After his Toyota team won a record 14 consecutive Camel GTP races in the International Motor Sports Assn., Dan Gurney excused his tandem of Juan Manuel Fangio and P.J. Jones from a race to allow the opposition a chance to find the winner's circle.
Manuel Reuter and John Winter, a pair of Germans driving a Porsche 962C, won the race at Road America two weeks ago, but that was enough for Gurney. He is sending Fangio and Jones back in the fray for the season's final three races--Sunday at Laguna Seca on the Monterey Peninsula; Aug. 1 at Portland, Ore., and under the lights Oct. 9 at Phoenix International Raceway.
They were scheduled to run at Laguna Seca because the weekend is sponsored by Toyota, but it is a gesture of good will toward IMSA that caused Gurney and the factory representatives to run out the remainder of the schedule. It will mark the end of GTP racing as it has been known.
The end has been in sight ever since Nissan dropped its program, closely followed by Jaguar's similar decision. This left Toyota with no competition and the series with no future.
Only Gurney's decision to let his two drivers race aggressively has saved the season.
At Road America races, promoter Jim Haynes said, "Ticket sales stopped the minute Toyota announced it would not show."
Several races, including the Grand Prix of San Diego, were canceled during the year for lack of interest.
"From what we hear about the future of IMSA, we see no likelihood that there will be an IMSA race again in San Diego," promoter Chris Pook said. "We have a downtown circuit in place, but we need a much stronger attraction to justify the investment."
Next year, IMSA officials say they will scrap the GTP series in favor of something called World Sportscars, a concept still developing.
For the next three races, however, Fangio and Jones will carry on their battle to decide the 1993--and final--Camel GTP champion.
Fangio, nephew of the legendary Formula One champion of the same name, has won his last six races. Jones, the oldest son of Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones, was second in four of them. In the only race Fangio did not win--the 24 Hours of Daytona--Jones drove the winning car along with Rocky Moran and Mark Dismore.
"If Dan (Gurney) hadn't told us to go for it and not worry about being teammates, the racing this year would have been really terrible," Jones said. "But the way we've raced, wheel to wheel and bouncing in each other at times, the racing has been better than it has been for years."
At Miami, the teammates traded the lead five times before Fangio moved in front to stay with two laps remaining. At Lime Rock, Conn., in the rain, Fangio went through the grass to make his winning pass, and again at Atlanta, both drivers went off course to gain an edge.
"The cars are so close, so identical in preparation, that we can't help but touch when we're racing," Jones said. "About the only way one of us can pass is to have the other guy mess up, or to take advantage of the slower traffic. You can find yourself in some strange situations when there is a 50-m.p.h. difference in lap speeds, like there was in several races."
Fangio, the defending champion, leads Jones, 130-110, with Gianpiero Moretti of Italy, in a Nissan, third with 86 points.
"I'd like to win, and I know Juan would, too, because we'd be the last GTP champion," Jones said. "I hate to think of it, but our cars will be nothing more than museum pieces next year."
Motor Racing Notes
STOCK CARS--Sportsman cars and Grand American modifieds of the Winston Racing Series will run Saturday night at Saugus Speedway. Pat Mintey Jr.'s victory last week moved him within one point of season leader Sean Woodside, 185-184. Close behind are John Higgins, 180, and Russ Beckers, 176. . . . Cajon Speedway will also feature sportsman cars Saturday night, plus a destruction derby. . . . Bakersfield Speedway will feature IMCA modifieds and late models Saturday night. . . .The Kragen championship series for late models and California dirt cars will continue Saturday night at Santa Maria Speedway. . . .Ventura Raceway has scheduled a Friday night program for street stocks and IMCA cars.
MIDGETS--Ventura Raceway will present a full program Saturday night of United States Auto Club midgets and TQ midgets, non-winged Northern Star mini-sprints, dwarf cars and an exhibition race with sprint cars. It will be the first sprint car run on the quarter-mile clay oval. Robby Flock regained the USAC lead last week when Sleepy Tripp's car broke during practice and he did not run. Flock has 400 points, Tripp 384 and Wally Pankratz, who won at Tucson, 337.
MOTOCROSS--Mike Kiedrowski, the highest-finishing American in the U.S. 250cc Grand Prix last Sunday at Budds Creek, Md., will be the favorite when the final AMA national 250cc race is held Aug. 1 at Glen Helen Park in San Bernardino. The Kawasaki rider, who won the second international moto, finished second overall to Suzuki's Stefan Everts of Belgium.
MISCELLANY--Clinton Anderson of Alpine, Calif., broke Kyle Walker's top-fuel hydro record with an official run of 225 m.p.h. in his boat Fatal Attraction during the IHBA's Summernationals at Berenda Reservoir in Chowchilla. In the final, however, Anderson lost to Dave Promnitz of Clovis, Calif., driving Just Another Toy. . . . The second Mikuni Calendar Motorcycle Show, set for Sunday at the Museum of Flying at the Santa Monica Airport, will feature Wayne Rainey's 500cc world championship winning Yamaha, and Eddie Lawson's 1993 Daytona winning Yamaha superbike. . . . The second Mickey Thompson sportsman race is scheduled for Sunday at Glen Helen Park.
DRIVER OF YEAR--Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi has won the second-quarter balloting for 1993 driver-of-the-year honors. Fittipaldi had seven first-place votes and 79 points to two votes and 66 points for NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt. They were followed by Nigel Mansell, John Force, Juan Manuel Fangio and Eddie Hill in voting by the driver-of-the-year panel.
NECROLOGY--Oscar L. (Ozzie) Olson, owner and sponsor of Indy cars driven by Dan Gurney and Bobby Unser from 1967 through 1974, died July 8 at his home in Detroit. Gurney won nine races in the Olsonite Eagles, including his first race for Olson in the 1967 Rex Mays 300 at Riverside. When Gurney retired in 1970, Unser became the driver and won the national championship in 1974. Olson was 80.