In 2001, the Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) World Challenge Championship was in its twelfth season. For the third year, Speedvision was the primary sponsor. SCCA had developed a successful format that attracted competitors and fans. A couple changes of note for this year:
  • There were larger purses due to an increase in the number of sponsors.
  • Competitors would be using a new spec tire from Toyo.

Race weekends included two standing start races (limited to fifty-minutes) – one for the Grand Touring class and another for the Touring Cars.

  • Grand Touring (GT) – The GT class rules accommodate an extensive range of vehicles from different manufacturers. There is no limit to the engine displacement in this category and cars may use a forced induction system. To stop the cars, alternative materials may be utilized for the brake pads and shoes. Rules also allow the use of four-piston calipers but rotors are limited to 14-inches in diameter. The maximum diameter of the wheels is 18-inches and any changes to the bodywork must be approved. The series uses a spec tire and competitors race on Toyo Proxes RA-1s.
  • Touring Car (TC) – The Touring Cars are limited to an engine displacement of 2.8-liters. The motors must be naturally aspirated (turbochargers or superchargers are not permitted). The Touring Cars are also allowed four-piston calipers and alternative materials for the brake pads and shoes but the maximum rotor diameter is 12-inches. Wheels in this group are limited to 17-inches. Cars can be fitted with a spec rear wing and approved aftermarket bodywork. This category also uses a spec tire from Toyo – the Proxes T1-S.

To prevent any driver/car combination from dominating the class and ensuring tight competition, the R.E.W.A.R.D.S. System was implemented. Introduced in 1995, R.E.W.A.R.D.S. is the acronym for ‘Rewarding of Equalizing Weight Assigned to Reduce Driver Sensitivity.' This weight equalization rule adds or removes ballast from a car based on the finishing position of a driver.

There were eight-race weekends during the 2001 season. The opening rounds were in March at Texas Motor Speedway and Sebring, Florida. Teams weren’t back in action until May at Mosport International Raceway and Lime Rock Park. Lime Rock would be a doubleheader for the Touring Cars. The next event would be at Detroit’s Belle Isle which was just for the Grand Touring category. The championship would move to the west coast with races at Sears Point Raceway, Portland International Raceway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The schedule initially included a round at Charlotte Motor Speedway but when the American Le Mans Series announced the cancellation of their event at Charlotte, the World Challenge championship lost its season finale. To replace it a doubleheader was scheduled for the twelve-turn 2.54-mile road course at Road Atlanta.

The field is gridded for the season’s final Speedvision World Challenge Grand Touring race. On the pole, for the second time, this weekend in Peter Cunningham driving the RealTime Racing prepared Acura NSX. Sharing the front row with Cunningham is the Audi S4 Competition of the point’s leader, Michael Galati. Behind these two is Galati’s teammate, Derek Bell and the defending series champion, Jeff McMillin in a BMW M3.
Entering the final two rounds, Michael Galati led the Grand Touring title chase by a mere fourteen points. Galati’s primary challenger was his former employer, RealTime Racing principal, Peter Cunningham. If Cunningham won both races, he would still require a couple of top finishes to secure the championship. A win on Friday and a runner-up finish on Sunday gave Galati the crown by twelve points.
At Road Atlanta, Peter Cunningham was chasing two championships – Drivers and Manufacturers. In qualifying for the weekend’s first event, Cunningham put the Acura NSX on the pole. At the start of race one, he lost the top spot to the Audis but fought back for a second-place finish. On Sunday, Cunningham qualified first and led flag-to-flag. Unfortunately, his efforts were not enough to secure either title.
A mechanical issue in round one resulted in a sixteenth-place finish for Johannes van Overbeek. After this event, his season turned around and he was a regular visitor to the podium and won the Sears Point race. Van Overbeek entered the final weekend third in the standings with a mathematical chance at the championship. However, strong finishes from Michael Galati and Peter Cunningham didn’t change his position in the title chase.
Derek Bell drove the second Champion Audi S4. Bell was having a miserable season but his luck changed in the finale. At Road Atlanta, his support was needed to help Michael Galati claim the Driver’s title and for Audi to capture the Manufacturer’s championship. In race one, Bell kept Peter Cunningham at bay while Galati pulled away for the victory – he finished third. In the weekend’s final contest, Bell grabbed the final spot on the podium.
The Grand Touring podium for the penultimate race of the 2001 Speedvision World Challenge series. In the center is the race winner, Michael Galati. The victory allowed, Galati to stretch his championship lead to seventeen points. On the left side of the rostrum is the runner-up and title contender, Peter Cunningham. And on the right, earning his best finish of the season and also from Champion Audi is Derek Bell.
In 2000, Mike Fitzgerald had three straight victories in Grand Touring but this year was proving more challenging. His season included six top-five finishes in eight races but no wins. Entering the final weekend, he was fourth in the championship. Fitzgerald started race one in fifth place but lost positions to Eric Curran and Boris Said to finish sixth. On Sunday, he qualified and finished in ninth – retaining his position in the final standings.
Eric Curran drove the No. 15 Chevrolet Corvette and only competed in four events. He qualified tenth for Friday’s contest. During the race, Curran worked his way up the race order and by lap-21 of 27, he was in fourth. Curran held the position and earned the Borla Performance Award. In the final race of the season, he was gridded tenth but an electrical issue prevented him from starting the event.
Entering the final weekend, the defending series champion, Jeff McMillin was fifth in the standings. Unlike last year where he consistently finished in the top-ten, McMillin had a fourteenth at Mosport followed by a twelfth place at Lime Rock. His results at Road Atlanta did not impact his position in the title chase. In the weekend’s first contest, McMillin was eighth and he concluded the season with a fourth-place finish.
Jimmy Adams was another driver whose season got off to a poor start. In the first race at Texas, he started thirteenth but finished twenty-sixth after retiring with a mechanical issue. However, his year also included some bright spots – a runner-up finish at Lime Rock and at Laguna Seca he was third. Adams entered the final weekend six in the title chase. Unfortunately, his results at Road Atlanta dropped him one place in the final standings.
The No. 73 Chevrolet Corvette was driven by Phil McClure. McClure had a year with mixed results. He was generally at the top or the bottom of the finishing order. McClure recorded a third place at Sears Point but had a season-low of twenty-sixth at Lime Rock. The final weekend did not go particularly well – in race one he started thirteenth and finished fourteenth and in the last contest of 2001, McClure was seventh after qualifying fifth.
The final Grand Touring podium for the 2001 Speedvision World Challenge season. The winner for the fifth time this year, Peter Cunningham stands in the center. Despite his best efforts, Cunningham missed securing the Driver’s title by twelve points and the Manufacturer’s championship for Acura by a single marker. Standing to Cunningham’s right in the runner-up and new champion, Michael Galati and on left finishing third, Derek Bell.

12Michael GalatiAudi S4 Competition27-
21Peter CunninghamAcura NSX27-
33Derek BellAudi S4 Competition27-
410Eric CurranChevrolet Corvette C527-
56Boris SaidFord Mustang27-
65Mike FitzgeraldPorsche 911 Cup27-
74Justin JacksonPorsche 911 Cup27-
89Jeff McMillinBMW M327-
915Jimmy AdamsPorsche 911 Cup27-
108Andy LallyChevrolet Corvette C527-
117Johannes van OverbeekPorsche 911 Cup27-
1212James SofronasBMW M327-
1316Justin MarksPorsche 911 Cup27-
1413Phil McClureChevrolet Corvette C527-
1519Daniel EastmanPorsche 993 RSR27-
1618Bill CooperChevrolet Corvette ZR127-
1714Bob MillerPorsche 911 Cup27-
1822Walter SwickBMW M327-
1917Trip GoolsbyPorsche 911 Cup27-
2021Hank CohnPorsche 911 Cup26-
2123Peter TonelliToyota Supra26-
2225Carol HollfelderFerrari 355 C25-
2320Alain ChebeirBMW M Coupe25-
2411David FarmerChevrolet Corvette C520-
2524Mark DixonPontiac Firebird18-
2626Bobby SakChevrolet Corvette C58Mechanical

11Peter CunninghamAcura NSX27-
22Michael GalatiAudi S4 Competition27-
33Derek BellAudi S4 Competition27-
44Jeff McMillinBMW M327-
58Justin JacksonPorsche 911 Cup27-
611Johannes van OverbeekPorsche 911 Cup27-
75Phil McClureChevrolet Corvette C527-
813Jimmy AdamsPorsche 911 Cup27-
99Mike FitzgeraldPorsche 911 Cup27-
106David FarmerChevrolet Corvette C527-
1114Justin MarksPorsche 911 Cup27-
1216Daniel EastmanPorsche 993 RSR27-
1315Bob MillerPorsche 911 Cup27-
1426Paul BrownChevrolet Corvette C527-
1520Walter SwickBMW M327-
1621Hank CohnPorsche 911 Cup27-
1718Trip GoolsbyPorsche 911 Cup21-
1817Bill CooperChevrolet Corvette ZR119-
1919Peter TonelliToyota Supra16-
2023Alain ChebeirBMW M Coupe13-
2125Mark DixonChevrolet Corvette C512Mechanical
2222Carol HollfelderFerrari 355 C8Electrical
237Boris SaidFord Mustang5Accident
2424Bobby SakChevrolet Corvette C53Mechanical
2512James SofronasBMW M31Accident
2610Eric CurranChevrolet Corvette C50Electrical

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