A Weekend of Wonder - W.O.W.!
by Scott Fohrman
Although I have been racing the same car for 7 years now, I had made big changes to the suspension and engine since I had last ran at Elkhart Lake. I was looking forward to seeing if I could best my time of 2:57 from two years ago. It was not to be on Friday. As the first practice session progressed, I had less and less brakes. I found that only triple pumping the brakes would get me a hard pedal - and that lasted only as long as my foot stayed down. With the next application, I'd need to start pumping again - not very inspiring. Worse, I had no idea what the problem was.
My investigation took a 4 hour hiatus after 3 inches of rain fell in about an hourís time. The canopy looked more like a big water- filled boil than a tent (Easy-Up tents are also easy down). And we were paddocked at the bottom of a hill. It is beautiful to see a 6" deep river form next to you, complete with waterfall, but itís not conducive to making mechanical repairs! Around 7:30pm, I tried replacing the rear brake shoes. I figured out that the adjusters are not supposed to be able to screw ALL the way in until they disappear!
Man, was I ready for the practice session the next morning. Finally, I had brakes, handling and power - this was going to be fun! And it was-for about half a lap. Two of the cylinders stopped doing their "thing". Talk about being unprepared! I had left a lot of the tools and parts I carry at home, as I had hurt my back a couple of weeks ago and "schlepping" doesn't help it. So after borrowing a compression gauge from one of my MGB competitors/friends, Les Gonda of Ohio. I determined that the front two cylinders had zero compression. Les calmly pointed out to my depressed self that the odds of holing two pistons at once were remote and I had most likely blown a head gasket - and that he would loan me on of his! See what I mean about vintage racers?
The thought of field stripping the entire top off my engine and rebuilding it in the 4 hour before the next session (which was to be qualifying) was more than daunting to me. I glumly looked down out paddock-- it looked like the hospital scene from the Battle of Atlanta in Gone with the Wind. Every car was in some state of disassembly; heads off, carbs on benches, even one entire engine replacement in process. Humbled, I started in.
Then the angels of mercy arrived - Jake and Ann Snyder, "Cowboy" Dave Bralich and Kim Tonry. I guess they took one look at my pitiful efforts and pitiful face and they took over. While I ran all over the paddock, "mooching" parts and tools, they resurrected my dead machine. Unbelievably kind and generous! Like proud midwives, they sheparded the startup and re-torque of the head and then were off to the stands to watch the on track results of their labors.
Honestly, I wasn't expecting too much longevity from the motor - we had just done this major rebuild without a lot of resources and high compression race motors are sensitive about their head gaskets. And I was impatient to see what kind of speed the car was capable of after a 9 month wait. So sitting on the grid, I decided to just let it go from the very start of the qualifying session for as long as it would hold together.
The very best time I had ever gotten in all the years of racing at Road America was a respectable 2:57. My first lap was a 2:58. The next was 2:56, then 2:54, 2:52, 2:51 and the session was over. Yeow!
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