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Stories by Title
11/20/00 One Dead Pony - Jeff James (S/\C #112)
9/1/00 AMLS Mosport 2000 Weekend - Scott Miller (SAC Pres)
Simo Supreme at Mosport -Jimmy Johnston ( The Race Fan )
Auburn Cord Duesenberg -Jimmy Johnston ( The Race Fan )
Dick Barbour Racing is Back On Track -Jimmy Johnston ( The Race Fan )
Going For Three The Hard Way (with Paul Gentilozzi) -Jimmy Johnston ( The Race Fan )
The Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame 7th Annual Induction Gala -Jimmy Johnston ( The Race Fan )
Long Beach Grand Prix -Jimmy Johnston ( The Race Fan )
New Kid on the Block ? .... NOT ! ("Mo Nunn Racing") -Jimmy Johnston ( The Race Fan )
Privateer With A Cause (Olive Garden Team) -Jimmy Johnston ( The Race Fan )
TARGET 2000 - 5 for 5 (interview with Tom Anderson Managing Director - Target / Chip Ganassi Racing) -Jimmy Johnston ( The Race Fan )
Gokart Nite Rick Creuzberg
Comstock Racing Team -Jimmy Johnston ( The Race Fan )

 

 

 


Posted 5/28/2000

Simo Supreme at Mosport

By Jimmy Johnston ( The Race Fan) on location at Mosport, Bowmanville, Ontario ,Canada.

The fourth round of the 2000, B F Goodrich, Trans-Am Series, was held this past weekend at the traditional Victoria Day Weekend race at Mosport International Raceway. Canada's most famous road racing venue. The Victoria Day races have been the annual start for Canadian professional road racing for as long as I can remember, and what better way to start the season than with the longest running road racing series in North America.

Trans - Am racing has long been a favorite of the Canadian road race fan and this past weekend's attendance for Sunday's big race was proof positive that the resurgent and expanded series has not lost any fan interest in these northern climes.

Mother Nature as is sometimes her wont was not so kind to our racing heros at the start of the race weekend, with cold wet weather for Thursday, and unseasonably cool temperatures for Friday practice and Saturday's qualifying sessions. This mixed with some realignment of the upgraded circuit, and stretches of new pavement on some of the corners gave for some tense moments for drivers and crews, but lots of excitement for the hardy "Parka Clad" race fans.

Never the less the professionalism of all the participants of this fine racing series came to the fore for the qualifying session on Saturday, and the added bonus prizes awarded to the "Fast Five" qualifiers, a much coveted title for any Trans-Am driver.

With rule changes instigated for the 2000 race season a whole new spectrum of cars are now running in the series with the likes of Paul Gentillozi's new Jaguar XKR, Brian Simo's Qvale Mangusta, Randy Ruhlman's Oldsmobile Aurora, Leighton Reese's Pontiac Grand Prix, against the traditional marques of Corvette, Mustang Cobra, and the always popular Chevrolet Camaro's. Wings have been added to the aerodynamics of the cars, which has led to a series of wind tunnel testing to try to keep a level playing field. Other rule changes for this year has provided the use of fuel injection instead of regular carburetion, and true to the ever forward push towards leading edge technology, Team Amerisuites has installed a newly developed injection system on their Ford Mustang Cobra. To quote Jon N. Lewis President & CEO of American Spirit Racing, "We are not a team that wants to wait around and see what others are doing, we want to be their first." But the price that they must pay for this new fuel delivery system is to carry 75 pounds of extra ballast weight, and one gallon of fuel less than their competitors.

With all of these changes in mind, lets look at what happened for the "Fast Five" spots : First spot was taken by Paul Gentillozi - Jaguar XKR, second went to Brian Simo - Qvale Mangusta, third to yet another new car this year, Randy Ruhlman - Oldsmobile Aurora, fourth to Johnny Miller - Chevrolet Corvette, with fifth place going to the rookie Jeff Altenburg in the second Jaguar XKR.

The "Fast Five" were closely followed by Leighton Reese - Pontiac Grand Prix, Stu Hayner - Chevrolet Camaro, Mike Lewis - Ford Mustang Cobra ( Fuel injected ) and Tomy Drissi - Ford Mustang Cobra, giving testament to the closeness of the competition of all the makes with eight different marques in the top ten places on the grid, showing that all models are capable of getting into the top ten starting positions.

Interviewing the top five drivers after their qualifying runs revealed that the cool weather conditions had kept speeds down, with up to five or six laps of running time needed to get enough heat into the B F Goodrich TA racing tires to start getting the grip required to put in the fast laps needed to get those "Front row" spots. As Brian Simo remarked, "All the fast laps came at the end of the session."

Saturday's afternoon practice session was then devoted to getting a good race "Setup" with full tanks of fuel, and some chassis tuning changes to try to get more out of the race cars. Some drivers obviously went the wrong way, as some times happens, and would revert back to their previous setups, whereas others like Leighton Reese found some changes that definitely helped, giving him almost a full second on his qualifying time, but the big advancement from the earlier qualifying session was Chris Neville in his Ford Mustang Cobra who posted a time that would have put him second on the grid, a full two and a half seconds faster than he ran in qualifying for his 11th place starting position.

Throughout the weekend press releases from the series organizers were posted in the media centre, relating to some of the controversial finishes in the Charlotte N.C. and Long Beach races held earlier this year. Paul Gentillozi was re-awarded the points taken from him at Charlotte N.C. and Tomy Drissi was re-instated as the winner at Long Beach, giving Willy T. Ribbs back his second place finish for the Victoria Motorsports Camaro, and Bob Ruman the last spot on the podium in his Chevrolet Corvette.

The record entry of 37 cars and drivers had a special treat for the race fans at Mosport on Sunday before any track action for the stars had begun. The organizers of the series, SCCA Pro Racing in conjunction with the Panoz\ Sanchez Group, B F Goodrich, and the hard working officials of Mosport organized a driver autograph signing session in the paddock slated to start at 10:45 a.m. and last for 45 minutes. The session was so well attended by race fans, thanks to Mother Nature finally providing some much needed sunshine, that the drivers were still signing posters and Hero - Cards for the fans an hour and a half later. No doubt many a new race fan has been "hooked" by their experience of meeting and talking to so many great drivers, and taking home signed souvenirs that will give them "bragging rights" at show and tell next week at school. Well done Trans - Am !

B F Goodrich, the prime sponsor of the Trans - Am series, and the spec tire manufacturer for all the cars that run in the series, took the opportunity this past weekend to introduce the latest line of road tires that have been developed through their involvement with racing. Once again proving that road racing is very much a part in the ongoing development for highway safety for the average car owner and their passengers. If you are in the market for new tires for your family car or van, it would be worth a trip to your local B F Goodrich dealer to see their new range of TA radials that have been developed for dry / wet / and snow driving conditions that would be best suited for your needs.

Special guests of B F Goodrich were treated to a very well catered lunch on the hill at corner one, one of the best viewing areas of the track, where lots of action can be observed on the start finish line, as well as the pits. But the big treat of the day for most of them was the helicopter rides doing laps of the track, watching the race cars at speed on their way around the 10 corners of the historic race track of Mosport. My special thanks to go out to all the great people at B F G for my own ride in the helicopter, allowing me the best lap of my life at my "Alma Mater" and getting a faster lap time than the race drivers of the Trans - Am series.

Time now for the "Big Show", the cars are lined up on the grid, the current two time defending champion, Paul Gentillozi has pole, current series leader and winner of two of the three races already run this year is in P2 on the outside of the front row. The rest of the pack wait in readiness behind in their hard fought for starting positions, the crowd rushes to the fences, Trans - Am starts are renowned for that first dash into the first turn of all their races, races being won or lost in the first corner.

The announcement that every body has been waiting for finally comes over the loud speakers, "Gentlemen and Ladies, start your engines" the crowd roars, the pace car moves off with the grid following in formation for the pace lap. Every thing is going according to plan as the grid clears and the cars all follow the leader around the two and a half miles of this very demanding race course, the pace car pulls into the pit lane just before the entry to the last corner, it is now up to the starter to give the green flag to the leaders if he sees a well formed line up of cars. As the field clears turn 10 in a fashion suitable for a safe start the starter gives the signal to Gentillozi - Green flag, the leaders turn up the power, the sound of all that V-8 iron being pushed to the limit raises the hairs on your arms so much you look like a Thanksgiving Turkey, you can not think clearly as the sound of the cars blasts at you as they rush past so quickly on their way to glory, or disappointment, for all the hard work that each and every member of their crew has put out to be there this day.

They all make it clean through the first corner, the sounds of the cars fade and the track announcer can be heard once again on the loud speaker system giving second by second progress through the rest of the course, till once again the cars are blasting down the start finish line in full anger on their way to complete the first of the forty laps that are slated for today=s race. Gentillozi leads the field, Simo is right on his rear bumper, the rest of the field has got it together right behind him, no changes in position to the starting grid for the leaders. The back of the pack is seeing some changes as some of the cars that did not qualify well start to improve their position in a well organized style of professional road racing.

The race continued in this fashion, lap after lap, nose to tail, the leaders very well matched until the chance that Simo had been waiting for finally came. Lap 30 was the undoing of the Johnson Controls / Home Link Jaguar of Paul Gentillozi, "driver error" in Paul's words put him in the gravel at turn five, giving Brian Simo the chance to slip by in the Tommy Bahama Qvale Mangusta to take the lead and the eventual win for back to back victories at Mosport, and his third win in four races this season.

Randy Ruhlman in the Preformed Line Products / Oldsmobile Aurora was up for a well deserved second spot on the podium, until he was bumped by Johnny Miller who was running in third, in the last corner of the last lap, giving Jeff Altenburg in the Jaguar XKR second spot with Tomy Drissi collecting the last spot on the podium in his Ford Mustang Cobra. Miller who finished fourth was penalized five finishing positions, putting him ninth behind Ruhlman who limped home to an eighth place finish after the contact with Miller. Lou Gigliotti finished fourth in the Corvette, with a fifth place finish for Stu Hayner who brought home the first of the three Camaro's of Victoria Motorsports, the only three car team running in the series.

Next stop Detroit - June 17, 2000. See you at the races real soon, The Race Fan.

  • Story by : Jimmy Johnston.

  • Posted 5/28/2000

    Dick Barbour Racing is Back On Track

    The Race Fan on Location.

    Charlotte, North Carolina

    When the American Le Mans Series held its second round of the 2000 season at Lowes Motor Speedway / Charlotte, NC. I had the opportunity to talk to Dick Barbour about his return to road racing in the ALMS series.

    Having witnessed the strong performance of the team two weeks earlier at Sebring, where they had taken the pole with a new track record, and won the GT class with a commanding 6 lap lead over the second place car in the class, I was anxious to find out what had got Dick out of retirement, and back to the fore of road racing.

    Some background on Dick Barbour Racing will help you understand my interest here. Dick Barbour retired from racing after an outstanding season in 1980, where the team won 14 of 15 races entered. Included in those 14 events were the 12 Hours of Sebring, Daytona, The Mosport 1000Ks, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and The Road Atlanta Grand Prix - twice. Winning the IMSA Championship outright along the way, and the coveted Porsche Cup for the first time by an American team.

    Dick Barbour Racing has had its fair share of talented drivers through the years, including Brian Redman, Rolf Strommelin, John Fitzpatrick, Rick Mears, and Johnny Rutherford to mention a few.

    I asked Dick why he had taken 20 years to return to the battlefront, and why he chose the American Le Mans Series as his battleground for his return.

    "You must understand that I really did not want to stop racing, but the economic times of the early eighties, very high interest rates, and the lack of sponsorship took the decision to retire out of my control. I have always wanted to return to racing, and have been constantly searching for the right package to do so. When the large factory sponsored teams of Jaguar, Nissan, Toyota, etc, were running in the IMSA series of the late 80's and early 90's it was impossible to compete without full factory support and sponsorship, therefore I could not see a worthwhile opportunity to return at that time.

    With the death of my parents and other personal family problems in the early nineties, I was not emotionally ready to participate in the sport then, and give it what I felt was required.

    When I saw what Don Panoz was doing with the American Le Mans Series, I felt that he was on to something good. I have always wanted a level playing field in road racing between America and Europe, and the venues for the series are being held at tracks that I have had a lot of success with in the past, Sebring, Road Atlanta, Mosport, and Le Mans.

    Last year in April I moved from San Diego, where I have spent all my life, and set up shop at Turn One in Road Atlanta, Georgia. We leased a building from Mr. Panoz, while we were constructing our new state of the art 8,000 square foot facility at Turn One. I ordered two cars from Porsche, and started working on sponsorship for the team. I was fortunate to be able to hire Tony Dowe ( of Tom Walkinshaw / Team Jaguar fame ) as Race Director last December, and took delivery of our first car on the 23rd of December 1999."

    The new Dick Barbour Racing team has been awarded "Junior Factory Team" status by Porsche, due to Dicks competitive ability, and operational standards, and is fortunate to have four very talented Porsche factory drivers on board, namely Dirk Muller and Lucas Luhr in the # 5 car, with Bob Wollek and Sascha Maassen driving the # 51 car.

    Dicks closing statement to me was, "It has always been important to me that my return to sportscar racing would be as strong as when I left. The opportunity to return with the worlds best cars - Porsche, riding on the worlds best tires - Michelin, with four of the worlds best young drivers, Dirk, Lucas, Bob and Sascha - all being directed by Tony Dowe is fantastic. We are out to win every race, and the ALMS championship, as well as Le Mans in France."

    With the Team winning the pole at Charlotte, and their second straight class win in the second race of the season, one would be quite justified in believing that Dick Barbour will realize his goals as a series championship team in this his return year to the sport he loves so much.

  • Story by : Jimmy Johnston

  • Posted 5/28/2000

    The Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame

    7th Annual Induction Gala.

     

    Toronto, Feb. 19, 20, 2000.

    The Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame’s 7th. Annual Induction Awards Gala was held on Saturday 19th. February, at the Toronto Harbour Castle, Convention Centre. An outstanding turnout of 300 guests, and members enjoyed a wonderful evening giving due honour to the 1999 inductees, with many joining the Sunday brunch at the Hall of Fame, on the following day.

    Tuxedos and Black Tie, not being the usual attire of most of the attendees, gave rise to the occasional memory lapse, as track clothing tends to be of the "Crew Shirt and Driving Suit" variety, the odd apology was required while "memory banks" had to sort out the confusion and new mind set needed, to identify old friends in their finery.

    The inductees for 1999 covered a wide variety of participation in motorsports, and were joined by inductee Tom Burgess, who by circumstances beyond control, was nominated for 1998, in the category of Competitor, Builder : Rallying, but could not be formally inducted until this years Gala.

  • The 1999 inductees are as follows :

    Gary Beck & Ray Peets : Competitors Drag Racing.

    Maurice AMo@ Carter : Competitor Road Racing.

    Castrol North America : Motorsport Builder.

    Yvon Duhamel : Competitor Motorcycles, Snowmobile Racing.

    Brad Francis : Team Member Multidisciplines.

    Grant King : Team Member Oval Racing.

  • It would take much more space than this column allows, to fully do justice to this years list of inductees, but suffice to say however, that all were very worthy of their selection, and showed their appreciation throughout the ceremonies, with the exception of Grant King, whose award was presented to his recently widowed wife.

    Daimler Chrysler, (formerly Chrysler Canada), was named "Manufacturer of the Year" for their participation in many venues of Canadian motorsport, and were presented their award by Robert Tanner, Director of the Canadian Champ Car Lights Series.

    Guest of Honour, Don Panoz, the new owner of Mosport International Park, Road Atlanta, and Sebring, and the driving force of the "American Le Mans Road Racing Series", was a very popular choice, who unstintingly gave much of his time to chat to many of the guests.

    The guest list was a veritable "Who’s Who" of Canadian motorsport, and a feeling of "Old Home Week" prevailed throughout the evening. Many people meeting old friends and past track "Adversaries" for the first time in many years.

    Your lowly scribe had the pleasure of meeting, and talking again, to many former and current drivers, crew members, race officials, track owners, and volunteer workers, including past inductees to the Hall of Fame, such as, Eppie Wietzes, Bill Brack, and Craig Hill, as well as this years inductees, and hopefully future inductees, Ron Fellows, Gary Magwood, and Richard Spennard, as well as some of the unsung heros of Canadian motorsports, who"s efforts and hard work make it all happen. Mosport’s Myles and Janet Brandt, with Glenn Butt, and Shannonville’s Jean Gauthier, and Ralph Frisken.

    A silent auction to raise money for the Hall, was held with articles donated by sponsors, some very nice pieces of automotive art, and collectibles were on display in the reception area for all to view, before the activities began.

    After the dinner, and award ceremonies over, the guests were captivated with a photographic tribute to the late Greg Moore. The video set to music was compiled from still photos of Greg, taken throughout his short lived racing career, by Paul Strak of Gridwork. This photographic history of one of Canada’s best loved rising stars, was heartfelt by all in attendance, and a most appropriate ending of the formal proceedings.

    The balance of the evening was, like too many good times, over before you could possibly say all your hellos, and touch base with the many personalities on hand. An evening to remember and recollect upon, giving this writer many a thought provoking moment, and another list of things to research, in an already too cluttered head of motorsport history and trivia.

    Sunday’s brunch at the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame, located at 777 Bay Street, Toronto, was very well attended, and the convivial atmosphere of Saturday, was continued in the less formal setting. Giving opportunity to talk to some of the inductees over coffee, in the presence of race cars and motorcycles, that had them giving forth with some very interesting comments, and "gems" of racing stories, a "Bench Racer’s" dream come true.

    A very well planned and executed event by the organizers, who deserve much support for their efforts to maintain the rich heritage of Canadian Motorsports, and the people who have contributed to making it a source of pride, for so many Canadian motorsport fans.

    The exhibits at the "Hall of Fame" include, but are not limited to some of the more famous cars in Canadian Motorsport History, such as cars driven by Jacques Villenueve, David Empringham, Bill Brack, and Greg Moore, and a wonderful example of a Walter Wolf F-1 car. For the Drag Racing enthusiast there is on display, the "Time Machine", and some wonderful motorcycles for the followers of Motorcycle Racing.

    Take the time to visit the "Hall", you will leave a much richer motorsport enthusiast for your effort, and may even learn something of the Canadians who have enriched the sport, not only in Canada, but internationally.

  • Story by : Jimmy Johnston.

  • Posted 5/28/2000

    In Search of the Lost Road

    The Race Fan on Location

    Route 66.......

    This past month has been an exercise of exploration for me, that I would like to share with every person who would care to listen. Deciding that I would like to cover the Long Beach Grand Prix, the thought of driving across the United States instead of flying came up. Having never driven across country before gave vent to a whole list of places to stop along the way. Giving in to a flight of fancy I asked my usual traveling companion Reid Milburn to come up with an interesting itinery of stops along the way to California and back, taking in the Grand Am road race at Phoenix, Arizona on the way back.

    Ever the cyberspace bloodhound, Reid found the most convoluted route to California from Toronto that you could imagine, but true to his calling, a very interesting one.

    Leaving Toronto early on Tuesday the 11th of April we headed for Port Huron, Michigan for a quick run south to Auburn, Indiana to visit the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. Wednesday found us in Elm Creek, Nebraska where we toured Chevyland USA. We then set our compass and headed south through Denver, Colorado en route to Las Vegas, Nevada to get a peek at the Imperial Palace automotive collection on Thursday morning. Lunch at the Race Rock Café - Las Vegas gave us the fuel to get on down the road to Long Beach in time for registration at 5.30 p.m. Thursday afternoon.

    Friday, Saturday and Sunday a leisurely pace got us through the CART race programme, and rested up for our time in California.

    Monday it was the Justice Brothers Race Car Museum in Duarte California. Tuesday the Petersen Collection in Beverly Hills. Wednesday a tour of Dan Gurney’s All American Racing Facility in Santa Ana, before a quick dash across the desert in time to register for the Grand Am race at PIR in Phoenix, Arizona.

    Thursday, Friday and Saturday was another time to rest up and enjoy some road racing before the long trek home.

    Sunday we left Phoenix and headed north to find Route 66, and the road to Albuquerque, New Mexico where I sit writing this account of our travels to date. Tomorrow we will visit the J & R Vintage Museum here in Albuquerque before heading home via South Bend, Indiana to catch a look at the Studebaker Museum. ETA Toronto some time Tuesday 25th April.

    Photos and descriptions of all of the above mentioned collections will be featured in upcoming issues of the Vintage section in the months to come.

    See you at a car show soon, The Race Fan.

  • Story By : Jimmy Johnston

  • Posted 5/28/2000

    New Kid on the Block ? .... NOT !

    By the Race Fan.

    Morris "Mo" Nunn has created a new Championship Auto Racing Team, to run in the 2000 Fed Ex Championship, but this is no "New Kid on the Block", nor the first race team to be formed by Mo Nunn. Starting his racing career in England in the early 60's as a driver in a Cooper Climax, followed by a Lotus 23B Sports car, then a Formula 3 car, with a steady track record and some fine wins along the way, led Mo to a Formula 3 seat for Colin Chapman’s Team Lotus in 1968.

    In 1971 Mo Nunn was busy building and selling Formula 3 cars for the stepping stone class to F-1, with total sales of over 30 cars. The natural progression therefore was to build a Formula One car, which he did in 1973, for Ricky Von Opel, which in turn led to the formation of the Ensign F-1 team, owned and run by none other than Mo Nunn.

    Ensign F-1 ran for ten years under Mo’s exacting standards, and fielded cars driven by some of the best drivers of that era, Clay Regazzoni, Roberto Guerrero, Chris Amon, Jackie Ickx, Patrick Tambay, Nelson Piquet, Johnny Cecotto, and Derick Daly to name but a few. With a fund of experience in open wheel racing, and engineering in the hard fought European and International race series, the challenge of American open wheel racing was offered in 1984 in the form of George Bignotti’s True Value Team.

    Nunn’s talents were soon to be recognized in world of "Indy Cars", with many successes along the way. 1986 saw Mo’s magic touch with Mario Andretti’s two wins for Newman-Hass at Portland and Pocono. Joining Vince Granatelli in 1987 had Mo working with Roberto Guerrero once again. A banner year came along in 1989 when "Mo’s magic" gave Patrick Racing and Emerson Fittipaldi the Grand Slam of American open wheel racing ...... The Indy 500 crown, and the CART championship.

    Back with Granatelli in 1991 Mo engineered Arie Luyendyk to two winning races, leading the way to his position as Technical Director for Chip Ganassi Racing in 1992. The next few years working with the Ganassi operation is possibly the "rags to riches" story of all time in CART history. Winning his second CART Championship with Jimmy Vasser behind the wheel of the Target-Ganassi car in 1996, opened up the flood gates, giving Target-Ganassi an unprecedented four CART Championships in a row, two back to back wins for Alex Zanardi in 1997, and 1998, and the fourth with rookie Juan Pablo Montoya in 1999.

    Before Juan Montoya had clinched the 1999 CART crown, AMG ( read Mercedes ) approached Mo Nunn while he was still working for Target - Ganassi Racing in Chicago in mid August last year (1999) to form a team with them for the 2000 CART FedEx series. Two weeks of serious consideration resulted in a negative answer on the deal. Mo had decided against a joint venture with AMG. After a few weeks had passed, Mo’s wife Kathryn convinced him that he should "go it alone" and form his own CART team. No sooner said, and the rumour mill working. Ilmor engines approached friend Nunn, and started the ball rolling. At Ilmor’s suggestion an alliance with PacWest was discussed to help with the development programme of the engine. Meetings and "Think Tank" talks between Mo Nunn, Ilmor, and Bruce McCaw of PacWest concluded with Bruce McCaw taking a financial stake in "Mo Nunn Racing", a team still to be formally announced.

    With the financial where with all, an engine deal in hand, and a racing history beyond reproach, all Mo Nunn had to do now was pull a team together. It is now late in November 1999. Rod Campbell, former Team Manager @ Ensign in 1979-1980, and a marketing genius of record, comes on board as a partner in the soon to be announced team. The first week of December, Steve Newey, formerly with Patrick Racing is hired as general manager, and Brad Filbey of Team Gordon comes to assume the role as team manager.

    With the key players in place, a race shop located at 150 Gasoline Alley, Indianapolis, the Mo Nunn Racing Team is formally announced on December 8, 1999. It is now time to pull the rest of the show together.

    How do you get a first class race team organized in the middle of winter, when you don’t have a driver, mechanic, crew, and most importantly a main sponsor, with the first race of the season just three months away ? This was the very question I asked of Mo Nunn Racing’s Public Relations director Laz Denes at Homestead last month.

    Laz, newly recruited to his position, and on the firing line to my inquisition of how this all came about was most helpful in gathering and forwarding the following information.

    Being a race fan first, and a journalist second, I asked some rather impertinent questions of how the Mo "Magic" made all this happen. Here are the answers that came straight from the "Horses Mouth"

    How long did it take to fully staff the team ? Answer - 61 days from the announcement of the team.

    Sixty one days, did you have to steal, bribe and kidnap the crew ? Answer - No, as soon as the team was announced, the guys started coming to us, and we had an opportunity to give many members of the CART racing fraternity a chance to move into positions that were not open to them in their current teams, due to the existing team structure, but were truly qualified to fill. Nobody was approached that was working for a current team, and enticed in anyway to join Mo Nunn Racing.

    What role does Mercedes Benz / Ilmor play financially in Mo Nunn Racing ? Answer - We are not at liberty to say, our financial arrangements with any of our partners and sponsors are strictly team only information, but all of our partners and sponsors, especially Mercedes Benz and Ilmor are 100% involved in the engine development programme of the 2000 FedEx series.

    Mercedes Benz / Ilmor have not been engine of choice for the last few years in CART. Their involvement in F-1 with McLaren has been very intense, and resulted in a back to back World Championship for the F-1 series, to the detriment of the teams running their engines in the FedEx series. Do they think that the 2000 FedEx series will be a turn around year for them, or a rebuild year ? Answer - Both Mercedes Benz and Ilmor are of the same mind set as Mo Nunn Racing, 2000 is a full attempt by all parties to have an outright win in the FedEx 2000 series. This is not a rebuild year on their part, and not a learning year on our part. We are here to win the championship !

    You went to spring training without a sponsor, and you had a long interplay with many drivers before spring training. When did you know that you had Hollywood as a sponsor, and why was it not announced at spring training ? Answer - After we had a commitment from Tony Kanaan and felt we had secured Tony for the team, we realized that we had a package to offer Hollywood. They had been talking to other teams, and with Bruce McCaw’s approval we approached them. Bruce, myself (Mo Nunn) and Rod Campbell met with them, and Rod finalized the deal. Unfortunately the small print was not in place for an announcement at Homestead’s spring training session.

    How long did it take to put the Hollywood deal together ? Answer - We started pursuing them in January, but we did not have 100% of the contract in place for an announcement at spring training, it took another week of negotiations before we could make it official.

    At what point was Tony Kanaan tied to the Hollywood deal ? Answer - Tony came to us saying he wanted to drive for the team, we jumped at the chance, because we felt that he was an excellent driving talent. Once we had the confidence that Tony was "on board" we knew that we had an excellent package to offer to Hollywood for sponsorship. It all worked out from there.

    This ends the formal information from Mo Nunn Racing, but rest assured, not the end of the story, the team got their feet wet at Homestead for the first race of the season, and showed great promise for the forthcoming season, garnering a 10th spot finish for the first outing of the car. The uncontrollable weather conditions at Nazareth put a hold on the second race of the season, but Long Beach, California, a track that Tony Kanaan has been very successful at in the past, gave further indication that Hollywood - Mo Nunn Racing, with Tony behind the wheel is a team well worth watching this year.

    Kanaan starting from the 15th spot on the grid, had worked his way up the line, and was running in 7th spot when he was taken out of the race when Kenny Brack attempted at pass, and made contact with the # 55 car of Tony’s at turn one on the 54th lap of the race, taking both cars out of the race.

    One can only assume that Tony, under the tutelage of "Mo’s magic", will rise to the level of other past drivers in this "University of Mo" and become the driver to give Mo his sixth CART Championship, and start himself on the road to the CART’s "Heavy Hitter’s List".

  • Story by : Jimmy Johnston

  • Posted 5/28/2000

    Privateer With A Cause

    The Race Fan on Location

    Charlotte, North Carolina.

    Olive Garden Team Rafanelli, a privateer race team in the American Le Mans Series is racing to feed the hungry. Many race teams have done a lot for charity through the years, but the Olive Garden Team Rafanelli has put a new twist to road racing. Every lap completed by a team driver, one needy family will be served a hearty Italian meal in an Olive Garden restaurant. Last year the Olive Garden Drive Against Hunger programme provided meals for some 1600 needy families ( 6400 meals ) in ALMS cities such as Atlanta, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Portland.

    This year the Olive Garden Team Rafanelli enter their second consecutive year of the programme, and hope to feed even more needy families this year. The drivers are certainly doing their part in the programme, with a very fine performance at Charlotte by completing 124 laps, and taking a very well deserved podium finish along the way.

    As a privateer team, running a Lola B2K / 10 / Rafanelli V10 costing just over half a million dollars, in line with the rules for the Sports World Racing Cup series that the Lola will also compete in, gave many a race fan a pleasant surprise when they qualified third on the grid, and took third place overall in the first sprint race of the ALMS 2000 season. Beating the multi - million dollar factory cars of Audi, BMW and Panoz with the exception of the first place BMW V12 LMR of Jorg Muller, and second place finisher David Brabham in the # 1 Panoz LMP.

    Drivers Mimmo Schiattarella and Didier de Radigues are not without talent, as their driving resumes give testimony to many wins in the world of motorsport, along with the many accomplishments of Gabriele Rafanelli, have shown that a privateer team with the right combination of chassis and engine, and a lot of hard work can run with the big budget factory teams, and get that coveted podium spot.

    Keith Wiggens, head of global sales and marketing for Lola, stated that he was very pleased to see this car, the first off the production line, do so well so soon, as the car is only two months old, and still requires a lot of tweaking to get the most out of the car. "We and Team Rafanelli, are still very much in the early stages of developing the car"s potential, in terms of set-up, but this result is very encouraging for the future performance of the B2K / 10" stated the former boss of the Pacific F-1 team.

    Gabriele Rafanelli has pulled together a very fine race team with his crew and drivers, and has shown that the potential is there for his team to be real contenders for the rest of the 2000 American Le Mans Series. Coupled with the wonderful work being done by the team"s sponsors Olive Garden restaurants in feeding so many needy families, I can only wish them much success for the future.

    Lets hope that the accomplishment of the Olive Garden Team Rafanelli - Lola B2K / 10 / V10 will encourage other privateer teams to compete in the ALMS series, and build up the field in one of the best road racing series to come along in a very long time.

  • Story by : Jimmy Johnston.

  • Posted 03/25/00 OMSC GoKart Nite
    (By: Rick Cruezburg SAC#29, creuz@pathcom.com )

    The OMSC gokart night was a raging suckcess for racers that suck,
    like Mike Bell and Terry Dalton. Guys, beating me doesn't make you
    suck any less!
    I started sixth in the final with Esci behind me in a faster kart. I
    beat him into the first turn but messed up my exit onto the straight
    and that's when the everlovin arse fell out of 'er. He passed me
    coming out of turn one and the both of us quickly had to deal with
    Mike Dweeb. Esci braked coming into turn one as I was on him! I
    yelled, "What the f_ck are you doiing!!!" He continued on to have the
    most messy battle with Mike Dweeb while I was bemoaning that one
    mistake that had me in this gut wrenching situation. I finally got
    around both of them when they got into each other a bit but
    unfortunately, my indescriminant punting of Mike Megadweeb in the
    process got me a blacky stop and go. The two propellor heads passed
    by me but I managed to get Mike Omnidweeb back before the end of the
    race. But I was in deep sorrow not being able to play with Mike and
    Terry who were sucking up in 1st and 2nd position.
    The best moment of the night was Yuko's first stab at the wheel. She
    started at the back with Esci guiding her along. She looked like a
    kid in a little electric car as the rest of the pack took off in a
    furry. One lap later, they came up to lap her. It was so horrifying!
    Guys were dodging every which way to avoid certain doom - as Esci
    gesticulated wildly to help her along. What a sight - I was on my ass
    over it! Anyone who knows Mike and Yuko will be able to picture it
    clear as a bell (not the kind that sucks, the kind that rings). I
    haven't laughed so hard in weeks! This happened every 1 1/2 laps.
    Yuko thankfully emerged unscathed and totally thrilled. She wants
    another stab at it and is currently looking for sponsorship from
    Panasonic.
    Cheers Ya'll!


    Posted 02/28/00
    Story by : Jimmy Johnston, SAC#54, Jpcon@idirect.ca

    Comstock Racing Team
    (Photo thumbnails at bottom of article)

    When racing buffs talk of the "Good Old Days" of Canadian racing, eventually the conversation turns to the exploits of "Team Comstock", and understandingly so. The team, cars, drivers, and crew, were the very best that Canada had to offer, and in those days, were some of the best people in the international world of motorsport.

    Chuck Rathgeb, a very successful business man, who owned and operated the Comstock Construction Company, and a great supporter of Canadian sport, in many disciplines, was the driving force behind the team. His passion for motorsport, his desire to win, and impatience with lack of success, his administrative skills, along with his connection to the Ford Motor Company, and Jack Still, Marketing Director of Ford Canada, gave birth to a period of Canadian automotive competition, that can not fully be given justice in this article. It really deserves to be documented in a book.

    Rathgeb’s talent of selecting the right people for the right job, and being supportive in giving them the tools, and the freedom to get the job done, was the catalyst for the success of the Comstock Racing Team. Paul Cooke, team manager from 1963 to 1967, commented that "Comstock was a magnet, attracting the very best of people, and inspired them to excel".

    In the early days of the team, Rathgeb drove cars, and provided drives for other drivers, in cars built by Bill Sadler, a Canadian engineer from St. Catherines Ontario, whose cars were very "state of the art" at the time. But then along came Ford with a "five year development plan", and Comstock Racing was the designated factory team for Ford’s participation in the Canadian Motorsport events of road racing and rallying.

    The cars were developed with the support of Ford, in Canada, England, and in the US"., but the Comstock facility in "gincourt, Ontario, was a 12 month a year operation, with some paid personnel, but also a lot of volunteer workers, who would work into the wee small hours of the night, and happily go to their day jobs, the next day.

    Paul Cooke, who joined the team in 1963, as team manager, and some time driver, had worked with Eppie Wietzes the teams number one driver at that time, for a number of years previously, in their pre-Comstock racing days, and had the good fortune to work together again, just when the Ford programme was really taking off.

    Some of the cars that the team campaigned in road racing, were the "Comstock EXP", driven by Fred Hayes, and John Cannon, who passed away recently in a private plane crash, a Lola Formula Junior, again driven by John Cannon, two Cooper sports racers fitted with Ford engines by Carrol Shelby, known as the "Shelby King Cobra", Shelby Cobra’s , (the Comstock Cobra was fitted with a 289 cubic inch Ford engine, while a second Cobra, owned and driven by George Eaton, but maintained by Comstock, was fitted with the larger 427 cubic inch power plant.) Shelby Mustangs, Lotus Ford Cortina’s, a Holman and Moody built Ford Falcon, (originally built for Wally Hangsen to drive at Daytona, but Wally never drove it, and it was purchased by Comstock), and the wonderful Ford GT40's of Le Mans fame. All of the cars, were painted in the very recognizable "Comstock Colours", white bodies with dark green stripes, and the team name always had the Canadian flag included.

    The rally cars were 3 Ford Anglia 105-E’s, Lotus Ford Cortina’s (3 "A" body and 3 "B" body types), and 3 Ford Mustang’s, as models changed through the Ford programme. The cars were driven by a number of drivers, that included, Doug Merson, Art Dempsey, John Wilson, Paul McLennan, Lloyd Howell, Bill Silvera, Eppie Wietzes, Craig Fisher, and Eric McDuff.

    Comstock won many awards in their rally days, with overall wins, and team awards in the "Shell 4,000 Rally", and the "Canadian Winter Rally", giving Ford lots of exposure for the backing that they offered the team.

    Eppie was teamed up with Ludwig Heimrath in a pair of Shelby King Cobra’s sports racers, in 1963, when at Westwood race track in British Columbia, the car that Eppie was driving left the track at speed, and was totally written off. Fortunately Eppie’s injuries were not fatal, his leg was badly fractured, and he had some rib damage, but he was sidelined for the rest of the 63 race season, and recovered to take over his number one slot again in 1964, after a winter rally campaign in a 6 cylinder Ford Mustang. Ludwig Heimrath went on to win the Canadian Driver’s Championship with his car that year.

    1964 saw the team with a Shelby Cobra originally driven by Fred Hayes, but later by Eppie, who won every race entered in the car. The "Shelby King Cobra" sports racer was destroyed in a spring testing session at Mosport, Paul Cooke who was driving the car at the time was OK, but made comment that the "King Cobra" was an evil handling car at the best of times.

    The team also had a Lotus Ford Cortina, that was purchased in late 1963, and was mostly driven by Jerry Polivka, and Ron Goldsack. Ron purchased the car from the team at the end of the of the 63 season, "fter running as an independent, for a few races, Ron was invited back into the Comstock stable, and ran the balance of the 1964 season as a full member of the team. Ron still owns the car to this day.

    1965 gave the team the arrival of the Shelby Mustang, the first road racing Mustang in Canada, and the Holman and Moody Ford Falcon. The Mustang was driven by Eppie Wietzes, and Craig Fisher, the Falcon by Paul Cooke, who won the Ontario Sedan Championship with the car. The team was very successful in these years, and won most of the events that they entered.

    When the Ford GT40's came on the scene in 1966, the driver line up was added to, with Jean Oulette, and Bob McLean, giving Eppie and Craig some strong team support. With all the backing of Ford’s research and development group, and help from Carrol Shelby, in the engineering end of things, Comstock Racing Team, with its’s own compliment of drivers and crew went to Sebring for the 12 Hour Enduro classic race.

    No one will ever know just how well they could have done there, as Bob McLean’s car had a serious accident, and burst into flames, taking the 32 year old Canadian racer’s life. Chuck Rathgeb, the team owner, withdrew the other team car, out of respect for the loss of Bob’s life, and the team returned to Canada with their hopes and expectations unfulfilled.

    Eppie Wietzes continued the rest of the season, with the remaining GT40, to the delight of many a race fan, who saw him outdrive many a lighter, and more powerful car at race tracks all across Canada for the next two seasons.

    1967, the last year of the Comstock Racing Team, Eppie drove the GT40, in races all across the country, with another GT40 show car in tow, that was used for promotion of the events.

    Team Comstock’s association with Ford Motor Company, with the strong performance, and winning results, that they delivered for the company, led to a Formula One alliance with Colin Chapman’s "Team Lotus", and gave Eppie Wietzes his first F-1 drive, as team mate to none other than Jim Clark, and Graham Hill, at the first F-1 race held in Canada, in 1967.

    Unfortunately, the wet weather conditions were the cause of a DNF for both of them that day, as their ignition wiring gave out to the wet weather (Lucas ignition, "The Prince of Darkness" struck again), completing only 69 laps each of the required 90, giving the win to Jack Brabham in his Brabham Repco.

    Chuck Rathgeb’s Comstock Racing Team gave many of Canada’s drivers, and crew members, the start they needed to establish themselves as full fledged racing drivers, team managers, or crew personnel, and show the racing community at large, that they really had the stuff of champions. Ford’s "five year programme" ended in 1967, and unfortunately brought an end to Canada’s most successful Motorsports team at the same time. But the legacy of the team continued, and helped other Canadian drivers and teams to succeed in years to follow.

    Eppie Wietzes went on to become a major force in Formula 5000, and Trans Am racing. Ludwig Heimrath, still competing with one of his beloved Porsche’s today, was a major Canadian player in the Can Am series, and IMSA’s CAMEL" GT road racing series. George Eaton who got his start through the help of Rathgeb, and Comstock’s team manager, Paul Cooke, got together after the demise of Comstock Racing, and went on to be a Can Am contender, and eventually ended up driving in Formula One for the British BRM F-1 team.

    While researching this story, I was constantly reminded that Canada, in the 1960's was at the centre of the world of motorsport. Tracks like Mosport, St. Jovite, and Westwood, were the envy of Europe, and the USA, and the drivers and crews of Canadian teams were right up there with the best of them.

    I would be remiss, if I did not give credit to the people who helped me with all of the above information. Ralph Friskin, one of the many volunteer crew members for the Comstock Racing Team, and George Eaton’s Can Am crew. Paul Cooke, team manager for Comstock, and later George Eaton, who took time out from a very busy schedule of ice racing in Quebec, to give me so much of his memories of his time at Comstock. Ron Goldsack, former team driver. And a very special thank you to Barb and Eppie Wietzes for their hospitality, and use of their photographic archives.

    I asked all of the former Comstock team members what their happiest memory was, of their time with the Comstock Racing Team, and I think Paul Cooke summed it up best by saying.........

    "The years with Comstock Ford were all good, .... with the exception of the passing of Bob McLean at Sebring."

    Story by : Jimmy Johnston, SAC#54, Jpcon@idirect.ca

    Photos: (click on a thumbnail for larger version)
    Eppi Weitzes driving the Comstock Racing Ford 289 Cobra A dejected Eppie Weitzes @ 1967 Canadian GP Eppie Weitzes' crash scene at Westwood, Vancouver Eppie Weitzes and the Ford GT40 @ Mosport

    Eppie Weitzes and the Ford GT40 @ Moss Corner Eppie Weitzes @ speed in the Ford GT40 @ Mosport MacLean's wreck @ Sebring The King Cobra

    Eppie Weitzes driving the Lotus Ford F1 car @ Mosport, 1967 Canadian GP Eppie Weitzes and Ludwig Heimrath @ Mosport Eppie Weitzes and Carig Fisher @ Toronto City Hall Eppie Weitzes and John Cannon

    Photographs courtesy of : Barb and Eppie Wietzes.

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