Strong effort by Hessert's Racer Group team ends with crash. DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA FEBRUARY 2, 2003 . . . Mechanical problems on the first day of qualifying for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona forced the Cherry Hill Classic Cars sponsored Racer's...
Strong effort by Hessert's Racer Group team ends with crash.
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA FEBRUARY 2, 2003 . . . Mechanical problems on the first day of qualifying for the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona forced the Cherry Hill Classic Cars sponsored Racer's Group Porsche GT3RS team to start in 41st spot. A second day qualifying effort by Tom Hessert Jr. got the car into the 46-car starting field for the 41st annual edition of the Rolerx 24 Hours at Daytona International Speedway. However the team made up of Jim Michaelian (President of the Long Beach Grand Prix), Richard Valentine (Trans Am racer), Tom Hessert Jr. (three time Daytona 24 class winner) and Tom Hessert III (USAC midget racer) made a strong effort to have the car running as high as 12th in the classic road racing event.
"I just loved being out there. I didn't get as many practice laps as I would have liked but I am enjoying every minute that I am here. The team has been great to work with. My father has taught me so much about running here. The chance to be racing with my dad has been a dream come true," said 16-year-old Tom Hessert III of Cherry Hill, NJ. He is the youngest driver ever to compete in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Young Hessert turned the fastest laps that the No. 68 Racers Group Porsche made during the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Tom told the Daytona Beach News-Journal, "The biggest test of my skills in the race was driving from the sunlight into the night. When I cam through the tri-oval, it was very difficult to see with all the setting sun's glare off a very dirty windshield." He also pointed out that traffic in front of him sometimes was so obscured at times that he feared possibly ramming a car from behind. With Jim Michaelian at the wheel the team effort came to a halt while running in 14th place overall on the 562nd lap (about 7:50 a.m. on Sunday). Michaelian took a wild spin and shot backward in a dogleg portion of the 3.56-mile high-banked tri-oval/infield road course. The Porsche backed into a barrier and flipped over. Fortunately Michaelian was not injured but the Cherry Hill Classic Car's Porsche was out of the race. Both Hesserts were disappointed that the team effort had come to an end but they were happy with the overall effort.
The team was credited with a 22nd place overall finish completing 501 laps. Tom Hessert Jr., dad to the 16-year-old midget racer, was very excited about the effort made by his son. " I think he just showed so much talent in being able to get adjusted to the car so quickly. But then again I may be a little biased. I am just so glad that we were able to do this. Of course we all wish that we could have finished the race. We were running so well. We appreciate the opportunity that Kevin Buckler, owner of Racer's Group, gave us to be part of a great team. Perhaps we will get the opportunity to do some more of this during the season when Tom is not running the USAC midgets." Young Hessert will kick off his USAC Midget National Championship effort with a mid-March race at Ventura, California. For now Hessert is back at the books as a junior high school student at Cherry Hill, NJ East High School.