It was to be a season of revelations. Nissan was having a hard time keeping his cars up to date, and Toyota had a new weapon in the name of the Eagle Mark III. Jaguar would try to make for a very disappointing 1991, with more wins than ever, but no title in the end. Mazda was now another GTP competitor while Porsche still could rely on some fierce competitors. The Championship would be a hard fought one, although it had become a factory series. It was deserted by privateers, who could no more engage in a costly competition. Fields were getting thinner and the privateers had begun pulling out from those costly competitions. It was becoming clear that the GTP cars were no more the right solution for IMSA's future.
The first race of the season, again, was to take place at Daytona, for the traditional 24 Hour race. The entry field would be fifty car rich, and LM cars were allowed to enter the race, without being eligible for Championship points. Those two cars were very potent cars, in the name of Nissan R91CP and CK. Nismo fielded the first one for Kaoru Hoshino, Masahiro Hasemi and Toshio Suzuki. The From A car was slightly different, and displayed its traditional yellow livery. Mauro Martini, Volker Weidler and Jeff Krosnoff drove it. The two other Nissans were R90s, which were similar to the aforementioned cars, but they were entered as GTPs, which meant that they were not restricted according to their fuel consumption. Geoff Brabham, Chip Robinson and Bob Earl drove car #83 and Derek Daly, Steve Millen and Gary Brabham were at the wheel of car #84. The cars were featuring the LM bodywork but were in fact real GTP cars.
They would have to face two Eagle MKIII Toyotas, which were extremely fast. Juan Fangio, Andy Wallace and Kenny Acheson drove car #99 while Rocky Moran, PJ Jones and Mark Dismore drove car #98. Their goal, for that race was obviously to make it to the chequered. A lonely Jaguar XJR12D was entered by TWR, and Scott Pruett, Davy Jones, David Brabham and Scott Goodyear would drive it. The car was also a slight evolution from the XJR12. The team was aiming at a GTP class win. As were the Porsche entrants. Joest Racing had a Porsche 962 for John Winter, Massimo Sigala, Oscar Larrauri and Bernd Schneider and Momo Corse fielded another car for Hans Stuck, Henri Pescarolo, Gianpiero Moretti and Frank Jelinski. The Team 0123 car was also a strong entry, with Hurley Haywood, Roland Ratzenberger, Eje Elgh and Vern Schuppan at the wheel. No other Porsche entry was to be noticed. Tom Milner had brought a single Spice SE91P Chevrolet, with Wayne Taylor, Jeff Purner, Brian Bonner and Hugh Fuller trying to do their best with a slightly underpowered car. Daytona was a new adventure for Yves Courage, who fielded a pair of Cougar C28S Porsche. Bob Wollek was part of the challenge. He was partnered by Pascal Fabre and Lionel Robert in the first car. The second car was driven by François Migault, David Tennyson and Tomas Lopez. A handful of Lights cars was to be entered. They were naturally dominated by the two Comptech Racing Spice SE91 Acuras. Parker Johnstone, Dan Marvin, Jimmy Vasser and Steve Cameron would share the fastest of those cars, while Costas Los, Bob Lesnett, Ruggero Melgrati and Kaoru Shimizu were a tad slower. Andy Evans, Firmin Velez, Lon Bender and Dominic Dobson were driving a brand new Kudzu DG2 Buick. Charles Morgan, Jim Pace and Ken Knott still drove the Essex Racing Kudzu DG1 Buick they drove the previous year. Another Kudzu DG1 Mazda was entered by Erie Scientific with Howard Katz, John Grooms, Frank Jellinek and Jim Downing, who did not drive his own car for the very first time! Bieri Racing entered two cars, which were Alba AR5s, Ford powered. Uli Bieri, Vito Scavone, Jean Pierre Zingg and Heinz Wirth in one car, John Graham, Johnny Unser and Andrew Hepworth in the other one. Carlos Bobeda still relied on a Spice SE89P Buick, with himself sharing the drive with Ken Parschauer and Paul Debban. An older Tiga GT287 Buick was entered, with Mel Butt, Ron Zitza, Tommy Johnson and Rob Robertson driving. The GTO class was now called GTS, thanks to Exxon Superflo sponsorship. The regulations were basically the same as the former GTO, which the American Challenge cars had taken the name. It would be a Ford-Nissan-Oldsmobile competition. Roush Racing would try to keep a crown they had gained for seven years in a row. Two cars were entered, with Mark Martin, Robby Gordon, Calvin Fish and Bob Stevens in one car, and Dorsey Schroeder, Wally Dallenbach, Max Jones and again Mark Martin at the wheel of the second car. The cars were the same ones as those run in the previous year, and they were reliable. Nissan was to enter 300ZX Tcs for the first time. It was much more as a matter of testing the cars, but they could really do well. Two cars were entered, but one car was scheduled to be withdrawn after a few hours. Johnny O'connell, Jeremy Dale and John Morton would drive both cars, and then concentrate on the remaining one. Rocketsports was perhaps the most aggressive team to enter this class. Two cars were entered, with one displaying a brand new 6,5L fuel injected engine, and the other one a more quiet 6,0L carburetted one. Darin Brassfield, Irv Hoerr, Paul Gentilozzi and Jack Baldwin would drive both cars, too.
Rocketsports entered a very special car, which was powered by a very powerful 6,5L engine. Irv Hoerr, Darin Brassfield, Paul Gentilozzi and Jack Baldwin drove it to a dnf. They drove the other car to a second place finish behind the winning Ford Mustang.
Copyright Steve Dilts
Another Oldsmobile Cutlass was entered, driven by Dale Kreider, Bill Adams, John Duke and Jon Gooding. The remainder of the class consisted of Chevrolet Camaros, which were by no means so fast. Bill McDill, Tom Juckette and John Schneider shared one of the most efficient cars. Luis Sereix, Daniel Urrutia and Jorge Polanco were probably the fastest of the Chevrolet troops, they would start from the thirty first place. The GTU class would provide some interest, with Mazda and Nissan still fighting tooth and nail for the win. It seemed that Nissan had taken a slight advantage over its counterpart, on the speed level. Bob Leitzinger's team of Nissan 240SXs was strong. Bob Leitzinger, Chuck Kurtz, Butch Leitzinger and David Loring were at the wheel of car #96, while Don Knowles and Dan Robson would share the driving with David Loring and Chuck Kurtz on the second car. Kryderacing had brought another Nissan 240SX for Frank del Vecchio, Joe Danaher, Mark Kent, Bill Sargis and Reed Kryder. They would face two Mazda RX7s, entered by Dick Greer, for Al Bacon, Mike Mees and Peter Uria, and Brad Hoyt, who shared his car with Andy Pilgrim and John Petrick. The bulk of the Mazda contingent was made of MX6 models. Eduardo Dibos, from Peru, had a fast car for himself, Juan Dibos, Raul Orlandini and Mario Alberti. Luis Botero, from Columbia, had entered another car for Rob Wilson, Lucio Bernal, Felipe Solano and Miguel Morejon. Henry Camferdam had also an MX6, which he drove with Phil Krueger and Gary Drummond. Bob Shader had a very colorful car, and he was partnered by Phil and Steve Mahre, from skiing fame. A single, yet interesting new entry was the Oldsmobile Achieva which was a semi official car entered by Amos Johnson. He would drive the car with Scott Hoerr, Dennis Shaw, Chuck Hemmingson and Paul Hacker. Kal Showket had brought along a Dodge Daytona, which could do well, with John Fergus, Jean Paul Libert, Bobby Akin and Neil Hanneman. Four Porsche 911s would try to oppose their legendary reliability to those racers. Three of them displayed a slant nose, giving them a 935 style look. Alex Job had one of them. He was co-driven by Alex Padilla, John Sheldon and Jack Refenning. Jay Kjoller's car was driven by Steve Volk and Robin Boone while Maria Shalala had another entry for Sam Shalala, Tim McAdam, Charles Monk, Andre Toennis and Dan Pastorini. Jack Lewis' car was more traditional, and he was partnered by Bill Ferran and Taylor Robertson. The practice sessions were dominated, as expected, by the Eagle Toyota MKIII driven by Juan Fangio who put up a 1m35s860, which was outstanding. Eight cars broke the previous year's mark, and the problem arising now was the fact that the cars were becoming blindingly fast, and the main question was how to slow them, because it was becoming too dangerous. The answer would come very soon, with the arrival of the WSCs.
The race was all Nissan. Juan Fangio had jumped in the lead from the drop of the green flag, but Masahiro Hasemi easily settled in first position, Juan Fangio would follow, then Hans Stuck, Mauro Martini and Geoff Brabham. Wayne Taylor would be the first to suffer from a mechanical problem when his clutch failed him. After one hour and fifteen minutes, Andy Wallace, who had taken over the Eagle Toyota from Juan Fangio, an electrical failure would put him far back in the standings when he lost thirty three minutes. The NISMO Nissan R91CP was leading and had set a fantastic pace. Gary Brabham then tangled with the guardrail, only to be followed by brother David in the NPTI Nissan R90CP! The Jaguar could be repaired quickly but the Nissan was out. Trading the lead were the two Nissans, with Geoff Brabham and Masahiro Hasemi running at too fast a pace to make it to the finish. While it seemed that they were experiencing problems, the NISMO team would have it under control. Geoff Brabham had his engine seized after a little more than eight hours. Then it was Kenny Acheson who lost a wheel on course. After the leaders misfortunes, the GTP reins were taken by the Joest Porsche 962 driven by John Winter, Massimo Sigala, Oscar Larrauri and Bernd Schneider. But it would last until 1AM when the engine gave up. The race seemed to run smoothly when a frightening accident happened to Pascal Fabre, who drove the Cougar C28 Porsche. He crashed his car along the pit straight, going into a series of spinning rolls and ending up in the grass. He was left unhurt. While Hans Stuck was running strong, and closing in on the leaders, he had to pit to have his door repaired. The Jaguar XJR12 driven by Davy Jones could emerge among the top three, but it was to be struck by gearbox problems. The 0123 Porsche 962 driven by Hurley Haywood seemed to be the best placed car for the GTP win but a brake caliper failed, and the Jaguar could recover the second place. But the Nissan R91CP driven by Masahiro Hasemi, Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Toshio Suzuki was left unchallenged.
Copyright Mike Smith
As expected, the Lights class was won by the Spice SE91P Acura driven by Parker Johnstone, Dan Marvin and Jimmy Vasser. As for the overall, they dominated their class and put out a twenty seven lap lead over their closest opponent. The Kudzu DG1 Buick which finished in second place was simply outpaced. The GTS class was quite different, the Ford Mustang driven by Dorsey Schroder, Robby Gordon and Wally Dallenbach also had the race packed up before dawn, with a one hundred lap lead over their closest competitor! A broken piston idled the car for two hours and they only had to wait for the chequered. The Oldsmobile Cutlass driven by Paul Gentilozzi and his teammates could make it to second in class. As it turned out, the GTU winning car defeated the GTS winning car, beating the Roush car in the standings. The little team that could made it two in a row, and team owner Dick Greer, Al Bacon, Mike Mees and Peter Uria had a very trouble free race, approaching perfection. The Nissan 240SXs had a bunch of problems, which could be fixed by the team, but they were too far away from the leading car to win their class.
The next race was scheduled at Miami. A street circuit, with another new attraction to be unveiled, in the name of the Jaguar XJR14. A Group C car when it began its racing career, it had been updated to GTP specs. Powered by a V8 3,5L engine, it raised some uproars from the GTP ranks, who saw another way to raise coasts amongst them. It was legal, however. Davy Jones drove it. Three Chevrolet GTPs were entered, by two different teams. Tom Milner had purchased two cars, which were to be driven by Wayne Taylor and François Migault. Those cars (nées Intrepid) had showed a great potential in 1991, and the team was very optimistic for such a race. Tom Kendall drove the other one. The EDS car was the Jim Miller entered machine. NPTI entered two cars, for his usual drivers, Geoff Brabham and Chip Robinson. The cars were NPT91As, which had been slightly modified by the team. A new entry in the GTP ranks was the Spice SE91P Chevrolet entered by David Tennyson, who had jumped into the GTP ranks after getting used to the Lights class. Spice Engineering entered a Spice SE90P Chevrolet for Charles Zwolsman and Cor Euser, powered by a 6,0L engine.
AAR had two Eagle Toyota MKIIIs with Juan Fangio and PJ Jones driving. The cars were running great by now. Three Porsches were entered, with Joest Racing fielding two cars for Bernd Schneider and Oscar Larrauri, and Gianpiero Moretti-Massimo Sigala driving the Momo car. John Paul Jr and Albert Naon Jr were at the wheel of the Gunnar Racing Porsche 966, which was the only open roof car.
Four Lights cars only were entered, and Comptech could rely on Parker Johnstone and Dan Marvin would face the two new Scandia Motorsport Kudzu DG2 Buick driven by Andy Evans, who ran solo, and Charles Morgan and Firmin Velez. Bobby Brown drove an old Tiga GT287 powered by a 3,0L Buick. That left a seventeen car field, which was a scant one. The practice sessions were dominated by Davy Jones, whose car was perfectly suited to the track. He was nearly one second ahead of Geoff Brabham, while Tom Kendall and Juan Fangio were just behind him. It looked like it would be a Jaguar domination, with Davy Jones leading the race from the beginning. Geoff Brabham was just behind him, but he was unable to overtake him. However, the Jaguar XJR14 proved to be a very difficult car to drive, and Davy Jones would spin twice. The second time being the definitive one. On lap ninety five, the car was stalled on the track, and Davy Jones could not restart. Geoff Brabham claimed his first victory in one year, and Wayne Taylor finished second in his Chevrolet GTP, just ahead of the second Nissan NPT91A driven by Chip Robinson and Bob Earl. The Lights class was very clear, with Parker Johnstone and Dan Marvin easily winning ahead of Charles Morgan and Firmin Velez, nine laps down. The two other cars had retired from the race.
The next race was to take place at Sebring.(to be continued)