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PSR/FIA NAPA Autoparts Octoberfest at Sebring

21 October 1997

Sebring, FL-"Fantastic, Incredible, Awesome." Those are the words that come
to mind when asked to surmise the week-end at the NAPA Autoparts
Octoberfest. It was almost sensory overload. PSR provided the WSC, GTS-1,2
and 3 as well as the Endurance series and the Black Magic Pro Series.
However, the FIA GT cars were the obvious stars of the gathering. The
presence of these exotic and beautiful machines over-shadowed all of the PSR
races. In retrospect all five races were excellent displays of motorsports.
The Endurance Series race went down to the last lap. The Black Magic Pro
Series was a hard fought race. The GTS 1, 2 and 3 had controversy as well as
great driving. The WSC race once again was, as it has been all season long,
a fight to the finish. However the icing on the multi-tiered cake of this
motorsports week-end extravaganza were the FIA GT cars. I guess if one lived
in Europe people would be sort of "ho-hum." But it's just the fact that the
FIA cars had really and truly made it. You could actually walk up and stand
next to these sleek racing machines. Up until last week-end many people
expected a newsflash advising us that the ship carrying the cars was either
sunk or told to return to port.

While visiting the FIA paddock you could over-hear the murmurring of
spectators "oohing and awing" as if holiday gifts had arrived early. While
no one was observed pinching themselves, many fans were seen with smiles
that appeared glued in place. The anticipation of the FIA race was so
intense that the paddock area was deserted 30 minutes prior to the start. At
most IndyCar or NASCAR events you can usually find spectators waiting until
the last minute to find their seats. Not this race. People had staked out a
strategic point to watch the thundering herd of 42 racecars bolt for the
green flag.

The week started early for the top FIA GT teams. Porsche, Mercedes and
McLaren flew their respective race teams to Sebring a week ago Friday to
prepare the cars for the bumpy and unforgiving concrete surfaces that
Sebring is renowned for. In early practices all three race teams were
experiencing the "dolphining syndrome" on the front straight. In one early
session you could stand by the first turn and watch as the racecars "stepped
out" striving to achieve maximum grip. But by the time the qualifying
session rolled around on Friday the teams had the settings just right. 

The one area of the racetrack that garnered the most criticism was turn
17. The cars enter the turn under heavy braking. With no run-off area, ala
Formula One, the tire barriers were given a workout by every class of
racecar. The most incredible shunt of the weekend occurred on Friday evening
when a brake bleeder valve on Doc Bundy's PSR Panoz was not properly
secured. On the last lap of practice Bundy put his foot on the brake only to
find no resistance. The ensuing impact was ,to put it mildly, incredible.
The car was a right-off for the race. Much to the relief of everyone Doc was
OK except for some deep bruising and stiffness.

PSR chairman Andy Evans kept a fairly low profile. Questions were asked of
FIA officals about next year's schedule which did not have any North
American races. The underlying theme was that the FIA did not want to become
fodder for North American SportsCar Racing's "Civil War." Time, as it always
does, will tell.

So in the meantime enjoy every minute. Wow, what a week-end!

David Treffer -- The AutoChannel