Mid-Ohio National; July 4-5, 1992
copyright (c) 1992 by Terry Coates
When I decided to report my season to the masses I didn't take into account the fact that I might have to write some depressing articles. But I suppose the ego needs an occasional pin-hole lest I have to get a bigger apartment.
Wednesday prior to the race I had some service done to the van. Nothing too big: a water pump and some little stuff to make it more road worthy. My girlfriend and I spent Thursday evening re-loading race gear into the van. Special attention was given to completeness and ease of access. I even put one of those white racks on the back door for the most frequently used car tonics.
I loaded up the Buckeye Nissan Sentra SE-R (and a dozen other items) and got going slightly late (never is everything packed) and arrived at the I-71 rest area to rendezvous with Rob Jones. He wasn't there so we waited a while before moving on. We were just late enough that he could've already been there and gone. About ten miles down the road I committed a cardinal error. Never one to be swayed by superstition, I turned to Cheryl and proudly exclaimed, "The van is running well. It just feels really smooth." I swear it was no more than thirty seconds later when it quit.
Died. All at once. Nothing but the hum of a dead engine spinning in harmony with the tires. No engine noise was going to interfere with this funeral song. I knew it was electrical and I had this feeling it was permanent. I tapped my limited understanding of the van's ignition system and started to check the few things that I could.
Brooks Greer stopped first. A bit later, Rob showed up and then the Highway Patrol. The latter left with the intention of calling a tow truck (which they must've done after a doughnut break). Rob was late because he'd left the house without his driver's suit. Good thing. He spent a considerable amount of time verifying that the van was in fact dead. Brooks offered to tow the car up to the track so we piled the most important of the essential items into the car leaving the not-so-important essential items packed neatly in the van (so much for completeness). Brooks headed off with the race car in tow. Some time later the tow truck arrived and carried the van off; I rode with Rob to meet my car at the track.
These are the guys that epitomize what the SCCA is supposed to be about. Sure, Rob is my friend, but he didn't have to spend so much time getting dirty when the van showed no signs of resuscitation ( although he knew that without the van I'd be living off his tools for the rest of the weekend). And I have met Brooks at the solos where he generally works the grid and runs his Scirocco, but he needn't have been so generous. He stayed a long time before we released him with my car and he waited with it at the track until we arrived. Big thanks to these guys and to Pat Breakey who hauled the car home for me.
Okay, so here we are this far into the article and I haven't even started the race car yet.
I followed Rob during practice and could stay with him. I passed him when he got out-of-shape once, but it was short-lived as I braked too late heading into Thunder Valley. The car drifted to the left edge of the track, scrubbing speed all the while. Rob blew easily past.
My times were about six seconds faster than last fall in the war-torn GTI, but we knew that was not going to be enough. Rob was having severe handling problems which explained why I could keep up with him so easily.
The track heated with the day so the second session times were generally slower. I qualified fourth in class at 1:55.5 while Rob managed only a 1:56.2 to get sixth place. OVR accounted for nearly half the SSB field with T.C. Kline gridding second and Rich Grunenwald ninth. Incidentally, T.C.'s second in SSB would only have earned him fourth in SSC!
OVR's Tony Suever was credited with an unreal 1:52.2 in the early provisional grid. This was later adjusted to 1:54.6 to place him third in SSB. But even that time was unreal as, alas, neither Tony nor his car were at the track. It is one thing to have late withdrawals shown on the entry list or even the qualifying list, as a "DNS." But it is pure crazy that he was given two vastly different times in the course of four (or more?) provisional grids and still left on the final grid. Needless to say, he didn't show up to start so all SSB cars fourth and higher started one position closer to the front.
Don Mills was the fast OVR guy in qualifying of the 12-car SSGT field. He managed only sixth but did so behind names like Bob Strange, Freddy Baker, and Boris Said. Thomas Metcalf, Jr. and Ken McVicker completed the OVR representation gridding 9th and 11th, respectively.
The SSC field was tough. Forrest Granlund was the highest-qualifying OVR member, managing second in his Honda. Gary Fratianne was just behind Forrest. Roger Schroer was fourth, separated from the lead pack by four non-class cars. Tom Hickey was sixth in his first national of the season.
After qualifying Rob found the problem on his car. The support arm on the left end of the front sway bar had broken loose, allowing the A-arm to move almost two inches before the bar had any affect. I can see why he was complaining about the car not wanting to turn in. He was able to get it fixed, but it was not a permanent solution. I had some items that might have helped him, but like nearly everything else I needed that weekend, they were packed neatly in the van many miles away.
And now the race. I got an average start, not losing a lot of ground, though one SSB car did fly by nearly ten cars, including Rob and I, right at the start. The lead pack of SSB cars broke loose with several SSC cars guarding their rear, as often happens in Showroom Stock, they were never seen again.
For me, there was only one notable event in the race. Going into the keyhole, early in the race I was punted pretty hard by an SSC car. I noted it, but it was bumper-to-bumper and racing close always brings some of those. A few laps later, however, the same car hit me just in front of my rear wheel, causing me to start to spin. This was a hard impact and only his bumper was involved this time. I saved the spin, but I lost all speed coming out of the turn. This allowed the bandit and Rob to get by me at the end of the long back straight, dropping me to my eventual sixth place finish.
These things also happen in racing--intentional or otherwise. I'm not going to whine about it, but I can't recall ever being so mad about an incident. It won't be forgotten.
Rob's sway bar let loose early on but he held on to fifth. T.C. Kline dropped a position to finish third, Rich Grunenwald was eighth. In SSGT, Don Mills worked his way up to fifth and a trophy while Ken McVicker picked up a place to finish tenth. Thomas Metcalf suffered a nasty-looking crash head-in to the tire wall on turn twelve.
Forrest Granlund was the highest-finishing OVR member in SSC, third and just ahead of me, once again. Behind me was Roger Shroer, fourth. Tom Hickey dropped one position and finished seventh. The hardest part of the weekend was balancing the anger and disappointment against the excitement of the other big event that weekend. I had brought a van, a spotless race car, and a girlfriend to the track but left with no van, a dented car, and a fiancée. At least one thing went right that weekend. On to IRP.
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