For 1978, a new step was to be made with the new GTX category. These cars were basically the same as their European group 5 counterparts. Thse rules were perfect for the newly introduced Porsche 935s, that immediately dominated the racing scene. It would be the first time a Porsche Carrera would not win a single race.
1978 was a Peter Gregg domination : he came back with a Brumos Racing Porsche 935 and won the Championship. He won eight races out of fourteen and set up no fewer than sixteen qualifying or race laps records. The BMW 320i Turbo proved a little too short of horsepower and he won two races with the new car when Peter Gregg had trouble. The new GT class was a welcome place for the Porsche Carreras and it was a battle throughout the season between David Cowart, Diego Febles, Howard Meister et all. The GTU class was a very good year with Dave White, Dennis Aase, Sam Posey putting a new Porsche-Datsun battle. John Bishop had introduced the new GTX category but the 935 dominance really became a problem. For 1979, there would be some rules change at stake.
The 24 Hours of Daytona kicked off the new season with a new Porsche domination. Twelve Porsche Turbos would make for the start, some of them were European teams who had made the costly trip to Florida. The main question was : which Porsche would win? Danny Ongais was on the pole and the rainy weather did not permit him to break Jacky Ickx record. The BMW was third on the grid but everyone would wonder if the car could keep up with the Porsches as the qualifying sessions were run under a wet track. Danny Ongais took the lead at the start but it did not last for long as Rolf Stommelen took the lead on the fourteenth lap, definitively! The BMW driven by David Hobbs did show its abilities in the infield, but the car experienced cooling problems : it lasted until the fourty seventh lap. The Jolly Club car driven by Carlo Facetti-Martini Finotto was the first car to retire from the race, and the Kremer Racing car too retired with racing legends Bob Wollek-Henri Pescarolo at the wheel. The Hurley Haywood-Bob Hagestad car challenged the leaders for the first hour, and the Peter Gregg-Claude Ballot Léna-Brad Frisselle car was the main contender for the leaders, but the car blew its engjne on sunday morning. Peter Gregg then went on to drive the winning car, driven by Rolf Stommelen and Toine Hezemans for one hour and take the victory.
Copyright Dave Kutz
Second overall was the Dick Barbour car, driven by Dick Barbour himself, Johnny Rutherford and Manfred Schurti. Despite many early race problems, they overcame these setbacks to finish at a well deserved second place after an excellent race. Third overall was the first GT car driven by Diego Febles and Alec Poole, who had a very neat race on their Porsche Carrera RSR. They did demonstrate the car's capabilities to finish high placed in endurance races. In GTU, it was a Porsche 911, driven by Dave White, Kurt Roehrig and Gary Mesnick who claimed the win over two other 911s, and the Bob Speakman Datsun.
Courtesy Tony Adamowicz
Next race at Sebring was quite different, with a stellar 74 car field. A huge crowd was to be seen for a very successful event.The race started in a bad way for the Brumos car as Peter Gregg ended up on his roof after twelve laps. Hurley Haywood-Bob Hagestad took an early lead and had built up a five laps lead over their closest pursuers. Then a brake caliper let go and the Brian Redman-Charles Mendez-Bob Garretson took the lead. The Hagestad owned car would close in on the Dick Barbour car, but a turbo unit had to be replaced. The four lap advantage went down to 92s at the finish, and the Redman-Mendez-Garretson car won. In GT, it was a Porsche Carrera, as expected, driven by Bonky Fernandez and John Paul who took the win and well-deserved fourth overall. Sixth overall was the GTU winning car driven by Francisco Romero and Ernesto Soto. They finished just ahead of Chiqui Soldevilla-Luis Gordillo similar car. Ninth overall was the remarkable Buick Skylark driven by Gene Felton and Vince Gimondo. They won the American Challenge class in a most remarkable way.
Charles Mendez and David Cowart had taken the job of promoting the race and did it quite effectively.
Next race was a new Talledega 6Hour race. There the Peter Gregg-Brad Frisselle duo had a race of their own as they won by an amazing eight lap margin. The car suffered from a softening tyre as Peter perfect made a swoop on the backstretch to come back to the pits, but it did not affect their winning march. The beginning of the race had just been a Gregg-Haywood show and the Bob Hagestad car managed to stay on the lead for 86 laps. A broken suspension then put the car out of contention for the lead. Second overall was the Whittington Bros car who were just running their third professional race. They did a great job on their Porsche 935. They were just ahead of Dick Barbour and Johnny Rutherford car. Bonky Fernandez and David Cowart went on to win the GT category and fourth overall on their reliable Porsche Carrera. They easily won over Richard Valentine-Roger Pierce Chevrolet Corvette, who grabbed the 20th place overall. The GTU class win went to the Dave White-Dana Roehrig Porsche 911S, two laps ahead of the George Drolsom-Hugh Davenport car and three over Bill Koll-David Hamren Porsche 914/6. This race was a premiere too, allowing RS cars to run with GT cars. This class was won by the AMC Pacer driven by Amos Johnson-Roger Mandeville, second was the other car, driven by Dennis Shaw-Jim Woodward. This was the only race it would happen.
Next race at Road Atlanta was a classical sprint race. Peter Gregg entered a twin turbo Porsche, and was never challenged. Danny Ongais, the sole driver able to defeat Peter Gregg, missed the first practice session and would start eleventh on the grid. As the race went on, Danny Ongais quickly worked his way through the field to second, but an off course prevented him to get closer to Peter Gregg. Third place was a great battle between Carl Shafer, in his big block Camaro, Gianpiero Moretti in a single turbo Porsche 935, and John Paul, who entered a new Greenwood Chevrolet Corvette. Carl Shafer won this battle. David Hobbs broke a wheel on his BMW320i Turbo. The GT category was won by Kenper Miller, whose ex-Gregg BMW 3.0CSL proved efficient to win over Randy Blessing in his Chevrolet Corvette, and Babe Headley in a Corvette too. The first Porsche Carrera was only fourth. It was David Cowart who led Diego Febles in a Ford Capri.
The next race was a swing to the west coast and George Follmer was on the pole with Danny Ongais alongside him. At the start, Danny Ongais was not here as he ran over some debris on the pace lap. Then it was Peter Gregg who took the lead over George Follmer, Hurley Haywood, Chris Cord in his Monza, Dick Barbour and David Hobbs. Traffic allowed George Follmer to take the lead, as he worked his way with dexterity. The duo Follmer-Gregg had a clear advantage over Hurley Haywood single turbo car. Chris Cord and David Hobbs had a big battle for fourth. Suddenly it started to rain and Peter Gregg was overtaken by Hurley Haywood, who finished second. George Follmer won the over Hurley Haywood, Peter Gregg and David Hobbs. John Morton had an easy GT victory in the Vasek Polak BMW 3.0CSL, and he was never challenged. Howard Meister took second in his neat Porsche Carrera. It was a very good day for Vasek Polak, who had the overall and GT win.
Courtesy John Morton
The next race was held at Hallett, and it was David Hobbs who took the win after Peter Gregg broke an axle. Second was John Paul who brought his new Greenwood Corvette to second. Third was Gianpiero Moretti, who had one of his best finishes of the season. The GT class was won by Kenper Miller BMW 3.0CSL. He had to fight a tough chase by Howard Meister, who had a fine run in his Porsche Carrera.
Courtesy Tony Mezzacca and Greenwood Corvettes
On Memorial Day at Lime Rock, Peter Gregg was again unbeatable. He won by a one lap margin over Bill Whittington, and two laps over John Paul, who had a new excellent run on his Corvette. David Hobbs took fifth on a brand new car. After starting last, he came back to fifth with a car that showed a good potential. The GT category was won by Diego Febles, who drove a fine looking Ford Capri. Kenper Miller led the race in the early stages, but he had to retire. Second was David Cowart who held off Howard Meister to take second. Gene Rutherford won the American Challenge over Pat Bedard, both of them driving Oldsmobile Cutlasses.
Brainerd saw a new victory by Peter Gregg but he had to wait until David Hobbs BMW burned a piston. He was then in front and finished first ahead of Gianpiero Moretti, Don Whittington and Carl Shafer, again posting a good race on his Camaro. Dave Cowart won the GTO class over Paul Brand, who drove a Camaro. Dave White won the GTU category in his Porsche, beating Don Devendorf in his Datsun, Bill Koll was third.
The Paul Revere night race held at Daytona saw another victory by Peter Gregg. However, he had a flat tyre early in the race that put him in the pack. He turned up the boost to quickly gain on the leaders and then was in front on lap thirty. Ted Field and Danny Ongais were second until the car went off course on lap 46. A big shunt involved five cars, the pace-car was out again for five laps. At the restart, Peter Gregg was still ahead, Cliff Kearns and Milt Minter were second in a Porsche 935 Turbo, the Whittington bros were third. The GT category was won by Kenper Miller who finished ahead of Mauricio de Narvaez and Diego Febles, both driving Porsche Carreras. Once again, Dave White won the GTU category. Tom Ashby and Bill Bean were second and Rusty Bond-Ren Tilton were third. Gene Felton won the American Challenge class in his Buick Skylark.
Sears Point was the next race on the schedule, and it was not to be Peter Gregg's race. The practice sessions had begun with one blown engine and a blown turbo seal on the new engine. He started last on the grid. David Hobbs proved extremely fast in practice, and he easily won his heat. John Paul had won his too and started on the front row. At the start, he pulled ahead of David Hobbs BMW. He held the lead for four laps. Then the little bimmer took the lead, as John Paul retired with a broken differential. Peter Gregg pitted early in the race with a missing front end, this time it was due to brakes problems. Then Bill Whittington took the chase to retire later. Don Whittington took over to finish second, Gianpiero Moretti was third and Rich Sloma, in a AAGT Corvette, took an excellent fourth. Howard Meister was back to the winner's circle in GT, he defeated Kenper Miller's BMW 3.0CSL, while Mauricio de Narvaez took third in his Porsche.
Portland was to be a good day for Peter Gregg. He won the race and subsequently clinched the Championship. Portland was a hard track for the BMW which was outpowered by the Porsche 935s. Peter Gregg won the pole and easily flew away. David Hobbs did his best to keep his second place, holding off John Paul, who had a good race in his Corvette. He soon was to have a broken driveshaft and a fire finally led to his retirement. David Hobbs followed, with a seized metering unit. Gianpiero Moretti then took second and kept his place until the end. Bill Whittington finished third and Rich Sloma was fourth in his big Corvette. David Cowart won again the GT class, ahead of Bob Bergstrom Jr and Ren Tilton, running on a Porsche 911 fitted with a bigger engine. Roy Woods had brought his Chevrolet Monza Turbo. He had qualified ninth but did not last more than sixteen laps in the race.
The next race was the Mid Ohio 250 Mile race. As per usual, Peter Gregg had blown everything in practice, and the race seemed to be his again. But it was not to be. He took an easy lead early in the race, but had to pit after 32 laps for a long repair to replace an injector part. He got back to the race but he retired later with refueling problems. Milt Minter had taken the lead from Peter Gregg on Cliff Kearns Porsche 935. David Hobbs was close behind. They would put up a good show, but when they pitted later, they would be exhausted, both suffering from the heat. As their co-drivers took the wheel, Jim Busby was closing in on the leaders, and he took the lead on lap 56. The leading Whittington-Busby pair would never be caught again. As an exhausted Tom Klausler came back to the pits, he was still second and David Hobbs would try to catch the leaders. But a late ninety second pit stop for an alternator repair would definitively stick him to second place. Third were Cliff Kearns-Milt Minter, Gianpiero Moretti-Charles Mendez were fourth. Phil Currin was next on his Corvette, which was a great result. David Cowart was partnered by Mauricio de Narvaez to win the GT class, Bonky Fernandez and Walt Bohren were second and Diego Febles ran solo to take third. All of them drove Porsche Carreras. Bill Bean won the GTU class on the Bullwinkle Porsche 911. Bob Speakman finished second on his Datsun, which was his best finish of the season. George Drolsom and Mark Greb took third on their Porsche 911. This race saw the debut of the first ever Mazda RX7 to be entered in IMSA. It was Al Cosentino's car, Craig Fisher co-drove it.
At Road Atlanta, it was again all Peter Gregg. He had qualified behind Danny Ongais and Bill Whittington. In the race, he took the lead from Danny Ongais and the Whittington bros. David Hobbs was just behind, but a flat tyre brought him to the pits. He would retire later. The race would go on this way and the final classification saw Peter Gregg first, Don and Bill Whiitington were two-three, Gianpiero Moretti and Ted Field followed. It was a twin turbo sweep for the leading trio. The GT class went to Howard Meister, who defeated Kenper Miller on his BMW in a very convincing way. David Cowart took third and clinched the GT Championship.
The Daytona Finale was yet another victory for Peter Gregg who won every race at the Superspeedway this year. Once again he took the pole, and he had to fight a challenge from Danny Ongais, who started from eleventh on the grid. After three laps, he was second and determined to finish that damned race. Yet he never managed to close in on Peter Gregg but he was still second at the finish, forty four seconds down. John Paul took third, this time driving a Porsche 935, while Gianpiero Moretti shared his ride with Hurley Haywood to take fourth. The GT class was quite different from those usual races as Rick Thompkins won in his wild Corvette, just ahead of Bob Tullius in his Jaguar XJS. Mauricio de Narvaez took third in his Porsche Carrera. Richard Kendrick and Scott Hoerr won an unusual GTU race too on a Datsun 240Z, second were Ray Mummery and Tom Sheehy on a Porsche 911S. Dave White took third on another Porsche 911. Don Yenko took the American Challenge class, beating Gene Felton's Buick.
The 1978 season was over and it looked again like a Porsche domination. A change of rules seemed to be the way to go. A new set of rules according to a better balance between car makes should be welcomed by the competitors and the attendance would be better off these changes.