2009 Race and Show Season
Had a modest start to the season....ran in practice at the Jefferson 500 at Summit Point in May but the threat of rain on race day was sufficient to dampen our spirits (to coin a phrase) and we made a quick departure on Saturday. A wonderful event, a great track, but like with outdoor weddings, you take your chance when it comes to the weather.
We took our chance. And then took off...back to Connecticut.
Had a fun time at NJ Motorsports park end of May....dunno, just not an ideal track (in my mind) for the Mallock...too twisty and without the fast curves the car (and driver) happen to love. My description? 'Cut and slash.' But otherwise the Mallock had a good weekend with a 2nd place finish in the feature race (against, alas, very weak opposition). No victory here. And more about '2nd place finishes" as this missive continues...........
June, in the Northeast, set records in wetness...at one paint, 17 out of 21 days of rain in the NYC area. And I got a lot of use out of a newly acquired MGB GT and my trusty cold and wet weather classic, a 1966 Lotus Elan S3 Coupe. Both weather tight and ideal for wet and cold June driving.
BUT...........July was just around the corner and, for the first time in four years, decided to do the Legends race at Tremblant in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec. My favorite race AND vacation venue. And what a time we had. And UNEXPECTED time, I might add.
So we were all packed up, son as crew chief and companion, Suburban loaded with tents, chairs, equipment, tools, spares, chargers, and who knows what else. While the trailer had the Mallock on top, the '64 Morgan on the bottom, two motorbikes on side racks, ten gallons of gas, and four spare tires. Or as the US Customs inspector said 'geez, you carry a lot on that trailer!'
Off to Canada...how much fun. And this year, my sister and her boyfriend flying up to watch the race. Oooooo, what excitement will be ahead for us?
Settled into the condo, set up at the paddock, waiting for the first of three days of practice, qualifying, and racing. In this gorgeous setting, nestled within the mountains, surrounded by lakes, and all with that wonderful blend of French Canadian Gallic charm.
Day 1,.....practice. Mallock was running well, handling nicely, and on lap two....loop the loop down the main straight as an oil line came adrift. No damage and, in the end, only lost two quarts of oil. But, yeah, necessitated a tow in. First time in seven seasons of running the car.
Turns out our chief mechanic had replaced that line with a rubber hose a bit too thick and resisted the clamping action of the two hose clamps. But it slid back on, with the Herculean (a word I haven't used since 9th grade English class) strength, got the two clamps on 'permanently.' Certainly sufficiently good to qualify 2nd in afternoon qualification runs.
Maybe I was a bit scared about the oil line coming off again. Whatever, was done maybe 8 seconds from my normal lap times and a Lotus 7 was a tad bit faster. Oh well....its only qualifying, NOT racing. Not yet, at least.
So, the rest of the day....crepes in St Sauveur, go kart racing just outside of St. Jovite, cruising in the Morgan, having a wonderful time. And ready for the first race, Saturday morning.
Got on the grid, outside front row. Nailed the throttle on the green flag and easily got to the first corner ahead of the pack, opened up a lot of time, and had little concern about the drizzle turning into a light and then steady rain. Must have done 25% of my racing in the wet 'tween years at Lime Rock and even doing a 1 hour enduro at Summit in heavy rain. The Intermediate Avons were from a wet country (England) and the Mallock never missed a beat.
Until two laps from the end.
When the rain turned into a downpour of 'biblical proportions.' Heaviest rain I have ever seen. And, on that tap, went off the track (slowly) four times. Half spins. Would turn the wheel to the right and continue going straight.
So bad, I couldn't see anything without lifting my visor and continually wiping water off my eyeglasses. No puddles....COMPLETELY FLOODED. And whenever I would go through a deep spot, the Mallock turned into a submarine. Incredible
Even more incredible....an Alfa on road tires passed me. And Alfa? And also the Lotus 7. Uh, oh, back to third spot. And then, coming around on the start/finish straight, a red flag. Which in Canada, unlike the US, means 'go around and come in.' So, one more lap. At 20 mph in 1st gear, barely able to hold on to the wheel, flooding rapidly, and near impossible to stay on the track.
But I did. And made it around, slowly, and back into pit lane. Where the car hit a small lake and died. Got out, walked back to the paddock to get my son to help push the car back in. Amazingly it started and drove in under its own power.
And the results? Son/crew chief was dutifully watching the entire race from the tower. And his comments? The 7 never came around for the last two laps and the Alfa and I were the only two cars left on the track! Everyone else had retired. 18 smart drivers, two dumb ones. Oh well.........
Now, even funnier, next day we saw the results....the 7 won, we were second, and the Alfa? Third place. Which it would appear might mean that he had been lapped earlier in the race and then unlapped himself. Dunno. Who cares?
Decided not to push the envelope and chose not to enter the afternoon endurance race. Mostly 'cause I didn't think the Mallock's small tank would keep it running at full throttle for an hour. At Summit, we have a 5 minute pit stop. But not here, at Tremblant. So it was crepes, hot tub, swimming, and cruising.
Now Sunday............whats up?????? I am gridded...last????? Turns out the endurance results determined the grid for Sunday. But, no big deal. Last place? Okay.....lets see what happens.
With son, sister, etc. watching, went out for the pace lap only to find the screwball in an Elva Courier gridded directly in front of me, slowed down so much, at the green flag, we were near a quarter lap back. Why? Dunno. But what a drag...one thing to start at the back of the grid, another to start another 30 car lengths back. But that is what I did
Anyway, had a good run, the Mallock was perfect, turned the fastest lap of the race and was just behind a V8 powered entry at the checkered flag....to finish 2nd. A nice drive, a wonderful day, a fun event, and the car finished in fine condition. Ready for the next event.....Tremblant in September?
So it was 'bye bye' to Canada, a nice trip home, unloading as we rolled into the driveway in front of the barn, and fond memories of racing, eating, sitting, enjoying, and having a good time up north.
BUT...........it was 'quick turn around' time 'cause a day and a half later, we were off to the 27th running of the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. And my 23rd event there.
Always had a fun time running the late, beloved Lotus 18 Formula Junior. I think in 17 or 18 starts, finished first at least twelve times. And had one DNF when an oil drive gear broke. A fabulous course, a city devoted to offering their citizens a spectacular event, and a lot of money raised for charity.
Unfortunately, the only car I had that was eligible for this pre 1960 VSCCA organized event was the old and somewhat tired 1959 Lotus Super 7 Series 1. Had won this event twice but, over the past few years, it seemed as if the lap times were getting slower and slower and slower. And getting the driver more and more annoyed.
The 7, you see, is really a road car. Heater, lights, top, side curtains, radio, low compression engine, and soft springs. Okay, there is a bolt on roll bar, a straight pipe, and a second set of wheels with Dunlop L series race tires.
But, alas, due to the 7's perceived potency, they are placed NOT in the correct under 2 liter production class but with the far more sophisticated and faster Formula Juniors and Sports/racers. Facing such sophisticated engineering advances (for pre 1960 racers) as disc brakes, mid engined chassis, better aerodynamics, and other things for granted.
What to do? I took out my tire Duromater (to test rubber softness) and found my ancient Dunlops were around 76. Same as my Suburban's tires. And for comparison purposes, 100 is steel. And the Avons on the Mallock were 50. So a new set of tires went on and...off to the races.
What an event!!!!!!!! The cars were spectacular. Okay, this isn't Monterrey and there wasn't much chance of a D Type Auto Union, a McLaren M8, or a Porsche 917K. But for a little winding thru-the-city-streets race course, what an entry. Bandini, Elva, Turner, Ginetta, HRG, a pre WWI Mercedes Grand Prix car, Bugattis, Maserati Grand Prix, tons of MGs, Morgans, Jaguars, more Lotus than one could easily count, 180 cars of all sorts, sizes, and levels of antiquity.
And in our class....42 cars! Incredible.
Saturday was practice and qualifying and, at the end, very disappointed to be gridded 12th....behind cars we left in the dust in afternoon qualifying. Okay, so there was no electronic timing and most of the cars probably didn't even have timing senders. But 12th? Oh well....was this an instant replay of the race the weekend before?
The 7 was certainly running well. The new tires were incredibly sticky, the brakes (drum of course) were more or less working, and the Climax engine was pulling strongly. Unfortunately the gearbox was popping out of 3rd gear at times making for exciting moments trying to get it back into ANY gear and driving part of the course one handed.
After scrubbing in the tires, getting a bit of warmth into them on the pace lap, we all took the green flat and were OFF! You gotta see a map of this race track...elevation changes, tight corners, only one real straight and, at the end, a 15 mph hay obstacle course. In the case of the 7, up to around 100 mph and then into 3rd, into 2nd, and then double clutching into 1st, through the chicane, and quickly up to 2nd and then 3rd. Five shifts within a few seconds. Very exciting.
As was the race....took a few laps to get past a Lotus 18 in front of me, then a Lotus XI, and another Lotus 18. Car stuck through the corners like glue, the engine never missed a beat, and after a few laps, could anticipate when the trans would pop out of gear. A lot of concentration and activity. But in the end, took the checkered flat SOMEWHERE...maybe fourth, maybe fifth. We aren't sure. But did finish ahead of all three Lotus 18s that were gridded ahead and one of the two Lotus XIs. With, we think, a 2nd place (in class) finish. Just like Canada.
Oh well...no trophies, no awards, no recognition, and no prizes other than the waving of thousands of spectators 'round the circuit. And nice words from some of the other competitors when we all got out of our cars in the paddock.
We even ate well. Imagine...found a cute little Italian restaurant in an older section of town...eight of us, each with soup, salad, a hearty main course from the huge and rather interesting menu (I had Salmon in a dill sauce with mushrooms over home made pepper Fettuccine)....for eight people, $146!
Dimico's...the owner is Frank and was very accommodating to our group.
Fun time in Pittsburgh. Car came back to the shop and all we found wrong was a worn drive shaft u/j and a bit of wear on some of the cam lobes...out and send to our cam grinder for a bit of massaging.
And now ready for the next event....Tremblant in September and/or Watkins Glen in October.
Ugh, oh....those two mutually canceled each other....decided to just head up to Tremblant for the food, the views, and the atmosphere (hence a week vacation in this lovely venue...sans race car) and The Glen?
Snowed out. In October. What a shame.
Anyway, finished the season at another of our favorite tracks...Summit Point. Where my friend Frank and I ran the two Mallocks.....Frank is a friend, long time pro racer, is an expert at suspension tuning and balancing a spoon on the end of his nose, and (most important of all) has a wonderful 33' motor home. So, each year at Thanksgiving, we 'bribe' Frank into joining our team...he brings the motor home and gets a 'ride' in the #2 Mallock.
Cold on Friday but fairly dry, both cars ran well, and we were all thankful to having the (heated, dry) motor home as our base of operations. Saturday was much warmer, much dryer, and in the first race, Mallock 008 took first place, in the second, a second place finish. Both cars ran well, never put a wheel off the track, can't exactly suggest it was our best racing (wide tires and a cold track are not a good mix), did a Sunday morning session, packed up, and headed back to Connecticut.
A fun season. And we are ready for next year. Probably beginning at Summit in May, 2010. Can't wait.