Welcome to the IMSA History unofficial website

This site is aimed at bringing you memories from the glory days of sportscar racing in the US.



"My first SCCA season of racing was in 1972. After a successful 1969 SCCA Drivers School at Marlboro Speedway Maryland in a borrowed Alfa Romeo Giulietta, I had spent 2 years building my own Austin Cooper S to full FIA Group 2 specifications for the (CS Sedan) class. This had a 1293cc engine with Richard Longman head, 45DCOE Weber, straight cut, close-ratio gears and all allowable suspension and chassis upgrades. The bodywork was all steel with glass windows even though aluminum doors and plexiglass were homologated and permitted by the FIA. I continued to develop the chassis throughout the season and the car became progressively faster. I finished every race in the North Atlantic Road Racing Championship that year and won the CS (1300cc) Championship at age 25. This series was a Super Regional (but not National) series. It consisted of all the regions in the Northeastern USA, namely, New England, New York, Mowhawk-Hudson and Northern New Jersey Regions of the SCCA. Circuits used then were: Bridgehampton Motor Racing Circuit, New Thompson Speedway, Lime Rock Park, and Bryar Motorsport Park. There were a dozen or so race meetings in total with multiple meetings at each circuit throughout 1972. I also joined IMSA and co-drove in the 1972 Mid-Ohio IMSA Racing Stock BF Goodrich Radial Challenge endurance race in a BMW 2002 owned by Don Flannery from Lexington, Massachussetts. This race was one of the "Mid-Ohio Twin Sixes" (6-Hour) races and was paired with the Camel GT 6-Hour. We lost our brakes after about an hour or so - so we were well down the order - but I had my first taste of IMSA endurance racing. Late in the fall, I participated in the New England Region SCCA Bryar 3-Hr. Enduro where I co-drove with Omer Norton,Jr. and Sandy McDonough in my Austin Cooper S. We led overall on that tight circuit until the final lap when Sandy crawled around slowly to receive the checker with cords visible on the left front tire as it went flat. I sold the Championship winning Mini and it went across the continent to Washington State. It was painted a Chestnut Brown with a Silver roof and had #21 for the entire 1972 season.

For my second season, my next step was to move up to professional racing full time with a 2 liter car. My goal was to do a year with some success in IMSA and then move to Formula Atlantic. (At that time BMW was developing their F2 16v engine program with a young Hans J. Stuck and other up and coming drivers. Niki Lauda also had early success in touring cars during that timeframe and even drove a Mini Cooper S , I recall.) I hoped to attract BMW's attention and wrote to Burkhard Bovensiepen (of Alpina), Joseph Schnitzer, Hoffman Motors (then the BMW importer for North America) and other potential sponsors and supporters. I went to IMSA headquarters and spoke to John & Peggy Bishop along with their competition director and they suggested contacting Preston Miller & Russell Norburn of Miller & Norburn, Inc. in North Carolina. When I spoke to Russ he said they were converting Russell's BMW 2002 TI IMSA TU to IMSA Goodrich RS specs as well as building a new customer RS car for Nick Craw. They suggested calling Phil Dermer at Motortech in Maryland since he was building a new Gr.2 TU car and was probably selling the old one.

The car I bought in 1973 was the ex-Phil Dermer White and Blue BMW 2002 TI that he raced in IMSA in 1972 "Gemini Racing" #16. Phil retained the Alpina engines and transmissions for his new car built for 1973 which he painted Blue #35 and planned to equip with Kugelfisher F.I.. Both of his cars were 2 valve/cyl. and largely used Alpina parts but were built in USA with American fuel cell and safety equipment. I completely rebuilt and repainted his old Alpina car yellow/blue and obtained 200 BHP Weber carbureted engine from Miller & Norburn and Getrag Transmission from Alpina (via Phil Dermer's Motortech firm). I sourced suspension, exhaust, braking system and wheels from Alpina 8.75"/10"x13" and my tires were Dunlop. I installed a state of the art, fire system to replace the small fire extinguisher in the Gemini car and lightened the car as much as possible but retained steel bodywork and glass windows for cost reasons. This combination was fast for a 2 valve car but we never fully sorted out the car due to lack of budget and no testing whatsoever during the 1973 season.

While I was building my new car early in 1973, I was in regular contact with Miller & Norburn, Inc. They told me they were coming to Connecticut in support of another customer, Bob Lazebnik for the Trans-Am Lime Rock race. Car owner Lazebnik entered his car under his company name, Commercial Exchange located in Jackson, Michigan. The car was a BMW 1600-2 prepared to SCCA Trans-Am 2.5 Challenge rules (BS Sedan). As such it was based on FIA Group 2 but the SCCA allowed further changes. The idea was to have a sliding scale of weights and displacements and engine types. This meant the BMW1600 could use plastic bodywork and plexiglass windows and had a racing weight of about 1700 lbs if memory serves me correctly. All 2.5 Challenge cars were restricted to 7" wide wheels but Goodyear and Firestone made slick tires with cantilevered sidewalls to circumvent this restriction. Brakes, suspension and transmissions were as Homologated for Group 2. His car had Alpina early style flares and was fully lightened in accordance with 2.5 Challenge rules. He blew his primary engine in practice due to oil starvation and I provided facilities & help to change the engine overnight and was given the opportunity to drive the race instead of Russ Norburn who was the co-driver entered. Russ went to the SCCA officials and IMSA head John Bishop who was also in attendence, to arrange the driver change.

This was a big break for me as a rookie driver to race in my first FIA event. Bob drove first stint and started from pit lane due to no qualifying time. I drove second half of race and engine blew again after an hour or so (unfortunately while I was driving) but we were fast and working our way up before the failure. We used standard Alpina oil pan and baffles which later proved to be inadequate to handle G forces generated by latest slick (9"+ wide) tires. My yellow 1973 2002 TI was entered under my team name "Eilifsen Racing" and raced with #21. For our first Camel GT race, Russ Norburn co-drove with me at Pocono where the new Alpina transmission failed due to G forces on clockwise banking (vent on left of gearbox) the gears were literally melted. At Mid-Ohio, with an old 4-speed gearbox installed, the dipstick tube cracked where it enters the engine block allowing oil to escape - con rod bearing failure was the unfortunate result. With a proven ultra close ratio ZF gearbox for Lime Rock IMSA race, the car was finally working well but I hit the back of a slower car exiting the first corner when he failed to accelerate puncturing my radiator in the qualifying race! We were # 63 at this race. After the event, I received what was said to be "the hard luck award" by John Laux (an NARRC competitor from 1972). It was an invitation to dinner in New York City's Le Chanteclair Restaurant (then owned by 1930-50s GP Driver Rene' Dreyfus). I was so discouraged and embarassed at my not being able to race in the 2 main races, that I never went to NY to meet him. I didn't realize who he was at the time! At the end of "73 season, I planned to build a new TU car and obtained a new bodyshell from Michel Potheau of Circle Tire in Natick, Masssachussetts. We stripped it bare and ordered BMW Motorsport flares and front spoiler through Libra International Racing in Vermont. Then the bombshell hit, IMSA announced it was combining TU with GTU and a we realized that an F2 engine would be necessary in order to try to compete with the 2.5 liter extended nose Gr.4 Datsun 240ZGs and Porsche 911Ss. (previously we had de facto, a 2 liter class since there were no 2.5 liter TU cars that were competitive.)

There were 2 different DOHC 16 valve F2 BMW engine designs. I remember the Joseph Schnitzer cylinder head KIT to convert a standard 2002 engine was $18,000-22,000. For perspective, a brand new 2002 road car was about $3900 or so in 1973 dollars! The BMW Motorsport engine was more involved to fit with a different bell housing needed as it was a vertical mounting not slanted like the standard 2002 and Schnitzer versions. Also, the Motorsport F2 engine had intakes on right and exhaust on left (opposite normal this was to make it compatible w/Cosworth FVC fitment in F2 cars). In a 2002, this meant building a complete new car whereas a Schnitzer F2 engine was a bolt-in proposition. Both were relatively expensive for a small team like Eilifsen Racing. My resources were exhausted, so I started looking for rides with other teams and ultimately sold my car to Tony Rolfe of Richmond, Virginia in winter of 1974/75 with latest fiberglass BMW Motorsport bodywork and the new steel bodyshell. I scrapped the old Gemini bodyshell at LaJoie's in Norwalk, Connecticut. I have recently discovered that Tony Rolfe and his son Dan have assembled/raced the reshelled car and it is now painted green and is located in Virginia now races in class SCCA EP. Phil Dermer of Motortech called me early in 1974 and we discussed me co-driving #35 with him for 1974 Atlanta but I don't remember why the car wasn't ready. Apparently, he did enter us and listed me as co-driver but we were never able to land sufficient sponsorship to make it possible. I recall he was talking to BMW Motorsport and others but the economy was weak with the fuel crisis of 1974! I was looking forward to the drive as he had a good car and it was co-driven with some success by John Morton and others at various events in addition to Phil Dermer himself.

Prior to the '74 season, as Tony Rolfe was preparing his new Datsun 240Z for IMSA and SCCA GT racing, he called me and asked me to co-drive with him. The events were to be Watkins Glen 6 Hour and Lime Rock IMSA Camel GT. For Watkins Glen, the car was not yet complete - so we didn't arrive. Later, when we realized that the Lime Rock race was a sprint race format and wouldn't require a second driver, he asked me to help him test the car during practice for the Lime Rock event. I don't remember all the details, but I believe maybe the car wasn't ready for practice at all. The car was brand new. Then he hit a deer at the beginning of the race on the 4th lap. The car was written off - but luckily Tony was unhurt. The blue 1974 Comer Racing car #66 that I drove was the ex- Andy Petery and Hans Zereis #84 white BMW 2002. It still had a Joseph Schnitzer dohc 4 valve/cyl fuel injected engine (270 BHP). It had a mid mounted fuel cell to improve weight distribution but had a bent frame rail. Preston Miller and Russ Norburn replaced the frame rail and sorted out the chassis and a fuel Injection problem and I test drove the car on a couple of occasions at Lime Rock Park during practice early in '74 (when it wasn't raced). I recall that it felt like the front subframe was moving under braking loads and they still had problems with their 2 gearboxes sticking in gear. I stayed in contact with Miller & Norburn over the the season and I offered to use my new ZF in exchange for drive at the upcoming Charlotte road course IMSA Camel GT Race. At Charlotte, the car was transformed; the chassis felt good and balanced and the gearbox & engine were excellent. The main problem was the lack of grip. We were using old, very hard Goodyear tires from 2 years prior. The car would slide and since the infield track was new and not yet cured, the pavement was breaking up with gravel from edges spread all across the surface. In the race I drove the second half and the front spoiler was already gone from early in the race. We didn't have a rear spoiler at that time - so these may be factors, too. Also, we didn't have our radio working - so we were using old chalk board pit signals. We finished 2nd in 2.5 liter GTU class (10th overall) after a strong finish. That was my last GT race."