Race tracks are unique places. Tense places. Where to paddock, where’s tech, register now or later. Am I driving down a dead end that I’ll have to back this frickin’ fifty five feet of truck and trailer out of?. Road America was all that in spades, especially since it’s really big. The track is huge–over four miles long, with facilities and grounds that dwarf most tracks I’ve been to, all maintained like a private golf course. As I was pulling into the paddock area dotted with hundreds of big semi-truck rigs and trailers milling at random I spotted a familiar face–Bill Hart on Tony’s Hodaka pit bike. Billy led me to the grassy area Tony had pittied in and I joined them with Nero. I got the trailer set up, extracted Peyote from its tight fit in the back, and went searching for registration.

After an interminable tech inspection I got out onto the track for a practice run. Wow. I felt totally lost. We did five laps and I still had no idea how to drive the track. Not only are there long straights everywhere that you need to carry exit speed for, but most of the corners look alike, so there’s no telling the fast, early apex corners from the slow, late apex tight buggers. I’ve been doing a really lousy job of taking pictures, and I forgot to trigger the in-car video camera at EVERY practice and race, all weekend long–not a single shot. What a knucklehead. But Diane will be with me when I get back to Virginia and she’s the official photographer, so it will get better soon. But here’s a video Tony Drews shot of the track during our Group 4 race (they put Tony in the same group as me because his TR4 has disc rear brakes). Tony Movie And here’s a photo I shot with my cellphone camera of a little town I passed through. I think it was in Montana, but I’m not sure. My cellphone has an amazing camera–5 megapixels and Ziess lenses. In fact, it’s a really great cellphone in every way–first one I’ve ever not HATED.

05142007028.jpg

If you click on this picture it will go to full 5 megapixel resolution so it will take some time to load, but you might be interested in seeing the kind of photo this N95 Nokia phone is capable of.

Went to a restaurant named Schwatrzís for dinner with a bunch of guys from Friends of Triumph (FOT) and had a great time. Then back to the track and slept in Nero.

Friday
I had a two practice/qualifying sessions. Theyíve put Peyote in the Sports Racer class so thereís little possibility of an overall win, so my goal is to beat all the Porsches. Iíve got a long way to go. Iím turning about 2.55 and theyíre down at 2.44 but Iím certain I can gain at least ten seconds. I didnít have an official time because Garmey swapped transponders between my car and Bill Hartís. Pretty good joke, except timing and scoring detected the error and didnít give us times. Billy talked timing and scoring into redoing the time sheets. I did a 2:49.

Peyote received a steady stream of visitors in the paddock. The Prodigal Racecar–returning to it’s home track. If everyone who told me “I used to work on that car, with Bill Ames and Dewey Brohaugh” really did, then neither Bill nor Dewey ever had to spin a wrench. A lot of people were very excited to see the car though. Most of the haven’t seen it run since the eighties when Pat Starr drove it. Pat Starr is actually here, driving his Morgan.

There was a Bratwurst & Beans Motrah (Morgan Triumph Healy–there’s a special MOTRAH race here this weekend) dinner Friday night. I love Bratwurst, but I bet Iím going to have had enough of it pretty soon. Kas Kastner gave a little speech, and Jack Drews presented me with the Bill Ames Memorial award. Thereís some pretty neat folks that have won that, Iíll have to live up to it.

I went to Seibkenís bar afterwards. What a place. It reeks of racing and fifty years of guys with motor oil in their veins bullshitting about how fast they are. It was pretty crowded. A group of bachelorettes from Green Bay showed up dressed in whacky wigs, having a party for a bride to be. They were pretty wild and they came to the right place. I hung out for a while and watched the festivities, then gave a ride back to the track to a thoroughly toasted mechanic who was insistent about going to another bar, which fortunately was closed.

Saturday
The MOTRAH qualifying was right after the group four qualifier so I was moved to group three which is the group with most of the Triumphs and other little british cars (LBC). Thereís two very fast Austin Healy Sprites in the group so I set off chasing them. I passed one pretty quickly and settled in behind the one in first place to learn the track. I stayed tight on his tail, figuring out how to manage some of the corners that were slowing me. I finally passed him, but found I was making serious errors in some of the corners so I tucked back behind him for the last two laps. I turned a 2:44.7. Pretty good improvement, though I think thereís still a couple of seconds of improvement left.
Weíll see. If I can pick that up Iíll be ahead of the Porsches in Group Four. I suspect I can do that. Big surprise for them.

The MOTRAH qualifier rolled out behind the pace car just as it started raining. I had put my Hoosier DOT (semi-slicks) radials on to try them out on this track–worst possible time to try that. By the time we were coming onto the starting line it was raining steadily, so I pulled off to the pits. No point in damaging the car in a practice session. I have a long way to go.

Went to the SVRA dinner. More Brats. Hmm. I went to Seibkens with Jeff Snook and met up with Jon Wood and Keith Files. Wound up going to another local bar, pretty interesting place. Turns out Jon is the original pinball wizard. I left fairly early and hit the sack. Iím on the wagon because of medicine Iím taking, so bars are not as entertaining as they usually are.

Sunday
I tried the DOT Radials during the warm up. Wow. They absolutely rock. I was pretty sure I could pick up two seconds with them.

For the Motrah race I was gridded fourth–there were two modern Aero-8 full-on race cars in the first two places. How these guys belong in a Vintage race escapes me. Then the really fast Austin Healy Sprite of Dave Jahamiac, then me.
I figured I’d smoke the Healy with the slicks on–wrong. I was very fast in the corners, but he was running away from me in the straights. I finally realized that the bigger rubber was actually slowing me down in the straights. I lost a full second with them on. I also had a nasty vibration near top speed that suddenly would quit when I reached max speed… More to come