New Orleans Ten Years Ago

Brian Mitchell explains the relevance of this item:

In 1995 Linda and I traveled to New Orleans for the season-ending IMSA (or whatever it was called then) race. Hurricane Opal threatened us but did not hit New Orleans. I now know how lucky that may have been for us! I did the previous race in Phoenix and then spent the week between seeing New Orleans for the first time (Oh, those days of full retirement!). This weekend I pulled down the photo and slide boxes of that race, and after thumbing through them, I decided to scan a bunch of the photos into my computer. I was struck by the lack of familiar photographers - was it really that long ago? I did make out Jonathan Ingram in one photo. As always, I fervently wish now that I had done a better job with my camera. Anyway, considering the damage to New Orleans from Katrina and the looming 10 year anniversary of the last GP du MG, perhaps now is as relevant as any time to look back?
PS: Regarding the "Waiter Shot": James and Butch are not waving to the crowd, but holding their hands palm upwards, much as a waiter holding a tray. This was a planned gesture and refers to a comment that James made about another driver…. Perhaps we’d better leave it at that!

This is Janos Wimpffen’s Time & Two Seats report of that race.

New Orleans 1.75 Hours
Ford and Ferrari Stake Their Claims

dailysportscar.comFerrari had clinched the WSC manufacturers crown at Phoenix, and now Fermin Velez (right) would need to finish fourth or higher to capture the drivers title. James Weaver's only hope was to win and have the Scandia driver finish lower than fourth. The "point and squirt" street course in the central business district was definitely a playground for the Ford's torque and the Riley & Scott chassis' surface gripping downforce. However, the bumps proved fateful to a batch of half-shafts on the Dyson team's cars during practice.

A new shipment was flown in and James Weaver used one to help him gain the all-important pole on the difficult-to-pass course with the no. 16 car. Alongside was another Riley & Scott, but it was not Butch Leitzinger. The no. 20 Dyson car was fifth on the grid after a bout of understeering. Starting a heady second was CART series driver Ross Bentley in Lee Payne's Olds-powered R & S chassis. Taylor was third with the Momo Ferrari, and only then came Velez, whose objective was to do exactly what was needed to capture the championship and nothing more. Teammate Mauro Baldi was much further back in the no. 33 Scandia entry. Baldi may have been a veteran of a great many races, but he was always intimidated by the high concrete walls of street courses and never excelled at them. The Scandia team was quite happy to see team owner Andy Evans elect to take a drive in his original WSC car, the Kudzu-Buick now campaigned by Leigh Miller. This kept him from interfering in Velez' quest.

The trucks were parked in the Superdome...

Leitzinger passed the Ferraris ahead of him on the first lap, in a clear demonstration of the superiority of the Riley & Scott-Fords. Weaver led with Bentley behind and the gap among the overall leaders stayed artificially close during the early stages, because of a succession of pace car periods from cars hitting the tire barriers. Wayne Taylor dropped nearly a lap from problems with one of his own tires.

Velez was now exactly where he needed to be, fourth place. However, his relaxed attitude was nearly his undoing, when he clipped the wall while losing his concentration. It didn't immediately cost him a position, but the GTS-1 class leading Nissan of Johnny O'Connell was all over the Ferrari. Velez barely won their drag race down the main straight. O'Connell encountered even greater frustration later when he was not allowed to re-enter the race after a pit stop, until a pack of cars went safely by. One of those passing by the pits was Irv Hoerr's Oldsmobile. It is not unusual for the lead to be swapped because of encounters with traffic, but it was quite a novelty, especially on a public street course, to have a class race decided by a red light on pit lane.

A scramble of pit stops during the latter half of the race briefly saw Ross Bentley in the lead, before Wayne Taylor timed his stop just as a yellow fell and thus gained the lead when the others stopped. Leitzinger emerged on fresh tires and passed the Momo car for first place. Wayne Taylor became the second Ferrari driver to nearly pitch Johnny O'Connell into the wall, as he desperately tried to regain the overall lead.

Bentley had handed his Riley & Scott over to owner Lee Payne, who promptly tagged a wall. This eliminated one more threat for Velez. Weaver was struggling to work back to the front after having been caught behind during the pit stop sequence. In his aggressive attempt to grab second, he attempted a pass on Taylor while the Ferrari was itself rounding a GTS-1 car. Taylor was spun into the wall and Weaver was immediately remorseful, radioing his crew to pass along apologies to the Momo team. Taylor was understanding and recovered to finish third. Weaver now had gained second place and teammate Leitzinger simply stepped aside to give the Englishman the race and an opportunity to win the championship. However, Velez was now unchallenged in fourth place, a lap ahead of GTS-1 winner, Irv Hoerr. Velez thus added the WSC crown to his Group C2 championships of 1987 and 1989.


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