TIME MACHINE: 1984 - CHEVROLET TRUMPS PORSCHE FONTANA, Calif. (March 24, 2005) --- During the first five events at Riverside International Raceway, Porsche had dominated the competition, claiming four wins and almost the entirety of podium ...
TIME MACHINE: 1984 - CHEVROLET TRUMPS PORSCHE
FONTANA, Calif. (March 24, 2005) --- During the first five events at Riverside International Raceway, Porsche had dominated the competition, claiming four wins and almost the entirety of podium finishes. For the April 29, 1984 Los Angeles Times/Nissan Grand Prix of Endurance, Porsche would introduce a progressive, new machine, the 962.
Despite the speed and impressiveness of the new car, Porsche would not rule the "Palace of Speed" in 1984. Klaus Ludwig took the spotlight when he set out for qualifying, establishing a new speed record of 124.387 mph, almost three miles per hour faster than the record set one year earlier. Ludwig and co-driver Bobby Rahal led the first 21 laps in their front-engine Ford Mustang before engine troubles took them out of contention.
The new Porsche 962 benefited from the pole sitters misfortunes and was positioning itself as the fastest car on the track. The team, piloted by Al Holbert and Derek Bell, led much of the first four hours of the race despite pit crew difficulties with the confined space between the rear tires and the large rear fenders as well as radio miscues.
Holbert and Bell's difficulties opened the door for Bill Whittington and Randy Lanier who were ready to disprove any past conceptions that the Chevrolet engine was short-lived as the OHV six-liter V-8 didn't miss a beat during the entire six-hour event.
Still in the lead, Holbert pitted following an accident in turn one and relinquished the driving duties to Bell. The swap would set the stage for a tremendous duel between Bell and Whittington, who burst into the lead during the Porsche's pit stop. Bell slipped past the leader in lapped traffic on lap 185 of the 204-lap race.
With only 25 minutes remaining, Bell made his final pit stop with a slim lead margin of two seconds. Exhausted, he climbed out as the pit crew went to work and Holbert was assisting with the refueling. Radio difficulties ultimately was their downfall, as it took the team more than one minute to get out of the pits after Holbert realized he was needed in the pilot seat.
Whittington and Lanier also had a difficult pitstop, when a jack was stuck under the car, but their 15 second delay, a spin out by Whittington with five laps to go and lapped traffic couldn't open the door enough for Holbert. At the checkered flag Whittington/Lanier took first by just 5.9 seconds ahead of Holbert/Bell. Kemper Miller and Mauricio de Navaez (four laps back) finished third, John Morton and Tony Adamowicz (six laps down) finished fourth followed by Chuck Kendall and Jim Cook (eight laps behind) in fifth.
The rich battle for the lead resulted in a new speed record for the event that would never be beat. Whittington and Lanier averaged a blistering 110.451 mph and set the stage for Chevrolet to trump the new Porsche as they took four of the top five finishing positions.
Stay tuned for more great racing moments as California Speedway looks back at Riverside International Raceway's rich history. Next up, Holbert nipped from first Riverside win in the 1985 Los Angeles Times/Nissan Grand Prix of Endurance.
Great road racing continues to thrive in Southern California at the home of California Speedway. Join Grand American for the Rolex Sports Car Series 400 and Grand-Am Cup Series 200 on April 1-3, 2005. Tickets are available as both weekend packages and individual tickets. For ticket and event information, call 800-944-RACE  or visit www.californiaspeedway.com.