The next race was the Contac 12 Hours of Sebring. A forty eight car field was to be displayed, which was your typical IMSA one. AAR had brought two Eagle Toyota MKIII, and the team was now aiming at the overall win. Juan Fangio was teaming with Andy Wallace while PJ Jones was partnered by Rocky Moran. NPTI had three cars, with Geoff Brabham, Derek Daly and Gary Brabham in car #83, Chip Robinson, Bob Earl and Arie Luyendijk in car #84, and Gary Brabham in car #1. It had become a typical habit for NPTI to enter three cars with the intention to drop the worst placed car after one hour. A lonely Jaguar XJR12D was entered with Davy Jones and David Brabham driving. Two Porsche 962Cs were entered, which were Joest cars. John Winter, Frank Jelinski and Bernd Schneider had one car and Gianpiero Moretti, Massimo Sigala, Oscar Larrauri drove the Momo car. The Porsche 966 was here too, and displayed the legendary Brumos livery as well as the famous number 59. Even Hurley Haywood would drive it. Bobby Carradine would co-drive the open cockpit car. Tom Milner had entered two cars, which were quite different. A Chevrolet RM1 GTP for Perry McCarthy and a Spice SE90P for David Tennyson, Wayne Taylor, François Migault and Hugh Fuller. That rounded up the eleven GTP entry list. It could have been more interesting, had Mazda Motorsports decided to run his new RX792P car. Price Cobb and Pete Halsmer practiced with their new prototype, but they were plagued with exhaust problems. So the car would not run.
Copyright Michael Crews
Seven Lights cars were also entered. Comptech Racing entered two cars for Parker Johnstone and Dan Marvin, and another one for Costas Los and Ruggero Melgrati. They would have to face two Kudzus, with Andy Evans' Scandia Racing entering two cars : a new DG2, Buick powered, for Andy Evans, Firmin Velez and Jay Cochran and a DG1 for Charles Morgan and Tommy Riggins. Jim Downing had a Mazda powered DG1, which he drove with Howard Katz and Tim McAdam. Bieri Racing fielded an Alba AR2 Ford, with Heinz Wirth at the wheel. MAB Racing entered a Tiga GT287 Buick for Mel Butt, Ron Zitza, Tommy Johnson and Robert Robertson. The GTS class was more exciting, with sixteen cars showing up at the start. A great battle seemed to be lurching, but Roush Racing was not around, for the first time in eight years. It would be a Nissan-Oldsmobile duel. Rocketsport had a pair of Cutlasses, as for Daytona. Paul Gentilozzi, Irv Hoerr and Jack Baldwin drove the 6,5L car, while Darin Brassfield, George Robinson, Paul Gentilozzi and Irv Hoerr would share the 6,0L car. Dale Kreider entered his own car, and he was partnered by Jon Gooding and Nort Northam. CCR had a pair of Nissan 300ZXs, with Jeremy Dale, Steve Millen and John Morton at the wheel of the first car. The latter co-drove Johnny O'connell in the second car. A bunch of new cars would show up for the first time at an IMSA race, adding some excitement. Waxoyl fielded a new Chevrolet Beretta for GT star Gene Felton, who was back from retirement, and rising star Jerry Nadeau. The car was powered by a 6,5L powerplant. A pair of Chevrolet Luminas were to be seen for the first time in IMSA. John Annis fielded one of them for himself, Louis Beall, Dick Downs, Larry Schumacher and Bob Deeks. Tim Banks had another car, driven by Jim Pace and Barry Waddell. A Pontiac Grand Prix, entered by Gary Smith, was also another new entry, with Gene Whipp and Albert Ruiz co-driving with the car owner. The remainder of the field was held by Chevrolet Camaros, which were seven. J & B Motorsport had been the best car at Daytona, with Luis Sereix and Daniel Urrutia, the same duo still ran, with Jorge Polanco and John Josey co-driving. Richard McDill and Bill McDill shared long-time enduro entries since the seventies, they were still running strong. Western Chemical had one car for Kent Painter, Robert Borders and Ed De Long. OMR also was a long-time entry in GTO, and Oma Kimbrough, Mark Montgomery, Robert McElnehy co-drove team owner Hoyt Overbagh. The two other cars were entered by Art Cross and Mazkar Racing. No Corvette, neither Mustang were to be seen. The GTU class again would show off a Nissan-Mazda battle. The first make appeared to have the edge for the first time over its counterpart. Leitzinger Racing fielded two cars, with a very strong line-up. Bob Leitzinger ran with son Butch and Chuck Kurtz on car #95, David Loring was co-driven by John Paul Jr! It was his very first attempt at this class. Kryderacing was entering a car for Duke McLaughlin, Frank Del Vecchio and Joe Danaher. David Duda had an older 300ZX car for himself and Mike Speakman. One single Mazda RX7 was entered, which was the Daytona winning car. Dick Greer, Al Bacon, Mike Mees and Peter Uria were as hopeful as ever. The Mazda fleet now consisted of MX6s. However, no semi-works cars were to be seen. Eduardo Dibos appeared to be the most threatening driver. His Alberti Racing car was well prepared. Juan Dibos and Raul Orlandini were his co-drivers. Henry Camferdam fielded one car, as well as Bob Schader and Botero Racing. Full Time Racing still relied on a Dodge Daytona, with John Fergus, Don Walker and Neil Hanneman driving. The other cars were all Porsche. Four cars with strong engines, if not fast. Alex Job teamed up with Jack Refenning and Butch Hamlet. Rainer Brezinka has been a Sebring regular since the seventies, and he had Rudy Bartling and Amad Khodkar co-driving him. Pro-Technik and Jack Lewis also counted on the reliability of their car. That closed the entry list. The practice sessions would show the two Toyota Eagle MKIIIs set up the fastest lap times, but they did it at the wrong time, so the first row was once again all Nissan. The start of the race would see PJ Jones, in the #98 Toyota jump into the lead from his sixth place. He would lead for three laps, then pitted with a huge puff of smoke and retire with a blown head gasket. Then the two Nissan NPT91s would take back one of their favorite role : leader of the race. Juan Fangio would follow at a respectable distance, then John Winter, Gianpiero Moretti and Davy Jones, running at his own pace. Perry McCarthy had retired on lap five, with a broken engine. The Jaguar, which did not run so strong, suddenly lost a wheel on course, and would be ten laps down. Up ahead, Geoff Brabham, Chip Robinson and Juan Fangio were trading the lead when the Toyota was forced off course by a slower GTU car. Andy Wallace, who was driving, had to pit for minor repairs. He lost one lap. It looked like it would be all Nissan, but Bob Earl spun twice on the same lap. A seized engine was the cause for his retirement. Geoff Brabham and his co-drivers seemed to have victory handed on a silver plateau, but the headlights happened to be faulty, and they had to stop to have the problem fixed. Five laps were lost, and the Toyota was in the lead. Geoff Brabham then tried to charge back to regain his position, but it was too harsh a task. The following cars were stricken by some various mechanicals, so they ended up very far. Juan Fangio and Andy Wallace won the race, with Geoff Brabham, Gary Brabham and Arie Luyendijk taking a second place. Gianpiero Moretti, Massimo Sigala and Oscar Larrauri took a third place, but they were fifteen laps down, just ahead of the TWR Jaguar. The Lights class was surprisingly won by Jim Downing's Kudzu DG1 Mazda, which emerged from a tough battle between Parker Johnstone's Spice SE91P Acura and Charles Morgan's Kudzu DG1 Buick. Both cars would have a very hard end of race. The Spice lost its engine while the Scandia Racing car suffered from suspension problems. Jim Downing won in the Erie Scientific car, not his own, with Tim McAdam and Howard Katz. The GTS class was a first time victory for the Rocketsports Oldsmobile Cutlass. Irv Hoerr, Darin Brassfield, Jack Baldwin and Paul Gentilozzi survived an attrition race and their car was the healthiest one at the chequered. The best Nissan 300ZX Tc was second, but seventeen laps down, with Steve Millen, Jeremy Dale and Johnny O'connell. The GTU victory went, as expected, to the Leitzinger team which utterly dominated the race. David Loring, Butch Leitzinger and John Paul Jr were four laps ahead of the sister car, which they drove too, along with Bob Leitzinger, Dan Robson and Chuck Kurtz, who got sick and had to be replaced. The best Mazda RX7, which happened to be the Daytona winning car, was twenty three laps down.
The next race was to take place at Road Atlanta, on one of the fastest track of the season. One thing was sure : the field was seventeen car strong! It was now obvious that you could not rely on much more cars. Jaguar had brought one car, a XJR14 for Davy Jones. Nissan had two cars for Geoff Brabham and Chip Robinson. AAR fielded two cars for Juan Fangio and PJ Jones. Two Chevrolet GTPs were entered by two different teams. Tom Milner had two cars driven by François Migault and Hugh Fuller, and Jeff Purner in another car. Tom Kendall drove the EDS backed car. This was a works car. Two Porsche 962Cs were entered, too. Oscar Larrauri drove the Torno car while Gianpiero Moretti would drive his own car. David Tennyson was back with his Spice SE90P Chevrolet and he would be co-driven by Wayne Taylor. The excitement, at least, would come from a brand new car, which was to debut here. The new Mazda RX792P was driven by Price Cobb. This sleek car would catch everyone's attention by his quite electric engine noise which was smooth and really unusual. Powered by a quadrirotor engine, it was a new challenge for the Japanese make. Only five Lights cars made it to Road Atlanta. A sole Spice SE91P Acura was entered with Parker Johnstone and Dan Marvin at the wheel. Scandia Motorsports fielded two cars for Tommy Riggins-Charles Morgan and Andy Evans-Firmin Velez. They were the Comptech's car main opposition. Bob Schader had a Spice Buick which he drove with Lon Bender. The David Rocha-Mark Rodrigues Spice SE90P Buick was an older car. The practice session was highlighted by the fact that the Jaguar XJR14 driven by Davy Jones looked unbeatable.
Copyright Dwight Deal(courtesy Racingsportscars)
He swerved it from one corner to another with mastery. Is opponents appeared to be outclassed by a fantastic racer. The race was all Jaguar with Davy Jones never challenged. Neither Nissan NPT91As finished, with Chip Robinson crashing his car heavily. The Toyota Eagle MKIIIs were not luckier, with both cars suffering from minor setbacks. The surprise of the race would arise from the two Chevrolet GTPs, driven by Tom Kendall who finished second, and François Migault and Hugh Fuller who secured a third place overall, just ahead of Oscar Larrauri's Porsche 962. Parker Johnstone and Dan Marvin again took the Lights laurels, beating the Scandia Kudzu DG2 Buick driven by Firmin Velez and Andy Evans.
The next round was due to take place at Lime Rock. The scenical little track would host a eighteen car field, a figure which was to become commonplace. AAR entered two cars, but not NPTI. Juan Fangio and PJ Jones would have to face Geoff Brabham and Chip Robinson who drove the same car. TWR also had one car, which was the Jaguar XJR14, beautifully driven by Davy Jones. Mazda Motorsports fielded two cars, and Price Cobb and Pete Halsmer would drive them. Joest Racing entered two cars, with Oscar Larrauri driving solo, while Gianpiero Moretti was co-driven by Massimo Sigala. Two Chevrolet GTPs were entered for Tom Kendall and Wayne Taylor, while David Tennyson would try to make his Spice SE91P Chevrolet competitive. The Lights class was no different, with Comptech fielding one car for Parker Johnstone and Dan Marvin. Every opponent's car was Buick powered! The Scandia Team had two Kudzus, one DG2 for Firmin Velez and Andy Evans and one DG1 for Charles Morgan and Tommy Riggins. Jim Downing and Tim McAdam shared the wheel of the Downing/Atlanta Kudzu DG2 which was not Mazda powered, which was a premiere! Tom Hessert teamed up with Bob Schader on the Mobinet backed Spice SE90P and François Migault and Claude Brana shared the wheel of another Spice 91P. Mark Rodrigues and David Rocha would co-drive the oldest car, which was an updated Spice SE88P. As expected, Davy Jones would stick his Jaguar on the pole, with a new track record. He was followed by the two Eagle Toyotas. The race would provide its share of excitement. At the start, Juan Fangio jumped in the lead, with Davy Jones right behind him. Wayne Taylor spun in the very first turn of the very first lap : he was back on the track dead last. Davy Jones was to overtake Juan Fangio as soon as both of them met backmarkers, then he was to get rid of his pursuers. Behind them, Geoff Brabham was able to overtake PJ Jones for the third place. Davy Jones would dominate the race until lap nineteen, when his suspension failed, sending him into the barriers. He was out of the race, and alive despite a hard blow. A full course yellow would be set, allowing some drivers to refuel. At the restart, Geoff Brabham was in the lead, but Juan Fangio was soon to easily overtake him and push ahead of him. Wayne Taylor, in the meantime, had retired from the race with steering problems. Then PJ Jones' Toyota was beginning to puff smoke, losing a great deal of time in the pits for repair. The Lights class was fierce, with Firmin Velez and Parker Johnstone dicing for the lead. At mid-race, Juan Fangio was still leading, with Geoff Brabham-Chip Robinson in second place. Tommy Kendall was in third place, followed by David Tennyson and Oscar Larrauri in the Porsche 962C. Unfortunately for the Chevrolet ranks, Tom Kendall would lose the benefits of a good race when he pitted with valve springs problems, and retired. In fact, it would be the drivers who would be happy with that fact. Price Cobb and Pete Halsmer overtook David Tennyson and Oscar Larrauri in what was a very good result for them. Chip Robinson would spin, later, while passing David Rocha, but with no damage. The race would be won, somewhat easily, by Juan Fangio one lap ahead of the Nissan NPT91A. Price Cobb and Pete Halsmer took third and fourth place. The Lights class ended up in a bad way for Andy Evans, who had to retire with steering problems. Parker Johnstone and Dan Marvin emerged as the class winners. Jim Downing and Tim McAdam grabbed the second place in the end of the race.
Mid Ohio would host the next race. Eighteen cars were entered, with one new entry. NPTI had only ine car for Geoff Brabham. It was an evolution of the NPT91, now called NPT91B. The team now concentrated on this sole car. TWR had also one car, driven by Davy Jones, but it was so threatening. The group C evolution turned into an IMSA GTP was so fast that it could doom the series, according to its opponents. AAR had two cars, with Juan Fangio and PJ Jones driving. Mazda Motorsports also fielded two cars, with Price Cobb and Pete Halsmer at the wheel.
Copyright Mark Windecker
Two Porsche 962Cs with Oscar Larrauri in the Joest car and Gianpiero Moretti in the Momo car along with Massimo Sigala. One Chevrolet GTP was entered with Tom Kendall driving. David Tennyson entered his Spice SE91P Chevrolet powered by a V8 6,5L. Eight Lights cars were entered, with Comptech fielding two cars, which were Spices. A SE91P driven by Parker Johnstone and Dan Marvin, and a SE90P for Ruggero Melgrati and Costas Los. Both cars were powered by Acura engines, of course. Andy Evans Scandia Motorsports entered two cars, Buick powered. A DG2 for Firmin Velez and himself, and a DG1 for Tommy Riggins and Charles Morgan. Jim Downing's colorful Kudzu DG2 Buick was also entered, with Tim McAdam co-driving. Tom Hessert and Bob Schader had their usual Spice SE90P Buick while Mark Rodrigues and David Rocha drove the Huffaker car. Bobby Brown fielded his Tiga GT287 Buick with Craig Carter partnering him. Once again, it would be a Buick vs Acura duel. The practice session was a new confirmation for what it seemed to be in store for the GTP owners : the Jaguar XJR14 shattered the previous track record. Juan Fangio and Geoff Brabham were just behind but one question remained : could they fight? Race day would bring another fact, which could alter the strategies : the rain was falling steadily. At the start, Davy Jones could pull ahead of the pack, with Juan Fangio just behind, while PJ Jones missed a gear and lost many places. Geoff Brabham followed, trailing Oscar Larrauri and Price Cobb. Davy Jones would easily have a race of his own, while Oscar Larrauri would pass Geoff Brabham. Tommy Kendall, who started from row seven, was beginning to climb back in the standings. In Lights, Parker Johnstone, as per usual, was in the lead, but Firmin Velez looked in great shape, and overtook him on lap twenty. Ruggero Melgrati would do the same very fast. Tommy Kendall was soon behind Gianpiero Moretti, whom he passed, then he would do the same with Pete Halsmer and PJ Jones. He passed the Toyota but spun subsequently! Then PJ Jones appeared to experience windshield problems, and he had to pit to have it cleaned. On lap thirty one, Davy Jones had a wide lead over Juan Fangio, then Oscar Larrauri, Geoff Brabham and David Tennyson. Oscar Larrauri then spun but did not lose his position. The first series of pit stops began, and Juan Fangio was the first to pit for fuel and fresh tires. Davy Jones would not lose his position when he took his turn. Geoff Brabham recovered the third place and Tom Kendall would pass David Tennyson. One interesting fact was that he did not switch for fresh tires during his pit stop. Gianpiero Moretti retired after an accident.
By lap forty seven, the standings gave : Davy Jones, Juan Fangio, Geoff Brabham, Oscar Larrauri, Tommy Kendall and David Tennyson. Price Cobb was to challenge him and grab the fifth place. Tom Kendall, still running strong, was aiming at passing Geoff Brabham, but he would spin and lose some ground. He would have to settle for fourth. The positions would remain the same until the chequered, with Juan Fangio the only driver to finish in the same lap as the leader. Geoff Brabham was third, and Tom Kendall fourth. What a race! The Lights class turned into a dream race for Scandia Motorsports, who could have a one-two race. Andy Evans could make it to the finish while Tommy Riggins and Charles Morgan finally passed Ruggero Melgrati and Costas Los who finished third in class. A well deserved win for the team. Next round was to take place in New Orleans.(to be continued)