GTP Chassis 2:
Vehicle History by John Starkey
Even amongst such high-powered thoroughbreds as the last batch
of GTP/Group C cars built in the early 1990s, the Intrepid stands
out as a mighty Beast. Few race cars have had so much downforce
and so much power. Just one look at that imposingly bluff front
end tells you that the Intrepid was built for winning.
Intrepid saw the light of day as the dream fulfilment of one Jim
Miller. Miller had made his money through heading up a big travel
agency and had taken up Trans Am racing. He liked racing so much
that he determined to build his own GTP car and so formed up with
Gray Pratt to start a shop in Wixom, Michigan, where he campaigned
his first GTP car, a 1989 Chevrolet Spice.
Ever the driving force behind building his dream GTP car, Miller
commissioned Bob Riley, of Riley and Scott fame, to design a car
to win the IMSA GTP Championship. In actual fact, Bob Riley had
already sketched out a design for an extremely high downforce GTP
car some years before and Pratt & Miller, complete with EDS
sponsorship that came along with Tommy Kendall as a driver, soon
had a car ready to test. Built with a carbon-fiber chassis, whose
side-pods doubled as bodywork side-members, Intrepid was built along
conventional lines, but with extremely strong suspension pieces
to take the downforce that the car could develop, some five times
its own weight of just 1,850 pounds.
Although Miller wound up using a Katech built 6.5 liter Chevrolet
V8, with splayed valves, for Intrepid, he had originally wanted
to use a Judd F1 V-10. However, the weight breaks in the IMSA rules
favored the home-grown product and Intrepid found itself with 800
horsepower which, although a mighty amount by normal standards,
was not always enough to overcome the enormous downforce and drag
that the car produced. So great was the downforce, Intrepid could
achieve over 3.5Gs in cornering.
In February, 1991, the Intrepid was tested for the first time
at Firebird Raceway, Arizona and it was immediately apparent to
those present that they had a potential winner on their hands. Wayne
Taylor had been hired to partner Tommy Kendall and immediately turned
in competitive lap times. Although the car was comparatively slow
down the straights, due to the induced drag of the bodywork, it
more than made up for it through the corners. So great were the
braking and cornering forces that Taylor needed his safety straps
done up extra tightly!
Intrepid first raced at West Palm Beach in March, 1991 and Taylor
impressed immediately and finished second in the race to the even
more powerful Jaguar XJR-10 driven by Davy Jones. Impressively,
Taylor beat the then-dominant Nissan NPTI-90 into third place, a
car that could raise over 1100 horsepower in qualifying. Not only
that, but Taylor set the fastest lap of the race. Ironically, his
EDS-sponsored partner, Tommy Kendall had set pole position in his
Chevrolet-powered Spice, but was beaten into fourth place in the
Tommy Kendall soon had his own Intrepid and raced it for the first
time at Lime Rock. He took full advantage of the new car, putting
it onto pole position and breaking the previous lap record by 2.4
seconds. In the race, Tommy lapped all but the leading Nissan until
he had an unfortunate “coming together” with his team
mate. Although both cars continued, they wound up being fourth and
fifth at the end. Next up came Mid-Ohio where the pair finished
in second and third, beaten only by the fleet new Jaguar XJR-16.
At a teeming wet New Orleans street circuit, it all came good for
Intrepid and Tommy Kendall, at last taking victory, but at the following
race at Watkins Glen, things turned very sour. Poor Tommy suffered
broken legs when his Intrepid’s right rear hub disintegrated.
Kendall was out of action until the beginning of 1992, but was the
first to tell people that he probably would have been killed in
any other GTP car of the period.
For 1992, Wayne Taylor organized a team around himself and Jeff
Purner and Brian Bonner with Tom Milner Racing. Miller carried on
with the returning Tommy Kendall and their best result was a second
place at Road Atlanta. Intrepid’s speed had been usurped by
Dan Gurney’s lightweight Eagle-Toyotas.
By now, four Intrepids had been built and Wayne Taylor drove the
Bruce Barkelew-financed car in 1993. Despite the car catching fire
at Miami, Wayne still finished in second place. Sadly, that was
the best result of the season, a string of DNFs following.
With the emergence of the HSR “Thundersports” series,
the Intrepid has established itself once again at the front end
of the pack whenever it has appeared. Even today there are few cars
its equal on the racetrack and none better.
Excerpt from Car & Driver Interview with Gary Pratt
& Driver Interview >>>)
...Ironically, it may have been Miller who lured Pratt into the
most expensive car of their careers. Fourteen years ago, Miller,
Pratt, and Riley were sitting in the airport in Columbus, Ohio.
Miller asked, “What would it cost to build an IMSA GTP car,
the most advanced on the planet?” Pratt and Riley began doodling
on an envelope. Miller looked at the figures and said: “Okay,
I’ll bankroll this if you guys build it. And while you’re
doing that, I’ll go out and find a car company to back us.”
Thus was born the Intrepid, costing five times what Miller originally
expected, “as daunting a race car as I’ve ever built,”
Pratt says today. “Composite everything, a body with amazing
aero tricks, a design that’d been in Bob Riley’s head
for 10 years. Then, right at the end, Jim walks in and says, ‘Hey,
guess who I got as our sponsor? Chevrolet.’ I thought, Boy,
I need to hang on to this guy.”
The Intrepid was full of surprises, not all of them pleasant. At
Watkins Glen, the 800-horse prototype ran only 175 mph through the
traps—35 mph slower than the Jaguars and Porsches. “Yet
our lap times were identical to theirs,” remembers Pratt.
“I looked at Bob, Bob looked at me. He said, ‘We must
be making twice the downforce we expected."...
Intrepid Chassis 2 is the car crashed by Tommy Kendall at Watkins
Glen. Now undergoing full restoration, the car will feature a new
tub built from the original molds with many of the original chassis
components (including the chassis plate, of course) with the original
Intrepid drive train, bodywork, and ancellaries (brake systems,
cooling systems, etc.). The car will also feature modern Motec electronics.
With only four cars in existence, the Intrepid enjoys an extraordinary
combination of attributes - exclusivity, extreme performance, reliability,
and long-term maintainability.
View partial molds & spares inventory
-- SOLD --
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