US Ferrari Challenge Wrap-Up

As the Ferrari Challenge moved to Texas World Speedway and the final two events of the season, Peter Sachs had captured the 355 title, but the 348 class was still unsettled. George Robinson was leading, but if Derek John Hill were to win both races, he would take the championship as well.

On Saturday excitement was generated during the testing and practice sessions by two events: the Ferrari 333SPs entering Turn One at 200 MH, and Emil Assentato spinning in his #96 car and tagging the infield guardrail. Emil's car set the grass on fire, which then returned the favor by igniting the car. Emil didn't realize his car was burning until Joe Safina yelled at him on the radio to "Get out!!!" Joe beat the workers to the scene with his fire extinguisher, earning the "Junior Fire Chief" award. (Ironically, within minutes Jim Kenton also spun through the infield, his car igniting yet another fire in the dry grass.)

It initially appeared that the crash and fire damage would eliminate Emil from the event (and from his pursuit of the "Best New Driver" award), but Rich Peplin, his main rival, had lost an engine during practice in his #21 car. A lot of discussions, cooperative help from the Miller Motorcars and Ferrari of Beverly Hills crews (assisted by technicians from at least two other dealerships), and the loan of a hoist from a GTS1 team lead to Assentato's undamaged engine in Peplin's car and an agreement that each driver would compete in one race.

Derek John Hill and George Robinson proved in qualifying that they were completely serious about the race and the title; both out-qualified Peter Sachs' 355, and were only .05 seconds apart with Robinson on the pole. Peter passed both 348s soon after the start, but the race, and championship, were decided when Derek touched George under braking. Robinson spun, giving the 348 lead to Hill; his lead was short-lived, as Chief Steward Roger Lewis ordered a "stop and go" penalty for Derek Hill, restoring Robinson to the 348 class lead. George's win clinched the 348 Championship. Peter Sachs was the overall winner, and he was joined on the podium by Robinson and Derek Hill and Steve Earle, second and third in the 348 class.

(One racing hint: after qualifying for Saturday's race, four cars were weighed on the official IMSA scales. Three were found to be from 4 to 13 pounds underweight. While complaints were voiced (with some basis) that the scales were off, the fact remained that they were the official scales. The fourth driver, savvy in the ways of racing, had weighed his car on the official scales before qualifying, an option always available to competitors.)

The finishing order for Saturday's race was used to set the grid for Sunday, so winners Peter Sachs and George Robinson shared the front row, followed by Derek John Hill and Steve Earle. Although he had lost the championship, Derek clearly intended to take home a win, and he passed both Sachs and Robinson into Turn One to lead the first lap. On lap two, though Derek spun in Turn Two, allowing the entire field to pass him. His drive from dead last back through the field to third overall and second place in the 348 class was one of the outstanding drives of the 1995 series. Another exciting battle was the continuation of the season-long fight between Paul Frame and Jim Kenton; both had spun on Saturday, but on Sunday they stayed close throughout the 30 minutes, with Paul slightly ahead at the flag.

The 1995 season ended with one of the best races of the year; George's win gave him a perfect 600 points, Emil Assentato's 11th place finish (with engine problems from his engine in Rich Peplin's car) assured him of Second Place - by only 10 points over Peplin - in the Best New Driver standings, and Derek John Hill clearly demonstrated that he is a driver with a bright future. All-in-all, an exciting and successful season.

As the top places in the championship were settled by the end of the first race on Satur