On Saturday, May 13th and Sunday, May 14th, the price and prestige differences that normally separate BMW 3 Series, Nissan Zs, Ford Mustangs, Honda Civics, and Toyota Supras were forgotten. As part of two 8-hour endurance races at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), they were all known as ChumpCars.
According to an official wrap-up of last weekend’s pair of ChumpCar World Series races, teams from Texas and beyond entered more than 55 cars in the first day of competition at the home of the United States Grand Prix. Vehicles ranged from Chattahoochee Motorsports’ 1994 Mazda MX-5 Miata to Maverick Racing’s 1987 Porsche 944 to Unintended Acceleration’s 1990 Audi 90. Other cars included K H Motorsports’ 1966 Ford Mustang, Nine Four Motorsports’ 1992 Lexus SC300, and Tuttle Motorsports’ pair of Mitsubishi Eclipses. All of the cars were divided into four classes:
A – Cars with engine displacement up to 1.91 liters.
B – Cars with engine displacement between 1.91 and 2.4 liters.
C – Cars with engine displacement of 2.41 to 3.91 liters.
D – Cars with engine displacement of 3.92 liters and up.
EC – Cars that fall outside of the rules or those that exceed 500 points of ChumpCar-determined vehicle value and performance parts.
The grassroots racing teams filled COTA’s parking lot with trailers and the garages with their budget race cars, spare parts, and tools. Corner killers and apex predators roamed the grounds, eyeing the track through helmet visors. With temperatures reaching into the low 90s, bottles of water were a common sight. It was going to be a grueling scorcher of a weekend.
Bo Rivers, whose Curioso team entered a 1984 Maserati BiTurbo with a 1961 Buick V8 under the hood in the C class, thinks of the ChumpCar races as a journey. To him, “The journey is the reward.” He and his fellow racers were going to be up to their helmets in reward, running lap after lap of COTA’s 3.4-mile, 20-turn course.
The green flag dropped at 9 a.m. Saturday, starting a far-reaching concert of buzzing, droning, and roaring. A chunky stream of battered, dented, patched, but nevertheless loved metal began to flow around the track. One of OB Prestige’s Honda Civics took the lead early on, being trailed by one of TLMUSA’s BMW 3 Series. Two entries from Nine Four Motorsports, a Lexus SC300 (#840) and a Mark IV Toyota Supra (#984) got into the 2nd and 3rd positions about 2.5 hours into the race. One of the orange Eclipses (#108) from Tuttle Motorsports followed behind in 4th place.
Over the next couple of hours, the Lexus and one of the Eclipses duked it out, swapping the lead numerous times.
Nine Four motorsports’ cars had the 1-2 positions around the middle of the race. The red, white, and blue #840 Lexus fell back to 6th place.
At the six-hour mark, TLMUSA’s E36 BMW was in 4th place, right behind the OB Prestige Civic (#221). The Nine Four Motorsports held onto first by staying a minute ahead of a Tuttle Eclipse.
Mechanical problems popped up to cause problems for one of the Civics and the #101 Looney Tunes Mustang, which was temporarily sidelined by its broken exhaust. Rivers needed to get a new carburetor for his Maserati so he pulled it out of the race to install the new part and test the car at his San Marcos facility, Harris Hill Raceway, and get it ready for Sunday.
The Supra was still leading the pack in the last hour of Saturday’s race – and ahead of its Eclipse pursuer. By that time, the TLMUSA E36 3 Series was in 3rd.
And the Winners Are…
The curvy, yellow Toyota and the open-top Eclipse took the 1-2 spots in the C class, respectively, once the checkered flag started waving. BurningHAM Too’s #255 Lexus SC300 came in 3rd. All three of the cars were fast, but we doubt the teams behind them were furious with the results.
In the EC division, the #170 TLMUSA 1994 BMW 325 came out on top with a total time of 7:52:15.556, followed by the #336 1995 BMW 325 from the Fly “N” Gonzalez Bros and the #429 1986 Ford Mustang from O.F. Dirty Dogs.
The top three finishes in the A class went to the OB Prestige Auto #221 Civic, Lonestar Racers #93 1991 Mazda Miata, and Winding Road Racing #165 1990 Miata, respectively.
Looney Tunes’ #101 Mustang overcame its earlier difficulties to roar to 1st place in the D class. Blue Line Racing’s #37 1989 Chevy Camaro came in 2nd. The PMF Racing #168 1968 Ford Mustang took 3rd.
Unintended Acceleration’s #444 1990 Audi 90 beat its two rivals in the B class to clinch 1st place.
Overall, the #984 Supra took 1st, followed by the #108 Eclipse in 2nd and the #221 Civic in 3rd. It was a good day for imports and an even better one for the people who made them into winners.
Soon after Sunday’s 8-hour race started, the #255 Lexus SC300 (thanks in part to a new gearbox) and Crank Yankers’ #186 1989 BMW 325i zoomed into top 10 positions; the Bimmer started the race in 48th place out of 51 cars. It wasn’t long before the BMW lost its left front tire. The Lexus wasn’t immune to mechanical issues, either. It stopped on the track in Turn 9.
At the 2-hour mark, TLMUSA’s #170 E36 BMW was leading the pack, with the compact OB Prestige Auto #334 Honda Civic, colorful Nine Four Motorsports #984 Supra and patriotic #840 Lexus SC, and OB Prestige Auto #221 Civic behind it.
By midday, the #334 Civic had blown its motor. Both of the Tuttle Motorsports Eclipses suffered from tire and bodywork issues.
As the race went on, the Looney Tunes Mustang and one of the TLMUSA BMW 3 Series kept losing the lead to each other. The German car gained ground when the American icon had to pull into pit lane for gas and a fresh driver. The Curioso Maserati was running strong thanks to its new carb. With less than hour to go before the checkered flag, the Mustang’s engine gave up the ghost.
And the Winners Are…
The #170 TLMUSA BMW 3 Series was the first EC class car to pass the checkered flag first. Dan Rather Be Racing’s #555 2006 Mazda Miata came in 2nd with the Fly “N” Gonzalez #336 1995 BMW 325 behind it in 3rd place.
Civic #221, Miata #93, and Miata #130 (from 11 Tenths Racing) nailed down the top three spots in the A class.
Nine Four Motorsports took the top two spots in the C class with its #840 Lexus SC and #984 Supra. Third place went to Basil Weenie Racing’s #99 1987 BMW 325is. (Curioso’s Maserati placed 9th.)
The top three positions in the D class went to the #168 Mustang from PMF Racing, #101 Mustang from Looney Tunes, and #280 1983 Datsun 280ZX from Iron Wolf Racing.
Once again, Unintended Acceleration’s #444 1990 Audi 90 beat its two competitors in the B class to come in 1st.
Overall, OB Prestige came in 1st, thanks to its #221 Civic. The #840 Lexus SC300 earned Nine Four Motorsports 2nd place. The #93 Miata carried Lonestar Racers’ drivers to a 3rd place finish.
Taking the number of laps each car completed into account, the weekend’s overall winners ended up being as follows:
Class A – OB Prestige’s #221 1996 Honda Civic (320 laps)
Class B – Unintended Acceleration’s #444 1990 Audi 90 (288 laps)
Class C – Nine Four Motorsports’ #984 1998 Toyota Supra (320 laps)
Class D – Looney Tunes’ #101 1989 Ford Mustang (299 laps)
Class EC – TLMUSA’s #170 1994 BMW 325 (323 laps)
Then the journey for each team was over. They had all been fueled by friendship, the desire to win, more than a little caffeine, and, of course, plenty of water to go on a high-speed adventure around COTA’s world-class track. Rivers said the journey is the reward. We have a feeling his fellow racers would agree with him.