The 2008 Racing Season
Soooooooo, the 2008 race season. What fun. Our 32nd season of racing.
Started in the hobby/sport in 1978 taking my ol’ Jaguar XK-120M to driver’s school at Lime Rock. The old Lime Rock. ‘A circle track with one left hand corner.’ And had a blast driving a car that, in retrospect, was comparable to doing an autocross in an H3 Hummer.
But it went pretty well (even on ancient 600-16 Michelin Xs), never had a DNF, and I got used to hitting the brakes at the end of the straight and letting the pulling brakes (fortunately ‘to the right’) help me into the first right apex of Big Bend. Had fun racing at the old Thompson circuit, Pocono International, and by the end of that first season, acquired a Lotus 7.
Which is still in the barn. After all of these years.
To make a long story short, more than thirty years have gone by and, during that time, the XK-120M begat a Lotus 7, the 7 begat a Lotus 18 Formula Junior, a Ginetta G-4, an occasional race in a Lotus XI LeMans, Lotus Elite S1, Tojeiro Climax, Turner Mk I, MGB, Elva Courier, Elva Fm Junior, Bentley 3 liter, D Type Jaguar, Lotus Mk 6, and a lot of others. And for the past six seasons, a sleek Mallock Mk XIB Sports/
Mallock? A pretty rare car…since the company’s inception, back in 1959, maybe around 350 Mallocks have been built. Always the same…’a Lotus 7 on steroids’ would be an apt description. Advanced tubular space frame chassis, fairly conventional upper and lower A arm front suspension, extremely well located solid back axle (one of Mallock’s real ‘secrets of success’), a push-rod Ford engine located literally in the middle of the car with the driver sitting very close to the back axle.
But do they go!!!!!!! I was stunned that my ‘new’ Mallock (when acquired in 2002) didn’t have a LSD but, at the first race (the Jefferson 500 at Summit Point W. Va.) we discovered the car didn’t roll at all. Even to the point where one of my friends told me, from his viewpoint, the car didn’t even look fast going through the corners.
But it did. Was. Went. FAST. So fast, that on its first outing, we qualified on the first row next to LeMans winner Hurley Haywood in a zillion horsepower Porsche on Fm 1 tires. And in the one hour endurance race, finished on his tail with both of us lapping the entire field. A great introduction to a marvelous race car.
Anyway, moving along…..the 2008 racing season. A brief summary.
Alas, the Jeff 500 was canceled last and this year (to be REVIVED NEXT YEAR with the VRG running the event) hence our first event being New Hampshire. Mainly ‘cause with a mere $100 entry fee, how could we resist?
Feeling that three Mallocks (a second one acquired three years ago, a third a year ago) was at least one too many, my Mk 15 was sold to my good friend (and occasional co-driver) Neil who went along for his first drive in his new acquisition.
A story about Neil: we met around 13 years ago. He had just moved to the U.S. from England and wandered into our dealership to get some advice as to whether he should bring his TR 3 over for sale. It was a nice, Spring day and we were outside playing with an SCCA Sprite we had just acquired from a racing buddy in Tennessee. Making noise, laying rubber, just havin’ fun.
And I said ‘hey, you wanna take it out for a ride down the road?’ No dealer plate. No muffler. But Neil seemed game and within an hour (or so)….he bought it. I will never forget his comment (said in a proper English accent)…’I can’t believe I just bought a race car…I don’t even have a place to live yet!’
Well, he got settled, went racing with us…first an open practice at Lime Rock, and then ‘smuggling him’ into the Lime Rock Fall Festival (we told the event chairman he had a lot of racing experience with CART. In fact, it was with KART…like in ‘go-karts.’). But the Sprite went well, Neil turned out to have a very heavy right foot, and at the end of the first season, it begat a Lotus 7. And then an Elva Junior. And a one-off Moorland Junior (Moorland? Ever heard of it? Look it up….winner of the very first Formula Junior race ever held in England and, of course, having the first Jr. lap record at Brands Hatch).
So we ventured up to NH and had a good time. Zipping around with a dozen Formula Fords. The Mk 15 going surprisingly well and my (by this time) tried and true Mk XIB running with some of the quicker cars.
Truth be told, it is far from my favorite track. FAR….but, as mentioned, hard to resist a $100 entry fee. Inexpensive accommodations, less than 4 hours from home, and GREAT lobster dinners. Every night.
A sure sign of a driver getting older….more interested in the local cuisine than lap times. Oh well.
So the Mk 15 went well…right out of the box. Handling, braking, reliability, shifting, and engine performance, other than a misfire above 6,000 rpm.
AND THEN…………..it was a Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. The VSCCA’s premier race, truly a North American version of the famous Monaco Grand Prix. Through the city streets of Schenley Park in the University district. And a race we know quite well.
In sixteen ‘starts,’ my lovely Lotus 18 crossed the finish line in first place twelve times, eight in a row. With four DNFs (oil pump drive when in the lead, one race, and a few other ‘issues’ over the years). And another three wins in the Lotus Super 7 Series 1. A great circuit and one that requires intense concentration ‘cause there are no run offs, and a slight error results in a nasty shunt against a stone wall, a light pole, or a curb. Especially a curb. Nasty.
This year just wasn’t the 7’s year. An ancient set of rock hard Dunlops, severe problems with the drum brakes, and remarkably little competitive interest on the part of the driver made this year’s PVGP forgettable. So as the author, I guess I am going to use my literary prerogative in just saying ‘we had a good time.’ And leave it at that.
Next up was our favorite venue of all…the fabulous Grand Prix circuit at Tremblant in the beautiful Laurentian mountains of central Quebec. WHAT A COURSE. Other than the impossible-to-take with any form of style last corner, Namerow, it is a fast course with some tricky corners, a few good straights, and the most beautiful views I have ever seen. At least from the cockpit of a race car.
For this event, we were trying out a different engine. Different from the one we got with the Mallock back in the winter of 2001-2002. Which was a perfectly lovely power unit…the seller had never changed the rings and we never did either ‘till the fall of 2008. Imagine…maybe eight or nine seasons on the same set of rings! Makes for economical racing.
Well, the alternate engine had new rings. And a lot of other new pieces. With the result being nearly 190hp on the dyno…pretty impressive from a Kent 1600 engine. And down the back straight, VERY EXCITING seeing 8,000 rpm (equivalent to 140+mph). Lap after lap. Running flawlessly.
No competition and making the logical choice of slowing down (emasculating perfectly nice competitors is not the wisest course of action in a gentleman’s sport) wound up with the fastest laps in the morning (on a very cold track) and purposely slowing down 2 seconds per session. ‘Till at the end, lapping sufficiently slow such as to give the second and third place finishers the impression of real competition.
A misunderstanding of eligibility kept the Mallock home for the next event….our first outing at the new southern NJ Thunderball and Lighting circuits near Millville/Vineland NJ. A neat pair of circuits that we intend on attempting to master next season. But this past Fall, the event organizers wisely chose to make the entire event into one big, happy, open practice. With some excellent group dinners. A perfect way to end the season.
Actually, there was one left. The thanksgiving ‘Turkey Bowl’ at Summit Point. An event we wouldn’t want to miss.
‘We’ being me, my race buddy and co driver Frank, and son/heir Josh. Hoping for decent weather and a track surface capable of giving our wide race tires (10” front and 11” rear on our second car, 9” front and 11” read on ‘old faithful’) some traction.
To our absolute delight, the weather was excellent, in the 50s and sunny, track was very good for this time of the year. And we were rewarded with the best, most enjoyable event of the season.
The original car, #44, was in excellent form. And this was gonna be our real debut with #24…now with 44’s original engine. It has been very frustrating……
Although 44 has given excellent service with consistent wins at Summit and Tremblant, 24 has been nothing but problems (its only victory was at the 2007 Greenwich concourse…yeah, a 1st place trophy at 2 mph driving by the judge’s stand!). All with its hydraulic annular clutch actuation system being problematic. And its handling being okay but not equal to 44.
So, what to do? This summer we took the best engine, #24s, and put in into 44 while 44’s dependable engine (now with its first set of rings in who-knows-how-long?) in 24. And with the annular slave cylinder rebuilt and working properly.
Wouldn’t you know it…we unloaded 24 in the paddock and the clutch promptly seized in the ‘open’ position. What a drag. What a disappointment.
We banged away at it all day, changed the master cylinder, bled the system, nothing helped. All the while, 44 was turning fast laps in practice and running perfectly. As always.
Now, as the second day began, we were seconds away from giving up when, as a last desperate try, we squirted some WD40 into the timing mark hole in the bell-housing. And got the clutch to unstick. A few more tries and…..would it be able to race?
Both Mallocks were next to each other on the front row of the grid (the grids were set rather arbitrarily as often happens at these end of season events). For the first time.
We both got off to a good start and ten laps later, we both lapped the field (which included a few Formula Fords, some Porsches, a Royale RP4 sports/racer, and a diverse assortment of other racers). A perfect 1-2 finish. A nice beginning to our second day at the track. Even with #24 losing its clutch just after it crossed the finish line. (gee, with a Lotus, it would have been just before the end of the race)
But Frank had some concerns over the handling. So we disconnected the front sway bar and softened the rear. A lot of squirts of WD40 and the clutch started working again. Just in time for the next, longer, 15 lap race.
This time we were gridded behind the faster-on-paper RP4. But it didn’t matter…got it going into the first turn and pulled away so quickly such that I couldn’t see it by lap three. Meanwhile Frank felt the clutch starting to go on lap two so took the wise course of action of….keeping it in 3rd gear for the entire race. 14 laps of the twisty Summit Point main circuit with its long main straight. 3rd gear!!!!
Anyway #44 easily won and, remarkably, #24 came in third after a race long dice with a well driven Formula Ford. IN 3rd GEAR! A wonderful ‘drive’ and a fitting end to this rather truncated season. We now have a good sense of 24’s potential (the clutch system has now been repaired…like we always say in the Northeast, the Winter is a good time to get cars ready for next Spring).
So there it is. Our 2008 race season. No DNFs, no accidents, no blow ups, just a lot of fun. And with our dealership always having a number of vintage (pre 1960) and historic (up through the 70s) race cars, we can introduce the curious to the wonderful world of fun racing. As we have been doing for over thirty years and hundreds of race cars.
Next season? Well, both Mallocks are rebuilt, prepared, tested, and quietly sleeping in the barn. Neil’s car needs a bit of dyno time to assess and correct the misfire, and the Lotus Super 7 is getting new rod bearings, new brake shoes, and a transmission rebuild (driving at Pittsburgh while hold the shift lever to prevent popping out in 3rd gear was not a pleasant way of racing). And if things go well, we are hoping for another fun season at Summit Point, Tremblant, Vineland, New Hampshire (still not a favorite but hey, even at $135 for three days, how can we miss it? Anyway, the lobsters were yummy), maybe Mosport and Watkins Glen. We guess time will tell.
And the rest….can be seen on photos posted on this site.
PS also a few photos from recent shows....our 1962 MGA 1600 Mk II Deluxe at the Greenwich concourse and 1972 Mallock Mk XIB Sports/racer before the review stand being awarded a 1st place trophy, also at Greenwich...and also a friend going through a PDA driver's school in a racing MGB we had for sale (since sold).