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USCC Point Standings
2014 After Road Atlanta
Prototype Drivers
Pos Drivers Total
Prototype Drivers
1 Joao Barbosa 349
1 Christian Fittipaldi 349
2 Jordan Taylor 330
2 Ricky Taylor 330
3 Michael Valiante 318
3 Richard Westbrook 318
4 Scott Pruett 317
5 Gustavo Yacaman 287
6 Memo Rojas 285
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8 Johannes van Overbeek 262
9 Ryan Dalziel 228
9 Scott Sharp 228
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11 Tristan Nunez 208
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13 Eric Curran 175
14 Olivier Pla 172
15 Alex Brundle 169
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18 Tom Long 137
19 Katherine Legge 131
20 Max Angelelli 121
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22 Brian Frisselle 106
23 Sage Karam 104
24 Sebastien Bourdais 100
25 Gabby Chaves 82
26 Scott Dixon 81
27 HoPin Tung 80
28 Mike Rockenfeller 76
29 Marino Franchitti 24 8 36 1 60
30 Tristan Vautier 59
31 Jon Fogarty 55
32 Simon Pagenaud 52
33 David Brabham 50
34 Tony Kanaan 50
35 Max Papis 49
36 Klaus Graf 46
36 Lucas Luhr 46
37 Guy Cosmo 46
38 Anthony Lazzaro 46
39 Ben Devlin 46
40 Justin Wilson 43
41 Byron DeFoor 41
41 David Hinton 41
41 Jim Pace 41
42 Wayne Taylor 33
43 Fabien Giroix 31
43 John Martin 31
44 Alex Popow 30
45 Roman Rusinov 26
45 Oliver Webb 26
46 Kyle Larson 24
47 Frank Beck 23
48 Bradley Smith 22
49 Jamie McMurray 21
50 AJ Allmendinger 20
51 Jann Mardenborough 19
52 James Hinchcliffe 19
53 Alexander Rossi 16
54 Sebastian Saavedra 16
55 Brendon Hartley 15
55 E.J. Viso 15
56 Memo Gidley 14
56 Alex Gurney 14
57 Scott Mayer 3
58 Pierre Kaffer 1
59 Darren Law 1
Collector Cars: A Primer on Porsche's Amazing 550

by Stephen Cox
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

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This Porsche 550 sold for $3.75 million
David Newhardt/Mecum Auctions
I confess that I am a muscle car guy. Can't help it. I grew up cruising Mustangs and Torino's on the strip on Saturday night. But after watching Mecum Auctions sell Porsche 550-0077 for over 3.7 million dollars at Monterey last weekend, I couldn't help but be impressed with the little machine.

The 550 was Porsche's first race-specific design. Introduced in Paris in 1953, the 550 was famously modeled after a series of home-built cars from racer Walter Glockler utilizing a mid-engine layout and aerodynamic efficiency to squeeze the most out of a small engine. The first two prototypes were produced by Porsche in early 1953, using a ladder-style frame more suited to an early 20th century tractor than a modern sports car.

David Newhardt/Mecum Auctions
But the design took a massive leap forward with the third prototype when Porsche lowered the center of gravity by affixing the axles to the top of the frame rather than the bottom. This stroke of genius was improved further by making the center cross member bolt into place (rather than fixed by a permanent weld) to greatly simplify engine maintenance at the race track. The result was significantly reduced rear wheel lift under braking and superior turn-in qualities upon entering a corner.

The new 550 scored a class win in its first outing in May 1953, followed two weeks later by a victory in the 1.5 liter Sports class at Le Mans where the aerodynamically slippery 550 notched 124 miles per hour along the Mulsanne Straight despite its microscopic engine.

The new cars were also produced in road-going versions, with many of them being imported into the USA in the early 1950's by folks such as California auto dealer and race driver John von Neumann. The 550 was elite and rarely seen, with fewer than 150 produced by 1959.

One of them (chassis number 55) was purchased by a popular young actor named James Dean, who was also a Porsche aficionado and aspiring racer. Dean traded in his bubble-shaped Porsche 356 for the newer 550 model on September 21, 1955 and immediately entered it in the Salinas Road Race in early October. He would not live long enough to drive it in competition.

Just nine days after the purchase, Dean suffered a fatal automobile crash at Cholame Junction near the corner of California Route 46 and 41. The highly-publicized death of a Hollywood star forever sealed the unforgettable legacy of the Porsche 550, both on the track and on the street.

Today, the 550 is among the most replicated cars in history with numerous aftermarket companies making home-built kits available for less than $50,000. Many of them have the look and feel of the original 550 with a few modern amenities to boot.

Genuine 550's are still available as well, though prohibitively expensive. The most affordable versions are the 550A's, the first cars with the improved space frame chassis. With no significant provenance, such cars occasionally come up for auction starting in the $200,000 range. Authentic 550's with a notable history sell for upwards of one million dollars.

The most prized 550's today are the racing versions with earlier serial numbers. The car sold at Mecum Monterey last weekend – chassis 550-0077 – is a prime example.

This machine is believed to be the first racing 550 to be produced with Porsche's improved, high-rigidity chassis designed for better cornering. It was built for Belgian racing driver Christian Goethals, who promptly put the car in the winner's circle at the Grand Prix des Frontiers in 1956. After a successful racing career in western Europe, the car was then shipped to the United States where it was raced by Thomas Payne, who would later become a factory driver at Shelby American.

Porsche 550-0077 was one of the mega-stars of Mecum's Monterey auction, which also included one of Nigel Mansell's Formula One racecars and an authentic competition Shelby Cobra. The little Porsche drew massive crowds all weekend as well as spirited bidding that resulted in a sale for $3,750,000.

Despite the fact that it was desperately underpowered and introduced before a suitable engine was available for it, the Porsche 550 remains an amazing street machine with a legendary racing history littered with victories from Le Mans to the Targa Florio.

Even a muscle car guy can appreciate that.

Stephen Cox

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