The next race was to take place in California, for the traditional Los Angeles Times 6 Hour Enduro. Things were toughening for the bulk of the usual entry as the Bayside Disposal Team had his new Porsche 962 entered for Al Holbert and Derek Bell. It would be the sole time the car would sport the Lowenbrau colours. Holbert Racing would, later. The West Coast entry was quite varied with a lot of unusual cars. As the Ray McIntyre Chevrolet Corvette GTP was amongst the entrants. The AAR team had a pair of Toyota Celicas, but entered a Tom's Toyota 83C for Kaoru Hoshino and Masanori Sekiya. A brand new Ford Thunderbird, entered by Brooks Racing, and driven by John Bauer and Bruce Jenner. This car would dominate its class. The qualifying sessions saw all existing class records fall apart. Klaus Ludwig was on the pole with 1m34s061. It was more than two seconds off the previous mark. The race seemed to be a contest between three cars : the Bayside Disposal 962, the Zakspeed Ford Mustang GTP and the Blue Thunder Racing new March 84G Chevrolet, driven by Randy Lanier and Bill Whittington. As Gene Felton also shattered the previous GTO record, Elliot Forbes Robinson did the same in the GTU category with John Schneider's Porsche 924 GTR. The early stages of the race saw a big confrontation between Derek Bell and Bobby Rahal. This would last until lap seventy four when the Ford Mustang GTP would succumb to sheared wastegate bolts and a broken transmission. The Porsche 962 then took the lead but was able to be challenged by the Red Lobster March 83G Chevrolet, driven by Kenper Miller and David Cowart and the Conte Racing Lola T600 Chevrolet, driven by John Morton and Tony Adamowicz.
Courtesy Tony Adamowicz
The two cars would then drop to third and fourth place. By mid-race, the Blue Thunder Racing March was now firmly holding the second spot, with a one minute and fifteen seconds difference with the leading Porsche 962, which seemed to have its very first victory secured. But the car was not completely sorted, and it would plagued with numerous teething problems. Derek Bell lost one minute and a half for a wheel change, the wheel needing to be hammered out of position. The Blue Thunder March 83G Chevrolet moved by the Bayside Disposal Porsche 962. The end of the race seemed to materialize into a duel between the two opponents. In fact, the March clinged to its position until the chequered, with a five second margin over the Porsche at the end. The GTO class was surprisingly won by the small Mazda RX7 entered by Mandeville Auto Tech and driven by Roger Mandeville and Amos Johnson, who finished eleventh overall. They were outpaced by the GTU winning car, which was the Porsche 924GTR driven by Elliot Forbes Robinson and John Schneider. At Laguna Seca, a very small field was to be displayed to the spectators, as only fourteen cars took the green. The race seemed to undergo a Ford domination as the two cars led the race in the early stages, but unfortunately, they would both have to retire. Bob Wollek, who made his beginnings at the wheel of the Ford Mustang GTP , withdrew from the race with clutch problems. Klaus Ludwig was leading and retired one lap later. Sarel van der Merwe took back the lead but was to be passed by Randy Lanier and Kenper Miller, who had his best result ever, at the wheel of the Red Lobster March 83G Chevrolet. Bill Whittington, on the second Blue Thunder March 83G Chevrolet, was the first to retire from the race after six laps. The GTO-GTU race was quite interesting, with a very strong thirty three car field. It looked like four cars would be able to win that race, with John Bauer, driving the very fast Brooks Racing Ford Thunderbird, Walt Bohren at the wheel of the Dingman Bros Chevrolet Corvette, Gene Felton who did not drive the usual Stratagraph Chevrolet Camaro but the Round Table Racing Pontiac Firebird, Billy Hagan had chosen to drive the Stratagraph car, and George Follmer, who did make a very unusual appearance on his Trans Am Follmer Racing Chevrolet Corvette. The four of them seemed to be set for a big fight. In fact, the race was quickly set for the win as John Bauer, who dominated the practice sessions, rapidly took the lead of the race and escaped from the remainder of the field at a one second per lap rate. Behind him, three cars battled strongly, and it was Gene Felton, who emerged at the end, edging George Follmer and Fomfor, driving his own BMW M1, for second place. The GTU class was won by Jack Baldwin, who drove the CCR Racing Mazda RX7, who finished ahead of Logan Blackburn, who drove his Datsun 280ZX.
The next race was to take place on the high banks of Charlotte Motor Speedway, in Northern Carolina. A fantastic fifty car field was to be seen by a very huge and unusual crowd, as the week-end was hosting a NASCAR race. Al Holbert took his first pole position aboard the Holbert Racing Porsche 962, and he was followed by Randy Lanier and Bill Whittington, on the Blue Thunder Racing March 84G Chevrolet.
Copyright Michael Crews
As the Porsche 962, driven by Al Holbert, took the lead tight from the start, at the end, it was once again the Blue Thunder Racing March 84G Chevrolet driven by Randy Lanier and Bill Whittington which emerged as the winner at the end of the race. The beginning of the race had been thrilled by the huge crash involving to GT cars, the Porsche 924GTR driven by Elliot Forbes Robinson and the Ford Mustang driven by Fernando Sabino. The action resulted in a big fire for the Porsche but none of the drivers were hurt. As the March won, the second and third place results belonged to the Group 44 Jaguar XJR5s. Bob Tullius and Doc Bundy finishing just ahead of Brian Redman and Pat Bedard. The GTO class saw a new victory for the Stratagraph Chevrolet Camaro. Gene Felton and Billy Hagan winning and the second place went to Walt Bohren and Billy Dingman in the Dingman Bros Chevrolet Corvette. The GTU class was a first victory for Dan Gurney's AAR team. Chris Cord and Jim Adams earned a well deserved victory, driving a Toyota Celica. They defeated Al Bacon and Charles Guest, driving the Al Bacon Racing Mazda RX7, who took the second place, while Clay Young and Doug Grunnet took a very encouraging third place in class, at the wheel of the Dole Racing Pontiac Fiero. Things were getting more and more interesting. As the Charlotte event did happen under a bright sunny weather, it was quite a different matter for the next round, held at Lime Rock. The race was split into three race, for each category. Each race was to be run under a very wet track, with a very scant field. Fourteen cars took the green of the GTP race, with Bill Whittington on the pole, once again.
Copyright Jeffrey Payne
The race was to last one hour, and thanks to the track's state, the winner's average would not exceed eighty miles per hour. Sarel van der Merwe bought his Kreepy Krauly March 84G Porsche to his first victory of the season. Second was Randy Lanier, who brought his March 84G Chevrolet to a second place overall. He was more than one minute down at the end, but he was strengthening his dominant position for the title. The GTO race appeared to be the small engines' revenge, as Roger Mandeville won over Carson Baird, who drove a Datsun 280ZX. Billy Hagan was third, but this was probably due to the fact that only seven cars took the green, it was probably the smallest field ever in IMSA history.
Copyright Robert Manley
An interesting entry, however, was that of Paul Pettey, who brought his Jaguar XJS to a sixth place overall. The GTU round was probably the most interesting, as Jack Baldwin took his Mazda RX7 to a new victory over Chris Cord, who finished only four seconds down. Third was Clay Young, whose Pontiac Fiero was getting more and more competitive.
The next round, held at Mid Ohio, brought the March-Porsche duel to its peak, with less than four seconds between the two opponents after six grueling hours of racing. Nonetheless, it was the very first victory in the US for the Porsche 962. It was no domination at all for the German car, and it was kind of a welcome information, as the Blue Thunder March 84G, driven by Randy Lanier and Bill Whittington, was by no means dominated. Bill Whittington even set the best race lap on the final lap! Al Holbert and Derek Bell won their first race at the
wheel of the Holbert Racing car. Third overall was the Bayside Disposal Porsche 962, driven by Hurley Haywood and Bobby Rahal, while two other cars appeared as potential winners, the Kreepy Krauly March 84G Porsche driven by Sarel van der Merwe and Tony Martin, who finished fifth, and the Conte Racing March 84G Chevrolet, driven by John Morton and Richard Spenard. Those two cars held the lead in the early stages of the race. The GTO class saw a new winner as Chet Vincentz brought the Electrodyne Porsche 934 which he shared with Dave White to victory, just ahead of Roger Mandeville and Amos Johnson, driving their usual Mazda RX7. The GTU class brought a new winner too as George Alderman and Lew Price defeated the Mazda contingent for the first time of the season. Bob Leitzinger and Bob Criss took the second place, also driving a Datsun 280ZX,while Jack Baldwin and Bob Reed had to be content with the third place.
The next race was held at Watkins Glen, for the Continental double three Hour race. At the end, it was a new victory for the Al Holbert and Derek Bell, who were joined by Jim Adams, on their now familiar Porsche 962. Their strongest opposition appeared to be the Ford Mustang GTP, driven by Bob Wollek and Klaus Ludwig, but the car did not last more than seventeen laps. Randy Lanier and Bill Whittington had one of their rare dnf of the season, and did not gather any point for this race. The GTO class saw a new victory for the Electrodyne Porsche 934, driven by Chet Vincentz, who was now co-driven by Jim Mullen. Billy Hagan and Gene Felton had to retire on lap ninety one. The GTU class was won by Elliot Forbes Robinson and John Schneider, who drove their Porsche 924GTR to victory over Jack Dunham and Jeff Kline, who drove the Dunham Trucking Mazda RX7.
A new swing back to the west coast, at Portland, proved that the new Porsche domination was not completely settled down. During practice, Sarel van der Merwe had brought his March 84G Porsche into the pole position, just ahead of Randy Lanier and Bill Whittington, while Al Holbert and Derek Bell would start on the third row. The race featured the GTP and GTO cars while the GTUs would run a separate race. The race was quite fantastic between the three best cars. Sarel van der Merwe was the first to retire after six laps, and Bill Whittington then took over the lead. The Porsche seemed to become the right challenger, but the Group 44 Jaguar XJR5, driven by Bob Tullius and Doc Bundy was never to be forgotten. Relying on a better fuel consumption, the pair was able to finish at the second place, just ahead of the Porsche 962 driven by Al Holbert and Derek Bell. The Blue Thunder March 84G Chevrolet, driven by Randy Lanier and Bill Whittington, firmly held the lead until the chequered. The pair now clearly appearing as the one to beat. The GTO class was won by a newcomer, as the Double Eagle Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, driven by David Schroeder and Tom Hendrickson, took a surprise victory while the Stratagraph Chevrolet Camaro had some minor troubles during the race, as they took a third place in class. Second place was taken by Roger Mandeville, whose consistency would bring him a wonderful surprise later in the season. The GTU was once again a battle between the three best regular drivers. Jack Baldwin finally won over Jim Adams, Chris Cord and Clay Young for a now usual Mazda-Toyota and Pontiac fight. The best Porsche 924GTR was not driven by Elliot Forbes Robinson, and John Schneider took a very descent fifth place.
The next race was to be held at Sears Point, with again a very thin field to be displayed. Again it was Bill Whittington who sat on the pole, while Randy Lanier was on the fourth spot. It was very strange to see Sarel van der Merwe at the wheel of the Holbert Racing Porsche 962, as the team owner was not present. Bill Whittington clearly took advantage of this fact and dominated the race, while the two Group 44 Jaguar XJR5s took second and third. Doc Bundy was just ahead of Brian Redman, while Sarel van der Merwe took an excellent fourth place on a car he did not know very much. The GTO-GTU race promised a lot of excitement, with the Brooks Racing Ford Thunderbird back at the track, and John Bauer driving. As for Laguna Seca, John Bauer again dominated the practice sessions, and the race. He finished ahead of Dennis Aase and Chris Cord, who were the best GTU drivers. In fact, Gene Felton was the next GTO finisher, but he took only a sixth place, after starting at the thirteenth place. Since Sears Point is a very tricky track, he had to work his way through the field and it was a great result, at the wheel of the Herb Adams Racing Pontiac Firebird. Jack Baldwin was third in GTU behind the two Toyotas.(to be continued)