Five Questions With… is a new series of driver interviews for Racing On The Cheap. I will be adding future interviews as racers allow me interrupt their valuable time.
Our first installment is with Tim Arnett from San Jose, California. I wish to thank him for being my first journalistic guinea pig.
1. What is your favorite memory from your first race weekend or drivers school?
The best memory from driver school was that I was running a 1965 mustang Street car with steel wheels and skinny street tires that were weather cracked. It was a two weekend SCCA Driver school at Sears Point. I seemed to hit the track running so it was fun totally confusing the Big bore GT-1 Corvettes and such as they could not catch me even with the big Goodyear slicks. Then the best part was at the end of the day I loaded up my buddies and we drove to dinner, a few guys were in the pits stopping us telling that we could not take the race car out on the street and I had to explain it was a licensed street car. I think they had a melt down. In fairness a few of them got up to speed by the end of the four day school for the main race, but I still managed a fifth overall in the final race.
2. What is your most memorable race or championship win, and why?
There have been a few epic races, but my favorite championship was winning the Big Open Single Seater (BOSS) formula car series run by HSR. This was a group of vintage Formula One, Formula 5000, Indy cars, F2, sort of a Formula Libre of run what ya brung. The rules for the F1 was that the cars had to be three years old, whew really vintage, so there was some awesome hardware running. I remember one time looking next to me in grid and there was Mario Andretti’s Lotus 79 Formula one Championship winning car, so just some amazing cars would show up. The reason it was my favorite championship was that the win came from driving a 1600 cc Formula Atlantic. To add to the thrill of the victory it turned out to be a Pro series with a championship dinner and I got a check at the end of the season that I did not even know was part of the series. I was running for fun as the organizer put on the best events I had run, so I had cancelled all the SCCA events for the year to run with Ed Swart’s group at HSR. Sadly I got bounced into an Under Two liter group they created for the next year. I do think it is still the only Formula Atlantic in history to win the BOSS championship.
3. What is the biggest racecar build challenge you have come up against?
My current project on restoring a F5000 only because I have not finished it. I keep getting distracted with working on and restoring a few Datsun Roadsters that keep finding me. They are great fun to drive and are very competitive for what they are.
4. What is your favorite corner or series of corners, and why?
Almost any series of two corners in a row is a great rush for me. I would have to say one of my fave’s is the top of the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca down to turn 11. The reason I like it so much is that it is such a great equalizer of Horsepower, at least for me. I suspect there are two factors on the charm, one is that turn nine in the middle of that section is a downhill that is de-cambered, or at least changes camber to give the same effect to loosen the car up as you pass the apex. So this seems to keep ninety percent of the drivers cautious there, and then the fact it is a downhill run, it adds lots of HP to the car. In recent years I had the pleasure of running a USRRC race that was a mixed group of about 1966 and earlier cars. I was running an old Datsun Roadster and was able to time being lapped by the lead Brabham sports racer at the top of the hill. I tried to re-pass him exiting turn ten on the down hill run but he pulled away with HP and then left me on the front straight. I did the same to a Lotus 23 Sports racer a lap or two later, but was not able to pull out to try to pass, but was right on him till the exit of ten. So it is a rush to hang with the lead cars with an old piece of junk in perspective relative to those historical cars for a section of track till you hit the straights. It is not as fun since the track was changed to move turn ten up the hill a ways. The reason the old track was more fun is that I could almost always pass one to two cars a lap on the downhill run out of nine to ten, now that it is shorter it is hard to get past cars there as it is so short.
5. What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting off in this sport?
Oh my. Sadly, I would say starting with a war chest budget big enough for the purchase of a car and a year of events is about as important as anything. The reality is buy seat time, forget the car. Ten races in a Go Kart will get you miles down the road compared to buying a cool Ferrari that sits in the garage due to fear of running it, or no budget left to use and repair it. So, have a Rich Daddy and start at 16 or sooner, or you should look at the whole driving/ racing thing as a way to have fun. If you boil it down for awhile, it really is a money sport. So recognize that, find info like what Racing on the Cheap offers, and go have fun.
Tim Arnett and one of his wicked little Datsun Roadsters at the 2007 SCCA Vintage Classic, Laguna Seca Raceway. (notice the 6 cyl and sidepipes?!?)