Friday favourite: The Bolton hard charger behind a GT giant-killing
Kurt Luby and Richard Dean were a hugely successful pairing in the late 1990s as British GT approached the end of its GT1 era. Dean picks out the Bolton wonder as his favourite team-mate from a period that yielded an against-the-odds outright win for a GT2 car and a one-off victory for a forgotten sportscar make
As the boss of top sportscar outfit United Autosports, Richard Dean appreciates more than most the worth of a good team-mate relationship. During a long and varied driving career that included beating Alain Menu to the 1990 Oulton Park Gold Cup and tasting success in Japan, Yorkshireman Dean formed strong connections with several drivers – but none quite like Kurt Luby. The pair were a dominant force on their way to scooping the 1998 British GT title, and were also a race-winning combination the following year with the underdeveloped and short-lived Sintura S99.
Having raced karts against each other before Bolton driver Luby had come through the ranks as a race-winner in Formula Vauxhall Lotus, they knew each other well before teaming up for the 1998 season to drive a Chrysler Viper GT2 originally entered under the Orion Motorsport banner. When team boss Gene Gibson faced a drugs charge on the eve of the Silverstone season opener, their combination looked set to be short-lived. But the cars were bought by American businessman Gordie Oftedahl, who retained Dean and Luby after they had finished sixth overall and second in GT2 at Silverstone.
Lining up under the Oftedahl Motorsport banner for round two at Oulton Park with its newly re-liveried red machine, Dean and Luby took the first of six class wins on the bounce – more than enough to secure the overall and GT2 class titles. It was the second national racing title in three years for Dean, who had dominated the 1996 Rover Turbo championship when a hoped-for move into the British Touring Car Championship failed to materialise.
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Dean found he and Luby were well-matched, favouring set-ups that were “pretty identical”, and enjoyed their time together at the track. The success, naturally, helped.
“We had such a laugh and a good season doing it,” he says of 1998. “When we won that season in the Dodge Viper, after we’d done free practice we’d look at each other and know whose weekend it was and who was performing best on that weekend. He wouldn’t hesitate to say, ‘Okay Deany, you’re qualifying here this weekend.’”
Their run of domination was capped with a remarkable outright win in the wet at Silverstone over GT1 machinery. Dean moved up from ninth to fourth on the opening lap, the slippery conditions giving the Viper a chance to negate its six-second per lap deficit in dry conditions, and as the secondary drivers of the faster machinery struggled for confidence Luby moved forwards following the stops. He held off the delayed factory Lister of ex-Formula 1 driver Julian Bailey for a famous win by two seconds.
Luby and Dean took six GT2 wins in a row in 1998, capped by a famous outright victory with their Viper against faster GT1 machines in the wet at Silverstone
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Dean says Luby was never anything but straightforward as a team-mate, with no distrust existing between them.
“With Kurt, that was absolutely never the case,” says Dean. “He’s just not got it in him to be devious or be anything other than show you everything. But he was always very confident in his ability.”
Dean says Luby’s skill in the wet was a real asset in their Silverstone giant-killing, which he rates as the standout result from their two seasons together.
“When you see somebody do something in a car that you’re in, you know how good they are,” he says. “Kurt could drive anything you gave him. A Dodge Viper, you could really hustle that car around. You give that car in any condition to Kurt, with old tyres towards the end of a race, and there was nobody going to get more out of it, irrespective of the set-up.”
"I’ve got a lot of time and admiration for Kurt. He was such a good driver all the way through his career, a real seat-of-your-pants, no-nonsense driver" Richard Dean
They were paired again in 1999 to drive Phil Bourne’s new Lola-built Sintura, the all-composite monocoque GT1 machine powered by a V10 Judd GV4 engine. It arrived late, for the fourth round at Brands Hatch, and retired after only two laps with overheating problems, but finished third next time out in the British Grand Prix support race.
The driving style required of the Sintura was “very different”, Dean recalls, with lots of downforce that the torquey Viper lacked meaning both “had to work a bit harder” to understand how to get the best from it. But get the best from it they most certainly did.
Luby took an early lead at Donington until a combination of fading brakes, a door left open at the driver change and a stall for Dean meant they finished third. A wrong tyre choice stymied the wet race two before Dean crashed out. But all came good at Silverstone two weeks later as the pair repeated their outright win of the year before, this time in the dry, to score what would prove the Sintura’s only win before British GT canned its GT1 division.
After securing pole Dean led from Bailey’s Lister, which faded after a power steering problem, before Luby came under stern pressure from Magnus Wallinder’s G-Force Porsche. The Swede briefly took the lead, but Luby wasn’t to be denied.
After their Silverstone win, Luby and Dean were only denied a second by a penalty for a yellow flag infringement at Spa
Photo by: Motorsport Images
“Into Copse he made a major effort to sneak down the inside, and he eventually completed the move at the hairpin,” said Autosport’s report. Wallinder was unable to retaliate due to a loose undertray and Luby won by a shade over two seconds.
A likely second at Croft was lost when first gear gave up, then at Spa Luby crossed the line first after withstanding heavy pressure from Jamie Campbell-Walter’s Lister, only to be denied by a 10-second post-race penalty for passing a backmarker under yellow flags exiting Eau Rouge.
Dean and Luby also contested the Laguna Seca American Le Mans Series round in the Sintura’s sole international appearance before the project was quietly cancelled. Despite what Autosport described as “chronic overheating”, the pair produced “the surprise of the race” to finish an impressive ninth after “a gritty race driven with one eye on the temperature gauge”.
Over a decade after his last outings in the British Touring Car Championship with the BMW junior team in 1990, where he’d been a regular winner in Class B, Luby made a return to tin-tops in 2001 with the rear-wheel-drive ABG Motorsport Lexus IS200. But the design was flawed and no match for the all-conquering Vauxhall Astra Coupes, unworthy of a driver Dean holds in the highest of regards.
“I’ve got a lot of time and admiration for Kurt,” he says. “He was such a good driver all the way through his career, a real seat-of-your-pants, no-nonsense driver.”
Luby had another shot at the BTCC in 2001, over a decade after his first, but his ABG Lexus wasn't properly sorted
Photo by: Motorsport Images
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