Friday, June 26, 2020

RETRO: Reliving Another forgotten Golden Age of Sports Car racing...

When two European Based Series were definitely more technologically advanced vs. America's "Low bucks" approach!

As Y'all know, many of my No Fenders tomes are notorious for scurryin' down multiple Wabbitholes', and I'm currently stuck on belabouring the point that sports Cars, A la Championship auto Racing Teams (CART) v Indy Racing League *IRL) had Thar own Split, which actually lasted two years longer than the infamous Open Wheel Racing Split; But I Digress...

As it's hard to believe that twenty years ago, we were nearing the end of a golden era of Sports Car racing when V-12 engines were Top of thee Pops! Having had the pleasure of witnessing that most evocative Ferrari 333 SP in action at Yuhs Guessed I-T! Thee Rose City's Portland International Raceway circa 1999.

As History denotes, the race was held on August 1, 1999. And I fondly recall it being a perfect day for motor racing, with five Ferrari 333 SP's competing, along with three BMW V-12 LMR's, giving us a total of eight naturally aspirated V-12 runners interspersed in the 42-car field!
Although it would be one of those Boomin' six-litre V-8 Panoz LMP1 Roadster S's winning the race with Eric Bernard and David Brabham at its controls. As the Top-5 was completely Dominated by the two Panoz and three BMW V-12's, with the best Ferrari could muster being P9. 

Yo Johnny, Johnny Be good? It's funny reading that regardless of 'Ol Johnny Herbert's Quip 'bout V-12's never being very reliable, ironically the 333 SP's 4.0-litre naturally aspirated V-12 lump was derived from one of those Bashed Formula 1 machines, la Scarlet's Ferrari 641 chassis.

Yuhs know, the one that won six Grands Prix during the 1990 Formula 1 season, with "The Professor," aka Alain Prost winning five times and his Wingman Bloody Nige! Red 5 or better known then as Il Lione, nee Nigel Mansell winning once the year that Prost finished runner-up in the F1 World Championship to his bosom Buddy Ayrton Senna after their collision at Suzuka!

As the Ferrari 333 SP scored a Hat Trick at the Sebring 12 Hours, winning twice with Andy Evan's Scandia Racing and once with Gianpiero Moretti's Momo Corse in '98, albeit the record books denote the winning team as Momo Doran Racing. Also the same year this team won the24 Hours of Daytona, Sweeping Florida's endurance events!

Along with noted Engineer Tony Southgate reputedly claiming that the 333 SP's V-12 was one of the most reliable lumps' he'd ever known...

Meanwhile, the year y2k's (2000) second premiere endurance race, Hmm? Suppose it's fitting, Karmic or Apropros that Sebring follows DayToner' in Sports Cars 2020 Reboot this July, Righto?

The 12 Hours of Sebring under the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) sanctioning body that year, also it's Debutante event had 16 LMP1 Prototypes competing, headed by four "Factory" efforts, i.e.; Audi, BMW, Cadillac and Panoz, all 2-by-2, Coom-by-Yah!

DAMN! That's twice as many entries vs. this year's anemic DP Class at DayToner', and just the Factory entrants listed above was one more than the paltry GT Le Mans field at this year's Rolex 24...

With the Audi R8 LMP running a Twin Turbo V-8, Cadd 'O Lacc' running the long forgotten Northstar V-8 turbocharged lump and Crowd Darling Panoz LMP1 Roadster  esses's, those thunderous, rumblin' front engine "Batmobile" 6.0-litre Big Block V-8's were just some of the Prototypes diverse machinery.

Whilst that aforementioned Shrieking twelve cylinder Naturally Aspirated BMW V-12 LMR that I've still not gotten round to chronicling here on No Fenders, was the Defending 24 Heurs du Mans and Sebring winner, since the ALMS was effectively Locked Out of that year's Rolex 24, having based it's series upon ACO Rules. While the 24 Hours of Daytona now fell under the auspices of the rival Grand Am series.

And I can only Arse-sume that of those 16 Prototypes I've previously mentioned, some possibly were of the lower P2 category? While once again Intersport Racing entered its No. 37 Lola B98/10 Ford 5.1-liter V-8 racecar, with Team Owner john Field leading the charge with his two Pals Don & Dale Whittington behind its Keyboard.

Also, interestingly Kevin Doran's Doran Lista concern had decided to swap  la Scuderia's four litre V-12 in favour of a 4.0-litre naturally aspirated Judd V-10 into the back of its aging Ferrari 333 SP, in hopes of better performance and fuel mileage, Momma Mia!

As one can only wonder what 'Ol Enzo would have thought 'bout that, Eh? The Sacrilege of dropping an English lump' in one of his Scarlet machines, Yikes! although they did finish fifth overall and best Privateer, only bested by the Werks' Audi and BMW concerns.

As Audi would score it's first of many 1-2 victories in "Double Ought," y2k or formally known as 2000, with Tom Kristensen, Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro taking the Chequered Flag first.

As Kristensen scored his first Sebring 12 Hours victory the year prior driving for BMW alongside team-mates JJ Letho and Jorg Muller.

As Letho would finish third in 2000 in the lead BMW, whilst Kristensen won again, en route to becoming known as "Mr. Sebring" upon amassing a record total of six Overall victories at Sebring, five for Audi.

Audi would Dominate Sebring by racking up an impressive 11 W's, if I've done my Ryth-Muh-tickin' correctly? Having owned Sebring from 2000-07, winning eight straight times before El Capitano', nee Roger Penske's Porsche RS Spyder Defeated them. Audi won once more in '09 before Peugeot claimed top Honours back-to-back between 2010-2011. Audi then scored its final two victories in 2012-2013 before leaving the scene. Presumably since ALMS & Gran Am merged in 2014 and Audi moved to the FIA's World Endurance Championship. (WEC) Before leaving Sports Car racing entirely under the cloud of Diesel-Gate! And are trying to spiffy up Thar image now in Formula E instead...

As it would be nice to see new manufacturers enter the Global Sports Car scene, since Toyota will basically run unopposed a third straight year at Le Mans, while Thars only three manufacturers Stateside, i.e.; Acura, Cadillac and Mazda, albeit just two Acura's and Mazda's apiece.

thus imagine All four of those makes plus who knows else beside the Minnowesqe Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus concern, with its two car SCG007 entry slated for next year's 24 Heurs du Mans All going Head to Head at Circuit de la Sarthe.

And what'll happen with the Stillborn Aston Martin Valkyrie Le Mans Hypercar project? As why couldn't they farm it out to a Privateer effort instead? since it would be glorious to hear the wail of its 6.5-liter V-12 lump screaming down the Mulsanne Straight! Whilst reportedly Peugeot will return to Sports Car racing in 2022.

Or how Cool would it be to have Gordon Murray's latest creation, the almost Sold Out T50, propelled by a Cosworth 4.0-litre au Natural' V-12 lump' turned into a Le Mans competitor, Eh?