In the 1990s, there were not one, but two highly competitive open-wheel racing series going on in the US, IndyCar and CART. For many race fans, CART was the series of choice, thanks to its less formulaic approach to racing, and it seemed to attract the biggest names, both behind the wheel and behind the hardware. Precision Preparation, Inc., or PPI, led by Cal Wells, had built a name for themselves and their partner, Toyota, in off-road racing. In 1995, Wells formed Arciero-Wells with good friend Frank Arciero, and joint the CART ranks using Toyota power in their cars. For the next five years, Arciero-Wells/Toyota would field some of the fastest Champ Cars the series had ever seen, including this record-setting #24 car driven by Scott Pruett at the 1999 Marlboro 500.
It was qualifying day for the Marlboro 500, the Champ Car World Series (CART) race at California Speedway (now Auto Club Speedway) in Fontana, California. From behind the wheel of this Pioneer/MCI WorldCom Toyota, Pruett clocked a lap at 30.030 seconds—an astounding 235.398 miles per hour—earning the team’s and Toyota’s first pole position in Champ Car history.
This remarkable qualifying effort, the fifth pole of Pruett’s five-year open wheel career, stood out among a 24-car field that had an average qualifying speed of 228.076 miles per hour. It also outpaced all other Toyotas, with the next highest Toyota-powered qualifier starting 15th at 31.432 seconds and 273.911 miles per hour.
This race signaled two significant developments: One, it announced to the world that Toyota was a contender. And two, it would be the last time Scott Pruett would ever drive a Champ Car in competition. Following the 1999 CART season, he moved to NASCAR. Sadly, as most enthusiasts know, the CART series folded not long afterwards.
Based on a 99 Reynard chassis (chassis number 99I 027) with a carbon-fiber honeycomb tub, this is the 1999 Number 24 Pioneer/MCI WorldCom powered by Toyota Champ Car that set that lap record, and it remains in as-raced condition with the exception of the running gear. Fully detailed and prepped, it is in brilliant condition for display as a piece of racing history, or could be retrofitted with an appropriate powertrain for vintage race events. The body, as with most racecars, has been expertly maintained and since retiring and has seen no on-track usage. It features the speedway wings and nose cone, and is appropriately dressed in the red and white Pioneer color scheme with a correct decal package. Of note, Pioneer signed on at the beginning of the 1999 season with Arciero-Wells, their first and only foray into CART.
The hardware on this car is as impressive as its history. The suspension is, of course, the tried-and-true double wishbone with inboard-mounted bell crank actuated coil-over shocks wearing Eibach springs. Front and rear sway bars are adjustable on the fly from the cockpit, and the laser-sharp steering is via rack-and-pinion. At each corner, there’s a massive Brembo ventilated steel disc fitted with powerful eight-piston calipers. Wheels are specially made forged magnesium pieces by BBS wearing Firestone Firehawk racing radials. With a curb weight of only 1550 pounds, it’s easy to understand how this car was able to crush its competitors’ lap times on that fateful day in 1999.
Inside, the cockpit is all business, from the fitted seat, to the carbon fiber tub around it. If you’re about Scott Pruett’s size, it’s probably an extremely comfortable place to be, and all the controls fall easily to hand, including the Momo steering wheel and sway bar adjustment controls. With low hours and excellent maintenance, it remains in outstanding condition and is a period-perfect showcase of the technology used at the time in motorsports.
Motorsports history is made of up great moments. Early on, it was possible for cars and drivers to remain dominant for years, but by the end of the 20th century, it was rare for a car to remain competitive for more than a year due to rapidly advancing technology. That the 1999 Number 24 Pioneer/MCI WorldCom powered by Toyota Champ Car shattered its competition’s lap times so convincingly is one of those special moments. Add in the fact that it was Scott Pruett’s last time in a Champ Car before moving to NASCAR, and it becomes a significant part of racing history.