SportsCar News SPORTSCARFAX, Vol. 2, No. 24 31 October, 1997 1997 SPORTSCAR CHAMPIONS CROWNED Champions were crowned and awards were handed out at the 1997 Exxon World SportsCar Championship and Exxon Supreme GT Series presented by Virgin...
SPORTSCARFAX, Vol. 2, No. 24
31 October, 1997
1997 SPORTSCAR CHAMPIONS CROWNED Champions were crowned and awards were handed out at the 1997 Exxon World SportsCar Championship and Exxon Supreme GT Series presented by Virgin Interactive season-ending awards banquet at the Hyatt Regency in Monterey, California on Monday night.
EXXON WORLD SPORTSCAR CHAMPIONSHIP Butch Leitzinger was crowned the 1997 Exxon World SportsCar Champion following a season that saw the State College, Penn. native win five races, finish runner-up three times and outpoint his Dyson Racing teammate Elliott Forbes-Robinson, 231-213 ... Leitzinger's five wins came at Daytona, Road Atlanta, Watkins Glen, Las Vegas and the season finale at Laguna Seca. The five wins bring his Exxon World SportsCar Championship career victory total to nine, tying him with teammate James Weaver for most wins in the series. Leitzinger also holds the distinction of being the only driver this season to lead at least one lap in each of the 11 Exxon World SportsCar Championship races ... Leitzinger's SportsCar career began in 1987 at the age of 18 when he finished fourth overall in the Speedvision Cup race at Watkins Glen. Since then he has competed in 89 races, earned 10 pole positions and won a total of 20 races. This year's Exxon World SportsCar title is Leitzinger's second SportsCar championship, having also won the 1993 Exxon Supreme GTU title. (His father, Bob Leitzinger, also won the GTU crown in 1989.) The race for the manufacturer's title in the 1997 Exxon World SportsCar Championship was a season-long, two-marque battle pitting Ford against Ferrari. The pair entered the final race of the season with Ford leading by only two points. The Laguna Seca win by Leitzinger and co-driver John Paul, Jr. clinched the title for Ford.
Dyson Racing crew chief Pat Smith took Technician of the Year honors as he guided the two-car team to six wins and Dyson drivers to the top three positions in the final point standings. Smith had previously won the award in 1995 and 1986, all while leading the Dyson Racing effort. The first non-Ford driver in the final point standings is Ferrari driver Rob Morgan, winner of the 1997 Exxon World SportsCar Championship's Most Improved Driver award. Morgan drove the #43 Ferrari to fourth place in the Championship and a win at Mosport with co-driver Ron Fellows. Morgan has now won a race in each of the previous three seasons. Morgan was the Exxon Supreme GT Series Most Improved Driver in 1995. Andrea Montermini earned five pole positions aboard the #30 Ferrari, the most of any driver in the Exxon World SportsCar Championship, to win the 1997 season's Make-A-Wish Foundation Pole Award. Team MSI, the entrant for the #88 Make-A-Wish/Ryder/Winchester Chevrolet R&S Mk III, won the Excellence in Marketing award for the team's presentation both on and off the track.
EXXON SUPREME GT SERIES PRESENTED BY VIRGIN INTERACTIVE Championships and awards were also distributed to Exxon Supreme GT Series presented by Virgin Interactive competitors. Andy Pilgrim of Cooper City, Fla. was crowned the Exxon Supreme GTS-1 driver champion. Pilgrim's championship season featured five wins, including the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona and a late season four-race win streak at Mosport, Las Vegas, Pikes Peak and Sebring Octoberfest. Pilgrim drove for the Rohr Motorsport team, which began the season with a Porsche 911 GT2 Evo, before switching to the newer Porsche 911 GT1 at round seven at Mosport ... Pilgrim, the 1995 Grand Sports champion in the Speedvision Cup, has recorded 37 career wins in six different series and has finished a remarkable 106 events in a row. His last DNF was the Watkins Glen 24 Hours in June 1992, -- 433.5 hours of racing ago. Pilgrim and the Rohr Motorsport team also helped Porsche win the Exxon Supreme GTS-1 manufacturer's championship, its first title in SportsCar's top GT class since 1983. Porsche beat newcomer Panoz, 231 - 219. Rohr Motorsport crew chief Brad Kettler received the Exxon Supreme GTS-1 Technician of the Year award, while Jason Priestley, who had six top four finishes and ended the season sixth in the point standings, won the GTS-1 Most Improved Driver award. Larry Schumacher of Cincinnati, Ohio won the 1997 Exxon Supreme GTS-2 driver's title, his second consecutive SportsCar driver's championship, having won last season's GTS-2 (now known as GTS-3) crown. Schumacher drove his Schumacher Racing-prepared Porsche 911 Turbo with two different co-drivers --John O'Steen and Price Cobb, to win four races this season - Road Atlanta, Lime Rock, Las Vegas and Sebring. Porsche won every race in the Exxon Supreme GTS-2 class thus earning the division's manufacturer championship. Franz Konrad claimed six of the 11 GTS-2 wins for Porsche and finished second in the final point standings, earning him the GTS-2 Most Improved Driver award. John Wright, crew chief for Schumacher Racing, which won four GTS-2 races for Porsche, was named Technician of the Year in the class. The Exxon Supreme GTS-3 championship was a Teutonic battle between BMW and Porsche and their respective drivers. Prototype Technology Group BMW driver Bill Auberlen of Redondo Beach, California, claimed the GTS-3 driver's championship after a season-long fight with PTG BMW teammate Javier Quiros and Porsche driver David Murry. Auberlen won five races and earned six pole positions this season. Among his victories were the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring at the beginning of the season, as well as scoring wins at Sears Point, Pikes Peak and Sebring Octoberfest. At Sears Point in July, in addition to winning the race, Auberlen was the fastest qualifier and recorded the fastest race lap, establishing track records in both instances. He was also fastest qualifier at Watkins Glen and Sebring, where he combined with Tom Hessert, Javier Quiros and Derek Hill to drive the First Union/Yokohama BMW M3 to first place in the GTS-3 class and ninth place overall. BMW earned the Exxon Supreme GTS-3 manufacturer's title on the strength of nine wins. Tom Milner's Prototype Technology Group won eight races (Daytona, Sebring, Lime Rock, Sears Point, Mosport, Pikes Peak, Sebring Octoberfest and Laguna Seca), while Mattco Racing and drivers Pete Halsmer and John Morton won the First Union Six Hours of the Glen. Mattco Racing crew chief David Lapham earned the GTS-3 Technician of the Year award, while Jim Matthews, who teamed with David Murry to win at Road Atlanta and Las Vegas, won the Most Improved Driver award in class.
NAPA AUTO PARTS SEBRING OCTOBERFEST -- Listed below are the remaining scheduled broadcast times for the NAPA Auto Parts Sebring Octoberfest: FIA GT Championship FOX Sports Net 11/2 3:00 pm Exxon World SportsCar Championship FOX Sports Net 11/12 Motor Sports Hour by Chevrolet Exxon Supreme GT Series Presented by Virgin Interactive FOX Sports Net 11/26 Motor Sports Hour by Chevrolet Black Magic Pro Series Speedvision 11/8 2:00 pm Speedvision 11/8 10:00 pm Speedvision 11/9 2:00 am All times shown are eastern and subject to change.
VISA SPORTS CAR CHAMPIONSHIPS -- Listed below are the remaining scheduled broadcast times for the VISA Sports Car Championships: FIA GT Championship FOX Sports Net 11/7 7:00 pm (in each region) Exxon World SportsCar Championship FOX Sports Net 12/3 Motor Sports Hour by Chevrolet Exxon Supreme GT Series Presented by Virgin Interactive Speedvision 11/1 1:00 pm Speedvision 11/1 9:00 pm Speedvision 11/2 1:00 am Speedvision 11/3 1:00 pm Speedvision 11/7 1:00 pm All times shown are eastern and subject to change.
SPEEDVISION CUP FOR STOCK SPORTSCARS CHAMPIONS -- More than 100,000 competition miles down the road from when the season began last January at Daytona Beach, Fla., The SPEEDVISION Cup for Stock SportsCars series ended its 13th year of racing with first-time Drivers Championship winners in three of the four classes. The only repeat champion was Grand Sports class titlist John Heinricy of Holly, Mich., driving a Pontiac Firebird Formula for the Phoenix American Motorsports team from Phoenixville, Penn., who unintentionally waited until five minutes remained in the season finale at Sebring to win his third title in the SPEEDVISION Cup series. Heinricy also won the season trophy in 1989 and 1996; this one was closer, however, he beat Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham in the SpeedSource Mazda RX-7 Turbo by two points. Jeff McMillin of Erie, Pa., won the Sports class championship in his first full year in the SPEEDVISION Cup series. Driving the J. J. Crisps/McMillin Jet Aviation BMW 328is, McMillin and co-drivers Marc Lawrence and Derek Hill beat Thomas Blam Racing BMW 328is driver Mike Fitzgerald by four points. Two veterans of the series tied for the Touring class driving title. Gary Blackman of Sebring, Fla., and Greg Loebel of St. Petersburg, Fla., shared the championship in one of the T-I Racing Honda Prelude Si entries. None of the 1997 series driving champions won more than two of the nine races during the season. Compact champion Joe Danaher of Albany, N.Y., won only at Sebring in March and at Watkins Glen, N.Y., but his consistency in the Schwartzott Racing Honda Civic del Sol Si was enough to give him a seven-point lead over contender John Bourassa when the season ended. Just ten days shy of 55 years old, Danaher is now the oldest driver to win a championship in the series, beating a record set in 1993 by his car owner/co-driver, Peter Schwartzott. Pontiac's winning the Manufacturers Championship in the Grand Sports class was their fourth such title, while American Honda's Touring and Compact championships were their 14th and 15th -- the Touring class for the eighth straight year. The McMillin and Fitzgerald BMW teams gave BMW of North America its first championship in the series since 1986, and the BMW 328is also won the Car of the Year trophy in its first full year of competition. Rising Star awards were given to drivers in each class who, during the season, showed much promise for future years of racing in the SPEEDVISION Cup series. They were: Chuck Goldsborough of Baltimore, Md., (Van Cleef Racing Toyota Supra Turbo); Mike Fitzgerald of Atlanta, Ga., (Thomas Blam Racing BMW 328is); Craig Stanton of Seal Beach, Calif., (GTI Racing Nissan 240SX); and Charles Espenlaub of Lutz, Fla., (Protomotive Mazda Miata). David Haskell, Pompano Beach, Fla., crew chief for the four-car SpeedSource Engineering Mazda RX-7 Turbo team which almost won the Grand Sports driving championship without winning a single race, was honored as the series Technician of the Year. More than 280 different drivers competed in this year's edition of the SPEEDVISION Cup series, and 46 of those drivers, 22 of them for the first time, were class winners during the season, driving 13 different models of cars from seven manufacturers.
PADDOCK CONTEST WINNERS -- NAPA AUTO PARTS SEBRING OCTOBERFEST Exxon World SportsCar -- Central Arkansas Racing Services Exxon Supreme GTS-1 -- Mosler Motorsports Exxon Supreme GTS-2 -- Konrad Motorsports Exxon Supreme GTS-3 -- Alex Job Racing SPEEDVISION Cup -- SpeedSource Black Magic Pro Series -- Duane Neyer Motorsport
DAVIES REPEATS -- Mike Davies of De Land, Fla. won his second consecutive Black Magic Pro Series championship after a season-long battle with Mike Anderson. Anderson led the eight-race championship through the first five events, winning the season-opener at Sebring and again at round three at Road Atlanta. Davies, a four-time winner this season (Sears Point, Mosport, Pikes Peak & Sebring), assumed the lead in the championship at Las Vegas when Anderson failed to score points. Davies closed the season with back-to-back wins at Pikes Peak and Sebring to beat Anderson by 18 points, 163-145 ... Two other drivers won races in 1997: David Tenney, third in the final points, took victory at Road Atlanta. John Jernigan, Jr., fourth in the final standings, scored a win at Las Vegas ... Bob Rockwood earned the Most Improved Driver award and Mark Meucci was named Rookie of the Year. The Yokohama Crew Man of the Year award went to Glen Sanders of TRP Racing.
FIA GT CHAMPS -- Bernd Schneider drove his Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR to victory in the FIA GT Championship season finale at Laguna Seca, claiming the driver's championship for himself and the team title for AMG Mercedes ... Justin Bell finished second at Laguna and won the GT2 driver championship. His team, Viper Team ORECA, won the team's championship.