Home » Sports Cars

Hyundai Edition Of Red Dragon Ready To Roll

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, August 27 2015
The GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Red Dragon, with Jeff Harrison driving, will make its debut this weekend.

The GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Red Dragon, with Jeff Harrison driving, will make its Pirelli World Challenge debut this weekend.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Armed with a real-time appreciation for what it takes to homologate a Hyundai, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing will make its sedan-style debut in the Pirelli World Challenge at Sonoma Raceway this weekend.

bugfeatureThe first iteration of the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance/Bob Stallings Hyundai Genesis Coupe “Red Dragon” owned by Dallas businessman/racer Stallings will compete in Rounds 15 and 16 of the series’ Grand Touring Sport (GTS) schedule, with fellow-Texan Jeff Harrison subbing for regular driver Jon Fogarty.

A two-time Daytona Prototype champion in the former GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, Stallings’ organization last raced on Feb. 25, 2014. Memo Gidley’s massive crash at the wheel of the No. 99 Corvette DP during the Rolex 24 at Daytona _ debut event of the combined IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at Daytona International Speedway _ prompted Stallings’ decision to find new road-courses in the World Challenge.

Stallings’ original timetable had Fogarty and the Genesis Coupe up-and-running for Rounds 5 and 6 of the series in late April. Four months later, Stallings finally has a turn-key race car based on the showroom model available at his new North Texas Hyundai dealership.

“I feel like I was a little naïve in my expectations of when this car would be ready, as no one has ever homologated a Genesis Coupe in any way similar to what needs to happen to be competitive in this series,” Stallings said in an interview with RacinToday.com. “We also found the racing industry must be doing quite well because if you want to get something made _ a special part _ you have to get in line. That’s good for the industry.

“But we’ve got it ready to go. I don’t have that much in the way of expectations of how competitive we’ll be; the real big deal is to get it out on the track and see how we compare to people who regularly run in the series and get a feeling for how the series works, how tech works, all of that.”

The homologation process actually began nine months ago under the direction of team manager Terry Wilbert and engineer John Ward. Stallings said two 3.8-liter direct-injection V6 engines have been built by a vendor in California, featuring state-of-the art MoTeC ECU programming unit.

“The biggest issue, frankly, was not necessarily the engine but the suspension _ the A-arms, gearbox, drive train _ but the suspension more than anything else,” Stallings said of a car that weighs-in at 3,050 pounds with driver. The Hyundai’s racing chassis was built by Riley Technologies in Mooresville, N.C., one of three manufacturers authorized by the series.

“We know what the weight is and we have a chassis dyno to figure out what kind of power we have,” said Stallings, declining to release a brake horsepower number. “The key is to get to Sonoma and see if it’s better at the end of a straight or coming out of a corner.

“I think Terry would admit we were conservative; we wanted to make sure the car is very safe and durable. We don’t want a brake coming undone under extreme pressure in a race. That’s been the main issue, that all the pickup points are strong and the bolts and nuts won’t loosen under heavy loading. A regular passenger car, no matter what you do to it, it doesn’t come under the stress you come under during a race, especially on a road-course.”

Stallings’ Hyundai will compete in a wide-ranging class featuring the Aston Martin Vantage GT4, Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Ford Mustang Boss 302, Kia Optima, Nissan 370Z and Porsche Cayman S.

Harrison, “Club Pro Driver” at Jeff Farr’s MotorSport Ranch in Cresson, Texas, south of Fort Worth, put the first laps on the car during four recent test sessions. Stallings’ initial impression: “It looks pretty good and has a very distinct sound to it, which I like. You can tell that it’s the No. 99 car out there.”

Harrison impressed Stallings enough during testing to earn the job of driving the No. 99 in its debut in place of Fogarty, who has a commitment in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Fogarty will return for the season-finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and run the entire 2016 schedule, Stallings said.

“Spending a lot of time at MotorSport Ranch as an amateur, Jeff was out there quite a bit giving me pointers and encouragement,” Stallings said. “He’s a very poised guy and very talented. I tell people there’s all kinds of drivers in the United States that are awfully good and never had the opportunity to show what they’ve got. Jeff’s one of those guys, a really solid driver. He keeps the car on-track and tries to maximize the abilities of the car, especially when working on setups with the engineers and giving feedback. He’s good at communicating that.”

A native of Grapevine, Texas, Harrison moved to England at age 18 to chase his dream of competing in Formula One _ until his family funding ran out. Now 42, Harrison has found a home with Farr at MotorSport Ranch, billed as “A Sports Car Country Club” that has been serving clients of all competitive abilities in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex since 1996.

“That’s how I met Bob,” said Harrison, son of seven-time SCCA Midwest F-Production champion Neil Harrison. “I’m a fan of their program. And that’s how this whole thing came together.”

Harrison said once a pair of shakedown sessions were completed in the Genesis Coupe, he was given the OK to start hot-lapping MotorSport Ranch’s 1.7-mile/12-turn layout. His best time, Harrison said, was 1-minute, 14.8-seconds. In comparison, Harrison said his fastest lap around the same track in an F2000 car is 1:10.8. “This was literally after one day of running really hard and on one set of new tires,” Harrison said of the Hyundai. ”We did about 2 Gs through Big Bend, a fast-corner, minimum speed of 90 mph.

“The car is really drivable right now, and a lot of that goes to engineer John Ward. You’re putting the car through a lot more stress than it was ever designed for. Within the rules you can move the suspension pickup points maybe an inch from the starting point. The first day of testing we went with the stock pickup points. We were putting a lot more load on it…and anytime you’d shift gears it would wiggle. Second day, they had all the pickup points ready to go _ changed them all. The lap times just dropped on the same set of tires. We’re just making it stronger.”

Harrison said he never has competed on Sonoma’s 1.99-mile/11-turn layout. “I’ve been doing it on the simulator, got that going for me. But I’ve run on a lot of racetracks,” said Harrison, who has raced and won in a variety of classes including Porsche Super Cup, GRAND-AM GT, ARCA, Pro Mazda and USF2000 Pro National Series.  Early in his career, Harrison was invited to drive for the American Team in the Formula Ford Festival and was an inaugural Team Green Academy candidate.

Closer to home, Harrison jumped off his bicycle in July 2010 to save a mother and daughter who were drowning in the Trinity River near downtown Fort Worth. A slew of citizen service awards ensued, including a Hometown Hero Flight with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds in October 2011. Harrison was strapped into an F-16 with his name painted on it and told to chart a flight plan. He chose straight-up!

“I did 9.2 Gs,” Harrison said. “It would be the equivalent of getting in an F1 car in a big parking lot and being told, ‘Goof-off for an hour.’  Because I got that (opportunity), I can never say…’Things don’t work out for me’…and I can’t complain about taxes. I haven’t paid anywhere close to that (cost of the F-16).”

Similarly, Harrison said this weekend’s two race-stint in California’s wine country rates as a lifetime achievement award.  “I’ve never been given an opportunity to drive for a team like I am now, even though it’s one-race deal, and to show what I can do with a front-running team that’s really doing it right,” Harrison said. “As a driver, all I want is a team that has the ability and desire to do whatever it takes to win. Everyone wants to be a winner…until it’s time to do what it takes to be a winner.” 

Bob Stallings Racing joined the professional sports car racing ranks in 2005. The team earned its GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype titles in 2007 and 2009, finished second in 2008 and third in 2010, 2011 and 2013. The team has compiled 16 victories and 31 poles with a driver lineup that has included Stallings, Fogarty and fellow-two-time DP champion Alex Gurney, six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, 1996 CART  champion Jimmy Vasser, 2002 CART champ Cristiano da Matta, GT champion Darren Law and open-wheel/sports car veterans Gidley and Rocky Moran Jr.

Stallings said Dave Zuchowski, president/CEO of Hyundai Motor America, continues to keep tabs on his fledgling racing program, which currently is not factory-backed.

“They’re very interested in what we’re doing,” Stallings said. “Dave’s very aware of what’s going on and some of their tech people are very interested in the car, especially because we’re running a Genesis Coupe. Although no announcement has been made, there’s been quite a bit of speculation that Hyundai may come out with their first sort of ‘halo car,’ so I suspect they’re very interested in seeing how we do and how the car performs.

“My own hope is that they come out with a platform and engine combination that would be good enough to run in the top (World Challenge) class, the GT class, against some pretty heavy factory involvement…especially Cadillac.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, August 27 2015
No Comment

Comments are closed.