Season Ender, a Mixed Experience
Coming off the euphoria of the Laguna Seca first and fourth place finishes, the team hoped to sustain its momentum for this last race of the ALMS season. Alas, it was not to be.
Reiser Callas Porsche 02 qualified third on the pole, just behind the two Porsche GT3Rs. The newer cars slippery shape seemed to help on the high speed banking, but Reiser Callas wider footprint gave them the edge in the sandy infield.
In Sunday's race, 02 seemed to have a good shot at second place but fifty minutes into the race, transmission problems sidelined the car (Johnny Mowlem was overheard on the radio losing gears.)
Ten minutes later, Joel, at the wheel of 03 and running fifth in class, hit a large patch of oil while exiting the pits. Accelerating to speed, the rear of 03 snapped around and collided with a Ferrari Prototype which was closing at racing speed. Both cars spun off track, with the Prototype being totaled. 03, while missing some front bodywork, survived the impact and rejoined the fray.
CNBC viewers of the shunt saw the Ferrari driver spring from his car and wave his fist at the rapidly disappearing 03. Neither driver was injured.
The initial reports erroneously stated that Joel, "drove into the side of the Ferrari.
After reviewing tape of the incident the press corps, and more importantly the race officials, found no fault with Joel who remained gentlemanly and sportsmanlike throughout the drama.
Joel, being interviewed post shunt: "I hit some oil coming right out of pit lane. I'm not sure who left it there, but I swapped lanes immediately. I'm really sorry for the Ferrari guys. Didier cut and hit the wall, or I hit him, I'm not really sure. But I'm really, really sorry for the Ferrari guys."
Ferrari driver Didier Theys: "A Porsche was exiting the pits too fast and he went into Turn 1 too fast. He started to spin because he was too fast and I T-boned him. He sandwiched me between the car and the wall."
Apparently Theys was unaware of the oil spill. Most regard such an incident as racing luck.
Although the Las Vegas race was something less than what the team had hoped for, Reiser Callas inaugural year has been, in a word, ausgezeignet: outstanding.
Winners of the USRRC GT3 championship, third in the ALMS championship, a ninth overall, second in class finish at Daytona and wins at Mid Ohio and Laguna Seca; not a bad inaugural season for the Reiser Callas team.
In addition to the core driving group of David Murry and Johnny Mowlem for 02, plus Joel Reiser, Grady Willingham and Craig Stanton for 03, Reiser Callas has been host to two of sports car racings most recognized and successful American drivers: Hurley Haywood and Doc Bundy. Add the one race stand of Michel Ligonnet, one of the new crop of extremely talented road racers, and the total is an exceptional roster for season number one.
The 2000 season looks even more promising. ALMS is growing at Porsche speed, the ambitious Grand Am series has been introduced, and Reiser Callas will be taking delivery of its new GT3R weapons (see below). Stay tuned for a progress report as Daytona 2000 approaches.
Y2K Plans: General Motors is making a major commitment to sports car racing and to the American Le Mans Series. In two separate announcements at the new Las Vegas Race, Chevrolet set its plans for the 2000 season.
The new Cadillac prototype race car has been introduced to the public. The twin-turbocharged Northstar-Cadillac has already begun testing with Team Corvette driver Ron Fellows.
In a second major announcement it was revealed that the Chevrolet C5-R Corvette would compete in the 24-Hour classic of Le Mans. This will mark Corvette's first official factory effort at Sarthe.
The competitive instinct was intact at Monterey. Some quotes:
Driver Johnny Mowlem:
"I knew it was a good lap. I was taking every risk. At the Corkscrew I wasn't even braking until the top of the hill. But I didn't know it was that good. I beat Dirk Muller - and he in a 996. That makes me a very happy man!"
Crew Chief Tony Callas:
"The most important thing is that we beat BMW, and that was our goal. It does us proud to do so well for Porsche. And special thanks go to drivers Johnny Mowlem and David Murry.
Quotes courtesy ALMS. Info courtesy ALMS, Jack Criswell. Photos, Jack Criswell