Saturday, May 24, 2014

SVRA Spring Vintage 2014 at Road America

It's spring in Wisconsin!

(Jan Efverlund photo)
 It was a balmy 44F on Friday as we took to the track for our first practice Road America practice lap of 2014. Where's my "warm shirt?!" Ah, well, it was not raining, or snowing as it was just south of the Illinois border. (Seriously!)

The Swedish contingent was limited to us and Mark School, my friend from the Wisconsin Fox Cities, with his gleeeming white Saab Sonnet. (Top, Phil  Koller photo, below, David Farrington photo)

Last year my Road America goal was to break the 2:50 lap mark. My best time came at the Elkhart Lake Fall Festival with a 2:50.226. I had come close but, as they say that only works in horseshoes and hand grenades.

2014 is beginning in a promising fashion. Here are my session best lap times:

Practice 1: 2:51.713
Qualifying 1: 2:50.290
Qualifying 2: 2:50.114
Race 1: 2:49.510
Race 2: 2:48.726
Overall it was a great weekend. The car ran well, I drove reasonably well, the crew of Joy Perry and David Farrington did a great job, and the weather even improved.

We finished second in class in both Race 1 and Race 2. Not too shabby.

Race Engineer Farrington working on last minute efforts with the data aquisition (Phil Koller photo)

During Saturday's Race 1 I was in quite a duel with a 1960 Corvette. He ended up with a faster lap, but being only 0.007 seconds behind with a two-liter four-banger isn't bad! Remember that's a 5.4 liter (327) V8 versus a 2 liter car.

Without question the best race of the weekend was the Sunday "Race 2." On the pace lap a front-running Corvette dropped out at Turn 5 leaving a shaken tarting position. I should have been able to move to the inside for the green flag but due to some confusion on the part of others a slower MG managed to pull into that spot. As we entered Turn 1 I was caught behind it. I had to wait until the back straight going into 5 before I was able to get around the MG and by that time the front runners had quite a run on us.

But in the end the real race came down to a real duel between me and a Datsun. We went back and forth several times, until I decided to fall back and bide my time. I could out-power him on the straight. My plan was to wait until the last lap and then do a race to the finish line. Unfortunately, the Bridge Flagman never gave a "1 lap remaining" indication and the next thing I knew the checkered flag was out with the Datsun in front.

Frankly, I saw some uncharacteristically shoddy corner work while watching other races, including when a Sports 2000 racer brushed the wall in Turn 12. The driver pulled back onto the track and the flagman just stood with his hands in his pockets without waving the yellow flag while a Mercury Cougar came flying into the corner.
Courting disaster in Canada Corner

The one major disappointment of the weekend was the failure of both of our in-car video cameras. A message to Contour's new CEO has resulted in some significant attention from their technical support people. They are working hard to solve this problem, for which I am grateful.

Jan Evfverlund has an incredible smartphone that he used to record a little of the action. Click on the arrow in the picture below for a little Turn 5 action.
Turn 5 action (Jan Efverlund video)

John Johnk is also sending some video from his in-car camera. I'll post that when we get it. Always nice (and instructive) to see one's own driving from another perspective.

It was also quite a show event at Road America as the Shelby and Cobra owners were out in force in the lower paddock. Nothing like a 50 year celebration to bring out some really really nice cars. I knew it was a special weekend as we rolled in on Thursday next to a Cobra inside a glass-sided hauler. (Sort of reminded me of the Harley guy who was stuffed, mounted on his beloved Harley and buried in a glass sided coffin ...)

Here's the rest of the report in pictures.
Shelby and Cobra owners were out in force celebrating anniversaries. (Jan Efverlund photo)

The first and second ever produced Mustang Shelbys were there, as were several nice GT40's (P and B Race Coordinator's Dream Car, which will always remain just that I fear) 

Insert might be a little small -- it says "$150,000." Sorry, Joy. (David Farrington photo)

P and B Motorsports Photographer Phil Koller says "What else do you want??? (David Farrington photo)

Race Coordinator Joy Perry and Hospitality Coordinator Pam Buettner conferrng (Phil Koller photo)

Jan Efverlund came over from Sweden, and Chris Clemmer came up from Chicago in "Buttercup," Chris's '72 1800ES 

Volvo 1800 buddy Jan Efverlund  is the creator of the Face Book 1800 Fan Club site (David Farrington photo)

Crew Chief Dave Buettner finally came back to reality (from Florida). So he needed to check things out. (David Farrington photos)

I used Farrington's new Canon 300mm lens to capture Mark School in a  contemplative Sunday morning moment. Sometimes it's just nice to be by onesself.

This Audi RS8, a 2005 LeMans winner, and the Indy car had quite a race in the two-hour Sunday enduro. Guess which car previaled. 

Pam Buettner always makes the paddock a brighter place just with her smile. That's Ex-1800 racer Dale Schmidt in the background. (One gets a little out of focus when you switch from Volvo to MG. David Farrington photo)

Is that Danica Patrick??? Guess not, but this young woman made the car a bit more photogenic, and as usual Farrington got her to climb into the car. (David Farrington photo)

The Road America Center was the site of Saturday's catered gala. Wonderful racing art adorns the building. Now only if they could do someting about the acoustics during drivers' meetings for my misfiring ears.

Evening data analysis. A glass of wine helps!

These two Group 4 V8 powered Corvettes ran in the same session as we did. I was within sight of their rear bumpers ... for about 1/2 lap. (David Farrington photos)

Joy and I got to share a pre-race light-hearted momemt with Group 3 Austin Healey 100/6 Fast Guy Jeff Johnk (Phil Koller photo)

B.S. Levy was caught in a candid moment looking for new material for his next Vintage Motorsports article, or maybe his next book.

These are the folks who help us spend a lot of time at the track.

George Balbach the elder (above) and son George Balbach (below). George the senior celebrated his 80th birthday at Mid Ohio last summer. They ran up front in my class. 

The Grid. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

GingerMan Raceway-VSCDA Spring Brake 2014

I think the clothing pretty much tells the story of far-western Michigan in early spring. Think west winds off a big pond that was ice-covered just a couple weeks ago. The good news: no rain!

The Hoodie Guys -- Ray Freiwald and Jim Blett warming their hands?

This was our first journey to GingerMan Raceway. Ray Freiwald talked us into it at our annual Volvo Racers and Friends get-together back in February. So after returning to cold Wisconsin after 3 glorious weeks in Florida I “killed snakes” (my father-in-laws term for working non-stop at a frenzy) to get the car ready.

New wiring under the dash, nice fresh paint in the cockpit and the underbody … it all sounds so simple and easy in the mind’s eye. Add to it changing the rear axle to one suited for the shorter track, starting a fresh engine for the first time, and killing snakes was an appropriate metaphor.

David Farrington came up with data acquisition revision and it actually worked. He's still working on getting the video right. :-) 
A little over two-miles in length, GingerMan is technical and tight. In the first practice I followed master-mentor Freiwald around the track. Eleven turns with two nice straights.
GingerMan has added a new section extending the course, but it was all new to me.

The Volvo field was well represented. Ray Freiwald's and Alex Christopher's 1800s joined us, as did Jeff Babcock in his 122.  

Three 1800s in an idelic scene. (Must admit I like that the red one is out front!)

Jeff is having a multi-year streak of bad luck. He threw a rod on Saturday, and with flames from burning oil coming out from beneath his car the black flag all came out again.

Here's Jeff chasing the Barb Nevoral Alfa, prior to the 122 having a major issue, And that engine was fast!

Todd Jongen was there with his 142, although he was in a different race group

Dawn Fisher in her beautiful Lotus 7 and I are evenly matched and usually are right around one another. on the track. Had she not picked up a cone under her car in the feature, things might have finished differently.
This was VSCDA’s “Spring Brake” Driver’s School and Race weekend, so there were a fair number of cars with X’s on them. And as is expected at the first event there were a fair number of rather minor issues. Our 2nd  Friday practice session lasted about ¼ lap before the Black Flag All came out as two Group 2 cars got into it right off the bat in Turn 1.

In Saturday's qualifying we got the car tuned a bit better and placed 9th on the Sprint Race grid. We finished 4th in the Sprint Race, but Dawn Fisher in her Lotus 7 had a slightly better lap time (1:55.199 vs. 1:56.168) so we were placed 5th on the grid for the Sunday Feature. The weekend was capped by a decent 3rd place finish with a recalcitrant car. Our best lap was 1:54.369. I was being challenged in the end as I was having some sputtering issue, but managed to hold on.  Even with all the stress I had to laugh a little when I happened to see Joy standing at the end of the hot grid whirling her arm in circles, meaning "put your foot in it buddy!" 

And as usual, the big problem on the track turned out to be a little problem under the hood -- a broken wire.

Here's a little trackside video shot by Dave Farrington. 

If I can get the car all sorted out we should be very competitive this year.

A weekend highlight-family members Theresa and Rob Sisson (the Mayor of Sturgis, MI) came over to see us on Sunday. 

We have a long season ahead of us. One of the reasons we can make it long, and travel extensively, is because of people and organizations that help make this doable for us. So allow me to recognize our 2014 Sponsors:
Thank you!
Next up, Spring Vintage Weekend at Road America, May 16-18.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Road Atlanta 2014 Mitty Report and Pics

The Mitty: No. 1 did not go but our Race Engineer did.

Race Engineer David Farrington pulled into Michigan's GingerMan Raceway on May 1, stepped out of his climate controlled Jetta, and immediately muttered, "What the heck is this???"

Our 1800 buddy Ray Freiwald was there as an instructor for Spring Brake, saw the Farrington shudder and said "Get dressed!"  Our RE, who is a 'sutherner' now living in Tennessee, had left 80+ degree weather, quite comfortable in a tee shirt, but was greeted with northern temperatures in  the mid 50s; the nice stiff breeze off Lake Michigan put the wind chill in the low 40s. Fortunately he had brought along sweats, jackets and even a parka he hadn't used in two years. Oh, and a delightful little ceramic heater for the trailer.

But the weekend prior, Dave had taken his 1800ES and spouse Sue (P and B's Dog Wrangler) on a nice little warm and sunny day drive. Destination: Road Atlanta & The Mitty. They walked all over and finally found our paddock friends from last fall, Bonne and Jonathan Foulds.

And he got to try out his new Canon camera and its 75-300 mm lens that he is trying to convince Sue was really purchased in case grandchildren are in the future. (I hear she's having none of it and trying to blame me.)

Bonne's 1960 Austin-Healey Sprite

He also greeted Jim Mathews, who had shared our podium with his second place in the rain-soaked race in Atlanta last fall. I'll never forget the first words out of his mouth: "My car has often been called a "bath tub" and today I know why." We're hoping to see Jim at the HSA event at Mid-Ohio this fall. His Porsche roadster is one of the few that looks precisely as a gentleman racer would have been driving his car to the races & racing in the '60s.

Jim's 1960 Porsche S90 Roadster: The Bath Tub
In Farrington's words:

"Finally, it was a joy to see a quite special and fast Morgan racing. And I would be remiss to not mention that there were at *lot* of Morgans there, as the Morgan club had put in quite an appearance. But Stacey Schepens' Mog was specifically mentioned by the track announcer as something pretty breaking up the 'parade of Porsches'  in the lead cars of the Group 2 race."

Note Stacey's special helmet in that 1964 Morgan 4/4 twin cam
Maybe next year we will hope to start the season at the Mitty again. Might be time to start working on the Race Coordinator ...