg, Fla.) that Tommy Archer will truly begin to prove whether the “better car” theorists or “better driver” theorists are closer to correct.
Either way, it’s going to a lot of fun watching how things play out in SCCA SPEED GT between now and October.
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