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Fogarty, Stallings Roll Out The Future In Dallas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, February 2 2015

Sports car champion Jon Fogarty is anticipating his return to sprint-type competition when GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing enters the Pirelli World Challenge’s GTS class this spring. (RacinToday photos by Martha Fairris)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

DALLAS – Sports car ace Jon Fogarty says Hyundai’s management team “needs a vision of who they want to be” in the door-slamming world of sedan sports car racing.

“It is my ambition to be a part of forming what that vision is,” said Bob Stallings, owner of the Hyundai Genesis Coupe Fogarty will drive for GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing during the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge series.

“I think sedan racing and sports car racing is the future of racing,” Stallings said after recently unveiling a No. 99 “Red Dragon” show car for the benefit of GAINSCO Insurance employees in the trendy Turtle Creek section of Big D. “The fans connect with that car better. Racing buffs like the Prototypes but the fans want to see something that is at least similar to something that they own or that they can own. I’ve been to a couple of the Pirelli World Challenge races and the fans are rabid. They love it. So this is actually the future.”

Prototype racing became a part of Stallings’ past in December, with the announcement that his organization was abandoning the merged and fledgling IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship for the PWC. Fogarty, who teamed with Alex Gurney to win GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype championships in 2007 and 2009, will drive the Hyundai “Red Dragon” in the World Challenge’s GTS class this spring.

Recall that GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing suspended operations of its Corvette DP program last Feb. 25, one month after Memo Gidley’s life-threatening crash less than three hours into the Rolex 24 at Daytona, North America’s premier endurance event.

Stallings and Fogarty are convinced Hyundai’s recent hire of Albert Biermann to oversee testing and development of a new line of high-performance Hyundai and sister company Kia models is evidence the South Korean manufacturer is serious about ramping-up its racing presence. Biermann, former vice president of

Jon Fogarty and Bob Stallings unveil the Hyundai Genesis Coupe show car for GAINSCO Insurance employees in Dallas.

engineering at BMW’s M performance division, will join the Hyundai Group on April 1.

A native of Germany, Biermann reportedly will be based at Hyundai’s R&D Center in Namyang, South Korea, as the company’s second-highest foreign executive _ after German-born design chief Peter Schreyer. During a career at BMW that began in 1983, Biermann oversaw development of the latest generation M3, M4, M5 and M6, along with a limited lineup of M Performance models.

The other powerbrokers in the Hyundai corporate food chain are Chairman Mong-Koo Chung and Dave Zuchowski, chief operating officer of Hyundai Motor America.

Fogarty noted Hyundai’s current motorsports initiative is its World Rally Championship program. “But that has absolutely zero exposure in North America,” Fogarty said. “So I’m hoping they see that what we’re doing with GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing…there’s value in that and they can get behind us and provide more support. You’ve got to have a motorsports presence. I mean, Honda’s stepping back into F1, everybody’s excited about that. Honda’s always seen the value from an engineering side of being involved in motorsports. There’s other examples, like Porsche…you build cars, you’ve got to race ‘em. If you’re passionate about the automobile you’d want to race. It’s the ultimate proving ground.”

Along those lines, Stallings _ who has enjoyed a long and successful relationship with General Motors via its Pontiac and Chevrolet brands _ is not convinced of The General’s long-term commitment to exotic Prototype racing. “In fact, General Motors has said they’re not going to race unless they can see the car _ the product _ in their showroom,” Stallings said. “It would not surprise me if you see GM out of Prototypes when the new car comes out in 2017. My guess is they’ll be out of it.”

As new owner of a Hyundai dealership in the Dallas metro area, Stallings is a member of the company’s dealer council. “I have a pretty good idea where they’re headed,” Stallings said. “Hyundai wants to build a high-performance car. This company’s history is (when) they decide they’re going to do something, it happens.”

Fogarty and the bright red Genesis show car were the stars of a program celebrating the 10-year anniversary of GAINSCO’s entry into the insurance business. The company is marking its return to racing via the theme “We are GAINSCO Full-Throttle into the Next Generation.” Stallings said the show car will be on a coast-to-coast touring schedule for 280 days a year, visiting the 9,000 independent agents selling the company’s product.

“The (race) car will look a little different,” Stallings said. “The (rear) wing will be a little bit bigger, the car will be much lower. The front splitter will be bigger…and it’ll have a slightly different motor.”

Fogarty said that power plant will be Hyundai’s direct-injection 3.8-liter V6, key component of a project that otherwise is being built from scratch. “It is that and then some,” Fogarty said during an interview with RacinToday.com. “If you start from scratch, then you’re free to design from the ground up. When you’re dealing with a production car, you’ve got to take something and disassemble it and then re-assemble it in a similar but different fashion. So it’s really a lot more work than just from scratch.

“Taking a car that was engineered from the ground-up to be a race car is challenging, but it’s what I’m familiar with. It’s what our guys are familiar with, so taking a production-based car and reworking it to be a race car is something new to all of us, and it’s a lot of work.”

Stallings said the chassis is being built in Dallas, the engine in California. “The second engine will be a slightly different variation of that one,” Stallings said. “Terry Wilbert, our team manager, is building everything. We have some of our own staff building but we also have vendors building certain parts.

“We’ve built cars but we’ve never built a non-homologated car. Terry has, but it’s tough, especially because nobody’s ever built one. There’s obviously a lot of components that are similar to the street car but there’s a lot of components that are totally different. They’re replicas but they’re much stronger parts and it’s everything _ the gearbox, the motor, drive train, the rear end, the uprights, springs, struts _ everything is different. So we have to have a lot of things made, and people haven’t made them before. We have people in London that are making parts, we have people in California making parts, people in Indianapolis making parts and our own people here making parts.”

Bob Stallings Racing was formed in 2001 and entered the professional sports car ranks in 2005, with Gurney and Fogarty quickly establishing the team as a road-racing juggernaut. The pair posted 16 victories, 31 poles and those two DP championships in 112 races over nine seasons.

Any number of fans have emerged via social media as critics of Stallings’ decision to exit Prototype racing in favor of the PWC’s formula for various classes of sedans. Those fans-turned-critics maintain that Stallings and Fogarty are taking a step-down on the competition ladder.

“Yeah, of course,” said Fogarty, who holds the record for most GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series poles with 25. “If you were to base everything just on what sort of lap times the vehicle is able to produce on any given track, I think that’s a pretty limited and one-dimensional view of motorsport. Technologically speaking, yeah, the car is not as sophisticated but it’s still a super-competitive environment. GT racing is a different animal altogether. There’s various forms of it globally. Pirelli World Challenge is now one of the prominent ones and it’s competitive. So I don’t think we’re making a step backwards in any way, shape or form relative to the level that we have to compete at.

“The short (50-minute) races, it’s going to be a real dogfight out there and real exciting. But we’re building one car by hand right now and we don’t have a bunch of spares, so I’m going to have to be a little bit careful with it. Hopefully that won’t be forever.”

Stallings said the Hyundai’s first on-track test likely will take place in late March at Motorsport Ranch in Cresson, outside of Fort Worth. The team plans to skip the season’s first two races, including the March 6-8 opener at Circuit of The Americas in Austin. “I think we’ll be ready to go at Barber Motorsports Park,” said Stallings, referring to Rounds 5 and 6 of GTS in Birmingham, Ala., on April 24 and 26. “The main thing for me is get the car built and sorted.”

Both Fogarty and Stallings also answered critics who have suggested the Hyundai Genesis Coupe is not worthy of carrying on the legacy of the “Red Dragon” Prototypes. “The spirit of the Red Dragon is more in the people behind the car than the car itself,” said Fogarty, who joined the team early in the 2006 season. “I mean, the car might be the embodiment of it, the physical representation. But the same belly-full of fire, we’ll bring that to anything we race. So I think it’s the Red Dragon.”

Stallings said the “charisma and the persona” of the Red Dragon created an unanticipated emotional connection with countless fans. “I’ve never seen a race team have that,” Stallings said. “And so many people talked to us about it that I just couldn’t let it die. The Red Dragon is our team, it’s our culture, it’s our belief in each other and it’s our connection with our fans. It’s a unique way of racing.

“You know, we did some things that nobody else has ever done. We’re a little bitty team that took on the giants, like Penske, and we won. And we beat Penske and we beat Ganassi and Jon set more track records in qualifying poles than any other sports car driver in history. And he did all that in our car. And that’s all part of the Red Dragon.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, February 2 2015
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