1999 SEASON REVIEW -- ARCHER, GALATI COME OUT ON TOP OF BANNER SPEEDVISION WORLD CHALLENGE YEAR ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- This year, the World Challenge was saturated in newness, with Speedvision as its new title sponsor, new class names, new cars,...
1999 SEASON REVIEW -- ARCHER, GALATI COME OUT ON TOP OF BANNER SPEEDVISION WORLD CHALLENGE YEAR
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- This year, the World Challenge was saturated in newness, with Speedvision as its new title sponsor, new class names, new cars, new teams and new drivers. About the only thing that wasn't new were the names at the top of the point standings at the end of the season--proving that winning a championship in this kind of racing demands the cagy experience of a veteran.
Bobby Archer (two-time SCCA Endurance Champion and 1990 World Challenge Champion) and Michael Galati (two-time and defending World Challenge T2 Champion) took home the big hardware for the Speedvision GT and Touring Car Championships, but the battles fought for them came down to the wire and the final races at Laguna Seca Raceway.
Both drivers proved that a fast start is the key to winning a Championship, putting together an impressive string of finishes and wins to start the season. Archer started the season with two wins (Mosport and Lime Rock Park) and a second at Mid-Ohio to take the early GT points lead.
"At the beginning of the season, we picked certain tracks that we knew we had to win on, and others that we could just go for good finishes," said Archer. "Mosport, Lime Rock, Mid-Ohio and Road Atlanta were the four tracks where we knew we'd be strong. It was an eye-opening experience to see how fast Peter [Kitchak] was at Mid-Ohio though. From then on, I knew he was a contender."
Kitchak's No. 3 Keewaydin/Toad Hall Motor Racing Porsche 911 RSR dominated Mid-Ohio after problems at Mosport and Lime Rock. Kitchak would put together a late season run that produced a season-high four wins (Mid-Ohio, Trois-Rivieres, Grand Rapids and Pikes Peak International Raceway), five podiums, seven top-fives and four poles. Kitchak's charge gave him the point lead going into the finale at Laguna Seca, but the Porsche was forced to charge through the field after being knocked off course in a first lap, first turn incident.
Archer was able to lead the race briefly, giving him one bonus point with a third-place finish--enough to take a one point win over Kitchak for the title.
"I like this series," continued Archer. "I like the competition. Peter and I ran bumper-to-bumper all season and never touched. I put a lot of value on winning the Championship. This is a series going in the right direction."
Archer finished the season with only two wins (at the first two races) and one pole (Trois-Rivieres), but he earned seven podiums, eight top-fives and nine top-10s to amass 249 points and earn $86,900--including a $50,000 Championship bonus (the richest in SCCA Pro Racing history).
George Biskup (No. 22 Biskup Racing Porsche 911 RSR) took third in the Championship, with 216 points, to earn 1999 Red Line Rookie of the Year honors in GT. Biskup capped his season with a second-place finish at Laguna Seca, equaling his career-best performance set at the Mosport season-opener. The rookie finished with four podium finishes, six top-fives and eight top-10s.
David Schardt (No. 94 Hikari Racing/TRD Toyota Supra Turbo) finished the season in fourth, with two podium finishes and 200 points, followed by Bill Cooper (No. 01 Les Stanford/Pirate Racing Chevrolet Corvette), who had two poles and three podiums for 178 points.
The season also featured some great individual performances and appearances. Kermit Upton III made four appearances in his No. 26 Mountain Auto Sport BMW M3, winning both races at Road Atlanta. Rookie Scotty B. White (No. 97 Team NayKid/Tom Henry Chevrolet Corvette C5) recorded the model's first production-based win, at Vancouver. Derek Bell wheeled the Speedvision Legend's BMW M Coupe in many of the races, providing in-car commentary during the event. Other Speedvision drivers included Dorsey Schroeder and Desire Wilson.
Chevrolet and Porsche went down to the wire in the Manufacturers' Championship for GT, with Porsche taking the title 65 to 59.
Galati started his Touring Car season off with a record-tying four wins (Mosport, Lime Rock, Mid-Ohio and Road Atlanta), but was shut out of victory lane for the remaining six races, recording poles at Lime Rock and Trois-Rivieres, podiums five times, eight top-fives and top-10s in all 10 races. Galati finished the season with 265 points.
"I've been in this game a long time and I knew better than to think the series was wrapped up after the four wins," said Galati. "I've seen drivers lose championships after letting up mid-way through the season. Like all drivers you want to get back to winning but I knew we were competitive and we had a chance at winning.
"This Championship means a lot to the team and all the crew," said Galati. "Doing it in my first year as a driver and owner is incredible. DC sports was a key factor in winning the Championship. They had a year under their belt developing the engines and made the car. This Championship is as much theirs as it is ours."
Galati's former team, RealTime Racing, helped produce the his first two Championships, and would serve as his arch nemesis in achieving a third, with Acura Integra-shod drivers Pierre Kleinubing, Hugh Plumb and rookie Kevin Schrantz battling until Laguna Seca's final checkered flag.
Kleinubing broke the streak with a dominating win at Trois-Rivieres, also taking the win in the series' finale at Laguna Seca. Kleinubing finished with eight poles, seven podiums, eight top-fives and nine top-10s. The 1997 Touring Car Champion might have taken his second title, had it not been for his lone DNF at Pikes Peak International Raceway, when he crashed with Charlie Downes while battling for the lead. As it stood, Kleinubing finished the season three-points behind Galati, at 263.
Plumb, the 1998 Rookie of the Year, had a fine season, taking one win (Vancouver), seven podiums, eight top-fives and 10 top-10s to finish with 253 points.
Will Turner was able to break the Integra winning streak, which lasted a record 11-straight events dating back to mid-1998. Turner's Grand Rapids win in the No. 92 Turner Motorsport/H&R Springs BMW 328is was his career-first, equaled later in the season at PPIR. Turner finished with two wins, three podiums and seven top-10s for 188 points.
Alfred DuPont also flew the Bavarian colors, with the No. 51 European Racing Technologies BMW 328is recording one podium and five top-fives for 185 points.
Schrantz had a strong rookie season, finish sixth overall to take the Red Line Oil Rookie of the Year title in Touring, with two podiums and six top-10s for 166 points.
Acura dominated the Manufacturers' Championship, clinching with three races remaining to top BMW 80 to 45.