UPDATE: Tomy Drissi on the Mend, CRP, BimmerWorld and Tri-Point Ready for Mid-Ohio TOPEKA, Kan. (July 3, 2008) -- The first half of the 2008 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Championships has already produced its share of thrills and ...
UPDATE: Tomy Drissi on the Mend, CRP, BimmerWorld and Tri-Point Ready for Mid-Ohio
TOPEKA, Kan. (July 3, 2008) -- The first half of the 2008 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Championships has already produced its share of thrills and spills. Some of those spills have been serious enough to sideline a car or driver, but the second half of the season is looking bright for those teams whose took a serious hit, both on and off the track.
It's been just over two months since the throttle stuck on Tomy Drissi's No. 15 Chevrolet Corvette in practice at Long Beach, sending the former Trans-Am race winner head-on into the wall at Turn Two. The collision resulted in a fractured lower vertebrae for Drissi, who was forced to trade in his car for a back brace.
"I'm doing okay," Drissi said. "I've got another week with the back brace on and I started psychical therapy a couple weeks ago. If the doctor clears me, we were hoping to do a test at the end of July or the beginning of August. Road America might be pushing it a little bit. If not that, we'll probably be back in time for Mosport."
Unfortunately, Drissi's Corvette was not as resilient as his spine and the team is working on building an entirely new car.
"The team called me up a week after and said 'we've got a new chassis for you,' and I said 'what was wrong with the old one,' and there was dead silence on the line. They're building a new car from scratch. The old car is gone, completely destroyed."
For perhaps the first time in his career, Drissi is taking things slow, making sure he's fully ready to race and staying thankful that he still has the ability to do so.
"I've been telling myself, 'God's given me another chance to do more things,' so I've been really patient, which is not my strong suit. I feel I've been patient, but nobody around me agrees!
"I'm looking forward to coming back, but obviously the doctor has to release me and I have to be ready mind and body."
Another Corvette driver missing in action has been Brian Kubinski. The 2007 SCCA SPEED GT Rookie of the Year is in fine health, but it's his No. 12 CRP Racing Corvette that's hurting. Following the opening Round of the SCCA SPEED GT Championship at Sebring, the CRP Racing transporter caught on fire only 30 minutes away from the team's shop in Harrisburg, N.C., destroying nearly everything inside.
Remarkably the frame of the Corvette did survive and the team has been working non-stop to get their operation back racing again.
"It's the same frame, but a lot of it wasn't salvageable," CRP Racing Owner Nicholas Short said. "It destroyed the body. If it was reclaimable we reclaimed it. If it wasn't, it got thrown away. It got pulled down to the bare frame, sandblasted and checked to see it was square. Now it's been painted and we've started to refit it and put the drivetrain in.
"Our pit equipment and tools were destroyed. The fire department did a great job, don't get my wrong, but they dump water on it, which they're supposed to do, but the heat and water cause corrosion. The tools and the toolboxes got scorched and by the time the insurance company releases it from the yard, it's full of water and the tools are all rusty. I thought we'd have more success with the tool companies, but we really didn't have any success in finding support."
That's not to say the industry has turned a blind eye to the team. Short is grateful to those who have stepped up and helped the team rebuild.
"We've had lots of support from Brown & Miller which do the hoses for the engine. Lista Cabinets have come on board huge. Bob Cronin at CRD engines, Cool Shirt, and C&R Radiators have all been very supportive."
After a particularly trying day, a TV program about St. Jude's Children's Hospital inspired Short to look past the obstacles facing the team and give the rest of the season a more uplifting purpose.
"I got the call from the insurance company telling me the car and pit equipment weren't insured, which the company I leased [the trailer] from told me it was. I was feeling pretty down, watching TV, and I switched on a program about St. Jude's; two children, eight years old, battling cancer. These kids are all smiles and I'm thinking, 'my life isn't so bad is it?' My problem is a monetary blow to my business, but I still walk through the door everyday and drive home."
Thus, CRP Racing and Brian Kubinski have committed to donate any prize money earned this season to The Wings of Eagles Ranch, an equestrian center for handicapped children in North Carolina, as well as St. Jude's Children's Hospital. The team's new mission begins at Mid-Ohio when they return to racing action.
"We're still searching around for sponsors, but we'll be back. I think Brian showed his potential last year and we intend to continue that on when we get back to the race track."
The most recent casualties in World Challenge were the four SCCA SPEED Touring Cars involved in a frightening incident at Watkins Glen, which nearly blocked the entire track and caused the race to end under yellow.
When James Clay's No. 36 BimmerWorld BMW 325i bounced off the tires on the outside of Turn 11, his car was sent into a whirling frenzy that collected the No. 75 Tri-Point MAZDA6 of Jim Daniels and both of Clay's BimmerWorld teammates, Nick Esayian and Seth Thomas.
Despite the extensive damage to all three BimmerWorld cars, team owner James Clay reports that each was repairable and that Esayian, Thomas and himself escaped without injury. The cars will get a shakedown with some planned testing this month before heading off to Mid-Ohio, site of the team's last win.
Clay was able to find a positive in the spectacular crash: the team became SPEED superstars for a week.
"Our crash made SPEED on Wind Tunnel and The SPEED Report for the first time for us on both shows," Clay said. "We'd rather be on TV for a race win, but I guess there's some solace if our crash videos are entertaining."
Ricocheting off Clay's car backwards into the pit wall, the damage done to Daniels' MAZDA6 was terminal, ending that particular chassis' life as a racecar. The Tri-Point team is currently building a new car for Daniels and is certain all three cars will roll off the trailer at Mid-Ohio.
"We are in the process of replacing the tub on Jim's car for Mid-Ohio," Tri-Point Team Owner Craig Naigler said. "The guys here at the shop have the old car totally stripped and are in the process of transferring all the good parts over to another shell. There was definitely a lot of stuff destroyed, so we're having to build a lot of new parts from scratch. It's a giant project, though probably not as bad as what BimmerWorld has to deal with. We'll be working on Jim's car right up until the truck leaves for Ohio, but we'll have all three cars there for sure."
With the exception of Drissi, it appears fans can expect a full house at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, July 18 -- 20, for Round Five of the SCCA SPEED GT Championship and Round Seven of the SCCA SPEED Touring Car Championship. Live timing, lap notes, news and photos will be available throughout the weekend at www.world-challenge.com. The races will air on SPEED, Wednesday, July 25, at 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. (EDT).
-credit: scca pro racing