As a sport, we do a terrifically underwhelming job of honoring those who deserve praise and condemnation through special recognition. With ready access to a keyboard and half a brain, I’ve decided to fix the problem with my first annual Pruett’s Entirely Fake Motor Racing Awards.
Starting with sports cars, winners in each category can pick up their awards at the entrance to the bunker behind Level 5’s shop in Wisconsin. Be sure to knock twice and use the password “750 percent” to get in.
The STOP AND HOLD PLUS FIVE YEARS Award: Goes to Pirelli World Challenge series driver Rodrigo Baptista who made an almighty ass out of himself at Mid-Ohio by using the grass as a passing lane and knocking out GTS polesitter Fred Roberts…while taking the green flag to start the race! Roberts’ poor Maserati was a tattered wreck thanks to being Bap-tized with a cement barrier.
The YOU’RE MAKING THE REST OF US LOOK BAD Award: Goes to Corvette Racing’s championship-winning No. 3 C7.R that completed every possible lap in IMSA competition for an entire calendar year. And every lap of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Cut it out, gang. Most of us can’t reach that high.
The MOOSE AND MINI-ME Award: Goes to whoever decided the 5-foot-nothing Alessandro Balzan and 6-foot-13 Cooper MacNeil would make for a harmonious driver lineup in Scuderia Corsa’s waist-high Ferrari 488 GT3. If the defending IMSA GTD champs want to save time trying to extract the American from the cramped cockpit during pit stops, and ensure his Italian teammate can reach the pedals, I wonder if the series would let MacNeil serve as sports car racing’s first human booster seat and let Balzan sit on his lap?
The RETIRING ISN’T AN ACTUAL PROFESSION Award: Goes to Johnny Mowlem, who regularly vows that the next race at __________ will be the final time he races at __________ as part of the winding-down process for his long and illustrious career. Dear Johnny, it’s starting to feel like the kid who gives out different dates for his birthday in order to get cake and presents 17 times a year. Last Le Mans…last Daytona…last Sebring…last Petit… Instead of the Farewell Mowlem Tour, maybe we should start the Hello Johnny Tour!
The SAD, BUT INEVITABLE AND SERIOUSLY OVERDUE Award: Goes to Mazda for cutting ties with the underperforming SpeedSource Race Engineering team and stunning the sports car world by signing Joest Racing to take control of the steering wheel for its RT24-P IMSA DPi program. Who saw that one coming? Nobody. Talk about shock and awe, with a giant spike in expectations thrown in for good measure.
The DON’T BOOK YOUR FLIGHTS AND HOTEL JUST YET Award: Goes to the FIA WEC for announcing its intention to take a year off from North America, then return in March of 2019, hold a 1,500-mile race, and have it start at midnight – two hours after the headlining Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring comes to an end late Saturday night.
If you are confident this endurance-race-after-an-endurance-race will actually take place, I’d like to sell you tickets to next year’s Jolt Cola 1000 ARCA event, which will take the green flag exactly 22 minutes after the milk is poured over the Indy 500 winner at Indianapolis. Please send credit card numbers to email@example.com.
The SERIOUSLY, SOMEONE OVER THE AGE OF 5 GOT PAID FOR THIS? Award: Goes to BMW’s Art Car. Using the all-white BMW M6 GTLM as a canvas…and slapping colored dots and an image of the M6 on one door and the word “FAST” on the other had all the appeal of a new refrigerator adorned with bad magnets.
The GOLDEN BOWLING BALL Award: Goes to Macau and its FIA GT Cup qualifying race pileup. Although TGBB is my oldest award, one that started back at SPEED.com, and is always given to a driver who created the most mayhem and destruction, I’m going to make an exception and give it to the track itself. Considering the wideness of modern GT3 cars and the perennial skinny confines of the Macau circuit, the FIA might consider returning in 2018 with 1:12 remote control versions of Audis and Ferraris and Porsches to avoid another Yakety Sax moment between the barriers.
The WE MIGHT BE DUMB, BUT AREN’T AS DUMB AS YOU THINK Award: Goes to the flip-flopping ACO and FIA for wanting to model its next-generation of leading prototypes after IMSA’s DPi formula. Yesterday’s bad American idea is now the perfect concept to dig the French sanctioning bodies out from its LMP1-hybrid implosion? At no point in time would I ever confuse IMSA’s DPis for being as fast or amazing as hybrid P1 cars, but I would also never write off IMSA founder and DPi originator Jim France as an old and unimaginative country boy.
The WORLD IS LESS FUN WITHOUT YOU Award: Is the only one I don’t want to give out, but a few are required. Johnny Stevenson’s death, and the unfortunate circumstances behind his loss, linger like a menacing cloud. Preston Henn, Daytona winner, raconteur, and s***-disturber supreme, lived a full life. Horst Kroll, a fixture in Can-Am and related series, died, as did Electramotive co-founder John Knepp. The beloved Holly Job, an invaluable part of the team she and her husband Alex Job turned into a powerhouse organization, was lost, and Bruce Leven, a central and race-winning figure in IMSA during its greatest era, was also farewelled during 2017. Young British racing journalist Jon Grainger was recently killed in a car crash, robbing a burgeoning voice from our sport. As is always the case with lists like this, it is by no means complete. Please add more deserving names to our memorial list in the comments section as you see fit.
The TITANIUM TRUMPET Award: Goes to Porsche’s new 911 RSR GTLM/GTE machine. By moving the engine forward in the car, room to use straight exhaust pipes created the best-sounding IMSA/WEC car of 2017. A tweak to the exhaust around June made something that was brilliant even better. When a car looks and sounds that good, ultimate success can’t be far away.
The GOLDEN GAVEL Award: Goes to racing’s most famous defendant, Level 5 Racing founder/driver Scott Tucker, whose ongoing legal battles continue to improve with age. Convicted by the feds in October for RICO and TILA act violations, among others, the payday lending tycoon continues to appeal his various indictments, including the civil lawsuit won to the tune of $1.3 billion in 2016 by the FTC.
The HEY, YOU WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO DO THAT Award: Goes to Colin Thompson and his Kelly-Moss IMSA LMP3 team that toppled a field of 816 Ligiers with one wacky Norma MD30 chassis. The odds weren’t just stacked against them – winning the championship in an unproven car where extraordinary efforts were required to machine replacement parts and other sundry items to continue racing sent a loud reminder to the other drivers and constructors that going with the heavily favored product isn’t always a sure thing. If IMSA Prototype teams aren’t looking at this kid, something’s wrong.
The I WANT TO RACE, TOO Award: Goes to the FIA WEC for the chaos and session stoppages at far too many of its 2017 events, including one for a cat on the track at Bahrain, another at Mexico for a baseball on the track, a third for the infamous school bus that wandered onto the COTA circuit during an outing for the SCCA U.S. F4 Championship cars over the WEC weekend, and the best of all, which came at the Nurburgring, when a photographer decided the silly barriers were impeding his view and promptly fixed the situation by gaining more intimate access from walking closer to the whooshing cars as they flew by.
The HEY MAN, NICE SHOT Award: Brendon Hartley went from racing and winning with Scott Mayer in a Daytona Prototype to a factory Porsche LMP1 driver, FIA WEC world champion and Le Mans winner, and is headed off to his first full season of Formula 1 after the German marque shuttered its LMP1 program. F1 drivers moving down to sports cars is the one-way ticket we’ve known. A WEC champ moving up to F1? I’d love to see it become a trend.
The CONGRATS, GRAMPA Award: Goes to Prodrive for coaxing its old battle ax, the new-for-2012 Vantage V8 GTE, into retirement with 36 wins and class victory against much bigger factories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The throaty howl of its naturally-aspirated mill will be missed.
The HEY, YOU WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO DO THAT, PART TWO Award: Goes to Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia at Sebring (pictured above). A Spanish miracle worker, he is. If there was a better performance by a driver in any IMSA-sanctioned race throughout 2017, I certainly didn’t see it. His Terminator-like focus, in concert with perfection from the team in the pits, made for a thrilling close to the 12 Hour. When the first memory of a major event doesn’t involve the overall winner, and jumps straight to GTLM, you know greatness was involved in the outcome.
The FRIENDS OF EVERYBODY Award: Goes to SCRAMP, the non-profit group that runs Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, for stepping up to continue its management of the facility after it wasn’t chosen to do so by Monterey County, yet went on to produce one of its marquee events, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, that earned an award for its excellence from the FIA. And in another vote of confidence for SCRAMP, Porsche made the unprecedented decision to have the track host its giant Rennsport Reunion event in 2018. The last Rennsport, held in 2015 at Monterey, was expected to be followed by a move back east, alternating between the coasts has been the norm. Keeping Rennsport at the same track out west for two consecutive installments is a noteworthy statement.
The TWICE BITTEN ONCE SHY Award: Goes to two teams. Visit Florida Racing destroyed a Riley/Multimatic Mk. 30 chassis in opening practice at IMSA’s Long Beach Grand Prix round when a brake failure reportedly caused the prototype to strike the barriers at the end of the front straight at unabated speed. At IMSA’s Detroit race, Kenny Habul’s SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 reached the end of the long straight leading into the hard right at Turn 3, reportedly lost his brakes, and ended up using the replacement Visit Florida Racing Riley/Multimatic Mk. 30 chassis as its barrier, causing extensive damage to both cars. There’s no real lesson or conclusion to draw here, but when it came to brake-related crashes, the VFR team was certainly the most popular target.
The KING KONG AIN’T GOT NOTHIN’ ON ME Award: Goes to Andy Lally and Sage Karam. Boxing fans spent years asking for a match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquaio, and when it finally happened, they were somewhat old and put on an epic snoozer of a match. Sports car fans were almost treated to an instant classic after the punchy on-track driving exchange between Lally’s Acura teammate Katherine Legge and Sage Karam with the Lexus team. Lally, the MMA practitioner, and Karam, the state wrestling standout, came to social media blows – well, it was more Andy than Sage – and the incident soon blew over. With a strong sense of regret for an opportunity lost, I feel like a follow-up cage match, with all proceeds going to the Camp Boggy Creek charity, needs to happen. Have at it, boys?
The WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MAKE THE HEAVENS MAD AT YOU Award: Toyota. Le Mans. 1994. Toyota. Le Mans. 2016. Toyota. Le Mans. 2017. The plausible ways for Toyota to lose have been exhausted. Who would be surprised if the 2018 Le Mans race featured Toyota leading with one lap to go, but in a real-life enactment from the movie Pacific Rim, gigantic monsters explode from beneath the Ford Chicanes and fight equally enormous robots, and all cars, except for the lone surviving Toyota, avoid calamity and weave their way through the battle to cross the finish line without a scratch? And to be clear, the losing Toyota wouldn’t be stepped on or smashed by falling debris: another piece of intercooler piping would come lose and send the onboard computers into an electronic panic that locks the car in gear beneath the Ferris wheel.
The YOU KNEW IT WOULDN’T WORK, BUT DID IT ANYWAY Award: This goes to 3GT Racing’s Robert Alon for attempting the most daft passing maneuver of the WeatherTech Championship season. Long Beach’s hairpin is the one place on the track where, year after year, drivers are warned to ignore their lesser instincts and avoid dive-bombing cars at the last moment. These warnings are given in every series at the event, from amateurs in vintage cars to IndyCar, and yet, despite decades of video proof that the risks outweigh the rewards, someone like Alon sees a narrowing gap, has the little light bulb go on over their helmet, and pretends they see an opening where it doesn’t exist. Not only did the Lexus driver destroy his race, but he also turned the outcome of the GTLM finish on its head and transformed Turn 11 into a parking lot. All because an opportunity – a mental mirage – appeared in front of his hood that he insisted was real:
Check back next week for the Fake Open-Wheel Awards.