Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Details of the careers of the 
2016 USRRC Hall of Fame inductees 
click to enlarge

The 2016 class of the United State Road Racing Championship (USRRC) Hall of Fame will be formally inducted during the “Tribute to the USRRC” dinner scheduled for April 9 2016, at the Wally Parks HNRA Hall of Fame Museum in Pomona, California.  

The USRRC was the Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) first professional racing series and held races from 1963 to 1968, when it was abandoned in favor of the hugely popular Group 7 series, the SCCA Canadian-American Challenge Cup, best known simply as the Can-Am series.  During its six-year run, the USRRC crowned five champions, all of which are well-known names to racing historians –Bob Holbert, Jim Hall, George Follmer, Chuck Parsons and Mark Donohue.

For regular readers of these posts who are open-wheel racing fans, there is an intriguing historical connection between the USRRC and United States Auto Club (USAC) championship car racing, as seven of the previous Hall of Fame inductees have that connection – Parnelli Jones, Mark Donohue, Jim Hall, Roger Penske, Dan Gurney, John Cannon, Peter Revson, and Chuck Parsons.  
The USAC/USRRC connections continue in 2016 with seven of this year’s USSRRC Hall of fame inductees – George Follmer, Bill Krause, Dave MacDonald, Lothar Motschenbacher, Wally Peat, David ‘Swede’ Savage, and Jerry Titus - all raced in both series, and their accomplishments are detailed in the latter part of this article, after we highlight the careers of the nine road racers.   

The second class of the USRRC Hall of Fame inductees include Gerry Bruihl, from Portland Oregon who drove a 2.0 liter Lotus 23 in the USRRC series in 1964 and 1965,   Bob Challman, the West Coast Lotus cars distributor from Manhattan Beach CA who raced a Lotus 30 in the 1964 and 65 USRRC series, and Don Devine, who drove the front-engine ‘Meister Brau’ Scarab Mark II in the 1965 USRRC series, and still maintains and races car from his large vintage race car collection.

Other 2016 Hall of Fame inductees are Jerry Entin, who drove a factory Cheetah in the 1965 and 1966 USRRC seasons, then raced the first customer McLaren Elva Mark 1 powered by an Oldsmobile engine  in 1966. Entin later drove the ex-Peter Revson McLaren Mark II in 1967 and a Lola T70 in 1968 USRRC competition. Hall of Famer Davey Jordan raced Porsches in the 1964 and 1965 USRRC series, in 1965 as teammate with Scooter Patrick, and in 1966 drove both Otto Zipper’s Porsche 906 and a Ford-powered Lola T70.

During 1969 both Jordan and Patrick drove for actor James Garner’s ‘American International Racing’ team; first in Corvettes, then a Lola T70. Jordan then raced the Toyota 2000 GT in SCCA C-production competition for Shelby American Racing during 1968.   Also to be inducted will be Frank Monise a Lotus mechanic and car owner from Pasadena California, who later fielded race cars for his son.

Also to be inducted in the USRRC Hall of Fame April 9  will be Paul Reinhart a Union 76 dealer from Oakland California, who was dominant in Corvette racing in Northern California during the early nineteens sixties, then fielded his own purple and orange Genie Mark 8 in the USRRC series from 1964 through the 1967 season.
Another great driver slated for induction is Tony Settember, who passed away during 2014. Tony  drove as a privateer in six Formula One races in the 1962 and 1963 seasons, then raced in the USRRC series from 1964 through 1968  driving a variety of cars that included a Lotus 23, the Webster Special, an Oldsmobile-powered Matich SR3, and  a Lola T70 through the years. Isaac “Ike” Smith in honored for his efforts as a long time mechanic and crew chief in the USRRC series, most notably for Lola importer Carl Haas. Smith is still is active in restoring vintage USRRC and SCCA Can-Am race cars is expected to be on hand for the ceremony.   

Now for those men with Indianapolis car connections -

George Follmer, the 1965 USRRC champion in the Tom Nuckles’ “Trans Ocean Motors” Lotus 23 powered by a Porsche 904 engine, then drove a John Mecom owned Lola T70 in the 1966 USRRC series and then a similar machine for Roger Penske in 1967. In 1972, Follmer became the only man to win both SCCA professional championships in the same year. He won the SCCA Trans-Am series championship for ‘pony cars’ with Roy Woods’ Javelin and Can-Am series crown behind the wheel of the mighty Penske Porsche 917-10, and repeated as the 1976 SCCA Trans-Am series champion in a Porsche 934.

George Follmer drove in three 1967  USAC races for car owner Rolla Vollstedt, two on road courses and once on the tricky one-mile Trenton New Jersey oval track. During the 1968 USAC season, Follmer drove for George Bryant’s team on two short one-mile ovals at Hanford California and Phoenix, and four road courses with a best finish of 8th at the season ending Rex Mays 300 at Riverside, but George failed in his first attempt to qualify the Cheetah chassis for the Indianapolis 500-mile race. 

In 1969 Follmer became the first man to win a USAC race in Howard Gilbert’s stock-block powered Cheetah in the season-opener at Phoenix and made the starting field at Indianapolis in the Cheetah chassis fitted with a turbocharged Ford engine, but George’s car retired early with a broken wastegate.

Follmer drove for Andy Granatelli’s STP team at Indianapolis and at its west coast twin, the Ontario Motor Speedway in 1970 but he retired from both races with engine problems. George ran the 1971 Indianapolis 500-mile race in Grant King’s turbocharged Offenhauser powered creation but the engine broke a piston just before halfway. Four years later, George returned to Indianapolis but the ‘American Kids Racing’ turbocharged Offenhauser owned by California millionaire Richard Beith of ET Wheels fame was not fast enough to make the starting field

Bill Krause grew up around open wheel racing, as his father, Arnold, and his Uncle Bert both owned potent Offenhauser powered midgets during the post-war midget racing boom. Bill started racing in three-quarter (TQ) midgets and was the National midget Racing Association (NMRA) inaugural season champion in 1957, but his family insisted that Bill switch to sports cars. In 1963, Mickey Thompson pegged the red-hot Long Beach sports car racer to join his four-car Indianapolis 500 team as the driver of the #82 Harvey Aluminum rear-engine Chevrolet powered “pancake” entry fitted with tiny 12-inch wheels.

In testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during March 1963, Krause impressed his teammate, Bill Cheesbourg, and the USAC observers, and he ran a best lap of 139.96 MPH.  When the giant 2-1/2 mile oval opened in May, Krause started his required rookie test on May 4, but the following day, Krause spun off the third turn into the infield, and then the car slid back onto the track where the Thompson entry was hit by Roger McCluskey’s ‘Konstant Hot Special.’
After the car was repaired, Krause was replaced by Formula One veteran Masten Gregory, who failed to qualify the repaired machine. Krause probably felt some compassion for his teammates Graham Hill and Cheesbourg also crashed in the small-wheel Mickey Thompson cars. During the 1966 USRRC series, Krause drove John Klug’s “Pacesetter Homes” Ford-powered Lola T70 Mark II in two races then retired.

In 1964, Mickey Thompson chose another West Coast sports car “hot shoe,” Dave MacDonald, to pilot one of his three cars entered at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, teamed with Masten Gregory and Eddie Johnson. MacDonald, who had made his reputation racing Corvettes and Cobras, started the 1964 USRRC season in speculator fashion behind the wheel of the Shelby American Cooper “King Cobra” with two wins and a second place finish in four races, with his last USRRC win came on May 10, 1964.

MacDonald was reportedly spooked by the handling of the “Allstate Special” Thompson “pancake” rear-engine car, which for 1964 had been updated with a powerful Ford double overhead camshaft (DOHC) engine and bodywork that partially enclosed the wheels.  MacDonald nonetheless started the 1964 ‘500’ from 14th, the best of the two Thompson cars that made the starting field, but crashed as he exited turn four on the second lap with fatal results for both himself and Eddie Sachs.  

Lothar Motschenbacher was born in Germany but lived and worked in Beverly Hills California, and was a regular competitor for years in Group 7 racing in both the USSRC and SCCA Can-Am Series, but he also raced in a handful of USAC championship events. Lothar started in the USSRC series in 1964 driving an Elva Mark VII, and then in 1965 he drove the former Shelby “King Cobra.” 1966 Motschenbacher bought and raced his own McLaren Elva Mark II customer car and in the latter part of the season was a part of actor Dan Blocker’s racing team. Lothar briefly switched to a Lola T70 during late 1967, but continued to race a former team-owned McLaren M6B through the end of the USRRC series in 1968.

Lothar had limited success with USAC with just five appearances in two seasons. In 1967 he debuted at Phoenix International Raceway and drove Ken Brenn’s Gerhardt to a ninth place finish. Motschenbacher failed to qualify for the starting field in the next race at Trenton Speedway, so USAC rejected his entry for the Indianapolis ‘500’ as “not in good standing.” Lothar drove in the 1967 USAC season-ending race at Riverside International Raceway for Jerry Eisert but the car’s clutch failed after 8 laps.

In 1968, Motschenbacher raced just once with USAC in the August twin-100 mile heats event at the St. Jovite road course in Quebec in Bob Wilkie's Watson built “Zecol Lubaid Special” turbocharged Offenhauser. Lothar was entered for the 1969 Indianapolis 500 as the driver for Minnesota’s Pat O’Reilly’s “Serendipity Racing” Lotus/Ford entry, but was again declined due to his lack of a USAC license. O’Reilly then enlisted veteran driver Dee Jones, who promptly failed his refresher test.

 Wally Peat was a fabricator at Shelby American who worked as the crew chief with Dave McDonald on Cobras and the Shelby “King Cobra,” then worked for Mike Goth on his McLaren Elva USRRC racer. Wally and his brother Don then built several impressive supermodified race cars, including a series of dominant Ford Model T-bodied cars whose drivers included Don Edmunds, Wayne Weiler, and Billy Vukovich.

After a stint with Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing in which he served on the 1970 '500’ winning team, Wally went to work as co-crew chief and car builder for former insurance executive Dick Simon and Canadian American Racing Association (CAMRA) supermodified racer in 1971. Simon ran a Wally Peat modified Lola T152 powered by a turbocharged Ford engine though most of the 1972 USAC season. Peat returned to Salt Lake City  

David “Swede” Savage raced go-karts, three-quarter midgets, and motorcycles before his skills came to the attention of Dan Gurney who put Savage in his Ford powered Lola T70 for the final two races of the 1968 USRRC series. Savage went on to become a star driving for Gurney in the SCCA Can-Am and Trans-Am series and USAC racing. In his first season with USAC in 1969 Savage drove on four road courses, with three top ten results. The following year, Swede ran a limited USAC schedule and won his first USAC race on the short oval at Phoenix.  

In March 1971 Savage suffered critical injuries in a crash that nearly ended his career in the Questor Grand Prix at Ontario Motor Speedway in an ill-advised entry driving a former Gurney-owned car.  Savage lost most of his 1971 season as he recovered and perhaps returned too soon as he crashed out of his three late season USAC starts. For 1972 Savage signed with U.E. “Pat” Patrick’s USAC team and had a frustrating season filled with mechanical failures.

The 1973 season started well with a pair of top five finishes, and at Indianapolis, after topping the speed charts for most of the month, “Swede” qualified fourth for the Indianapolis ‘500’ and he briefly held the one and four-lap qualifying records.  During the race, Savage grabbed the lead on lap 43 which he held until he pitted on lap 54. On lap 58, Savage’s STP Eagle spun as he exited turn four (nearly the same location at Dave MacDonald in 1964) slammed into the inner retaining wall and his car burst into flames then slid across the track to come to rest against the outside wall. “Swede” Savage died on July 3 1971 at age 26 from complications of the burns he received and ended a promising career.

Jerry Titus a journalist and part-time racer turned full-time professional racer from Long Island New York will be the last alphabetical 2016 USSRC Hall of Fame inductee. Titus born in 1928 raced in every major road racing series in the United States during his career. Jerry raced Genie Mark 5 in the inaugural 1963 USSRC season, a Cheetah in three races for the 1964 USRRC GT series. Jerry drove the Webster2-liter Special and an Elva Mark VII for a combined four USRRC races during 1965, and his own Buick-powered Piper in three troubled races during 1967. In 1967 Jerry began his career in SCCA Trans-Am racing and won the championship; Jerry then concentrated on that series for which he became known as ‘Mr. Trans-Am.”

Jerry drove in two USAC races both at Riverside; in 1967 for the notorious engine builder and car owner Carroll Horton in one of the original BRP-Fords, and again at Riverside in 1968 as teammate to Mario Andretti on Andretti’s Overseas National Airways team. Titus in Andretti’s’ backup Brawner Hawk-Ford was intended as a “safety entry” in case Andretti’s car encountered problems, but Titus’s car had already retired with suspension failure when Andretti’s engine blew on lap 59.

In between those two races, Jerry Titus tried to qualify for the 1968 Indianapolis 500-mile race, but he missed the field despite using four different cars. After he passed his rookie test on May 5  in Carroll Horton’s Marathon entry which was a Lotus 29 replica powered by a DOHC Ford engine, Jerry left Indianapolis in order to compete in the May 12 SCCA Trans-Am race.

On practice on Saturday May 25, Titus crashed fuel injection wizard Barney Navaro’s six-cylinder 200-cubic inch turbocharged Rambler-powered 1964 Watson rear-engine chassis in turn two.  Jerry then attempted to qualify multi-millionaire airline heir Thomas Friedkin’s Bardahl-sponsored 1966 Eagle in a last minute effort in the rain-delayed final day of time trials held on Monday May 27, but his laps were too slow to bump into the field.   Instead of racing in the ‘500,’ May 30 1968 found Titus finishing second to Mark Donohue in the three-hour SCCA Trans-Am race at Lime Rock Connecticut.

On July 18 1970, Titus was practicing in his SCCA Trans-Am Pontiac Firebird at Road America when the car’s steering failed and the car struck a bridge abutment head-on. Titus died of his injuries seventeen days later. The American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association issues an award in Titus’ memory to the highest vote-getter in its annual AARWBA All-American Team balloting.

Special plaques commemorating the inductions will be presented at the annual “Tribute to the USRRC” dinner, with a number of the drivers and or family members will be on hand to accept the honors and reminisce about the times. Two of the highlights of the evening will be the presentation of two very special awards.
The Road Racing History Award recognizes worthy participant from the USRRC era for their historic accomplishment and personal dedication to the sport. The highly regarded Peter Bryant Award Challenger Award, named for the legendary racing engineer and designer, will be presented to the crew chief, car builder, or team mechanic who best epitomizes the unlimited spirit of the sport. 

Tickets for the event are available at www.tributetotheusrrc.com

Details of the event and names of the inductees were provided by Doug Stokes of Stokes Communications, all research on the inductee's backgrounds was conducted by the author. 

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