Twin brothers Brian and Mark Simo of Carlsbad, Calif., will have the rare opportunity to travel to races together this season, when the American Le Mans Series and the BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am Series share five race weekends. The two started their racing careers together in motocross, co-founded the No Fear sports brand and work together running the business. Now they'll get to race together, too.
The 2000 season starts for both series with the Superflo 12 Hours at Sebring, March 13 to 19, at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. The series will also appear together in Charlotte, N.C.; Fort Worth, Texas; Monterey, Calif. and Las Vegas.
Mark Simo, the 1998 SPORTS CAR GT3 champion, will move up to the American Le Mans Series prototype class this season after two years of GT competition. He'll co-drive the Pole Team's No. 02 Judd- powered Riley & Scott Mk III at Sebring.
He acknowledged the potential advantage of sharing track tips with Brian. "Knowledge is king, so having somebody there who's going on the same track at the same temperature on the same day, you can compare notes," he said. "I like watching Brian race. It's different than watching anybody else race. It almost feels like I'm out there doing it."
He believes linking the two road-racing series will create a powerful synergy. "It combines the strength of two different series on the same weekend. It brings together everybody from different forms of racing that are now combined with the American Le Mans Series," he said, noting that many top ALMS drivers have excelled in Trans-Am racing, including Jack Baldwin, Ron Fellows, Butch Leitzinger, Boris Said, Dorsey Schroeder and Hans Stuck.
Brian Simo returns for his sixth full Trans-Am season. Last year, he scored six wins, eight poles, nine podium finishes and four fastest race laps in the No. 2 Valvoline Ford Mustang Cobra to finish a close second to Paul Gentilozzi in the series championship. He'll be chasing the title this year in the No. 88 Tommy Bahama Mangusta for Huffaker/Qvale Motorsports.
Ironically, Brian lost the 1999 championship by just 13 points at the season finale in Sebring. He's looking for a strong finish on the historic 3.7-mile road course this month. "Sebring is where we left off, and we lost the championship there," he said. "Hopefully, we'll have a better start to the season this year, and we'll come back in the number one car next year. That's what it's all about. That's why we're here."
He, too, admitted that having a twin onside during the race weekend "will be an asset."
born: Beloit, Wis. residence: Carlsbad, Calif. family: wife Celeste, daughter Savannah
Brian Simo started SCCA showroom-stock racing in 1990. He competed twice in the SCCA Runoffs and won the 1993 Willow Springs Sportsman Series championship. In 1995, his first full season in the BFGoodrich Tires Trans-Am series, he was the only driver to post top-10 finishes in all 11 races and the only driver to complete every lap. In 1997, he finished second in the driver championship with seven top-five finishes, including five of the last seven races. In 1998, he again finished second, with two wins in the final two events of the season and six podium finishes. In 1999, he collected his third runner- up title with six victories, eight poles and nine podium finishes. He was the only driver to start every 1999 race in the top five.
Brian has also competed in several sports-car races. He finished fourth in class in the 1996 Rolex 24 at Daytona, scored SPORTS CAR GT2 wins for BMW Team PTG at Minneapolis and Road Atlanta in 1998 and finished third in GT at the 1999 Petit Le Mans.
born: Beloit, Wis. residence: Carlsbad, Calif. family: single
Mark Simo started racing motocross at age 12. He drove a Camaro in showroom stock GT competition in 1990 and '91, and won the 1992 Firestone Firehawk championship as a team owner, with drivers Boris Said and Peter Cunningham. Mark did not race in 1993. He competed in the Willow Springs Sportsman Series for late-model cars in 1994 and '95, and won the 1995 championship.
Mark and NASCAR Winston Cup star Ernie Irvan formed Irvan-Simo Racing in 1995. The team was one of the original NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams and a regular contender from the series inception in 1995 to 1998. Mark competed in three truck races ('95 Topeka Park, '96 Sears Point and '98 Watkins Glen). His best finish was sixth at Watkins Glen, after starting 24th.
Mark competed in his first sports-car race in 1997, and drove for BMW Team PTG in 1998 and '99. He won the 1998 SPORTS CAR GT3 driver championship in his rookie season, with victories at Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Mosport and Road Atlanta. Mark wil race in the American Le Mans Series prototype class in 2000. Irvan-Simo Racing has also moved up this year, to a full-time Winston Cup program, fielding cars in partnership with Robby Gordon.
business: Brian and Mark Simo founded the sports brand No Fear in 1990. They formed Spy Optic, a leading sports optics company, in 1995.