NOT JUST THE TRACK, JACK Regardless of the otherwise unknown intentions of everyone else in racing, for sure this motorsports journalist will be hanging out at The U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on California's...
NOT JUST THE TRACK, JACK
Regardless of the otherwise unknown intentions of everyone else in racing, for sure this motorsports journalist will be hanging out at The U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on California's Monterey Peninsula.
From great area golf courses to the race course's famous Corkscrew turn - probably the REAL impetus behind adult diapers' invention - this track is one of racing's best venues.
Headlined by Sunday's Rolex Series' Road & Track 250, other events include Grand-Am Cup, SCCA Mazda MX-5 Cup and Historic Stock Cars.
In 2005, competing in their first-ever Daytona Prototype race, Bob Stallings and Alex Gurney brought their red No. 99 Gainsco Pontiac-Riley to the course and were at the top of the speed charts after the first day's practice.
Not too shabby.
This year Stallings is out of the car - but close at hand in the pits and paddock - in favor of former Gurney open-wheel, championship-winning teammate Jon Fogarty (hmm, would anyone know if he hum a few bars of "Willie and The Poor Boys?").
Snake-bit at Long Beach in a 'shattering' wreck, the Gainsco team used a Team Tuttle Racing Pontiac-Riley at VIR, but were too far behind the eight ball to have the style of impact they would've liked. Wanna bet things aren't different this weekend?
"EVERY MAN HAS BUSINESS AND DESIRE, SUCH AS IT IS." Hamlet. Act i. Sc. 5.
In the wake of Wayne Taylor yielding to the realities of doing Rolex Series business and thus extracting himself from the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac-Riley in a desire to improve the team's performance, potential drivers for the ride have been coming out of the woodwork.
A few standouts from among those being mentioned: Max Papis (teaming with fellow Italian and former F-3 teammate Max Angelelli - and not as far- fetched as it may sound); Oswaldo Negri, who currently co-drives with Mark Patterson in the No. 60 Lexus-Riley that finished second in the 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona (Negri is darn-near fearless; a trait SunTrust's Bill Riley likes); and, second-generation sports car race Burt Frisselle who, with his younger brother Brian, has performed admirably in the No. 8 Porsche-Doran absent of the available resources enjoyed by the upper-tier teams.
The apparent front-runner for now is Denmark's Jan Magnussen, who will serve this weekend as Angelelli's co-driver after having done the same at the Long Beach Grand Prix.
Named Denmark's 2005 Driver of the Year in a career during which he's raced 11 categories of cars spanning Formula 1 to Touring Cars, the Great Dane's Rolex Series gigs include one win and four top-five's in five 2004- season DP races with car-owner/builder Kevin Doran. In 2005 Magnussen co- drove a TRG Pontiac GTO with Paul Edwards to three Rolex Series GT-class wins. It's not yet been established if the talented racer is related to Hamlet.
In a spirited, last-gasp effort taken through a hole created at the next- to-last turn on the last lap of the April 24 VIR 400 presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve, Alex Job Racing's Mike Rockenfeller drove the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Porsche-Crawford from third to first, won the race and vaulted himself and co-driver Patrick Long to the top of the Rolex Series Daytona Prototype driver points standings.
It came as a result of Rockenfeller - and Long, too - being subjected to Porsche's rigorous driver training school.
And, no, we're not talking about driver-ed programs like that found at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., offered by dealers like Brumos Porsche.
"It's not just driving; it's a lifestyle commitment," Porsche master driver Hurley Haywood said of the manufacturer's race car driver development program - who as head instructor of the BMP Brumos school can best contrast its curriculum with that of Porsche's driver development program.
"They expect and demand adherence to their style of racing."
Sometimes called "Porsche-Bots" due to school 'graduates' nearly identical, regimented style of driving, Haywood considers it an honor to be among the Porsche-Bots - a name sometimes used by others in disparaging manner.
"Drivers who have gone through the program are among the best in the world. I can't think of a better way to race than to be a winner at its end - and 'Porsche-Bots' have scored their fair share."
Though the robotic moniker implies an always-on, machine-like performance, Rockenfeller, Long and other 'Bots' like Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen, actually do laugh and smile - when not in a race car.
Jorg Bergmeister (who years ago pursued an economics degree during idle hours) is one of those Porsche-Bot grads, who started driving Krohn Racing's No. 76 Ford-powered Riley DP in 2005.
Noting the 2006 Rolex Series season as still having to run its course, if anyone had doubts as to how effective it is being a Porsche-Bot check out DP's top-three drivers occupying first and second in points (I don't make the rules; just report what happens. But I've been known to opine and that's what I get to do, here).
In 2005, this year's Krohn Racing was Krohn/TRG Racing, the "TRG" being Kevin Buckler's "The Racers Group," which maintained and managed the two Krohn-owned, then Pontiac-powered (now Ford) Riley Daytona Prototypes.
Bergmeister finished fourth in drivers' points at the end of the 2005 season, scoring one win among his seven top-five finishes.
Teammate Nic Jonsson, in the team's No. 75 sister car, finished ninth in points after also capturing one win.
Krohn would've finished tied with his usual co-driver, Jonsson, if not for Hurricane Katrina, the aftermath of which forced Krohn to miss the Phoenix race so as to help find emergency housing for his nearly 100 New Orleans- based employees.
"All I want them to do is move in and hang up their clothes. They've got too many other things to worry about," Krohn said at the time when he not only got them housing, but furnished it down to the kitchen flatware, too.
But, back to racing, at least one motorsports journalist questioned Krohn's sanity after the owner split with TRG at the end of 2005 - an apparently successful first-year effort.
"It surely would've only gotten better in the second year," the off-base reporter said.
After six 2006-season DP races, Bergmeister sits third in driver points, briefly holding first place following Mexico City - one of the four races in which The Professor's finished in the top-five. In six races he has yet to finish worse than eighth place.
After a post-race media conference in Mexico City - where The Professor (remember, "Economics") and talented co-driver Colin Braun finished second - car-owner Krohn asked the once-critical motorsports journalist "Do you still think I'm crazy?"
No, Mr. Krohn, I don't.
-Written Exclusively for Motorsport.com by DC Williams