Ernie de Jacomo, G Production Roadster Racer
B Y R O B B E D D I N G T O N
Ernie de Jacomo, of Cerritos, California, started campaigning his Datsun 1600 in G Production in the early 1980s. By this time, Sam Armour and Al James had already shown themselves as strong contenders in the GP class, although no-one was to come close to the consistency of Joe Hauser, who had campaigned his Datsun at every Runoffs since 1974.
A front runner at Regional level, Ernie was to become a regular contender for national honours. Although he never made the podium, Ernie qualified and finished well on a number of occasions, and provided some spectacular racing.
Running in the SCCA's CSCC Region (SP Division), Ernie's first Runoffs came in 1983. Here, qualifying 20th, Ernie shook a few Sprite, Midget and Spitfire old hands, by battling up to 13th.
In 1985 Ernie held 5th place for a while, after passing Kent Prather's MGA on the 2nd lap. In some really close racing, and under pressure from Al James (Datsun), Robert Snow (X1-9) and Bob Thomas (Sprite), Ernie eventally placed 6th, the top placed Datsun roadster driver from six starters.
Around this time, the first corner at Road Atlanta was becoming renowned for 1st lap carnage. Ernie was no stranger to this. At the 1986 Runoffs, where he qualified third, no less than five cars went out on the first lap. Among them was Bob Thomas, in his X1-9, who had qualified 2nd on the front row. Over the start line Ernie was on a charge, and attacked Bob down the inside. They traded paint, Bob span, and was out of the race. Bob's protest was not upheld, both drivers being blamed in equal proportions, and Ernie's eventual 4th place his highest Runoffs finish, stood.
In the 1987 race Ernie qualified 10th fastest, and fought his way up to a magnificent third in the race, passing the likes of Sam Armour, Joe Hauser and Kent Prather in the process. From lap 9, a three lap duel to keep third place from the would be '88 & '89 national champion Tom Mankin, in his Alfa Spider, ensued. Although Ernie was fastest on the straights, Mankin had the better of the Datsun on the corners and he eventually passed Ernie on the 12th lap. Very soon after, Ernie hit a patch of oil dumped by Jim Layton's Spitfire, slid into a tyre wall, and retired.
|Ernie de Jacomo Roadster Gallery|
|Valvoline Runoffs, Road Atlanta, 1985|
|Ernie heads the pack, Road Atlanta, 1986|
|Ernie chases Joe Hauser, Road Atlanta, 1987|
Probably the most notable incident of Ernie's career was on the 1st lap in 1988, his last Runoffs, which is remembered for the wrong reasons. Ernie had qualified well. This time, Sam Armour, at the wheel of his 1600, was on a charge. Sam tangled with Jack Brock in his Austin-Healey Sprite and Ernie got caught up in the crossfire - all three fell off the track and Brock's Sprite barrel-rolled to a stop. The two Datsuns hit the tyre wall with force, with Armour's car finishing on top of Ernie's. Both cars were scrap, and Sam had the indignity of being disqualified into the bargain.
The GP Runoffs
The aftermath of the 1988 incident, which also appears on the Sam Armour pages, can be seen in a series of images by clicking here - photographs courtesy of Alan Poindexter.
1988 was Ernie's last Runoffs in GP, although in 1996 he was still compaigning a Nissan 240SX in the SCCA's GT3 Nasport Series, against the likes of Nissan competition chief Frank Honsowetz (also a former Roadster campaigner), and Jeff Scoville, the son of 1969 DP champion Jack Scoville.
Ernie's record in G Production at the ARRC is listed below.
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