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  Chicagoland MG Club:Club Info

Kelvin's First Race Season Summary

by Kelvin Palmer

My first season of vintage racing has ended. I wrote the preceding article immediately following the July Road America event but it never quite made it to a Driveline until now. Since that time I've had many memorable experiences. The thing Išve discovered though is that itšs been the little events within the events throughout the year that have provided the best and most vivid memories.

At Blackhawk Farms, early in the year, I was with M.L. Hillard when he suspected a leak in his MG racer head gasket. He was hemming and hawing about whether or not to do something about it on the spot or to just hang up the weekend. He asked if I had ever taken the head off an MGB, which I hadnšt. Always the "willing instructor", ML instantly had his incentive to do the job. We made a race out of it, trying to beat his previous "personal best" time for a cylinder head R&R. I don't remember the exact time but we did beat the record (a little over two hours I think). I've since put the valuable lessons learned to work on my own MGB.

At Grattan in August I combined the racing weekend with (of course) the University Motors Party socializing. I stayed at the "party" hotel and commuted to Grattan every day for the races. Upon first arriving at the Grattan paddock, before the truck and trailer had even stopped moving, ML was sternly pointing out that I had twenty minutes to make the next practice session. I assured him there would be no way I'd be ready in time. I leisurely unloaded the car and got it started. He decided I WOULD be ready in time and helped rush me (in addition to himself) onto the grid. All suited, strapped in and sitting on the grid I suddenly noticed my idle RPM was about 2000. In the rush I had left the choke on (it's only controlled from under the bonnet). I started flailing my arms around to get somebody's attention and commandeered a guy walking by to undo my six bonnet latch pins, find the choke and put me back together again. It seemed like forever before he could figure out what I wanted but took care of it and got me out on time. Nothing will ever stress me out again after that. I'm glad I made the session because Grattan takes some extra time to get used to. By this time VSCDA decided I belonged in Group 2 after all and I had the best racing of the season on a real roller coaster of a racetrack.

The Elkhart Lake Fall Vintage Festival in September is like a smaller version of the July B.R.I.C. event. The racing again was great but one memory stands out. Vicki and I joined a driving tour at noontime one day that followed the original "through the streets" route of the old Elkhart road racing of the 50s and 60s. We drove our racecar among others on this police escorted tour. What we didnšt realize was that when we arrived in downtown Elkhart Lake we were expected to park for awhile, show off the cars for the locals and have brats for lunch. I had to be back at the track for a race and didnšt have time for this.

Problem: You are miles from the track, in an illegal, unlicensed, brightly colored, wide striped, large numbered, loud racecar, and you have to get back, alone.

Solution: You just do it! (quickly.)

The final fling turned out not to be a race at all. I was registered for a two-day race weekend in October. I had planned to race only Saturday because Sunday was the definitive CMGC rally event for the annual driving championship. Something unfortunate came up at the last minute and also made it impossible for me to attend the race on Saturday. I had to have my last "fix" of the year. I discovered that Blackhawk Farms was offering an open "test day" for a fee on the Friday before this weekend. I showed up at 8am, paid my fee and turned out to be THE ONE AND ONLY CAR at the track. It was an incredibly weird feeling to be absolutely alone on the entire facility except for the birds. I drove and drove without seeing another soul until 11am.

Then, a second driver (with crew) showed up in a semi-truck with a newly purchased, flawlessly restored, ex-NASCAR Winston Cup stock car. They were working on it for awhile while I was on the track but I finally saw him in my mirrors (once). I wisely yielded, he blasted by, and a turn or two later I found him badly wrapped up in the trees (he was fine, the car wasn't). The real memory of the day was one of his crew walking over to me sometime later with a joking grin saying "He says YOU ran him off and thatšs the story he's stickin' with!" (Yeah, right.)

I went back to driving and got more "seat time" in this one day than I think I got all year. I drove so hard my head gasket finally gave up. A fitting end to an otherwise mechanically flawless season. I was successful at not letting the racing, or the car, totally consume these wonderful weekends. Every event provided camaraderie and thrills beyond the driving and wrenching. I've already got withdrawals and need another fix.

Next year will come.

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