This article is from http://www.johnnyoconnell.com
At the end of my Jim Russell season in 1985, I was invited to test my first Super-Vee. For me it was a really big deal as it was a proper car, and back then super vee was the series all of the up and coming drivers were competing in. The car was the one pictured…an Anson SA-6, which was designed by Gary Anderson, who later went on to design for Jordan F-1. I remember being totally amazed by both the power and handling of the Super-vee, and I couldn’t wait to get a chance to race it.
At the end of 1985, my sister met a fellow and told him about me. His name is Jerry Conrad and was without a doubt the biggest influence on my career, as he took me under his wing and helped finance my racing the next two years.
In 1986 we did most of the Super-Vee series, but really had no luck with the teams we ran with. Lots of silly problems, but at that level it didn’t take much for things to not go your way. Twice we should have won races when we had mechanical problems, and then we had two second place finishes which we should have won, but had bad luck with yellow flags. Still, it was a learning experience.
Going into 1987, money was tough for Jerry to spend on racing, but he told me I could sell all of our equipment, and then take the money from it and use it to go racing. We made just over $75,000 from the equipment, and I went searching.
I started looking at the Formula Atlantic series, and soon hooked up with Alister McNeill. We didn’t have the full budget, but he said lets see how things go, and we would worry about money as the season went on.
Well making a long story short, we won the championship, rookie of the year, and the gloysports award that was given to the driver that showed the most promise of achieving success in the sport. Alister turned out to be one of the most dedicated guys I’ve known, and he totally wanted to win just as much as I did. We had by far the smallest budget out there, but between he and our mechanic Rick Cameron, we pretty much dominated.
We never even tested or anything, just showed up really prepared with one motor…that was only rebuilt once during the season. For sure it was a great year, and finally got my name to where I was starting to get noticed.
One final thing about the 1987 season that was note worthy is that I got reintroduced to Bobby Rahal. I had met him when I went to Denison, his Alma Mater as well, and let him know that I was trying to get started in racing. He of course was having great success back then, and he made the mistake of saying that if he could ever do anything to help me out…just give him a call. Well needless to say, I took him up on his offer…which I’ll go over as we go further…
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