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Motor Racing : Riverside May Get New IMSA Date, GTP Cars

February 25, 1988|Shav Glick

The big Camel GTP cars, top of the line in International Motor Sports Assn. competition, may yet be on hand when sports car racing makes its final appearance at Riverside International Raceway.

Riverside and IMSA schedules list only the two support classes, GTO (Toyotas, Mercurys, Chevy Camaros) and GTU (Mazdas, Porsches and Nissans), for the May 1 finale on Riverside's nine-turn road course. However, Riverside president Dan Greenwood is working with IMSA and Camel GT officials in an attempt to return the GTP prototypes to the schedule.

This could mean a change in the date, perhaps to May 15, which is also the first weekend of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.

After the IMSA date, the only racing events remaining at the about-to-be-closed Riverside facility are an International Race of Champions and NASCAR Winston Cup weekend June 11-12 and the SCORE world closed course off-road championship Aug. 13-14.

One reason the GTP cars were not scheduled to come to Riverside this year was because IMSA's other midseason California race at Laguna Seca Raceway was canceled to make way for a world championship motorcycle race and IMSA officials felt it was too far for the prototype cars to come for one race. The week before Riverside, they will be racing in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"We canvassed all the teams and everyone indicated they wanted to race at Riverside," Greenwood said. "We still hope we can reschedule them. If we do, it will probably be May 15. We would rather run then than May 8 because that is Mother's Day."

If the change is made, it would mean that the potent Tom Walkinshaw Castrol Jaguar team, winners of the Daytona 24-hour race, would bring three cars to Riverside. John Morton and Hurley Haywood drove a Jaguar to victory in the Times Grand Prix last year, but this year's Jaguar team is the one that won the world sports-prototype manufacturers championship last season.

In another IMSA schedule change, Firebird Raceway in Phoenix announced the cancellation of its road race on April 17.

"The reason was that the slated sponsor for the event was unable to meet the commitment," said Charlie Allen, track president and co-owner of Firebird.

Most of the Camel GT cars, GTPs, GTUs and Camel Lights, will be in Florida this weekend for the sixth annual Miami Grand Prix, a three-hour street race along downtown Miami's waterfront. The GTOs will have the week off.

The Jaguar teammates will be Martin Brundle of Britain and John Nielsen of Denmark, Jan Lammers of Holland and Davy Jones of New York and Raul Boesel of Brazil and Eddie Cheever, the U.S.-born Formula One driver who lives in Italy. Brundle, Nielsen, Boesel and Lammers drove in the Daytona win.

Morton has switched from Jaguar to Nissan and will be in Miami as a driving partner with Geoff Brabham in a new GTP car. Brabham and Elliott Forbes-Robinson drove a Nissan to victory last year at Miami, but Forbes-Robinson is now in a Hendrick Corvette with Indy car series champion Bobby Rahal and South Africa's Sarel van der Merwe.

"I hated to see EFR go," Brabham said, "but John (Morton) is the ideal teammate. We've known each other for a long time, and it will be good to be racing with him.

"My best memory of racing with John was in 1980 in a Can-Am race at Watkins Glen. I was leading and he was second, and we pitted at the same time. Then we left the pits at the same time, crashed and knocked each other out of the race. At least we won't do that again."

Michael Andretti, who escaped uninjured when he totaled an out-of-the-box $200,000 March Indy car during practice last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, will drive with his father Mario in the Joest Racing Spirit Porsche. Other potent Porsche teams include defending series champion Chip Robinson and Derek Bell, A. J. Foyt and Al Unser Jr., Hans Stuck and Klaus Ludwig, and Bob Wollek and Mauro Baldi.

STOCK CARS--Three-time Winston West champion Jim Robinson remains in critical condition in a Phoenix hospital with head injuries suffered three weeks ago during the Skoal Copper race at Phoenix International Raceway. Robinson was to have driven in the Winston Cup-style race Sunday at Australia's Calder Park, near Melbourne. Ron Esau of El Cajon will drive Robinson's Oldsmobile in the 500-kilometer race, and all of his prize money will be donated to help pay Robinson's medical bills. Esau is also scheduled to drive Robinson's car in the second race of the Winston International Challenge, April 24, at Sears Point. NASCAR veterans making the trip to Australia include Daytona 500 winner Bobby Allison, Neil Bonnett, Kyle Petty and Dave Marcis, along with such West Coast favorites as Winston West champion Chad Little, Hershel McGriff, Bill Schmitt, Sumner McKnight and Reuben Garcia.

OFF ROAD--The first of a six-race Miller High Life Off-Road Challenge series will be held Sunday at Glen Helen Park north of San Bernardino.

DRAG RACING--Mickey Thompson's Thunder Drags season, including the July 9 date in the Coliseum, has been scrubbed until his organization can find an insurance carrier. Their original policy with K & K Insurance was canceled after a Thunder Drag demonstration at Anaheim Stadium that wound up with parts of a dragster in the crowd and 16 people hospitalized. . . . Former world top fuel champion Richard Tharp will end a five-year retirement this weekend to drive a funny car for Raymond Beadle's Blue Max team in an International Hod Rod Assn. event at Texas Motorplex, near Dallas.

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