In 1989, All American Racers moved up to the GTP category. They would use an ex-works car, the Toyota 88C, and fitted it with the L4 2,1L Turbo engine. It was the year of the beginnings, and they did well, within a category which was entirely new to them. Back in 1984, Tom's Toyota, which was a semi-factory team, ran a 2,1L 4T-GT Toyota motor. They became regular Le Mans entrants. They had entered a Toyota at the 1984 Riverside 6Hour race to see how it would do against serious opposition. In fact, AAR had planned to enter the GTP class as early as 1984. The Eagle Mk1 was built at that time around a 4T-GT engine was some kind of a test for AAR, and it would never actually enter any race. In 1989, Rick Murray was team manager, working with Gary Donahoe on the 88C. They used it while working on their future car, the MKII, or HF89. The 88C made its debut at Daytona, driven by Chris Cord, Drake Olson and Steve Bren. The car had started thirteenth but they failed to finish.
Copyright Michael Crews
Later in the season, the old car would prove quite fast with two pole positions by Drake Olson at Road Atlanta and Lime Rock and a second place finish by Willy T Ribbs at San Antonio. The Eagle MkII, which was entered later, was less successful, with a string of dnfs, and a fourth at Del Mar. Drake Olson finished ninth in points and Juan Fangio was thirteenth. At the end of the season, the 88C went back to Europe. Rick Murray left AAR, and Gary Donahoe became the new team manager. It seemed, at that point, that the main problem was the engine reliability. Drino Miller, from TRD (Toyota Racing Development), which was an independant California subsidiary which sold performance parts, and became involved in racing in 1987, worked on the engine to improve that much needed reliability. The engine management system was replaced by a brand new one, together with a modern chip, which was reprogrammed. Toyota became infuriated when they got to become aware of this fact. As a result, they would no longer supply any technical help for the new system. AAR would have then to rely on its own creativity and Dan Gurney was planning to make the engine management system entirely in the US. In 1990, the season began at Daytona with a dnf. As the season went on, things improved and Drake Olson was partnered by Juan Fangio while Rocky Moran was partnered by Willy T Ribbs. Drake Olson took his first pole at West Palm Beach, but the first victory was for Juan Fangio and it came at Topeka, starting from the pole.
Copyright Kirk Hoffman
Then Juan Fangio took two more wins and finished fourth in the GTP points standings. Toyota had never run so well in any championship but the Eagle HF90 was no more than an evolution of the 1989 model. AAR did not expect to win any championship with the Eagle MKII car, but Dan Gurney had in mind the car that would do it later, the Eagle MkIII. John Ward was hired to build the new killer car. The car did appear at Las Vegas and Willow Springs, where it was tested by Rocky Moran. The 1991 season was not so successful as expected, and the best placing was a second place at Lime Rock, and a last victory for the Eagle HF90.
Copyright Mike Birch
The Eagle MkIII debuted at Laguna Seca, but the race was a failure, mainly due to penalties within the course of the action. Portland was the first victory for the Eagle MkIII, with another win at Del Mar. Juan Fangio finished fifth in points, and Toyota was fourth in the Manufacturers standings. The winning streak came in 1992 with eight wins for Juan Fangio, taking seven wins out of the thirteen race schedule. Juan Fangio was the 1992 IMSA Champion and PJ Jones, Mark Dismore and Andy Wallace were the new AAR drivers. They not only won the IMSA Championship, but were able to win any kind of race. They took their first Endurance victory at Sebring, with Juan Fangio and Andy Wallace driving. Then they took victories at Lime Rock, New Orleans, Watkins Glen, Portland, Road America, Phoenix and Del Mar.
They dominated the Championship so much that, at the end of the season, Nissan, Jaguar and Mazda announced they would not be back in 1993. As a result, it was clear that they would dominate the series. Even with bigger restrictors, the two Eagle MKIIIs were no match for the opposition. The sole interest for the season was between the drivers fighting for the title, Dan Gurney had elected to let his drivers do the show. At the end, Juan Fangio had a new title with 183 points, while PJ Jones was second with 168 points.
Courtesy All American Racers and Rick Graves
The two AAR drivers were far ahead from Gianpiero Moretti, who drove a Nissan NPT90. It would be the last season for the GTP cars, as for 1994, new rules had been introduced. The GTPs were dead, and the WSCs were arriving. Yet, the All American Racers team would be the last team to ever win a GTP Championship. And they did it in such a way! Dan Gurney had set his mark on the IMSA Championship, and he proved his abilities to win if he had decided he wanted to win. As would say Dennis Aase about his team owner : "He's America's hero". I think no one would deny it.