RACE: Fast Class preview 12 Hours of the Point

5th Annual Kumho Tires 12 Hours at the Point -- Big Bore and Overall Win Preview 27 May 2003: Only 4 days remain before the 5th Annual Kumho Tires 12 Hours at the Point is held with the largest and strongest field of entries to date. Practice...

5th Annual Kumho Tires 12 Hours at the Point -- Big Bore and Overall Win Preview

27 May 2003: Only 4 days remain before the 5th Annual Kumho Tires 12 Hours at the Point is held with the largest and strongest field of entries to date. Practice and qualifying for the event will be Friday, May 30. The race will start at noon on Saturday, May 31. This is the fifth year that the event will be held at Summit Point Raceway in Summit Point, WV.

The four fastest classes - ITS, ITE, American Sedan and SpecMiata are likely to produce the overall winner for this year's Kumho Tires 12 Hours at the Point. Two of these, Spec Miata and Improved Touring S are likely to produce extremely close battles throughout the entire event. These four classes account for slightly less than two-thirds of the record field of fifty-five entries and, as in every Kumho Tires 12 Hours at the Point, reliability will be the key to victory in this race.

Improved Touring E, with six cars entered, is the class most likely to produce the overall winner. ITE boasts two previous class winners -- including last year's winning team entered by Elizabeth Harrison. The Harrison entry dominated last year's event and set new distance covered records for both Improved Touring E and the Overall record. The Harrison entry is expected to win this year as well, but there are several dark horse challengers.

The Otto's BMW Team of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, entered by Gerry Walsh, is competing with a driver lineup that draws heavily from SCCA's popular Speed World Challenge Series. Though sidelined by mechanical failure in the 2001 race, the Otto's BMW, if it holds up, should be in a position to capitalize if the Harrison Porsche stumbles. If Harrison wasn't entered, the Otto's BMW would be one expected to be in contention for a good part of the race.

The RC Imports Mercedes Benz of Potomac, MD, entered by Cyndi Ellinger, the 1999 class winners, has ample experience in endurance racing, and the Ellingers are known for the reliability. What the RC Imports Team lacks, however, is the speed needed to stay in contention without misfortune hitting the Porsche and the BMW.

The Pontiac Formula Firebird is an unknown quantity in this class. While the car, entered by North Carolina Region's Timothy Swain, should have the speed to stick with the Harrison Porsche, reliability is of concern and we just do not believe that the Firebird, the first General Motors vehicle to enter the Kumho Tires 12 Hours at the Point, will have both the reliability and the speed to win this class and make it to the end -- it will either be fast or it will be reliable, not both.

The ITS class should not be counted out for the overall win. The class is extremely fast and reliability tends to be better than the quicker ITE class -- excepting the Harrison Porsche. Two previous class winners -- two time class winning John Legg and 2000 winner Dan Crossett will be competing in the thirteen--car class. Also vying for the ITS victory are perennial MARRS champion Ed York and endurance veteran Chuck Allard. Our prediction is a York victory unless reliability issues strike him. If York should falter, then it is a toss up between Legg and Crossett. Allard is the dark horse here. We expect the Allard Mercedes Benz to have no problems with mechanical breakdowns, but also, we do not expect the car to have the speed to stay in the front without some help from the racing gods.

Spec Miata has an excellent chance to produce the overall winner of this year's race and, in all honesty, if the Harrison entry falters, we expect to see a Spec Miata team on the top podium at midnight or even a sweep by Spec Miatas. Predicting this class is extremely difficult as last year's top five finishers were separated by only thirteen laps after covering 890 miles.

The favorites in this class are the William O'Brian entry -- last year's winner and the Bret dePedro entry -- last year's second place finisher. Two additional teams have a better-than-average chance of winning -- the two cars entered by Justin Elder and John Elder of Bloomington, Minnesota. The Elder's took third last year. Named dark horse candidate for this class is DC Region's own Bad Al Bell. Heck, who are we kidding? This one is a complete toss up.

We owe the single entrant in American Sedan, John Gottwald of York, Pennsylvania, an apology. Last year we said that we did not expect their Ford Mustang to last the grueling 12 Hours at the Point. Gottwald and his teammates proved us wrong and just last night, we had our crow pie. Gottwald has shown that he can keep Big American Iron together for the race and, unlike last year, we expect Mr. Gottwald's team to see the checker.

Complicating all of these predictions is the weather. Summit Point has seen rain on nearly everyday of the last thirty and as of Tuesday, there is a 30% chance of rain for the race. If the rain is off-and-on, when and whether to change to rain or back to dry tires is going to impact the outcome of this year's race.

The Kumho Tires 12 Hours at the Point is open to spectators and will take place rain or shine. For more information, go to www.12hoursatthepoint.org.

-dc region/jj-

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About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers John Legg , Justin Elder