A tale of two champions
A tale of two champions
The decade plus split in North American sports car racing meant that two of the most successful sports car racers in North America rarely met on a race track in direct competition, until now. That all changes in 2014 as Scott Pruett and Lucas Luhr face-off in the Prototype class in the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Luhr was the all-time series leader in the American Le Mans Series with 50 race wins and six championships. Pruett, the poster boy of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series has 41 race wins including five Rolex 24 at Daytona race wins to his credit and is a five-time Series champion.
It is no surprise that the two drivers now tread separate paths in the TUDOR Championship. Pruett, now in his 11th year with Chip Ganassi Racing, is aboard a Daytona Prototype based Riley chassis, now powered by Ford EcoBoost.
After winning the 2012 and 2013 ALMS P1 championships, Luhr is now in a new Prototype chassis (P2 Oreca from a P1 HPD) and engine (Nissan from Honda), along with a switch from Michelin to the TUDOR Championship Prototype class tire provider.
A native Californian and Ford factory Trans-Am champion, Pruett and his wife, Judy, have authored four children’s books and currently live at the Pruett Vineyards winery in Auburn, California with their three children.
A former Porsche and Audi factory driver, the German, Luhr, now lives in Switzerland with his wife Claudia and their two children.
Luhr, 34, captured the European Karting Championship at age 14 and was signed as a Porsche Junior driver at 18. His success brought him to the ALMS where he claimed two GT class championships before moving to the Porsche RS Spyder team where he earned a P2 class title. He then joined Audi where he won the LMP1 class championship and has since taken the 2012 and 2013 ALMS titles with Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, co-driving with Klaus Graf.
Along the way, Luhr has racked up five class victories here at Sebring and two wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His career scorecard also includes wins at Daytona (GT), the 24 Hours of Nurburgring, Spa 24 Hours and Petit Le Mans.
Each is part of a strong and experienced team. Ganassi and Pickett are themselves both former drivers.
“We’re going through a renaissance now with sports car racing, going back to what we saw in the mid to late 80s,” Pruett said.
“The governing body is working hard to try to find parity between the different types of cars and I think it adds another element for the fans – there is a lot to see, a lot of great cars and a lot of great drivers.”
“I’m looking forward to Sebring immensely but we know we have our hands full. Ganassi has never been there and I haven’t been there since the late 80s. We have a lot to learn but it is always exciting going back for me and it is a new track for our team.”
“The biggest thing for me personally is we finally have one united ground for road racers. There is no more confusion for fans, sponsors or manufacturers – there is one united series and the future couldn’t be brighter.”
The Pickett Racing driver Luhr knows the level of competition has significantly improved.
“It will be very challenging,” said Luhr. “Just winning a race in the TUDOR Championship will not be easy because the competition is so tough.”
“I had great years in the American Le Mans Series and I can only hope to continue to do so in the TUDOR Championship as well. It was never easy to win a championship but it always was, and will always be my goal.”
“As for winning races, I’m just looking forward to getting a first win in 2014 and then, many, many more, I hope!”
Pruett and Luhr are not alone. Rolex 24 at Daytona-winning Action Express Racing with Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais, runners-up Wayne Taylor Racing with Jordan and Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli and Michael Shank Racing with John Pew, Oswaldo Negri and Justin Wilson are all powerful contenders.
Other top Prototype entries include: Extreme Speed Motorsports Honda, OAK Racing Nissan, Michael Shank Racing Ford, SpeedSource Mazda, Starworks Motorsports Honda, Spirit of Daytona Chevrolet and the distinctive DeltaWing.
Beyond competing together, the merger also means drivers from each side will now compete at events not on their prior schedules. For the GRAND-AM teams that means Sebring and the season ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. For the former ALMS teams it means new challenges at Daytona, Watkins Glen and Indianapolis.