Duval Dominates at Sebring

March 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Features

Sebring International Raceway, in Florida, opened in 1950, and is considered as one of the top raceways in the United States. It is also home to the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, which many view as a preparation event for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Even though many would believe the bumpy surface of the track to be a negative feature, it actually assists in testing the cars’ capabilities. Fans camp out on the greens along the course days before, in anticipation of this magnificent auto racing event of endurance.

Porsche have managed to win this event seven times, with Audi close on their heels with six victories. When it comes to drivers, Tom Kristensen has been in the wining position in five 12 Hours of Sebring events, but it seems that Peugeot is now making their name in the race, with a Peugeot vehicle winning the race for the second consecutive year.

Lioc Duval was racing in the Peugeot 908 HDi FAp for Team ORECA Matmut, and won the race decisively with a 31.8 second lead on second place finisher Simon Pagenaud, for the Highcroft Racing team. Hughes de Chaunac, owner of Team ORECA expressed his joy over the victory by saying: “It’s a historic result for us. It’s a race that we built step by step. We finished just in front of the manufacturers. We avoided any mistakes. It was a perfect job from the team and these three drivers. It was not easy because I asked them to be quick and patient. We won because we did not make any mistakes.” Duval was teamed up with Olivier Panis and Nicolas Lappierre.

The last three hours of the 2011 12 Hour of Sebring were the most crucial in the entire race. The No.8 Peugeot was brought in by Stephane Sarrazin for a full service, including replacing the broken louvers on the left wheel. Pedro Lamy then took over, but did not make an impact. Drivers in the second and third position kept battling it out, Pagenaud and Montagny, while Duval took on a last fill of fuel and remained unchallenged. He later commented: “When it was time to start my last stint, I was really stressing. To be honest, I hadn’t imagined that I would be in that position! With ten laps to go, things got better: I wasn’t taking any risks and I knew it was going to happen. I still don’t believe what’s happened! I think we did something big and it will sink in during the coming days.”

An Intriguing Array of People and Cars

August 17, 2009 by  
Filed under News

At the 36th Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, every fabulous car making its way around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has an intriguing character behind its wheel or responsible for its restoration. That fact couldn’t have been more evident today as participants – making last-minute preparations and practicing for tomorrow’s and Sunday’s races — mingled with spectators in paddock areas that bustled with activity and the sweet cacophony of revving engines.

“We all have our own favorite years and cars,” said spectator Dave Kuhns (Sacramento, Calif.), after collecting autographs from the iconic likes of David Donohue, Vic Elford, John Horsman and Brian edman, “but we really just enjoy it all.” Like Kuhns, many fans return yearly to Monterey during this week to enjoy the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races and a slew of other events that comprise Monterey Peninsula’s Classic Car Week.

Racer/Traveler: Rusty French

Participants, too, feel a need to return after getting “hooked” on the event, and none have more logistically extravagant travel plans than Rusty French, who packs up two 935 Porsches, plus all the gear and spares needed for a weekend of racing, into a container and travels with his family from Mt. Eliza, Victoria, Australia for three weeks of holiday. The container in which his cars and gear are shipped serves double duty as a tricked-out race trailer, custom awning and all.

“I credit Rolex for their support and for making it possible for the purist racer to have an opportunity to race among the kind of machines that are here at the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races,” said French, who won his class last year. “It’s also a lovely time to be here, since back home in Australia it is winter.”

Before he began vintage auto racing, Rusty had a very impressive professional career which included 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1984, where he finished ninth in a 956 Porsche, and the Bathurst 1000 in Australia the same year, where he finished fifth co-driving with Manfred Winkelhock.

A Nod to Bruce Jennings

Bruce Jennings was best known for his many races at Sebring and for having raced in every model of Porsche over those years. He was a gentleman and a great ambassador of the sport. Two gentlemen racing here at the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races are keeping Bruce Jennings’ motorsports legacy alive by entering two of his former race cars.

Robert Newman (New York, N.Y.) will drive his 1969 Porsche 911 LWB and Tom O’Callaghan (Auburn, Calif.) will drive his 1968 Porsche 911S; both cars sport the same beautiful orange color scheme that identified them when raced by Jennings.

Before his death in 1997, Jennings either sold or gave away his race cars, along with the spare parts, to his close friends, resulting in the eventual sales of these cars to the present owners.

Newcomer Christian Zugel

First-time participant Christian Zugel (Holmdel, N.J.), has entered two Porsche 917s, the more famous of which is chassis #21, which raced at Le Mans in 1970. “The other one we recently acquired from a museum in Germany,” said Zugel, “and we have also brought two 962 Porsches of which one is in the Coke livery as raced by Bob Akin. (Bob’s son Bobby Akin plans to race the car here this weekend in honor of his father.)

“It’s a phenomenal facility and Monterey almost looks like Tuscany, Italy,” said Zugel, who raced with the Porsche Club of Germany, where he grew up, before joining the Porsche Club of America about six years ago.  “It’s so much fun: the people are wonderful, with many different drivers and so many different backgrounds. I’m psyched.”

Bobby Akin: In Memory of his Father

For participant Bobby Akin, this event has special significance because 34 years ago, when he was just a boy, his family loaded his famous father’s Lotus Eleven on an open trailer, and the whole family drove cross-country to attend the second Monterey Historic Automobile Races.

“My father had a fierce duel with Chris Cord but finished an incredibly close second to Chris’ Birdcage Maserati,” recalled Akin. “My father was very upset that he did not win that race, so he decided to buy the fastest car in that class for the following year. That is when he bought the Cooper Monaco, which so many people now think of when they think of my Dad. He was determined to beat that Birdcage Maserati, and he did the next year.”

Akin also has a strong connection with Steve Earle, the originator and producer of the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, since Earle and Akin’s father raced together in the 1970s at Daytona and Sebring.

“I had to make a decision in the early 90s, while I was a part of the new television channel now known as SPEED,” said Akin, who is Vice President of SPEED Integrated Marketing. “It would be either racing or television, and I obviously chose the latter. However, I really do love to race at any and all opportunities.”

Akin sees his colleagues on-site, since SPEED is televising the event as it has for over 15 years. The premier airing of SPEED Channel’s one-hour special on the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races is scheduled for Friday, October 16 at 8 p.m.

For more information on the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, visit www.montereyhistoric.com.

Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races

July 17, 2009 by  
Filed under News

It’s official. Four hundred fifty entries have been accepted for the 36th Rolex Monterey
Historic Automobile Races, one of vintage motorsport’s most revered racing traditions,
set for August 14-16 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Of those, 145 are Porsche cars, helping
to celebrate Porsche as this year’s featured marque and lending live-action perspective on
the company’s storied racing heritage, which includes remarkable cars made famous by
legendary drivers.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the iconic Porsche 917, and fittingly, four 917Ks
will take to the track. Three of those are re-uniting from the Gulf Wyer Team, and their
former Executive Director John Horsman will be watching them race along with Brian Redman
and Vic Elford, both of whom claimed victories at 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of
Sebring and are former Porsche factory drivers who raced the 917 at Le Mans. (Elford also
was behind the wheel of the 917 for the high speed scenes in the Steve McQueen film “Le Mans.”)

“The Porsche 917K was the greatest race car of all time” said Elford, noting that the “K”
denoted aerodynamic modifications made for the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans, helping to give
Porsche its first overall victory in that race, followed by another win in 1971. It incorporated
Porsche’s revolutionary flat 12-cylinder engine. The long-tailed version could go 0-62 mph
in 2.7 seconds and reach top speeds of over 240 mph.

“The first time I drove the 917 was in 1969 (at Le Mans), and that car was a monster,” he
continued. “At the end of a straight you couldn’t just go from the brake pedal to the
throttle because the back end would want to come around, so you had to kind of finesse it…it
was uncharted territory back then and the car was very unstable.” Elford explained that he
was three hours from the finish and holding a 50-mile lead when his 917 broke down, taking
him and his co-drivers out of the running. John Horsman, who was an engineer as well as the
Gulf Wyer Team Executive Director, suggested the “short tail” modification for the car and
the 917K was born.

Elford added that in contrast to the 917 of 1969, the 1970 car (the 917K) was easy to drive
in the new short form. “At the end of the Mulsanne straight (at Le Mans) in 1969 the 917’s
top speed was around 200 mph, but in 1970, the top speed there was 220,” he said.

Races to Watch; Notable Drivers

With practice on Friday and warm-ups Saturday and Sunday mornings, racing will begin after
noon on each weekend day for 15 race groups that span nearly every era of motorsports history.

Saturday’s Group 7A (1964 – 1971 FIA Mfg. Championship Cars) is just one example of the
extremely rare and valuable cars competing: it features not only 917K Porsches but also two
Ferrari 512s and two Ford GT-40s, reminiscent of those competing in the late 1960s and
conjuring up images of the 1969 Le Mans race where, at the finish, a Ford GT-40 won by a mere
two seconds over a Porsche 908, making history as the closest margin of victory at Le Mans and
perhaps the most exciting race finish ever.

“For enthusiasts, the 2009 Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races will be very special,”
said Steve Earle of General Racing, Ltd., which owns and organizes the event. “You’ll be going
back in time, not just standing around admiring these cars. They are racing, and the sights
and sounds are the real thing.”

Notable drivers include England’s Sir Stirling Moss, often called “the greatest driver never
to win the World Championship,” driving a 1960 Lola MK I in Group 5A; South Africa’s Desire Wilson
(one of only five women to have entered an F1 World Championship Grand Prix), driving a 1952
Glockler Porsche in Group 3A; the USA’s John Morton (lauded for accomplishments in Can Am, Trans Am,
Indy Car, and endurance car racing), driving a 1985 Nissan GTP in Group 8A; and Kevin Buckler driving
his 2003 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona overall winning Porsche GT3RS in Group 7B. Brian Redman
(multiple winner of Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring) will drive the unique 1969
Porsche 917 PA (Porsche’s first Can-Am effort) in Group 6B and a 1971 Porsche 908/3 (a twin to the
car with which he won the 1970 Targa Florio) in Group 7A.

Schedule of Racing

Saturday August 15, 2009

Group 1A) 1904 – 1940 Sporting Cars
Group 2A) 1925 – 1949 Racing and Sporting Cars
Group 3A) 1948 – 1955 Sports Racing & GT Cars under 1500cc
Group 4A) 1955 – 1961 GT Cars under 2200cc
Group 5A) 1955 – 1961 Sports Racing Cars under 2000cc
Group 6A) 1955 – 1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc
Group 7A) 1964 – 1971 FIA Mfg. Championship Cars
Group 8A) 1981 – 1991 FIA Mfg. Championship & IMSA GTP Cars

Sunday August 16, 2009

Group 1B) 1947 – 1955 Sports Racing & GT Cars over 1500cc
Group 2B) 1971 – 1976 FIA Mfg. Championship Cars
Group 3B) 1961 – 1966 GT Cars under 2500cc
Group 4B) 1959 – 1966 Sports Racing Cars
Group 5B) 1963 – 1967 GT Cars over 2500cc
Group 6B) 1966 – 1974 Can-Am Cars
Group 7B) 1973 – 1980 IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT Cars

Tickets, parking directions and information on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca are available by
visiting www.MazdaRaceway.com or calling (800) 327-SECA. For more information on the Rolex
Monterey Historic Automobile Races, visit www.montereyhistoric.com or contact General Racing, Ltd.,
info@generalracing.com , +1 (805) 686-9292.

Second Season of Unified Indycar Racing Commences

February 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

It may not be the first season of unified racing for the IndyCar Series, but teams returning to this year’s events will likely feel that it is. Last year the unification decision was announced in February, just days before pre-season testing commenced. Drivers were ill-prepared for the changes and many suffered for this during the course of the season. This year they can kick off their season truly prepared for it.

Things started out a bit rough-and-tumble for the 2008 IndyCar racing season after some major changes were made a little too close to the first open test. The February Open Test in Homestead, Miami, was missed and a separate Open Test was held in Sebring, Florida. Teams had to spend at least half the season preparing back-up cars just to make it through with some hope of success. Fortunately the drivers were eventually able to catch up, and by the end of the season there were two rookie breakthrough wins by Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal.

Now the 2009 IndyCar series unified racing season is ready to begin as cars get ready to return to the track from February 24-25 for the Open Test. Stating his expectations for the year, Vitor Meira, who has been racing the series for seven years and will be moving to AJ. Foyt Racing for the season, said: “It’s definitely going to be tougher. With the off-season that we have, the new teams have had a lot of time to think, a lot of time to correct their mistakes. Since their learning curve is higher than ours, they’re going to be able to start in better shape than last year.”

Apart from the Open Test announcement, teams will also be racing two new street courses in Long Beach California and Toronto. Drivers seem to be excited about being given the chance to race where people like Mario and Michael Andretti, Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti have raced and won before. Will Power remarked that “Unification was the best thing that could’ve happened for open-wheel racing in North America”, due to the fact that “it’s created a lot more interest in the sport.” He couldn’t be more right and no doubt the 2009 IndyCar Series will be a massive success.

Mark Donohue

February 9, 2009 by  
Filed under

Born in Summit, New Jersey, on 18 March 1937, Mark Neary Donohue Junior was a brilliant American racecar driver. Mark Donohue had a reputation for being able to set up his own car and drive it consistently. The bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering that he received from Brown University in 1959 must have certainly helped him in this regard. He started racing casually at the relatively young age of 22 in a 1957 Corvette – the car which gave him his first win. He started networking with a number of different SCCA drivers and eventually met Walt Hansgen. Hansgen was an experienced race driver who recognised Donohue’s talent and became his mentor. He encouraged Donohue to make good use of both his natural driving talent and his great working knowledge of vehicle mechanics – something which always proved to be an advantage to Donohue.

In 1965, Hansgen invited Mark to co-drive a Ferrari 275 at the Sebring Endurance Race. The team finished eleventh in the race and Donohue was catapulted onto the international sports car racing scene. The following year Donohue was signed up to drive a GT-40 MK II racecar for the Ford Motor Company. His first year with the company was rather unsuccessful and he finished 51st. The following year, he again raced for Ford – this year with much more success. Despite constant disagreements with his co-driver Bruce McLaren, the team managed to finish 4th in the endurance classic. In 1967, Mark Donohue dominated the United States Road Racing Championship in a Lola T70 MkIII Chevy. He was driving for Roger Penske – one of the most influential figures in his racing career. During that year he won six of the eight races he competed in. The following year, Donohue continued to enjoy a superior season – dominating in most of the races despite mechanical problems with his McLaren M6A Chevrolet.

Things continued to go well for Mark Donohue and before long he started his Trans-Am career which was also highly successful. He raced his first Indianapolis in 1969, finishing seventh and taking the rookie of the year award. The following year he finished second and in 1972 he won the race. During all this time he continued to drive for Roger Panske. In 1973, Donohue took to NASCAR racing driving in the Winston Cup Series. During this time Penske had been working with Donohue to help develop the 917/10 Porsche. Donohue offered his extensive enginnering knowledge to help make the Porsche the best car on the track – though not all the choices he made where good ones. Before long the two started working on the 917-30 – the car which came to be known as the ‘Can-Am Killer’. The body was completely reworked to make it more aerodynamic, while the car features a 5.4 litre turbocharged Flat-12 engine which could reach an output of 1500 bhp. The car dominated every competition it entered, except one, and is still today seen as one of the most dominant racing cars to ever be created. Donohue went on to enjoy a short Formula One racing career before his untimely death in 1974 in a racing accident. He was eventually inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990.

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