Chris Kneifel USA – Porsche 944 Turbo Trans-Am
The penultimate year of the Lady Wigram Trophy race meeting at RNZAF Base Wigram in Christchurch, NZ, was held on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th January 1993. In the race card line-up for the meeting was a class for ’TraNZam’ cars and one of these was the Porsche 944 Turbo belonging to Chris Kneifel from USA. In Murray McFadden’s book ‘Wigram Motor Racing 1949-1994: The History of the Motor Racing Club’, we see that Americans Chris Kneifel and Scott Lagasse were entered by Bruce Jenner and Autonews magazine.
Chris Kneifel came to New Zealand with some 14 years of racing behind him. This included Formula Ford and Formula Pacific single seaters in USA, before he raced from 1982-84 in the Champ Car (Championship Auto Race Teams – CART ) single seater series. Here, he 19 starts and 6 ‘top-tens’. His CART racing included starts in the 1983 (12th Place) and 1984 Indy 500s. After Champ Cars, Chris went on to race Trans-Ams where he was ‘Rookie of the Year’ in 1985 and runner up in the 1990 Trans-Am Championship. He was later to win the 2001 Daytona 24 Hour race in a Corvette, and from 2001-2004 he was the Chief Steward for CART.
There were three races for TraNZams on the Sunday at Wigram, the last of which was the traditional ‘Flying Farewell.’ In his Porsche 944 Trans-Am, Chris was third fastest in practice in the GTO section of the grid with a speed of 185.66 km/h behind Kayne Scott (Ford Merkur) 191.16km/h, and Scott Lagasse (Pontiac Firebird) 191.01 km/h. Scott Lagasse won all three 8 lap races in his Pontiac from Kayne Scott who was second in Races 1 and 3, and Kierin Wills who was second in Race 2 in his Mazda RX8 V8. Chris Kneiffel was third in Race 1 in the Porsche 944 Turbo but his results in the next two races are unknown. It was, however, reported he was troubled throughout the day by a blown oil seal and some mysterious vibrations.