Ferrari Challenge Report


The second event - and the third and fourth races of the 1996 Challenge Season - continued the tradition of tight competition begun in Florida.

Texas World Speedway has extensive ties to the Ferrari Challenge, having been the site of races in the 1994 and 1995 seasons as well as the site of the delivery of the first F50 in North America; an event which included a Challenge demonstration race. Hospitality, including meals at the track, have always been exceptional, and the 1996 event maintained the same standard. Giuseppe Risi, Tony Nevotti, and the Ferrari of Houston staff are gracious hosts, even to providing a test day for competitors on Friday before the event.

Paul Frame was almost one full second ahead of Steve Earle, who started alongside in the front row. George Robinson, defending 1995 - 348 Challenge Champion, made his first appearance in the 1996 series (he?s been busy racing a Dodge Viper GTS/R at Daytona and Sebring). George has dominated the 348 class at TWS, and took the class pole, but Jim Kenton was only .04 second back; the two 348?s would share the second row of the grid.

Paul Frame led the first lap, but that was the last time anyone (other than the pace car) would be ahead of Steve Earle. Steve led every lap for the rest of the day; Paul would finish second, but his best efforts weren?t enough to get past Earle?s yellow F355. Dan Doyle, Jr. had his best drive to finish third, sharing the F355 podium with Steve and Paul. George Robinson was fourth and winner of the 348 class over Jim Kenton, but Rich Peplin, his car newly prepared by Ferrari of Washington (as was Kenton?s) came from 11th on the grid to finish third in the 348 class for his podium finish, Allie Ash, Carlos De Quesada, and Tom Murphy fought out the next three places. An incident eliminated Sam Bardor?s new F355 and damaged the 348?s of Jim Place and Carlos Hank Jr., both expected to be at the front of the 348 pack. John Gillespie was unable to start in his 348 after suffering an engine problem in practice, but did score points in the FNA F355, Salvaging something from the weekend.

Results from the first race were used to set the grid for the second race, so the front row was reversed; Steve Earle on pole and Paul Frame alongside, followed by Doyle, Robinson, Jim McCormick and Jim Kenton. An incident in the first turn slowed McCormick, who had been competitive in the first race, and Doyle. Earle led every lap, but Frame tried a "banzai" charge late in the race to get past; it didn?t work. Earle (maintaining his perfect record), Frame, and Carlos Hank Sr. (his first podium) received the F355 trophies, and Robinson, Kenton, and De Quesada were the 348 award winners. Carlos Hank, Jr. had a race-long battle with DeQuesada, and demonstrated the spirit of the Ferrari Challenge by presenting the trophy to his rival, who barely beat him to the flag and the award. (He also presented the trophy to his father, returning the "favor" from Homestead.) Another outstanding race-long dice was among Rick Jones, Rich Peplin and Kevin Crowder, all in 348?s.

There have been three competitors who have participated in every Ferrari Challenge race held since the first demonstration at Savannnah in 1993. Leaving Texas World Speedway two of those drivers, Steve Earle and Paul Frame, the third, was perhaps the fastest driver in the series. Perhaps experience really does count for something??.