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Back to My Roots

Short version: with everything that’s been happening on the job front I forgot to send out an Update about us running a hill climb the weekend of June 22-24. Data won (and set a new record) in GTA while I won (and set a new record) in GT-1. Of course we were the only cars in our respective classes, but why let the details get in the way of a good story? <g> 

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And for those with nothing better to do, here’s the longer version:

Although I’d run a number of Solo events early in my driving career, the very first “racing” event I ever ran with the SCCA was the Chimney Rock Hill Climb back in April of 1982. We had a 1969 Corvette with an L-88 427 engine and I remember we ran a 2:03.3 on our best run that weekend. A number of people commented on how well we’d done on our first visit to that storied site, but I was disappointed that (1) we didn’t break the coveted 2-minute mark and (2) Sam Henderson was the fastest door-slammer in his ’67 Corvette with a 2:03.1. The event was conducted by Central Carolinas Region SCCA (Roger Minnick was the event chairman) and I remember being impressed with how special they made the event. We got to do burnouts in the staging area prior to leaving the line (and that monster big-block was GREAT at turning money into tire smoke <g>), they had a professional announcer “talking us up the mountain”, the local community was solidly behind the event, and there were literally thousands of spectators that turned out for that annual Rite of Spring in the North Carolina mountains. Little did I know it at the time, but that was my first introduction to a “Major” SCCA event.

1982 was the first of seven trips to “The Rock” over the next ten years. In 1984 we installed an LT-1 small block and broke the GT-1 record with a 2:00.7, then one year later finally broke the 2-minute mark (resetting the GT-1 record) and became the fastest door-slammer EVER up the mountain with a 1:58.740! Mike Baumgardner (whose uncle Jack commented in 1982 that I was the only Corvette driver he’d ever seen who “didn’t drive like a Corvette driver”) later surpassed all my records with his TR-8 and while chasing him I finally destroyed the ‘69 (and eventually my second marriage) against the side of a tree in 1991. Despite that ignominious end, however, participating in hill climbs and appreciating the efforts of CCR were a big part of my early driving history.

Fast forward to 2012: When we weren’t able to race at Road Atlanta in May (see a previous BK Racing Update entitled “Brian & Dave Try On Big Boy Pants”) we added the CCR’s “Chasing the Dragon II” weekend to our 2012 schedule. The course is just outside Robbinsville NC, the local community is solidly behind the event, Data would be able to co-drive Cuervo, we could escape the heat of Atlanta for a weekend, and it was a chance to return to my racing roots. Harriett & I headed out on Friday afternoon and went through registration at the big shindig in downtown Robbinsville, then proceeded to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest to meet Data & Pam to set up our paddock spot.

Data & I got there early Saturday morning to unload Cuervo and prep him for the day, then made a couple of reconnaissance runs up the mountain just to make sure we knew which was the course went. Harriett & Pam showed up to bring the appearance of class to our efforts just as I was getting ready to make the first of the morning. The first runs were officially practice runs while CCR worked out the logistics of a manual timing system, but even though I didn’t have an official time I was “King of the Hill” for at least five minutes since I was the first car on course for the day!

Data made his practice run, came back down (coming DOWN the mountain and waving at the crowd/workers is almost as much fun as going up) then turned right back around to make his first timed run of the event. It was a “NEW GTA RECORD!!!” at a 2:28.7, but since we didn’t have any history there we didn’t know if that was fast or slow. We turned the car around again (which basically amounted to changing the number from 571 to 157 – another plus to the hill climb format is it encourages two-driver cars) and I made my first official run of the weekend. This time the tires were warm so I was a bit more aggressive than I was on run #1. I was told I was a bit sideways coming out of the right-hander leading the main spectator area, but I thought I was enough under control that I actually waved to the folks as I went by. Of course the fact that I was waving through the windshield probably prompted some of the comments!

At any rate, this time I remembered to look at the timer display as I rolled through the shutdown area and was pleased to see the figures “2:08.245” being displayed. At the time that was the third fastest time overall, so Data took the rest of the runs that day and got down to a 2:17.507 before it was all over. On the way back to the motel Harriett asked me why I had declined my last two runs and after thinking about it I finally said, “Because I don’t know the course well enough to risk going any faster.” Over dinner we decided that Data & I would return on Sunday at oh-dark-thirty to make some more passes in the dually.

Despite knowing the track better the best I could run on Sunday was a 2:10.0 while Data’s best ended up a 2:22.7, so our Saturday times placed us in sixth and eighteenth overall of the 45 cars that made runs that weekend. We still had a great time, visited with a bunch of friends from my early days (Harriett was amazed I was able to refrain from telling them about my pending interviews in Topeka), picked up our first place trophies, and thanked the workers/officials for allowing us to play on their mountain. Despite not being able to find the Saturday evening party it was a GREAT time and we’re already making plans to go back again. We’ve got other obligations the weekend of “Chase the Dragon III” (Sept 29-30), but CCR RE Steve Eckerich assures me things will be even better in 2013!

Performance postscript – since we couldn’t run the times on Sunday that we did on Saturday my first thought was the rear tires had run out of “sticky”. These were the same tires that I’d run at Daytona and then Brian & Dave had abused at Road Atlanta in May, plus that theory seemed to be confirmed by the lack of pick-up on the rears vs. the fronts as we came back down the mountain. When Bill Dillashaw came by yesterday to pick up Cuervo (he’s driving him this weekend) we noticed one of the rear tires in the tire rack was completely flat. I don’t recall ever checking tire pressures at after the first session on Sunday, so our slower times that day could very well have been due to a slow leak. Had I actually checked the tires between each run, we MIGHT have gotten closer to the sacred 2-minute mark. Just proves that even seasoned veterans need to get slapped upside the head every once in awhile!

Subject to the whims of the racing gods, here’s our remaining schedule for 2012: 

Dates

Track/Location

Reason

July 14-15

Heartland Park Topeka

Watching and Learning

Aug 18 (Sat)

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Double SARRC (both on Saturday)

Aug 31-Sep 2

Barber Motorsports Park

Double SARRC

Sep 17-23

Road America (Wisconsin)

SCCA Runoffs (Working & Learning)

Oct 6-7

Roebling Road

SARRC Invitational

Nov 2-4

Road Atlanta

ARRC by GRM

??

a local drag strip

Run the quarter, just to see

Depending on how things go we might skip some of these events or we might add some others. As always, if you’d like more information about any of them just let me know.

See y’all at the track…