The Tach Report: ProSportsCar on the Skids, Carpentier is CART Rookie of the Year, Toyota Pans New Sporty Roadster, Cha-Cha Races NHRA Again
6 October 1997It seems the entire upper echelon of the professional racing hierarchy is ganging up on Professional SportsCar Racing Prexy Andy Evans. Last Thursday a coalition of the U.S.'s leading road racing track promoters, motorsports entrants, and principals of SCCA Pro Racing announced that a REAL sports car road racing sanctioning body for the U.S. will be formed, and that all the famous race series titles will surface once again. The USRRC, United States Road Racing Championship (remember the USRRC prior to Can Am?) is the banner that the Can Am, Trans Am and the SCCA World Challenge cars will run under in 1998. These classes are identical to the World Sports Cars, GT-1, GT-2, and GT-3 classes and the proposed tube frame sedan series that Evans operates.
The above mentioned "heavy hitters" of motorsports who seemed poised to show Evans the carpet are: Les Richter, head of Trans Am; John Bishop, founder of IMSA; Bill France, Jr; Dan Greenwood, Pres. SCCA; Nick Craw; Rob Dyson, rich, disenchanted WSC car owner; and the heads of Laguna Seca, Road America, Lime Rock Park, Mid- Ohio, Homestead, and Watkins Glen.
This august group is drawing up rules and schedules for 1998, and TACH sincerely believes that the WSC Ferrari and Riley/Scott/Spice car would rather run in the legendary Can Am series than run where they are now, uncertainly scheduled.
France has told Evans he won't let him in Daytona. Evans went to Europe to complain to World racing Czar Bernie Eccelstone that paying a fee of $700,000 to bring the World Touring Cars to the U.S. this month for two races was too much money. Bernie said Evans should take a hike and that he wants nothing to do with the stocks/bond trader after the upcoming Sebring and Laguna Seca races. So now Bernie is on the side of USRRC and so is Roger Penske. Who's left to put the nail in Andy's coffin? Carl Haas?
We can visualize a rebirth of the Can Am series for current WSC type cars from around the world. A companion race at a Can Am vintage affair with McLaren, Shadow, Lola, et al would be a barn burner. Then, after you've had a beer, the USRRC guys trot out 25 Trans Am cars, and as a support race 60-70 GT sedans mix it up. Could be a helluva series. Though Exxon dumped Evans for next year we'll bet someone from USRRC is knocking on their door.
It's rumored that Toyota will replace the MR2 with a Boxster type sports roadster. Why not? The Boxster and the MB and BMW variants are sold out for two years. Could be stateside by 1999 and would have a 2.0 liter motor.
The aftermath of the CART California 500 shows that Patrick Carpentier, even after missing three races, took Rookie of the Year honors over Dario, Franchiti, Gaulter Salles and Arnd Meier.
Shirley "don't you dare call me Cha-Cha" is making plans to run the NHRA races at Texas Motorplex next weekend. The former four-time Top Fuel champ has the fastest time in IHRA Top Fuel at 309 mph
Also in NHRA news Dale Armstrong, late of the Kenny Bernstein team, has landed a job as crew chief on Don Prudhomme's Funny Car team for 1998. Next on the NHRA agenda is Pro-Stock drag racing trucks. It works for NASCAR, so why not? John Force may build a couple of pickups.
Honda may build a unique single seater open wheel car called the "SIDE BY SIDE." It will be powered by a motorcycle engine and it may be the basis for a spec race series in a couple of years. It'll cost around 25 grand.
There are those that say the TV series "Steel Chariots" is worse than Days of Thunder, To Please a Lady, and that Turkey Elvis was in long ago, Speedway. Wow!
It looks like Lola Cars has been saved as Brit businessman Martin Birrane has come to the rescue and is launching a sales campaign to get the car accepted in more race series. The car is big in Indy Lights and F3000.
There will be a second IRL race at Texas Motor Speedway next year. It seems that as Andy Evans slowly sinks into the setting sun, Tony George is gaining prominence.
NASCAR post-race scrutineers really mean business 'cause they found, of all things, an oil pan on the Cale Yarborough owned Chevy that was a 1/4 inch too big, and gave Cale a talking-to.
The FIA Touring Car Championship has been all Mercedes-Benz so far in 1997, but at Italy's Mugello Racetrack last week, it was BMW the winner with their McLaren F-1 racers under the hands of JJ Lehto and Steve Roper coming home first in the featch.
SCORE, Sal Fish's very successful off-road racing organization, will be back at Laughlin, NV for the next two years. The organization signed a deal with the city's visitors bureau to put on an annual show.
NIGEL MANSELL is getting restless and will take a CART test in Jim McGee's Brahma before the end of the year to see how much the cars have changed . . . who knows?
Neat story about the old Ontario Motor Speedway in the current AUTOWEEK. It's authored by Matt Stone, who is very good at this type of nostalgia automotive journalism.
Mercedes-Benz is seriously considering building their own F-1 race car, possibly by 2000. The company is thinking of the halcyon years of the "Silver Arrows" Grand Prix cars.
Didja know that Mika Salo last week started his 50th Grand Prix race? Does anyone care?
Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel