MOTO POSTSCRIPTS -- ROLEX SERIES DRAWING ATTENTION TO ONESELF Is it just me or does anyone notice that when someone or something starts doing something really well that at least some of the, um, losers start thinking "cheaters." Then again,...
MOTO POSTSCRIPTS -- ROLEX SERIES
DRAWING ATTENTION TO ONESELF
Is it just me or does anyone notice that when someone or something starts doing something really well that at least some of the, um, losers start thinking "cheaters."
Then again, back in my elementary school recess days, "cheater" was thrown around on the schoolyard like Camel used to hand out cigarettes at sportscar races. (Can one even say "cigarette" nowadays without someone else thinking a 16-year-old, just from hearing the word, has been corrupted for the rest of his days?)
Bob Stallings, not to mention Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, now find themselves in the spotlight 'cause they're "Just doing a lot of little things right," as Gurney said last weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Talk of Stalling's blood-red Gainsco No. 99 Pontiac-Riley's accomplishments started bubbling forth at Watkins Glen International, where the car likewise found the pole and checkered flags at the Sahlen's Six there.
At Mid-Ohio, just about everyone had an opinion on how or why the car has done so well. Surprisingly, none mentioned the "C" word.
With the Gainsco team's success at Mid-Ohio, Rolex Series officials figured it would be best to perform a post-race tear down of the team's Pontiac engine, scrutinizing engine displacement, pistons, head gasket, combustion chamber, compression ratio, intake- and exhaust-runner volumes, port dimensions, intake and exhaust valves, intake manifold and throttle-body sizes.
According to Rolex Series Big Guy Scott Spencer, here's what they found: nothing amiss.
"The inspection results were within the specifications spelled out in the 2007 Grand American rule book," Spencer said so dryly that a desert landscape appears awash by comparison.
However, most of those in the Rolex Series paddock who had talked about the "Driven" Gainsco team hadn't mentioned its engine. Instead, they spoke of "grip."
"That car runs really flat on the course," a top-finishing driver said. "I followed it as best as I could and the clearance from the bottom of the body to the track doesn't vary. It's glued."
One crew chief of another car that eventually finished in Mid-O's top-five was certain the No. 99 was employing something "new" on either the mechanical or aerodynamic grip side.
Almost all agreed, though, that humans have a tendency to get better at what they do and uniformly said that's what they believe is happening with the No. 99. Put another way: the 99's found a way to make whatever's legal work best for them.
Here's the solution to learning Gainsco's secret: Hire the team away. That's what happens over in NASCAR. (Sorry, Bob.)
For a little extra money, Rolex Sports Car Series and Koni Challenge teams belonging to Grand American's Pacesetter's group get a few extra privileges, including another cool decal to adhere to the race car, preferred paddock parking and access to a dining hall serving breakfast, lunch and dinner provided by a staff of friendly, smiling sorts.
During race events a wide variety of everyday food - from take-out to sit-down - is served daily underneath one doggone-big, almost circus-sized tent.
If the often overflow seating capacity is any indication, "Buddy's" has long been a popular gathering place for hungry team owners, drivers, crew members, support vendors and race officials. Even reporters enjoy a little of Buddy's hospitality every now and again.
Starting at Mid-Ohio - for a few more "exclusive" dollars (if you catch my drift) - served were game hens, pork and beef tenderloins and some other high-brow, unpronounceable dishes in a separate tent that, well, ain't named "Buddy's" -- even though he runs it, too.
Supposedly, snails and such are served by candlelight in a separate, enclosed facility that had the look of air-conditioning - otherwise it would've been a virtual sauna. Then again, who knows what rich folk undertake, of which we mere mortals are truly clueless largely because we haven't actually been there; done that 24/7/12/365/366 on leap years (24/7 just doesn't completely cover the bases, you know what I mean?).
From all indications -- gathered only from the outside while looking in because one needed a certain wristband for access -- the new "chow" hall was a success.
What's that mean to those reading this?
Just call it an advance "apology" explanation.
Over the years a lot of information (some might go so far as to say "intelligence," but not me) was gathered -- through purposeful or unintentional tongue slips -- by reporters who either were in the general vicinity of or, far more often, broke bread face-to-face with team principals, drivers and others well up racing's pecking order.
That two-way-street of information flow -- it never went just one way -- now looks to have motored on down the road about as fast as a DP at full song.
I lose; they lose; you lose.
Gurney's and Fogarty's 30-second runaway victory at Mid-Ohio brings to mind the beginnings of the World Sports Car concept.
Quick: What was the 1994 Rolex 24 At Daytona pole time posted by Spain's Fermin Velez in a Chevrolet-powered Spice WSC 94?
Giving you some time to think about the answer, let's take a moment to reflect on the World Sports Car (WSC), the direct predecessor of today's Audi R10 and Porsche Spyders (the latter, along with fellow class competitors, on June 20 getting nailed on the U.S. side with a five-percent reduction in engine air intake -- already in effect since the beginning of 2007 in Europe -- and before Honda could claim its first overall ALMS victory. One ALMS source said, "It isn't like they didn't have a chance to do it.").
Announced to take effect in 1994 by the sportscar powers that once were, the WSC concept was pronounced by most fans as the "end of sportscar racing." Yet, in the estimation of many, something had to be done to change the costly dynamics of prototype racing which, as one person sarcastically put it at the time, were "re-skinned Formula One cars that probably cost slightly more because of those larger skins."
Then IMSA-president and current Grand American competition director Mark Raffauf was in on the WSC's formative stages.
"Everybody seems to remember the 1980's when we had GTPs all over the place," Raffauf said, "While forgetting that we had eight show up for the 1993 race; only 11 were in the '92 race. The writing for that was on the wall as early as 1989-1990.
"In fact, if we hadn't allowed Group C participation in those last two races -- three showed up at each of the '92 and '93 races -- the prototype fields would've looked really sick.
"Of (Tom) Walkinshaw's three Group C Jaguars brought over for the '93 race, two of them were out of the race at something like the 92-lap mark and half of the eight GTPs in the race were out of it hardly a third of the way through. Only three GTPs were running at the end of the '93 Rolex 24 and (Dan) Gurney's winning (No. 98 Toyota-Eagle MK III; P.J. Jones, Rocky Moran, Mark Dismore; 698-laps) car was better than 50-laps ahead of the second-in-class GTP.
"Shoot, Jack Roush's (No. 11 Ford Mustang; Wally Dallenbach Jr., Robby Gordon, Robbie Buhl, Tommy Kendall) GTS cars finished second and (No. 15 Ford Mustang; John Fergus, Jim Stevens, Mark Martin) third overall."
Okay, the answer to the question above: Velez' Spice WSC captured the 1994 Rolex 24 pole in 1:45.934 at an average speed of 120.981 mph.
Just for the heck of it:
The first Rolex 24 pole won by a GTP on the present-day 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway configuration (with the backstretch "Moretti" Chicane) was in 1985 by driver John Paul Jr., in a Buick-March 85G in 1:41.490 at 126.278 mph (Chip Ganassi would drive an updated Buick-March in the following year's Rolex 24: "I called the car 'Chew-WAAAH' because when the Buick's turbocharger kicked-in it sounded like a four-barrel without an air cleaner.")
In 2007, Alex Gurney put the No. 99 Gainsco Pontiac-Riley on the 2007 Rolex 24 pole, clocking a 1:43.475 at 123.856 mph.
Hear it here first: based on what is already in store for the 2008 season, the upcoming Rolex 24 pole winner will knock at least two seconds off this year's time and, given the innovative nature of humans, it's only a matter of time before the overall, all-time record is claimed.
For once, I was wrong.
Well, maybe twice.
Contrary to an earlier report, the demise of Kevin Doran and his No. 77 Kodak Ford-Doran team -- including the lovely, multi-talented Memo Gidley and "Professor" Guy Cosmo behind the wheel -- was greatly exaggerated.
I'm glad to be wrong on that account. The team is right on the edge of doing well with what is likely the strongest engine program (Roush Yates) under a DP's bonnet.
A FABCAR-BMW DP combination for 2008 is moving right along, with testing to get underway any day now. The only problem: the team's owner also is on the verge of fatherhood for the first time. Anyone having been in a similar position already is aware of how quickly the world-as-one-knows-it can change. Nevertheless, have faith; another BMW-engined DP is on the way.
Speaking of FABCAR, kudos go to Eddie Cheever's No. 39 Special Reserve Crown Royal FABCAR-Porsche and Sigalsports' No. 05 teams for its extraordinary efforts at Mid-Ohio.
The 39 hydroplaned after a late-afternoon shower suddenly dampened a turn at Thursday's "promoter" practice, hitting the already off-track, parked No. 05 Luggage Express team's BMW-Riley.
Both had some work to do on the cars -- the 39 reportedly in the worst shape -- and both made the grid. Cheever's team, with Fittipaldi behind the wheel, on Friday captured the race's outside pole.
Kevin Buckler's foray into NASCAR is starting to take concrete shape.
Having narrowed to two his choice of prospective teams for the Watkins Glen Busch Series race, Buckler's up in North Carolina early this week checking out the Wood Brothers and Ginn Racing shops. Knowing Buckler and being a Southerner, myself, it's entirely possible some folks up there might not quite know where he's coming from. One word is all they really need to associate with Buckler: "winner."
-Written exclusively for Motorsport.com by DC Williams