Today’s AN1 Images Memory Lane takes us back to the days of the mighty turbo-powered Champ Cars tackling the streets of the Gold Coast.
Sadly those days have passed but the memories are still strong and this shot of 2003 race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay takes us back to an interesting period of history in American open wheeler racing.
Honda and Toyota – along with Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and what became Andretti Green Racing – had all departed for the Indy Racing League and the 2003 Champ Car field was a range of rookies, the odd established star and some hard chargers all with Cosworth engines powering their campaigns.
Hunter-Reay was behind the wheel of a Reynard chassis, a car that struggled all season in the wake of the dominant Lola. He qualified 12th, three spots in front of American Spirit Team Johansson teammate, 1996 CART Champ Jimmy Vasser.
The young American combined some savvy strategy, strong driving and some good luck (the pits closed when most of the front-runners intended to make their last stop) to become the first American Champ Car race winner in his rookie season since John Paul Jr. at Michigan two decades earlier.
Hunter-Reay also became the fourth driver to win the first Champ Car race of their career on the Gold Coast at the time, joining John Andretti (1991), Nigel Mansell (1993) and Mario Dominguez (2002) in this exclusive club.
Hunter-Reay led home Brit Darren Manning (Walker Racing) and Vasser to make an all-Reynard podium, the first time this had occurred since Vancouver 2001 and the last time this occurred in the series.
The Reynard 02I fell victim to the sheer pace of the Lola of the era as well as the fact that the category had introduced a chassis freeze on performance development in a bid to curb costs – and of course the fact that Reynard Motorsport had been declared bankrupt the previous season and the inventory, IP and assets then on-sold to Champ Car team owner Derrick Walker.
When we look at this great shot of Hunter-Reay it actually gets the brain jogging – just what did happen to so many of those Champ Car chassis of the era?
Hunter-Reay’s 2003 Gold Coast win was the last Champ Car win for a Reynard – we’d love to know where his winning car from this photo ended up.
Is it in a private collection? Is it sitting as a bare chassis in the corner of a workshop somewhere? Has it been lost to the ravages of time?
Maybe it’s time we fired up the keyboard and did some online ‘Sleuthing’…