MGs at Blackhawk
It seems that with each passing year, more events appear on the club calendar. Despite the concern that the schedule of events is becoming unwieldy, we would like to propose adding yet another event next year. Our justification for this is that we found a event that we enjoyed so much, the only thing we can do is share it with other members of this club. This event is the Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association's annual Blackhawk Vintage Classic, which was held this year on June 19 and 20. We have heard other CMGC members speak enthusiastically of this event. What finally got us there this year was that Midwestern Council was staffing the event, and it was our first real opportunity of the season to work corners.
If you want to see MGs in competition, this is an event not to be missed! Race Group 1 was mostly MGs: the cars in this group ranged from a green 1933 MG J-2 to a black 1954 TF. In between, there were a '34 MG QA, a '36 Riley Special, two '37 Morgan 4+4s, a '39 MGTB, a '49 Lester MG, six TCs, and three TDs. Chicagoland MG Club members racing in this group included Jeff Powell, Number 818 black '48 MGTC, Rock Yarrington, Number 49 yellow '48 MGTC and Rey Navarro, Number 33 red '49 MGTC.
Driveline editor Kelvin Palmer (Number 9 blue '74 MGB) was racing in Group 2, among other MGBs, MGAs, Spridgets, big Healeys, Triumphs, Elvas, and the odd Lotus, Ferrari, Mercedes, XK120, E-Type, and Volvo ('61 P-1800). Group 3 had no MGs, but had several Lotus Super Sevens, which are always fun to watch. CMGC member Scott Fohrmann (Number 53 blue and silver '64 MGB) was racing in Group 8 with other MGBs and Midgets, Triumphs, Sprites, Mini Coopers, Datsuns, Volvos, etc. of late 50s to mid 70s vintage. Other race groups included vintage formula cars and "larger" vintage cars ('Vettes, Porsches, Panteras, etc.). Race results should soon be posted on the VSCDA web site at http://www.vscda.org/blkhawk.htm.
Blackhawk Farms Raceway, located near Beloit, WI, has been described in AutoWeek's annual travel issue as a "little gem of a track"- a very accurate description. Its 1.95 miles includes 7 turns through wooded terrain. Most CMGC members can get there quickly and easily via I-90. Like the annual camping trip to Road America, the Blackhawk Vintage Classic is another opportunity to cheer on CMGC members in competition. And because this is a smaller event and venue, it is easier to find them Saturday evening to hear about the day's races from their perspective.
Besides attending as a spectator or preparing and racing a car, some club members might consider participating as race staff. The Midwestern Council, which staffed this event, offers training to workers during its drivers schools (usually in April, June, and September) and other race staff clinic days. Working corners, or flagging and communication, puts you close to the action, but staff is also needed for timing and scoring, grid, and safety and rescue. These volunteer positions come with certain benefits, like free lunch, and often Saturday night parties. For this VSCDA event, workers also received the souvenir Swiss Army knife inscribed with "Blackhawk Vintage Classic 1999" and the beer and brat supper Saturday night had a Dixieland band.
One of the greatest extras granted to race staff at some events is worker rides. Simply, drivers volunteer their skills and their cars to take a corner worker or other staffer on one or more laps of the course, usually at lunch time or the end of racing. These laps are driven at speed, and some say that the drivers actually outperform their best race times because there is a feeling of high speed touring rather than competitive race conditions. Jake describes his ride at this event:
I was ushered into (really, hopped over the passenger's door of) nine-eight-yellow, a Bugeye Austin Healey Sprite raced by Gary Kropf. The embarrassment of fumbling the racing seat belt's lever lock closed was replaced by instant acceleration upon giving the fully-suited driver a thumbs-up. -Verbal communication is impossible, even at a full volume yell. The driver's helmet insulates against the engine's roar, and no human voice has a chance against that combination.
The exact gear sequence did not stick in my mind, but the only down shifts I remember were to third. This clearly is not possible because several of the turns are 90 degree angles, and I had worked the corners enough to visualize where we would go if there was a problem. Turn 1 was gone before I got really settled, and Turn 2 was but a little bend. I was especially attentive as we came off Turn 3 into Turn 3A: I had worked this corner the previous day and been confronted with a three-wheeled Lotus Cortina, a Sprite imbedded in the tire wall, and more spin-offs on both driver's right and driver's left than I could remember. And the driver of six-eight-yellow seemed totally unconcerned as he did a shift from fourth to third that can only be described as determined-or-else. We were past the tire wall on Turns 4 and 5 in an instant, bearing down on 6 and 6A, both of which seemed gentle and very fast. The vision of Turn 7 from the passenger's seat was intimidating, but the brakes worked magic, and the little Sprite had enough width on the track to come out fast for the straight.
By this time the wind had fairly forced my cheeks flat and worked around my glasses to start heavy tearing. With my vision at about 50 percent, I was very glad indeed that the driver was in racing gear - it would simply have been no fun at all if I had thought he could see the track no better than I. I noted, though, that the tachometer was always over 6000 rpm, and I marveled at the driver's skill when he never missed a shift.
The bridge flashed overhead, and I realized that this was a multi-turn ride. I wish to thank the race drivers who made this unique experience possible for the race staff.