I’ve been working on getting the Van Diemen ready to race again. I needed to relocate the battery and fire bottle to make room for a new seat I’m going to pour next week. Had to do a little plumbing/wiring and make a new cover to go over them. I’m gonna make a trim color change while all the body work is off, and add a few old livery details for fun too.
This week I picked up a 1993 Van Diemen Formula Continental from a fellow SFR SCCA racer who parked it a few years ago. No “big” work required, just the usual new car stuff. Battery, belts, seat, tires, some re-wiring and plumbing clean-up issues, etc, I hope to have it out at the track by year’s end. The car will race with SFR in FC, at least until I can dig a few other older FCs out of the woodwork and start a CFC Class. I’ll also race it with the west coast Vintage clubs in their Wings & Slicks group.
We raced at Buttonwillow Raceway with VARA this weekend, and the club tried out a new (and successful) race format. We ran the track counter-clockwise on Saturday with a Practice/Qualifying Practice/Race schedule, and then ran the track clockwise with the same schedule on Sunday. Two points races on two “different” tracks in one weekend, excellent! It was sure a hot one, with race time temps at 95F degrees, but we were prepared for the heat with a Cool Suit and window scoops for the driver, and a spot in the garages for the car and crew. The 710 was running quite well this weekend, a few little issues arose, but nothing we couldn’t manage. Water pump replacement for a failing shaft bearing, out of balance wheel, odds and ends… but we Qualified third, and finished third, for both races.
Formula Ford The Series had a great turnout of cars, I think I counted 18. TABS-West was there as well with at least that many in BS and BSL. On Saturday they held the Rennsport All-German car race, and this weekend we even had quite a few rookies out there sporting their yellow Rookie Stripes. One of VARA’s sponsors, Lucas Oil, had plenty of swag for the competitors, and the Saturday night BBQ and raffle were their usual hit with racers, families, crews, and corner workers alike.
Photos by Privateer Racing
Last weekend I went racing with SFR SCCA at Laguna Seca raceway. My vintage B/Sedan-prepped Datsun 710 doesn’t really fit into any modern SCCA class so I raced in the catch-all ITE class, along with Corvettes, Mustangs, and Porsche Cup cars. I was definitely running in the back of the pack, but had a few cars to dice with and got to practice getting passed 😉 And while I’m no longer racing a Formula Ford, my former competitors still let me share their pits with them.
Every race weekend there is ‘that guy’. That guy who messes up the track session for everyone else, who gets stuck in the sand traps every time out, who runs out of gas on the back straight, or who oils down the track. Well this weekend I embarrassingly got to be ‘that guy’. I left an oil fitting loose, and as it came off I oiled down Turns 6 through 11 with four quarts of oil on the first lap of Friday morning’s practice. The 30 minute session was cut short to 10 minutes as the track workers got busy with the oil-soak and sweepers. Luckily I shut down the motor with two quarts left in it, saving myself another motor build. Apologies to my fellow competitors…
The summer weather was terrific, but there was a scary fire burning in Big Sur just down the highway from the racetrack. It got a bit smokey on Sunday, but nothing compared to what the hard-working firefighters were (and still are) dealing with.
Photos by my racing buds: Art, Mike, Shad, and Don (as I was busy wrenchin’ all weekend)
This weekend VARA held its annual British Extravaganza race weekend at Buttonwillow Raceway. After an extremely windy and dusty Test day on Friday (we actually saw a few black flags as visibility neared zero), the weekend left us with perfect racing weather as we enjoyed mostly sunny skies with highs in the 70s. With the obligatory Saturday night bbq and karaoke, and the All-British car race on Sunday, the 150 entrants along with their families and crews all seemed to have a very memorable weekend. Joining VARA for the weekend was also our Historic race car group, and the Bakersfield British Car Club.
I’m happy to say my Datsun 710 B-sedan race car is finally coming around. This was only the second time I got a full race weekend out of it with no major mechanical issues, and with me actually back in the hunt. All the recent prep work paid off as the handling is much improved, the drivetrain is running strong and reliable, and all the safety equipment is easy to operate. Speaking of which, we unfortunately had a rookie driver experience a roll-over accident at the bottom of Phi Hill in his Volvo this weekend. But while the car received considerable damage, the safety equipment did its job and the driver walked away unscathed. Roll cages, seats, harnesses, and helmets are not the places to skimp in your racing budget.
I tried out using an inexpensive timer/data-acquisition app on my smartphone this weekend, sold as ‘Harry’s Lap Timer’. Not quite the data available through a high-end system, but it’s easy to use, the timer is easy to read, and some of the data charts are interesting. Shown below is a lateral G-force vs distance chart covering one lap of the race. No wonder I feel so beat up on Monday mornings…
Older, wiser, less invincible, slower to heal… whatever the reason, I’ve been spending more attention (and money) on my safety equipment as my amateur racing career carries on. This season I’ve been working on making my cockpit a safer place to be in case of an impact. I added a halo style seat, and since I’m so long-wasted, I had it custom made with a two-inch longer back so the shoulder harness holes were positioned properly. To keep the angle of the harness properly aligned with the use of my HANS device, I had to add a higher harness bar to my roll cage as well. I installed a new window net that uses both wide webbing and mesh to help keep my body parts in the car and to keep unwelcome parts out. And even though my race club does not require them, I added a right side net for a little more protection.
As we vintage racers get older, stiffer, and larger, it gets more difficult getting in and out of our caged cars. I’ve seen many racers getting by with a minimum driver’s side door bar to help ease car entry and exit, often just a simple ‘X’ without the top horizontal bar. My car has quite a high top door bar, same height as the window sill, so it’s been getting tougher to slide in and out gracefully. I discovered a helpful modification that kept the safety and added some ease, a hinged bar kit made by Chassisworks. With some help from my racing buddies John Teaby and Mike Malone, my racing just got safer, and easier.
Here’s a good video of what a side impact with a halo seat looks like. Video
Last weekend VARA held it’s annual 2-hour Twighlight Enduro at Willow Springs Int’l Raceway during their High Desert Challenge race weekend. I was invited to co-drive the second hour of the enduro by Steve Villata, the current owner of the Race Wagon, and was more than happy to partake. Most vintage races are in the 25-35 minute sprint length, so this is one of the only West Coast opportunities for a longer vintage race format. It takes a bit of planning: driver change, refueling, pitlane repairs if necessary, things that we just don’t get to practice very often. But it’s the best ‘race laps for the dollar’ ratio you can get anywhere, and man, its a whole lot of fun!
The race had 17 entries, and Steve drove a great first half, dicing steadily with a 240Z and turning consistent laps in the 1:42 range. After the pitstop and driver change, I had a good battle going with a 911 for several laps, but with ten minutes to go and running in 4th place, the Wagon’s motor decided it had had enough abuse and we had to call it a day. Steve’s brother Ron (a second season racer), and his co-driver Lawrence Dunnigan (a rookie season racer) finished their Capri’s first enduro in a very respectable 12th place. Can’t wait for next year’s Enduro!