David Hobbs recalls the 1971 near-misses in Penske/Sunoco Ferrari 512M

2 Comments

NBC Sports Group Formula One analyst David Hobbs’ driving career featured him driving some seriously iconic cars.

Among them, despite a lack of results in the three marquee endurance races of Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans, was the Penske/Sunoco Ferrari 512M Hobbs shared with Mark Donohue during the 1971 international season. The car is featured as part of Ferrari North America’s 60-year celebration this year.

“That car… that Sunoco car, in spite of itself, has become an iconic Ferrari,” Hobbs recalled, in a conversation with MotorSportsTalk. “And it’s one of the most well known Ferraris, even though we never actually won anything, which is the bizarre thing.”

They quite easily could or should have but, motor racing being motor racing, things happened to the blue and yellow Ferrari well outside their control.

Starting at Daytona with the first 24-hour campaign of the season, Hobbs and Donohue stuck the new car on pole. Hobbs praised Penske’s work in building the piece of machinery nearly from scratch.

“Roger completely rebuilt it and turned into a stunning piece of equipment. It was beautifully finished, and the Europeans were amused by the highly polished wheels and tires.”

We let Hobbs tell the rest of the story from there.

“Well of course we put it well and truly on pole in front of the Gulf (Porsche) 917s. We led the race handily, until Mark was driving in the middle of the night, and Vic Elford spun the 917 at NASCAR 3. Some 911 we’d lapped about 1,000 times ran into Mark and came into the scene of chaos. But we strapped about 10,000 pounds of tape on it and came third.”

Staying in Florida, things didn’t improve for the 12 Hours of Sebring. The pair led at Sebring before Donohue contacted Pedro Rodriguez on the back portion of the 5.5-mile circuit. A tire had become unraveled, damaged the oil tank, and the pair finished 10th.

Le Mans? Same story of frustration and unfinished business.

“Generally speaking the engines were very reliable. But then we went to Le Mans, and it was a tosser, as we didn’t have a long tail,” Hobbs says. “The 917s had the long tail, so they were quicker down the straight. By 7 p.m., we were up to third. I’d driven a very satisfying late afternoon early stint. They tried to get me to the four-hour (driving) limit. But then double stinting, and the engine let go. I’m not 100% sure, but they may have changed engine night before the race.”

The fourth and final race of frustration for this particular car saw more mechanical issues strike at Watkins Glen.

“The final race was the Watkins Glen six-hour, and then Mark would drive it Sunday in the Can-Am,” Hobbs says. “We were comfortably on the pole. Then Mark drove into the distance, and I never drove. The steering post broke on top of the upright.

“We had a fantastic chance winning at least two of three, Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans. We certainly should have won Daytona and Sebring.”

Hobbs recalled the bygone era where not only were the cars lacking in aero but seriously cool in appearance, but where they only ran with two drivers.

“We didn’t know any better! And it was just the way you did things,” he says. “The car was fairly quick. There were no ground effects, so they didn’t generate the G-forces the modern cars do.

“The new cars have massive downforce and having three guys, you’re usually six hours in-between stints. The most we had was four, and your max nap time was two and a half, maybe three hours at a stretch.”

Despite the lack of results, the car still holds a special place in Hobbs’ car honor roll.

A video from Petrolicious from the car’s outing at Mont-Tremblant this summer, with Hobbs’ voice, is linked here.

Supercross reveals 2023 Daytona track designed by Ricky Carmichael for 16th time

0 Comments

For the 16th consecutive year, Ricky Carmichael has designed a signature course for the Daytona Supercross race, which will be March 4, 2023.

Eli Tomac took advantage of a last lap mistake by Cooper Webb last year to win a record setting sixth Daytona race – and with that win, he broke out of a tie Carmichael.

Construction on the course will begin two days after the completion of the 65th running of NASCAR’s Daytona 500 when haulers start to unload 7,200 tons of dirt onto the grassy infield in order to create a course 3,300 feet long.

“Ricky has designed yet another incredible course for this year’s Daytona Supercross,” said Daytona International Speedway President Frank Kelleher in a press release. “We’re thrilled to unveil it to the fans, and we can’t wait for them to come out to the track and see it in person.”

MORE: Designs for SuperMotocross finals at zMax Raceway and Chicagoland Speedway

Carmichael’s Daytona course will take center stage for Round 8 of the 17-race Supercross season and the 31-race SuperMotocross season.

The Supercross race coincides with Daytona’s Bike Week, which runs from March 3-12 and includes races from the American Flat Track series and the legendary Daytona 200 speedway race that is contested on the infield road course.

Last year’s course was reported to have 57 obstacles including the return of an over-under bridge. For 2023 the number of obstacles listed in 42, but that will not keep this from being one of the toughest tracks on which the Monster Energy Supercross series will race.

Many of the same elements from last year will be present including sharp turns, vaulted jumps, sand sections and a finish line that aligns with the oval tracks’ start/finish line.

“This year’s Daytona Supercross design is one of the best,” Carmichael said. “It races great for the riders – it’s safe yet challenging and it’s very similar to last year with the split lanes. Daytona is the toughest, gnarliest race on the Supercross circuit, but it’s the most special to win.

“This track is going to produce great racing and I think the riders are going to put on a fantastic display for all our fans.”

While Tomac has dominated this race during his career, Daytona has also been the site of some other dramatic victories. In 2021 Aaron Plessinger scored his first career Supercross podium in 35 starts with a win there and reversed a three-year streak of bad luck on the track.

The Daytona Supercross race is the first of two the series will contest on speedway infield courses. A little more than one month later, Atlanta Motor Speedway will enter their third season as a supercross venue. These two courses will serve as an early test for the SuperMotocross three-race finale that begins September 9, 2023 at zMax Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina. The three playoff races will each be held on courses that contain elements of Supercross and Motocross, much like Daytona and Atlanta.