When “GT” meant “good times” – ALMS memories

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The Tudor United Sports Car Championship debuts at Mazda Raceway-Laguna Seca May 2-4. So far, the unified series of former ALMS and Grand-Am teams has made for an awkward fit.  Among the new items for 2014: the absence of the LMP1 prototypes (not welcome), a switch to Continental rubber for prototypes, and separate GT classes for Le Mans and Daytona runners.

The transition hasn’t been easy: the series struggled for months to hand out rules and performance specs, waiting too late for some teams.  The first two races – at Daytona and Sebring – ended in confusion and acrimony, as the series penalized (and later reversed) the Daytona winner, and took certain victory away from Alex Job Racing at Sebring by punishing the wrong Porsche for contact.  A few notable teams from the two former series have elected to sit the year out, and the LMP2 teams have struggled to keep up with their DP brethren.

Times like these, a race fan needs a stiff constitution.  Good memories help, too.  That’s why I went through the archives for some of my favorite ALMS cars.  Like the Flying Lizard Porsche 997 GT3-RSR (top), which failed to finish at Le Mans.  Or the Falken Tire Porsche 997 GT3-RSR, with its distinctive teal livery.  Enjoy the memories…

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Another look at the Flying Lizard Porsche:

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A Ferrari 458 (2013) requires an Italian mechanic, gesturing wildly.

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BMW M3 (2012) looked great, but should have won more races.

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In 2012, Aston Martin raced in the ALMS just once, at Mazda Raceway.

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Corvette’s smooth-running organization allowed the bow tie to dominate Le Mans with the C6.R.

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2011 Ferrari 458 used the Patron color scheme to great effect.

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Middle-aged but still the Boss – the Mustang at 50

Boss302a The Ford Mustang celebrates its 50th birthday today, marking the anniversary of the car’s appearance at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. When the Blue Oval decided that it needed a pony car in its stable, the folks in Dearborn gave us the Mustang. Since its debut, the car has spawned numerous variants and won countless races (most prominently as an SCCA racer in the early 1970s). Two of its powerful offspring, the GT350 (below), and the Boss 302 (above) were optimized for performance and remain prized as collector’s items. Whether it’s the well-known hand of Caroll Shelby (350) or the lesser-known work of Bud Moore (Boss 302), the Mustang is an icon of American automotive design. Shelby350GT

Sonoma Reds, Part 3: 1954 Ferrari 750 Monza

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The Ferrari Monza was a departure from Ferrari’s 12-cylinder power plants of the early 1950s.  The 1954 750 Monza Scaglietti Spyder was a three-liter, four-cylinder racer that punched above its weight.  With a Pinin Farina-designed body and Lampredi engine, the car won its first outing at – ironically – Monza.  The late Dino Ferrari is credited with the concept, shortly before his death.  The 750 was so quick, Jaguar purchased this example to understand why the Ferrari was beating its British opposition.  Notably, the same car (0462) was raced in the Dunrod Tourist Trophy in 1954, although it failed to finish. After Jaguar re-assembled the car, Jack Brabham took ownership and raced it in Australia. It recently sold for $3.7 million; not bad for a four-banger.

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NARTifact

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The word “NART” can only mean one thing: Ferrari.  Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team served as Enzo Ferrari’s North American proxy, a race team for the rare occasion when the Scuderia couldn’t – or wouldn’t – show up to race stateside.  Chinetti was a shrewd Ferrari salesman, having opened the first Ferrari dealership in the United States.  Chinetti’s passion for racing dated back to his youth; the Italian was a multiple Le Mans winner and a successful driver and mechanic.

This 312P began life in 1969 as a factory racer destined for Le Mans, where it was driven by Chris Amon (it failed to finish).  The car was sold to Chinetti after racing in the 24 Hours and colliding with a Porsche 917.  After another crack at Le Mans in 1970, Chinetti brought the car to North America and turned it over to fabricator Wayne Sparling.  Sparling built a lightweight body for use on American racing circuits, removing the roof and both rear and front end.  The modified car was entered at Daytona and Sebring.  It was then disassembled and its history becomes murkier.  Now raced as a “Sparling-Ferrari”, it’s a truly unique sports car.

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CSRG at Sonoma: Feeling the Love

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David Love raced historics with vigor and enthusiasm, and when he lost his battle with Parkinson’s disease, the vintage racing world mourned. The Classic Sports Racing Group dedicated its spring Sonoma race to Love, who was instrumental in forming the CSRG in the late 1960s. Reflecting Love’s passion for Ferrari, each car entered in the event bore a prancing horse on its flanks, “racing with Dave” one last time.

Love’s own 1957 250 Testarossa was a centerpiece in the garage.  Love raced it with gusto in historic events throughout California, after an earlier career as an SCCA racer.  At the Sonoma opener, the 250 continued to draw a steady stream of admirers despite being parked next to Tyrrell and Lotus F1 cars. Stop back for more photos from the CSRG opener in the coming days.

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Spring fling at Sonoma

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I’m forever grateful to the dedicated men and women who keep historic race cars running.  Not content merely to polish and preserve, these owners aren’t afraid to let their cars get dirty (like the lovely Lotus 11, above).  The historic season starts at Sonoma this weekend with the opening round of the Classic Sports Racing Group. Members of the CSRG take over the twisty wine country circuit for two days, racing on Saturday and Sunday with an amazing field of machines ranging from 1950s sports cars to disco-era single-seat formula cars.

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