Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Forgotten Time

John Marine | 4/21/2010 05:01:00 PM | |
I love sportscar racing. However, there was a time I wished I got into sportscar racing earlier than I eventually did. I'm here to share the time I most wanted to watch sportscar racing and what I wanted to see most. This is my story that I want to share with all of you. This shares a time of sportscar racing I've most wanted to see on TV (or at least in videos), but never had a chance to in the past. This mostly pertains to sportscar racing beteween 1997 and 2000. I'll tell you what cars I've missed out on seeing in their day, the races I've missed, and more.

--- A Forgotten Time ---

^ from:, courtesy of Suttons

There was a time when I wanted to see some great sportscar racing. I've started to become a fan of racing "officially" back in 1998. What we now know as Speed Channel used to be Speedvision then. Part of the reason why I've loved (then) Speedvision was because this was a network of and for racing fans. I wouldn't get Speedvision for my parents' house until 2001. Why did I care so much about getting this channel? It was because some of the races I've most wanted to see was on Speedvision. Namely, sportscar racing was the kind of racing I've most wanted to see.

One of my first sportscar racing TV experiences, however, began with ESPN. ESPN had covered IMSA racing for some time. Thing is, I never gotten to see a lot of the action on ESPN.

--- Sportscar Racing... Why Bother? ---
Yeah. How come I couldn't have been a NASCAR fan? How come I couldn't have followed Formula 1? Here is why I love sportscar racing. For one thing, I've always loved watching these grand touring cars and prototypes compete in intense competition. Or, let me put it this way. Imagine a Formula One race car and a Le Mans Prototype were on display. Which would I be more excited for? While I love F1 and have nothing against F1, I've always considered myself a sportscar racing person. It's just something about these cars that always get to me. I just love watching these cars race.

Trouble is... I never got to see them much on TV. That was until NBC started airing the American Le Mans Series in 1999. I felt complete as I was finally able to see these cars in action. This is where I've started to become more complete as a sportscar racing fan. It meant that I finally had a chance to see on television the cars I loved to watch race. Along with this opportunity came with a number of different announcers and personalities whom I've most grown to respect.

--- Favorite Announcers ---
In addition to seeing these cars in action, there has to be a talented bunch of people calling down the action and offering insight. Here are some of my favorites below. Click on the hyperlinks (if provided) to visit their official websites or sites with more information on each personality.

* One of the first is Bob Varsha. Bob Varsha is my personal favorite announcer because he brings such a level of professionalism along with some lighthearted humor at times. Watching a past video on YouTube with the IMSA GTP race at Laguna Seca in 1987, he covered this race for ESPN with hair flowing. Ever since first hearing him call down races and offer his own insight, I've grown to respect and love listening to his commentary. So much so, that if I ever considered becoming a motorsports announcer or journalist, I have Bob Varsha to thank as my inspiration.

* During that 1987 IMSA GTP race, one racer was in action. He would later become one of my other favorite Speed Channel personalities. His name? David Hobbs. Just like Bob Varsha, David Hobbs' delivers extrodinary racing insight. I remember when "Legends of Motorsport," a Speedvision fixture, had episodes hosted by him (some others hosted by Alain de Cadenet, whom I also greatly respect). When David Hobbs shares insight on racing past, he is absolutely believeable and honest. It sheds light on WHY racers and races were so legendary rather than just tell you they are legendary. He also offers great commentary as well as come along with some catchy words during broadcasts. Such terms include "kablamo" and "schmozzle," all guaranteed to draw a laugh. Until seeing some past Speed Channel programming, I didn't know that David Hobbs did TV work for NASCAR.

* Greg Creamer is someone whom I greatly respect for his work. He's quite passionate and understanding of racing. Mr. Creamer is also a flag marshal. He's someone who really cares and appreciates racing and what it entails.

* The most recent favorite announcer of mine is Leigh Diffey. The Australian was someone I've heard before watching Australian V8 Supercar videos on YouTube. Even before then, I've gotten to hear his lovely commentary as he called down races very well on Speed Channel.

* My favorite non-Speedvision or non-Speed Channel announcer is Paul Page. I loved hearing his commentary when watching (then) CART races. He now calls down NHRA Drag Racing, but I still know him for his ESPN work for Champ Cars.

Here are others I highly respect of mine:
* Calvin Fish
* Dorsey Schroeder
* Rick Benjamin
* Ralph Sheheen

--- The Gaming Influence ---
The love of some of these cars even influenced me to play certain games. Back in about 2000, I bought a three-pack of games for my PC. It included NASCAR Revolution, Need for Speed 3, but most importantly... Sports Car GT. Sports Car GT was basically my substitute for experiencing these kinds of cars in action. I had initially gotten the PlayStation 1 version (which I severely disliked) before getting the PC version (which I severely loved). This was the game that introduced me to cars like the McLaren F1, Porsche 911 GT1, Vector M12, Panoz Esperante GTR, and others. Don't also forget the bevy of BMWs and Porsches in the GT ranks. SCGT was basically more about GT racing than a combination of prototypes and GT cars.

Another game that gave me a temporary high for sportscar racing was "Test Drive: Le Mans," which I reviewed in a past blog entry. A lot of the cars I've wanted to know more about and see where in this game.

--- The Cars and Stars I've Missed ---
Here are pictures of some of the many cars I wished I had seen in action in their day:

(~~~ actual pictures will be added in the future ~~~)

The Porsche 911 GT1.

^ from: - Even today, this is a beautiful car. Since this car is from 1997, the 911 GT1 would win Le Mans outright in 1998.

1997 Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR

^ from: - The Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR is a beautiful and charming race car. It is truly one of the most awesome cars of the 1990s.

The Panoz Esperante GTR-1.

^ from: - There's still nothing like this car today. It's rare there's a front-engined/RWD car like the Esperante GTR-1 that can turn heads quite like this car.

The Mosler Raptor.

^ from: - Very weird looking car I wish I had seen in pictures and in video. I remember this and only seen this from "Sports Car GT."

The Vector M12 GT2.

^ from: racephoto - American supercar, the Vector M12, has this very nice GT2 car.

The Marcos LM600.

^ from: - It was one of the funkiest-looking race cars of the 1990s, but it was a very cool one. The Marcos LM600 is a front-engined, RWD British race car. Maybe one of the most famous examples is the multicolored red/yellow/green/blue Marcos LM600. (Apr. 21, 2010 NOTE: I might do a Motorsports Style entry on this car in the future.)

The McLaren F1 GTR.

^ from: - I honestly forgot to include this car in my blog entry. I'd be foolish to pass this car up. The McLaren F1 won Le Mans outright in the mid-1990s.

The Chrysler/Dodge Viper GTS-R (Especially from Team Oreca).

^ from:, by way of - No one piloted the Viper GTS-R quite like Team Oreca. This was THE team for the Dodge Viper GTS-R. The only time I've seen Oreca work their magic was when they won the 24 Hours of Daytona outright in 2000.

Racing Stars I've Missed During This Time.
These were some of the many racers in sportscar racing I wished I have seen at their time...

* Yannick Dalmas
* Didier Theys
* Doc Bundy
* Elliott Forbes-Robinson
* Jochen Rohr (I know the multicolored Rohr Porsche 911 GT1 most)
* Bob Wollek (long live Bob Wollek)
* Larry Schumacher
* John Heinricy (I greatly respect the Heinricy racing family)
* Steve Saleen
* Brian Simo
* Mark Simo

All of these, among others.

A game that has helped me to have a little idea of what these cars were like in action was "Sports Car GT." I blogged about this game, so if you want to read my blog entry on this game, please visit "Sports Car GT."

Videos of the past that I've missed:

^ Coverage of the United States Road Racing Championship race at Minneapolis - Just seeing some of the many cars of the past was something I've always wanted to see in videos. But... I was never able to because I've never gotten (then) Speedvision. There is a GREAT onboard lap featuring the Ferrari 333SP. PLEASE listen to that engine roar between 7:16 and 8:55! Maybe some of the best engine music ever. There's commentary through the segment, but you can hear how beautiful this car sounds.

^ This video features coverage of the United States Road Racing Classic, raced by Can-Am and the GT series.

^ This is from the Professional Sports Car Racing deal. It was the 1997 12 Hours of Sebring. You won't believe how many entries were in this race compared to how many fill the grid for this race now! Over 67 cars took the green flag at Sebring compared to the 30+ that occupy the grid now at Sebring. This was also during the late years of the World Sportscar Championship, which filled the grid along with the PSCR teams.

These three videos are just a look back into history. All of these videos represent a time of sportscar racing I wish I was able to see had I the channels or motivation to see these races live on TV.

Memories of GT1.
Maybe what I've missed most of the mid-late 1990s were those GT1-style cars. These were machines that were very fast and truly epitomize truly capable grand touring machines. I am reminded of cars such as the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR, Panoz Esperante GTR-1, Nissan R390 GT1, and the Toyota GT-One. Maybe the most insane thing about some of these GT1 cars was that there were road-legal versions of these homologated race cars (as the rules then stated). Meaning that for as much as you can marvel at their awesome appeal, you could also buy these cars to take to the road, have you the money.

To me, I liken GT1 cars in sportscar racing in terms of insanity about as much as Group B rally cars. Maybe that's why I've loved seeing these cars race. The appeal of these machines absolutely appeal to me like nothing else. Today's GT1 (especially FIA GT1) is more like high-end sports cars tuned for racing.

What was the point of all of this? It's to share that I've truly missed Speedvision, especially at a time of sportscar racing in which I wished I could have seen while I was still budding as a fan of racing (let alone sportscar racing). I felt like I've gotten into sportscar racing and got Speedvision (now Speed Channel) too late to savor and enjoy the time of sportscar racing I've most forgotten. Now that we have things like YouTube and dedicated people posting videos of what I've missed in the past, I feel better knowing that I can see what I've missed for more than 12 or 13 years.

Thank you for reading!
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