You can get details on what's happening with the U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca elsewhere on Motorsport.com. The following is what isn't going to be hitting the news and PR wires -- at least for now. NEW POWER FOR SOME...
You can get details on what's happening with the U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca elsewhere on Motorsport.com. The following is what isn't going to be hitting the news and PR wires -- at least for now.
NEW POWER FOR SOME TEAMS IN 2007, MAYBE
With some Rolex Series teams not doing as well in 2006 as they did in 2005 and being well out of a points-win opportunity, anyway, experimentation for some with an eye on the 2007 season has already kicked into high gear at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
One particular past champion having present V-8 power is thinking possible "Porsche power" for 2007 after one of its drivers spent some time behind the wheel of another team's Porsche-powered DP during Thursday's Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca's promoter-sponsored practice day.
"I always said the Porsche engine was a good engine; just in the wrong car," one driver said after his run, pushed by Porsche power. "Now that it's in at least three different chassis everyone is learning how good of an engine it really is."
NEW POWER, FOR SURE
While some teams are thinking about changing engine brands, others are just weeks - maybe only one week if everything comes together - from just simply changing engines.
Lexus engine-builder Toyota Racing Development is nearing its finish-line in the preparation of a new 5-liter Daytona Prototype engine used in the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve.
"We hope to get it approved by Grand-Am maybe as early as next week," one TRD type said at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. "For the most part we're just cleaning it up. It'll pretty much look like and be the same engine."
Though ½-liter more in displacement, the engine uses the same aluminum block and is "an evolution" of the existing Lexus engine used in the series.
During the 2004 season, one TRD representative said they had misjudged the series' success potential (as have many; see "Things Change," below) and didn't wish to sink a lot of developmental money into a product that may not be successful, building the existing Lexus-branded engine from "off-the- shelf parts."
Though for the last two seasons TRD had hammered Grand American officials for far greater changes than have been allowed, the engine's evolution mainly encompasses an air intake change, a new crank and the ½-liter displacement increase.
Citing an increased ease to police engine equivalencies if the series' V-8 engines were of the same displacement, Grand American once considered making Ford and Pontiac drop ½-liter's displacement to match the present Lexus' 4.5 liters. Instead, Grand American allowed Lexus to enlarge instead.
TRD it will soon get blessings to use the engine - perhaps even in time for the May 13 Gainsco Grand Prix at Phoenix International raceway - but only after dynamic Grand American tests validate the engine to be within an acceptable range.
This is the time of the year when race car sanctioning bodies already are hard at work in arranging the following year's race schedule, with the hope of presenting a wrapped-up, tidy package in the fall.
It was about this time three short years ago that Grand American Road Racing president Roger Edmondson was experiencing everything but a pleasant time in planning dates for his Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve.
People in the business were deridingly pointing at the 2003 series' four Daytona Prototype car fields (by this time that season, the seven cars that had competed in the Rolex 24 At Daytona dwindled to four and would again grow in number only much later in the season) and track ownership all but laughed at the prospect of hosting the series.
Today - reflected by the strength of 28 DPs in this weekend's U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Race Way Laguna Seca - prospective venues not even on the 2003 radar screen are clamoring for a series stop. Indeed, more venues are interested in holding Rolex Series race dates than are even available this year, the schedule for which being built largely around sponsorship budgets now available to the teams in the series - some of those teams already being locked into multi-year sponsorship agreements.
According to Grand American sources the schedule will only expand if winners' purses and sanctioning fees justify it.
Just about every generation there arises a driver whose time should've long passed but have the demonstrated ability to contend for and win championships competing against drivers half or a third less than their age. Paul Newman was one such driver. Emerson Fittipaldi was another. Elliott Forbes-Robinson was yet another.
Now 62, EFR had just entered his seventh decade of life when in 2004 he teamed with Butch Leitzinger to drive their No. 4 Howard/Boss Pontiac- Crawford to victory in the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. EFR, who typically would start first and later hand the car over to his co-driver, that day took the lead and held it in a heavy rain, later handing it over to Leitzinger who brought the car home.
The BMP track lends itself to fans who like to actually watch a lot of a race's on-track action and it was sheer joy to see that "old guy" hold off 13 other Daytona Prototypes that day.
With him then and now, is the love of EFR's life, spouse Lounette.
To many theirs is one of racing's great love stories. They met each other when both were very young, Lounette thinking how exciting it might be to hang out with a race car driver and Elliott, driven by testosterone, thinking what a "babe" Lounette to be.
That race car driver fell in love with the Polynesian beauty and she with him. They've been married for so long that their children and grandchildren have long hung out around the family's Sherrill's Ford, N.C., homestead.
EFR and Lounette are two fine people - if nothing else but for the spirit that dwells within them. Smiles, laughter and hugs for others came easily to them. With them, one couldn't help but feel like family.
Smiling isn't coming as easy right now to either because one of their children, Colin, 34, passed away last week after a long illness.
All parents ardently believe that their progeny will live long after those who gave them life have passed from one life to the next. It is, after all, what parents do for children: die so as to give them life.
Your friends out in Laguna Seca want you to know that they are thinking about you, Elliott and Lounette. - DC Williams
Cards may be sent to the Howard-Boss Motorsports shop:
3501 Denver Drive
Denver, N.C. 28037
-Written Exclusively for Motorsport.com by DC Williams