New Orleans Ten Years Ago
explains the relevance of this item:
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
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
Orleans 1.75 Hours
Ford and Ferrari Stake Their Claims
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.