69 players participated in the three preliminary heats of
this year's championship. Each heat drew 31 team principals at
six tables. Competition was fierce; of five players who entered
all three heats (including one former champion and Runner-Up),
only one advanced to the Semi-finals. That was Rich Phares, who
in the second heat suffered at least one Not Classified (failed
to finish) result in every race!
only 15 qualifiers were on hand for the six-race semi-finals
Saturday evening, including two alternates; two others who had
participated in the heats were allowed to race, and Mark Herman
graciously agreed to play at the third table despite knowing
he would not be permitted to advance.
At Table 1, Scott Nerney took the lead by winning the third
race and held on for a 37-point victory. Barbara Flaxington and
Ron Wuerth also advanced with 31 points, having won two races
Table 2's Peter Perla proved that consistency is the key to
success in Formula Motor Racing, finishing with 33 points
without winning a race. Instead, he combined four 2nd-place finishes
with only one Not Classified result, while all five other players
had at least two cars expire. Runner-up Matt Calkins failed to
score a single point in the last race after winning the previous
two, and his 30 points were not enough to make it into the Finals.
Despite trailing the field after two races, Mike Nagel won
the last race at Table 3 to grab a 35-point victory and become
the only repeat finalist from last year. Going into the fifth
race, Bill Place had a 10-point lead, but managed only one fifth-place
finish in the last two races. Still, that was enough ... barely!
... to squeak into the Finals with 32 points.
Unlike last year, everyone drove with abandon in the Finals,
resulting in no less than 19 cars Not Classified in a seesaw
battle for the Championship. A crash at Melbourne took out one
of Perla's Ferraris and Wuerth's Jaguars, leaving the field clear
for a Flaxington Toyota to finish 1st. A Jaguar won the second
race at Imola, but a Toyota crossed the line right behind to
keep Flaxington in the lead with 16 points. Both of the Toyota
engines blew at Monaco, and when the dust cleared after another
Ferrari-Jaguar collision, Nagel's Jordan was the surprise winner
for a 6-point lead. Perla's Ferraris had yet to score a single
point; Place's Williams were tied for second with the Toyotas.
Then it was the turn of the front-running Jordan and Toyota to
collide at Silverstone, leaving one of Wuerth's Jaguars to take
the checkered flag and the series lead. That was not to last,
however, as the two Jags contrived to crash into one another
in the fifth race at Monza! A Nerney Minardi won the race, but
another 2nd place put Flaxington back into the overall lead.
Going into the final contest, only the Ferraris were out of
contention, with seven points separating the fifth-place Minardis
from the Toyotas. Suzuka proved to be another high-attrition
race, with no less than five cars Not Classified at the finish.
For the third time one of the Ferraris crashed out, this time
taking one of Nagel's Jordans with it. A Jaguar spun all the
way to the back of the field, and though it eventually clawed
back to take a single point, Wuerth would end up fourth overall.
A Toyota also spun out and stalled, but Flaxington's remaining
car finished 3rd for 32 points total. Both Minardis avoided the
carnage, but second and fifth wouldn't prove good enough for
Nerney, who finished in third place. On the final lap, the last
Jordan charged from second place in an all-or-nothing bid, but
it was not to be Nagel's Cosworth engine blew up in flames,
leaving victory in the race and the Championship to Place's reliable
Williams team, which had scored in every race. This should not
have come as a surprise, since Bill had won both the heats he
Special thanks are once again due to dedicated Assistant GMs
Mike Nagel and Chris LeFevre for their support during the event.
FMR Finalists (clockwise from left
to right): Scott Nerney, Ron Wuerth, Peter Perla, Barbara Flaxington,
Mike Nagel and Bill Place.