It would be the last GTP season, and it seemed that the IMSA Championship was already doomed. NPTI had withdrawn his Nissan NPT91 from the competition, and Gianpiero Moretti had purchased one of them. AAR seemed to be the sole entrant willing to earn yet another crown. This crown being the last GTP one, as a new category was to grow up for 1994. The World Sports Cars should take over the GTP and be a brand new kind of racing machines. Even Jaguar, which would compete at Daytona and Sebring, would then pull over from the competition. The glory days from the GTP championship seemed to be very far away, and a new era was dawning. The situation of the endurance series in 1993 was kind of critical, with many changes still to take place. It was also true for the World Endurance Championship, whose regulations were also being thoroughly modified. Mike Cone, the IMSA CEO, was sensing the fact that things were getting out of control, and he called back John Bishop, who had retired, in order to regain any form of control. Dan Gurney, who joined the discussion in order to find a solution, didn't feel that the new organisation took their proposals into account, and he felt somewhat disappointed. The 1993 season started under very strange circumstances, the future being sealed in an uncertain way. The Daytona 24 Hour race was the first race, and the field was a strange mix of odd cars. AAR fielded two Eagle MKIIIs, which were improved cars. They were 59kilos heavier, and sported new carbon brakes as well as a 5speed March gearbox. Juan Fangio and Andy Wallace at the wheel of the first car, while PJ Jones, Mark Dismore and Rocky Moran shared the second car. TWR entered three cars. These cars were entered in the Le Mans class, with Davy Jones, Scott Pruett and Scott Goodyear driving car #2, John Nielsen at the wheel of the #3, and John Andretti, David Brabham, John Nielsen and Davy Jones driving car #32. One of those cars should be withdrawn after one half hour, as predicted. Joest Racing had brought two cars, which were evolved Porsche 962s. Danny Sullivan, Hurley Haywood, Chip Robinson and Henri Pescarolo would share car #6, and John Winter, Frank Jelinski, Manuel Reuter and Bob Wollek drove car #7. Two strong entries indeed, which were backed by two other Porsche 962s. Dyson Racing entered a very traditional 962. Rob Dyson was co-driven by James Weaver, Price Cobb and Elliot Forbes Robinson, while John Hotschkis was back with his own 962, and he would enter it with Jim Adams, Bob Kirby and Chris Cord. The Gunnar Racing Porsche 966 was back again, with Dennis Aase, Jay Cochran, Chip Hanauer, Bobby Carradine and Carlos Moran. The last GTP entry was Gianpiero Moretti's, this time with a Nissan NPT90, which he purchased from NPTI. Gianpiero Moretti, Derek Bell, John Paul Jr and Massimo Sigala would try to do their best against the AAR cars. The Lights class was eight car strong, and the favorite was the all conquering Spice Acura driven by Parker Johnstone and Dan Marvin. In such a race, however, no one could predict the final result in advance, and durability could prevail. Scandia Motorsport's Kudzu DG2 Buick was one of the most efficient one in terms of strength. The boss, Andy Evans was partnered by Charles Morgan and Lon Bender. The second car was driven by Firmin Velez, Don Bell, John Marconi and Tom Hessert.
You could tell the same about the older Kudzu DG2 Mazda entered by Erie Scientific. Frank Jellinek, John Grooms, Jim Downing, who did not enter his own car, and Tim McAdam. Pro Technik entered a Fabcar Porsche, driven by Sam Shalala, Mike Sheehan, Chris Ivey, Buddy Lazier and Anthony Lazzaro. This car was also one of the most reliable in the field. The most recent car was Bob Schader's Motorola Spice AK93, which was fitted with the Allard's cockpit. The engine was the same as the Comptech one, and Bob Schader was co-driven by Bob Earl and Chris Smith. It was a serious challenger for the works Acura car. Bieri Racing was back with a Alba AR2 Ford, John Jones, Kenny Wilden, Neil Jamieson and Paul Duckworth would drive it. Two older Tigas were entered. Club Zed entered a colorful car, with Joseph Hamilton, Peter Harholdt, Ross Bentley, Rob Mingay and John Mirro. The car was Mazda powered. The other car was Buick powered, with John Macaluso, Bruce McInnes and Ed DeLong at the wheel.
Nissan and Ford was the big fight on display at Daytona, with Oldsmobile ready to pounce. Roush Racing was the team to beat, with a pair of ever improved Ford Mustangs. The Cobra version was the ultimate evolution of a born winner. The cars now displayed a huge rear wing, allowing more downforce to the rear. Tom Kendall, Robbie Buhl and Wally Dallenbach Jr would drive the first car, and Jim Stevens, Mark Martin and John Fergus were the second team at the wheel of a similar car. Two other Ford Mustangs were entered by private teams, but they were by no means to be underrated. Pepsi did sponsor one car, with Jon Gooding, Joe Pezza and Bill Cooper at the wheel. Hero Sports fielded another car, with Ron Fellows, Pieter Baljet, Désiré Wilson and Tomiko Yoshikawa driving.
CCR entered a pair of Nissan 300ZX Tcs, with Steve Millen, Johnny O'connell and John Morton on the first car, while another car was driven by Geoff Brabham, who was newly unemployed, Dominic Dobson, David Loring and Tommy Riggins. A very unusual team of drivers from different areas of expertise. Rocketsports entered two Oldsmobile Cutlasses, with Jack Baldwin and Dorsey Schroeder in the first car, and Calvin Fish and George Robinson in the other one. The cars were state-of-the-art evolutions of the GT spearhead, powered by a 6,5L engine. Two other Oldsmobile Cutlasses were entered by a handful of drivers from Argentina. Oscar Aventin, Osvaldo Lopez, Juan Landa and Osvaldo Morresi were to drive car #23, and Jorge Oyhanart, Emilio Satriano, Eduardo Ramos and Fabian Acuna were on car #25. The cars were prepared by Kreider Racing Enterprises, on a rent-a-car basis. The remainder of the field was simply classical, with a bunch of Chevrolet Camaros, which were less competitive. Daniel Urrutia, Craig Rubright and Gene Whipp would drive the Southern Racing Chassis entered car, which appeared to be the most competitive. Richard and Bill McDill were entering something as their twenty fifth race here at Daytona. John Annis would enter another team of six drivers, with Dick Downs, Louis Beall, Bob Deeks, Robert Kirkland and Eddie Sharp co-driving him. A more interesting entry was that of Apple Motorsports, which entered a new Pontiac Firebird. Les Delano, Andy Peterey, Steve Fossett and Gary Stewart would drive this brand new car.
The GTU class was all Japanese,,with a Nissan-Mazda battle in view, and with Porsche 911s lurking. Bob Leitzinger's car easily fastest in the class. Reed Kryder was another Nissan entrant, and he drove his car with Guy Kuster, Frank Del Vecchio and Joe Danaher. Another extra car was Henry Taleb's, who brought an ex-Leitzinger car to the US, with Alfonso and Marcelo Adarquea, along with Ignacio Escobar co-driving him.
Mazda had two different types of cars running, which were one RX7 and MX6s. Eduardo Dibos came from Peru, he drove his MX6 car with Juan Dibos and Raul Orlandini. Henry Camferdam had also an MX6, co-driven by Gary Drummond and Dan Robson. Waggy's Wankel Wracing fielded another car driven by David Russell, Michael Graham and Bill Auberlen.
Dick Greer ran the only RX7 entered, but it would not prove to be a handicap for this race. Al Bacon, Peter Uria and Mike Mees were his co-drivers. A trio of Porsche 911s were also to be run. Pro-Technik entered a car for a six men team of drivers. Frank Beard, of ZZ Top fame, was co-driven by Anthony Lazzaro, Sam Shalala, Alex Tradd, Omar Daniel and Andre Toennis. The car was fitted with a slant nose, as was the Alex Job Racing car. Butch Hamlet, Charles Slater and Mark Sandridge would drive GTU car. Another 911, which was more conventional, was entered by Jack Lewis. He would be partnered by Joe Cogbill and Stephen Hynes.
That rounded out the GTU class. Another class was to be admitted for the first time in the IMSA Championship. The Invitational GT were literally production GT cars, which were allowed minor modifications in order to be able to race. Nine cars were entered, amongst them were mainly Porsche Carrera 2s. They would have to face two Chevrolet Corvettes and one Porsche 944. A contingent of european entries had traveled to the US in order to fight for the win. Enzo Calderari, Ronny Meixner, Luigino Pagotto and Sandro Angelastri drove the Cigarette Race Boats sponsored car. Wolfgang and Oliver Mathai were to drive the Porsche Hildesheim car with Edgar Dören. Two american teams would fight against these "invaders". Rohr Engineering entered one car for Jochen Rohr, John O'steen, Larry Schumacher and John Biggs, Oliver Kuttner, Danny Marshall and Weldon Scrogham drove the Crutchfield car audio machine. Three Chevrolet Corvettes were entered by two different teams. Mobil 1/Goodyear had two ZR1s for John Heinricy, Stu Hayner, Andy Pilgrim and Don Knowles, driving both cars, and Scott Allman, Del Percilla, Danny Kellermeyer, Ron Nelson, again with John Heinricy and Andy Pilgrim. The last car was Mercruiser backed, and driven by Boris Said, Peter Cunningham, Jim Minneker, Shawn Hendricks and Lou Gigliotti. The Porsche 944 Tc was entered by Champion Porsche, the largest Porsche dealer in the US. Leigh Miller, Paul Lewis, John and Paul Reisman, along with Ludwig Heimrath Sr, would drive this car. A question would arise : was it the end of Sportscar racing in its current form? The practice session would highlight the Toyota Eagle MKIIIs domination, with Juan Fangio shattering the previous mark. The Porsche 962s and the Momo Nissan NPT90 were close behind them. The race was to be set in a very strong pace, and no one would try to follow them. The Jaguar XJR12s were running at their own pace, but one car was withdrawn after a few laps. John Nielsen was to stop with a faulty crankshaft seal, and the car was to retire. They would bring back the Le Mans configured car to the track, but it wouldn't last that long. Juan Fangio and PJ Jones would trade the lead many times in the opening laps of the race. The Porsche 962s were out of contention very soon, as Henri Pescarolo would retire with a blown engine. The other car would struggle with overheating and retire early after midnight. The Le Mans class Jaguar retired after four hours with handling problems. While PJ Jones was still in the lead, Juan Fangio would stop with electrical problems. He would hold the lead until midnight, then Davy Jones would take over when PJ Jones would have to replace his front bodywork. The two cars would trade the lead in the early morning, then Mark Dismore hit the wall in the chicane. He was back to the pits for repairs after seven minutes. Scott Pruett held the lead, but he was to pit with a transmission failure. He would himself change one-third of the shift linkage, gettin help from his pit crew. Mark Dismore seemed to be able to take over, but he was soon back to his pits, with a smoking Toyota. A lengthy transmission replacement would also take place. The Jaguar XJR12 was back with Davy Jones now fighting with Gianpiero Moretti's Nissan NPT90. However, Davy Jones was not to rejoice for long, as the Jaguar's engine would expire in a huge puff of smoke. The Momo Nissan then held the lead, while PJ Jones Toyota was to change his brake pads. It looked like the Nissan was set for a well deserved victory, but the engine failed in turn six.
Copyright Norbert Vogel
The Toyota regained the lead with one hour and a half to go, and it would last until the chequered. This race also was very hard on engines, and the sole GTP car finishing the race was Rob Dyson's Porsche 962, which was already sold. Second overall was the Ford Mustang Cobra driven by Wally Dallenbach Jr, Robby Gordon, Tommy Kendall and Robby Buhl. They won the GTS class over teammates Mark Martin, John Fergus and Jim Stevens. The two cars outlasted the two Nissan 300ZXs, which ran into trouble. However, Steve Millen, Johnny O'connell and John Morton managed to finish third in class. The two Oldsmobile Cutlasses were out after six hours of racing. The Lights class could not escape the Comptech team, in terms of speed, but Bob Earl outpaced them in practice. During the race, Parker Johnstone retired very early due to electrical problems. The Erie Scientific Kudzu DG1 Mazda again proved its reliability, with John Grooms, Frank Jellinek, Jim Downing and Tim McAdam. The GTU class befell to Mazda, once again, and Dick Greer managed to make it third in a row. Al Bacon, Peter Uria and Mike Mees co-drove him. The Porsche 911 driven by Frank Beard et all was second in class, forty six laps behind.
The Invitational GT class was won by Enzo Calderari, Luigino Pagotto, Sandro Angelastri and Ronnie Meixner.
The Miami race was the next event, with seventeen cars taking the green flag. The field was nonetheless an interesting one, with some new cars. AAR, of course, was entering its pair of Toyota Eagle MKIII, with Juan Fangio and PJ Jones driving. Back to the track was a Chevrolet GTP, entered by Danka/Famous Amos. Wayne Taylor would drive it with George Fouche. Momo Corse entered the Nissan NPT90 which had done well at Daytona, with Derek Bell co-driving Gianpiero Moretti. The Auto Toy Store was fielding a pair of Spice Chevrolets, driven by Raul Boesel and Jeff Andretti. David Tennyson still relied on his Spice SE90P Chevrolet, and he would be partnered by Price Cobb, who was unemployed since Rob Dyson retirement of IMSA racing for this season. Joest Racing was entering a lonely Porsche 962C, and Manuel Reuter drove this car with John Winter. Massimo Sigala would drive another Nissan NPT90, entered by Cristal Aquardiente Racing, which purchased another NPTI car. The Lights class was six car rich, and each top team entered one car. Comptech fielded one Spice SE91P Acura for Parker Johnstone and Ruggero Melgrati. Motorola was the new contender, with a Spice AK93 Acura driven by Bob Earl and Bob Schader. Jim Downing and Tim McAdam were at the wheel of a Kudzu DG2 Mazda, now sponsored by Bel-Ray. Scandia Motorsport also had a pair of Kudzus, which was Buick powered. Andy Evans, Charles Morgan and Firmin Velez drove the two cars, alternatively. The last car was a Phoenix Alfa Romeo entered by Auto Volante, which was driven by Carlos Moran. A new class was to be introduced at Miami, and it was supposed to showcase what was in store for the teams for the next season. The WSC class was what would be the new top-notch category. The cars were basically open sportscars with stock block engines up to 5,0 Litres. A Kudzu DG2 Buick was entered by Scandia Motorsports. François Migault and Andy Evans was to test drive the car. The other car was an Argo JM19 Buick, with an open roof, driven by Brent O'neill. While Juan Fangio again set a new track record, it was clear that the race could escape Toyota. PJ Jones was the only challenger. Both of them swapped the lead many times during the race. Juan Fangio managed to keep first place at the end, four seconds ahead of teammate PJ Jones. David Tennyson and Price Cobb did a great job at taking third place, finally beating the Momo Nissan NPT90. The race was simply a foretaste of what was laying ahead in the season. The Lights class was won by Parker Johnstone and Ruggero Melgrati, who drove their Spice SE91P Acura to victory. Jim Downing and Tim McAdam finished second in the Kudzu DG2 Mazda. Brent O'neill made history in becoming the first ever WSC winner in IMSA.
Copyright Norbert Vogel
At Sebring, forty seven cars were entered. Only eight GTPs were to be running. The two AAR Toyota Eagle MKIIIs were easily the fastest cars on the track. Juan Fangio was co-driven by Andy Wallace, while PJ Jones was co-driven by Rocky Moran. The Momo Nissan NPT90 again appeared as the strongest opposition. Gianpiero Moretti and Derek Bell were strongly aided by John Paul Jr, in a bid to win the race. Joest Racing entered only one car, driven by John Winter, Manuel Reuter and Chip Robinson. Gunnar Racing fielded its typical Porsche 966, with Dennis Aase, Bobby Carradine, Chip Hanauer and Jay Cochran. John Hotschkis was also fielding a Porsche 962, and Chris Cord would partner him. Auto Toy Store entered a Spice SE90P Chevrolet, with Wayne Taylor, Jeff Andretti, Morris Shirazi and James Weaver. The Lights class was six car strong, with the two Spice Acuras dominating the field. Parker Johnstone and Ruggero Melgrati were co-driven by Dan Marvin. Bob Earl and Bob Schader were co-driven by Jeremy Dale. Jim Downing and Tim McAdam were co-driven by Howard Katz in the Kudzu DG2 Mazda. The other cars were simply outpaced. The ZZ Pro Technik Fabcar Porsche driven by Sam Shalala, Mike Sheehan, Anthony Lazzaro, Gustl Spreng and Philippe Favre could only rely on its durability. The Alba AR5 Ford entered by Bieri Racing was not enough powerful, and John Jones, Neil Jamieson and Jeff Lapcevich would try to do their best. The Phoenix Alfa Romeo was a homebuilt car, but it proved raceworthy. Steve Sirgany, Cliff Rassweiler and James Lea would drive it. The GTS class was strong, with again a Ford-Oldsmobile-Nissan fight ahead.
Roush Racing fielded one car for Tom Kendall and John Fergus. It would be a harsh task to fight against the rwo CCR Nissan 300ZXs driven by Steve Millen, Johnny O'connell and John Morton, who drove car #1, and John Morton and Tommy Riggins sharing car #76. Rocketsports entered two Oldsmobile Cutlasses, one for Darin Brassfield and Scott Pruett, and another one for Paul Gentilozzi and Dorsey Schroeder. Alert Bumper Inc entered another car with Eddie Sharp Sr and Jr and Dick Downs.
Another interesting car was the beautiful Pontiac Firebird entered by Apple Motorsports. Andras Peterey, John Macaluso and Tommy Schweitz would drive it. A Pontiac Grand Prix was also entered, prepared and driven by Gary Smith for Carolina Racing Engines. He was co-driven by Robert Borders and Mark Kennedy. Southern Racing Chassis entered a Chevrolet Camaro, to be driven by Daniel Urrutia, Gene Whipp and Luis Sereix, another IMSA veteran. Hi-Tech Coating had another Chevrolet Camaro for Richard and Bill McDill, sharing their car with Tom Juckette. Fantasy Junction fielded one car, driven by Kent Painter, Bruce Trenery and Andrew Osman. Hoyt Overbagh entered another similar car, which he would drive with Mark Montgomery, Oma Kimbrough, Robert McElnehy and Bob Hundredmark. The GTU class was again to be led by the Leitzinger Racing Nissan 240SX. Don Knowles and Bob Leitzinger would try to make it two in a row. Kryderacing entered its usual Nissan 240SX for Reed Kryder and Guy Kuster. Dick Greer was again the only Mazda RX7 proponent, with the driver line-up as for Daytona. The two other Mazdas were MX6s. Eduardo Dibos was co-driving his car with Bill Auberlen, and Domenico DeLuca drove his car with Bill Weston. Three Porsche 911s were entered, and the Team Casual Motorsport was the sole new entry, with Lorin Hicks, Ron Zitza, Tommy Johnson and Mel Butt. Alex Job Racing would try to make it to the finish, with Butch Hamlet, Charles Slater and Bill Ferran at the wheel. The Invitational GT were still here, and a great addition was the Brumos Porsche 911 Turbo, driven by Hans Stuck, Walter Roehrl and Hurley Haywood. The car would easily dominate its class. A few Porsche Carrera 2s were entered, but it would be for a runner-up position. Rohr Engineering was avid to take revenge against the Cigarette Boats entry driven by Enzo Calderari, Ronnie Meixner and Luigino Pagotto. A pair of Porsche 944 Turbos also competed. The last entry was a BMW M5, entered by Ed Arnold Racing, with David Donohue, Chris Hodgetts and Dieter Quester.
This race was to become one of the worst ever to be run in terms of weather, as a string of showers and storms was to happen. Off courses and spins are commonplace. On thursday, however, a very short span of time enabled the drivers to run on a dry track. Juan Fangio would break the track record, just ahead of his teammate, PJ Jones. The start of the race also made history, being the first ever to be given under a rainy weather. Juan Fangio jumped in the lead, but he was to be overtaken by PJ Jones. A melee occured in GTS, with Dorsey Schroeder spinning, and blocking Tom Kendall, who lost four laps in the process. When he was able to restart, the pace car was already out for a stint. The weather was becoming worse, leading to a red flag. A new start was to be given at 3pm. The two Toyota Eagle MKIIIs were still leading, with the Momo Nissan NPT90, the Porsche 962 and François Migault's Spice. The race was kind of non existant, with the pace car maintaining a steady pace, not a race one. When the race would restart, John Paul Jr would put on a show, easily catching up the two Toyotas. After eight hours of racing, Chip Robinson would retire with a broken suspension. The two AAR cars were still leading, but PJ Jones would lose some ground, with a water leak. Gianpiero Moretti's Nissan NPT90 was able to maintain his second place while Steve Millen-John Morton and Johnny O'connell finally won the GTS class, just ahead of Tom Kendall, John Fergus and Max Jones, who lost the race in the early moments. Parker Johnstone, Dan Marvin and Ruggero Melgrati again won the Lights class, and Dick Greer made it two in a row, after winning at Daytona.
Copyright Michael Crews(courtesy Racing Sports Cars)
Hans Stuck, Walter Roehrl and Hurley Haywood had a great race, finishing in seventh place and easily capturing the Invitational GT class. But what an awful race! A race to forget, for sure. (to be continued)