Gentilozzi And Family Have Settled Into Their PC Home
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The hauler which serves as the at-track office for his race team is smaller than they were for Paul Gentilozzi back in the day. The team is smaller. The budgets are definitely smaller and, quite frankly, the stage on which Gentilozzi and his RSR Racing team performs is much smaller.
What hasn’t shrunk for Gentilozzi and his family is the love of racing automobiles and making them go fast enough to win races.
“We are here to compete,” John Gentilozzi, chief race engineer and one of Paul’s sons, said as he sat in the RSR hauler as it sat parked in the paddock at Kansas Speedway on Thursday. “Our philosophy everywhere we have ever been has been exactly the same. To compete and win.”
These days, the Gentilozzi family – Paul, John and Tony Gentilozzi, who is RSR’s team manager –is competing in the Tudor United SportsCar Championship Series’ Prototype Challenge division.
It’s a spec series which, theoretically at least, serves as gateway to the Tudor’s top Prototype Series. The cars are Oreca FLM09, Chevrolet-powered, open-cockpit sports cars are driven by pro/am tandems. Sometimes they race in combined events, sharing the track with the Prototypes, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes.
This weekend in Kansas, they are the top billed cars on the track and will compete in a unique two-segment event in which each segment will be a 45-minute sprint race. The am drivers will race in the first race, which is not a points-payer but serves to set the grid for the second segment, which will feature the pros.
On the track at the same time will be Cooper Tires Prototype Lites cars, which are slotted on the bottom rungs of IMSA’s developmental ladder.
Take a walk through the paddocks at Kansas this weekend and it will beomce pretty evident from the IMSA presence that it is not the Big Show.
It is, however, the Gentilozzi family’s current home and a happy home it is. Paul Gentilozzi was effusive in his praise for Tudor, IMSA and PC. He’s even completely happy with the low-tech PC cars. And those who know him know that he’s not one to issued praise just to be, well, PC as in politically correct.
“These cars don’t have a lot of horsepower,” he said, “but the’ll go 180 mph. It takes big balls to run ‘rovals’ at those speeds.”
And Big Show effort.
Said son John, “Our approach doesn’t change no matter where we are, who we run our team, how we compete. This is a different experiece for us, certainly, but we are no less serious.”
Those who have followed Paul Gentilozzi must either think he’s getting old or has been guzzling from the Tudor trough.
But Gentilozzi isn’t merely a former driver and team owner. He’s a racer. Equipment, budgets and speed matters less to real racers.
Paul was a drag racer early on and then moved into other series which required turning in 1981. Gentilozzi founded Rocketsports Racing in the mid-’80s. He was a monster in the wonderful Trans-Am Series, winning five championships. He won the Daytona 24, he won Sebring.
He’s also owned teams in CART and ChampCar. He was a ChampCar/CART stalwart, lining up against Tony George and his break-away IndyCar Series.
In short, Gentilozzi, and his family, have pounded the boards on the biggest stages in racing.
While some consider PC racing a small stage, the Gentilozzi family simply considers it wonderful racing. It is, they say, racing for real racers. Spec series, John Gentilozzi said, are pure and simple tests of driver ability. And , he said, look at the pro drivers who are competing this season.
He pointed to veteran, acclaimed wheelmen like Colin Braun, Ryan Dalziel, Tom Kimber-Smith, Gunnar Jeannette and his two pro drivers, Indy car standouts Bruno Junquiera and Alex Tagliani. Among those names are Le Mans winners, Sebring winners, Indy 500 pole winners. That is, John says, drivers who are world class in about every sense of the word.
“It all amounts to great racing,” he said.
Also great for the Gentilozzi family are the more abstract aspects of the Prototype Challenge series. John said, “The mood in the paddock is very good. It’s a good place to be. It was, how should I say this…less friendly in CART.”
Also on the plus side of racing in PC has been the spec nature of the series. While other classes in the Tudor series have been subject to constant rule changes in efforts to find the proper balance of performance, the PC class has been left relatively in tact after coming over from the American Le Mans Series.
“We don’t get messed with very much,” John said with a smile.
Not that life in PC is without its negatives. All seem to agree, for example, that the decision to cap race fields at 10 cars is not so terrific.
Even Scot Elkins, IMSA’s vice president of competition and technical regulations, said the capping of the field at 10, “Kind of killed the momentum of the class” when it made the move from ALMS to Tudor. “But with 60-plus cars (in some fields at some places), it made it difficult to allow everybody to come and play.”
And then there’s the perception that RSR and its owners – John and Tony are stakeholders – have moved back to the minor leagues.
John, with flashing laptop sitting in front of him in the RSR hauler, nods along as he’s asked a meandering question about competing in a bizarre PC event at Kansas this weekend instead of against Penske and Ganassi in the IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
He puts up with the question and then says, yes, he can’t help but hear what people are saying about his father, his team and his series.
“The internet, you know,” John says. “It certainly gives voice to the masses.”
But, he says, “This is a new series and a good series. We’re happy to be here.”
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgOne Comment