With a new rules system introduced by John Bishop, the 1988 season was beginning with new hopes for normally aspirated engines. The main purpose of the new rules was to even the chances between the top competitors. Thus, with a new 57mm strap, it was the rpm limit that was aimed at. The major goal was to lengthen the engines life exprctancy, therefore reducing the racing costs. A new scale was introduced to level out the chances. Everything was made to give everyone a run for his money. The new 1988 season would see new competitors bringing out some fresh cars. At Daytona, Tom Walkinshaw was entering three Jaguar XJR9s, with a stellar lineup. Jan Lammers, Davy Jones and Danny Sullivan were on the first one, Eddie Cheever, Johnny Dumfries and John Watson on the second and Martin Brundle, John Nielsen and Raul Boesel on the third one. The cars were all fitted with the V12 6,0L engine, which was given for 600hp. These figures appeared underestimated. Group 44 was here too with a Jaguar XJR7 which remained unchanged, Hurley Haywood, Whiney Ganz and Bob Tullius drove the car. Six Porsche 962s was facing this brand new challenger. Holbert Racing had its usual car, now adorned with the Miller High Life livery. Derek Bell and Chip Robinson drove the car, and Al Holbert would have a limited drive. His new appointment as Director of Porsche Motorsport of America implied new charges, so he would drive less. Dyson Racing entered Price Cobb, Rob Dyson, James Weaver and Vern Schuppan. Bayside Motorsport had Klaus Ludwig, Hans Stuck and Bruce Leven while Foyt Motorsport fielded a car for AJ Foyt, Al Unser Jr and Elliot Forbes Robinson. All four cars had some real chances for the win. They were all Goodyear shod too. The two last favorite cars were the Busby Racing car, driven by Bob Wollek, Mauro Baldi and Brian Redman, which used a special Nida chassis built in the US. Brun Motorsport had a strong entry, with Gianfranco Brancatelli, Massimo Sigala and Oscar Larrauri. The car ran on Yokohama. Two other cars were entered, but they did not run for victory. The Hotschkis Racing car, with John Hotschkis and Jim Adams driving and the Kalagian Racing car, driven by Jim Rothbarth, who came from the Lights class, Rob Stevens and Bernard and Michel Jourdain. The Chevrolet Corvette GTP, which was to be entered by Hendricks Racing, would not even show up. It was officially due to an engine failure. A sure disappointment. Sarel van der Merwe would finally drive the Bayside Motorsports Porsche 962, and bring his talent to the Klaus Ludwig and Hans Stuck.
Two other interesting cars were there in the name of two Ford Probe, formely owned by Zakspeed, now entered by Tom Milner. They were powered either by a L4 16 valve 2,0L or a V8 fuel injected 6,0L engine. Arie Luyendijk, Tom Gloy and Tom Pumpelly drove the first one, while Bruce Jenner, Calvin Fish and Scott Goodyear were on the normally aspirated car. From Europe came the ADA, entered by Ian Harrower, which was to make its only appearance ever on the US ground.
Copyright Michael Crews
Wayne Taylor, Ian Flux and Stanley Dickens shared the drive with team owner. Roy Baker had brought along his Tiga GT286 DFV, and Michael Allison, Stephen Hynes and Chris Ashmore were at the wheel of this underpowered car. A brand new Fabcar GTP, built by Dave Klym debuted at Daytona. The car was powered by a V8 Chevrolet engine. Chip Mead and Tim McAdam would drive it, but it would explode an engine and be one dns. Gianpiero Moretti, who had purchased the two March 86Gs from BMW two years before fielded the two of them. As for the Fords, they were powered by two kinds of powerplant. A V6 4,5L normally aspirated engine, and a 3,0L turbo, Buick powered. Steve Phillips, Jeff Andretti and Michael Roe drove the first one, and Gianpiero Moretti, Paolo Barilla and Michael Roe would run the second one. The Mahre bros, Phil and Steve, entered a URD BMW, which sported a 3,5L engine, coming from the M1. Two old Marches, one 84G Pontiac powered, entered by Bill McDill, co-driven by Richard McDill and Tom Juckette, and a Buick powered one, owned by Jim Briody, with Bob Nagel and John McComb, were to be seen. They no longer played any major role and were now regular backmarkers. The two last GTP cars, one Spice Firebird, driven by Steve Durst, Mike Brockman and Bob Earl, was sporting a brand new V6 4,5L engine ; an Alba, a type of car which was usually entered in the Lights class, had a V6 4,5LBuick powerplant. That made up for a big and interesting field of 22 GTP cars. The Lights class was getting increasingly interesting, with a wide variety of cars. Twenty one cars made up for an impressive field. A brand new Spice had been delivered to Scott Schubot, who was partnered by Linda Ludeman.
Copyright Michael Crews
Sleeker than the Fiero GTP, this car was powered by a Buick V6 engine. The Spice Fieros were four, with Don Bell, Charles Morgan and Costas Los in the AT & T car, Whitehall Promotion had two cars for Skeeter McKitterick, Bill Koll, Mario Hytten and Tom Winters on #79, Claude Ballot Léna, Jean Louis Ricci and Olindo Iacobelli on the #97. Huffaker had a strong entry for Terry Visger, Jon Woodner and Paul Lewis. A very fast Alba AR6 Ferrari would be entered by Bieri Racing for Martino Finotto, Guido Dacco and Pietro Silva. The team had an older car for team owner Uli Bieri, Angelo Pallavicini, Herm Johnson and Paolo Guaitamacchi.
Jim Downing had his usual Argo JM19 Mazda. He was co-driven by Howard Katz and Hiro Matsushita. Jim Fowells shared a similar car with David Cowart, Ray Mummery and Mike Meyer. Another Argo, which was Ferrari powered, was entered for Steven Johnson, Geoff Nicol and Bob Strait. A pair of Fabcar Porsche, which had met with some success in 1987, could play an interesting part in such a race, were here with a good lineup. John Higgins, Howard Cherry, Jack Newsum and Tim McAdam drove the #42, and film star Lorenzo Lamas, Charles Monk, Perry King, Lance Jones and Gregg Young would be likely to drive #48. A pair of Tigas could play a role too, and Tom Hessert had a Chevrolet powered car, David Loring and David Simpson were his co-drivers. Bobby Brown had the same type of car, which he shared with Billy Hagan, Ron Nelson and NASCAR driver Sterling Marlin. An old Lola T616 Mazda and an Argo JM16 Mazda, as well as a Royale Porsche completed this roster.
The GTO field was featuring a new Chevy-Ford duel. Things had changed, however, as it was now Lincoln Mercury who was now spearheaded. Jack Roush, who had campaigned Mercury Merkurs in Trans Am the previous year, entered similar cars in IMSA as well. The two cars displayed two different types of powerplant.
Copyright Michael Crews
A V8 6,0L for Scott Pruett and Pete Halsmer, and a L4 turbo for Paul Miller, Bobby Akin Jr and Paul Gentilozzi. Two Mercury Capris were entered too. Mark Martin, Deborah Gregg and Lyn St James were on #22, while Les Delano, Andy Peterey and Craig Carter drove #33. Protofab Racing, run by Charlie Selix, fielded a pair of exciting Chevrolet Corvettes. Designed by Bob Riley, the two cars were impressive. Greg Pickett, John Jones and Tommy Riggins drove car #2, Bill Adam, Chip Mead and Tommy Archer were on #5. Powered by a V8 5,5L given for 580hp, they were the public's favorites, of course. Toyota, with AAR, entered a pair of Celicas. Chris Cord was the 1987 GTO Champion and had some hopes for a race the team nearly won in 1987. Willy T Ribbs, Juan Fangio II and Rocky Moran drove car #99, while Dennis Aase and Steve Millen shared Chris Cord's racer. A Buick Somerset, entered by Bobby Allison, was an interesting entry. Mainly looking like a NASCAR racer, the car ran pretty well. Dick Danielson and Clifford Allison were Bobby Allison's co-drivers. Roger Mandeville had brought along his tri-rotor Mazda RX7, which was a little shy on hp. With 460hp, the car could not challenge the big bangers, but in such a race, who knows. The car was still under development, though. CCR, the team who won the GTU title in 1987, had a similar car, which was driven by John Morton, PJ Jones and Parnelli Jones! A bunch of private entries, amongst which Corvettes, Camaros and Firebirds made the bulk of the field, but these were mainly outdated cars. Buz McCall entered the ex-Peerless Chevrolet Camaro, and this car could play a major role in such a race. Sponsored by Skoal Bandit, Paul Dallenbach, Max Jones, and Buz McCall drove it. Lance van Every and Ash Tisdelle drove the fastest of them. No Porsche Carreras or 934s were to be seen. The GTU class was a traditional Mazda sweep, and six of them were entered. Team Highball, last year's winner, had some hopes for a new class victory. Amos Johnson, Dennis Shaw and Bob Lazier would drive the car. Their main oponent was the CCR car, driven by GTU Champ Tommy Kendall, who was co-driven by Johnny Unser and Tom Frank. Al Bacon, Bob Reed and John Hogdal would provide a stiff opposition with their Bacon Racing car. Leitzinger Racing entered a Nissan 300ZX, which was beautifully turned out. Bob Leitzinger drove this car with son Butch and Chuck Kurtz. Four Porsche 911s were entered, which was the lowest entry field for such a car.
Copyright Michael Crews
The most efficient of them was the tubeframe car, entered by Karl Durkheimer, along with Monte Shelton, Jim Torres and Nort Northam. Bill Auberlen drove his SP Racing car with father Gary and Cary Eisenlohr and Adrian Gang. Bob Beasley was still here, with a car he entered so many times! Two Dodge Daytonas were entered too. The Full Time Racing car was driven by Kal Showket, Dorsey Schroeder and Phil Currin while the Shelby Racing car was driven by Dodge engineers Garth Ullom, Neil Hanneman with Tim Evans and Jack Broomall. The cars were the only front wheel drive entries.
Seventy six cars were entered, which was a very encouraging figure.
The first practice session was due to happen under a biting frost. However, some teams had the clever idea to put covers on the wheels, as Busby Racing. As a result, Mauro Baldi, very fast, could nearly approach Sarel van der Merwe's record lap. He won the pole in 1m38s917. Jan Lammers, very disappointed, was second, followed by Price Cobb, Eddie Cheever, Oscar Larrauri and Martin Brundle. The Fabcar Chevrolet would be a dns, as well the Ford Probe turbo powered. As the race was approaching, the weather seemed to get better. In fact, seventy five cars would line up in front of the grandstands. The turbo powered Ford Probe would not show up.
Copyright Michael Crews
The big field roared behind the pace car, which led them for a single pace lap. At 15H30, the pace car cleared the track, leaving the cars accelerate. The Jaguar XJR9, driven by Jan Lammers, immediately took the lead of the race, followed by Bob Wollek and Price Cobb. The latter, who seemed to be quite offensive, passed them just before the three of them arrived on the banking. He led the huge field at the end of lap one. Oscar Larrauri was second, and he was ahead of Jan Lammers, Bob Wollek and the two Jaguar XJR9s driven by Eddie Cheever and Martin Brundle. Very soon, the leaders would lap the backmarkers, and this situation would raise a big question among the leaders, who had to run more conservatively. Many tangles would occur, some of them serious, some trivial. Price Cobb had set a pace of his own, and was clearly getting away from the rest of the pack. Hans Stuck, on the Bayside Motorsport car, had wound his way through second place, while the three Jaguar XJR9s were running their pace, unaware of those run by the opposition. Hans Stuck was the first to stop for refueling, followed by Oscar Larrauri, Price Cobb and Bob Wollek. The five leaders, all Porsche, would refuel before the end of the first hour. Al Holbert, who was in fifth place, was the only driver to stay at the wheel of his car. His faster pit stop helped him go up into second place. James Weaver, who had taken the wheel of the Dyson Racing car, would not maintain his position for long, as he lost his fifth gear. Al Holbert was the new leader after ninety minutes. Al Holbert would dominate the next few hours, followed by Hans Stuck. In the evening, however, Hans Stuck would negate his chances at winning this race while he overtook Johnny Unser's Mazda RX7. The two cars collided and were back in the pits for lengthy repairs. After four hours, it was the Jaguar driven by Johnny Dumfries, Eddie Cheever and John Watson who now appeared in second place. They were followed by the BF Goodrich Porsche 962 driven by Bob Wollek, Brian Redman and Mauro Baldi. In fact, the Porsche would soon get past the Jaguar, who ran at a steady pace. It was clear that they were not supposed to respond to the German hostility. They had planned to postpone their offensive. Jan Lammers, Davy Jones and Danny Sullivan got past their fellow co-drivers at the end of the fifth hour. Everything was not so easy for the British cars, as Martin Brundle and his teammates lost three laps, thanks to some electrical problems, they had to replace their hood, too. They were hampered by fuel feed problems, which had somewhat slowed them. Next to the two Jaguar XJR9s, running in third and fourth place, came the Brun Motorsport Porsche 962, entered by Walter Brun. They have been forced to pit with an accelerator cable problem. As the night was now well settled on the track, things were evening out.
Copyright Michael Crews
The Group 44 Jaguar XJR7, which was running in seventh position, retired with a blown head gasket. After six hours of race, the BF Goodrich car was in first position, but the Holbert Racing car was on the same lap. This car was not the only one, as Jan Lammers was also on the same lap. The race seemed to begin really, with now four cars fighting for victory. After ten hours, Jan Lammers and his co-drivers were the new leaders of the race. The four leaders had swapped their positions, with Al Holbert now in fourth place! The race would take a new face when the rain suddenly appeared during the eleventh hour. Switching for rain tires, the cars went back to their pits, and Porsche became the new leader of the race. Oscar Larrauri had retired with a broken valve while AJ Foyt had lost a lot of time for bodywork repairs after an off course. In the early morning, Al Holbert's Porsche 962 was still in the lead, followed by the two chasing Jaguar XJR9s. Bob Wollek had lost some ground on the leaders, when he spinned after coming out from the pits with cold tires. He was now two laps down. However, he was to get deterred, as he began gaining on the leaders. On fact, he soon overtook the two Jaguars, and was closing in on Derek Bell, when the latter suddenly pitted with wastegate problems. The BF Goodrich car was the new leader of the race, and Eddie Cheever was second. In third place, you could find Martin Brundle, whose car was running great, after being slowed for a long period. Jan Lammers, Davy Jones and Danny Sullivan were no more amongst the leaders : they retired with engine problems. The race was gaining momentum, and it seemed that it would featured a crucial battle between two cars : the BF Goodrich one, and the TWR Jaguar, driven by Martin Brundle, Raul Boesel and John Nielsen. The second remaining Jaguar, driven by Johnny Dumfries, Eddie Cheever and John Watson, was slowing down, with an engine not so healthy. A broken valve was the cause of this suddenly slower pace. The big battle was to last for many hours, entertaining the spectators, breathing hardly. Swapping their positions many times per hour, the race was fantastic. Neither car seemed to take a definitive advantage, but the race fate was to be sealed by an outside event. As Brian Redman was running his stint, he burst a tire, and lost some ground. Then, the pace car suddenly was out, as a car was stranded somewhere. Running first, Martin Brundle jumped into his pits, and the BF Goodrich Porsche became the new leader. When the Jaguar went back to the pits, the pace car let the Porsche overtake him, only to let the British car stay behind him. Brian Redman went to refuel, and handed his car to Mauro Baldi. Unfortunately, while leaving the pit lane, the Italian spun, and damaged his front end. He went back to the track, running with a loose bodywork. The pace car was still on the track, and everyone was waiting for Mauro Baldi to come back to his pits, which he didn't do. In doing so, he would not have lost too much time. Mauro Baldi waited two more laps, but the green was already on. The Busby Team had no more front end, and they had to get to the Porsche truck to get a new one, losing a lot of time, and the race!
Copyright Michael Crews
The Jaguar was now a solid leader, with a one lap advantage over the unlucky Porsche. Al Holbert, Chip Robinson and Derek Bell, who were still in third place, retired with a broken engine. Finally, the third place went to the second Jaguar, driven by Eddie Cheever, Johnny Dumfries and John Watson. The Bayside Motorsport car ended up fourth, thirty four laps down. The Camel Lights class saw the first ever victory for a Chevrolet powered car. The Tiga GT286, driven by Tom Hessert, David Loring and Tom Simpson defeated the favorite Argo JM19 Mazda driven by Jim Downing, Howard Katz and Hiro Matsushita. The car was displaying new colors, and was backed by Panasonic. The GTO class saw many leaders, but went to Roush Racing, once again. Early in the race, the two Toyota Celicas were running strong, and led for a while. Willy T Ribbs, Rocky Moran and Juan Fangio were first, and Chris Cord, Dennis Aase and Steve Millen were second. Then, the two cars suffered from transmission trouble, losing the lead, only to come back later and to retire with engine failure. Then the two Protofab Chevrolet Corvettes took over, but they too had engine failures. The Roush Racing Mercury Merkur pitted with a broken spark plug and sheared axle drive pins, dropping into fifty fourth place. When everyone was out, it was the McCall Racing Skoal Bandit Chevrolet Camaro driven by Buz McCall, Paul Dallenbach and Max Jones who inherited the lead. They had built up a thirty five laps lead, and it seemed that victory would easily come by. Alas, misfortunes would arise, as a broken header sent fumes into the cockpit. Every driver would be overcome by fumes, and the drivers contingent was running low. Jack Baldwin, who was not driving any car, was hired on the spot by team owner. He quickly fixed the problem, but the engine had lost a great deal of power. A hard charging Scott Pruett easily overtook the failing Chevrolet Camaro. Not fixing the problem earlier in the race cost them victory. Roger Mandeville took third place in his Mazda RX7. The GTU class went to Amos Johnson, who made it four in a row. The Team Highball Mazda RX7 won over a Porsche 911 driven by Gary and Bill Auberlen, Cary Eisenlohr and Adrian Gang, finishing fifteen laps down. The Dodge Daytona driven by Kal Showket was an early retirement while the Nissan 300ZX ran pretty well, and finished twenty fifth overall.
It was an exciting race, and the first victory for a non-Porsche car after a sixteen year domination. A new era seemed to be ushered in IMSA racing, and it actually did!