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Good Moments, Again

copyright (c) 1994 by Terry Coates

I know what this looks like. No articles appear from these fingers when things aren't going well, but the dry spell is coincidentally over in times of triumph. Okay, I'm guilty. Our performance does play a part in how willing I am to write an article, but it's not the only thing.

After the thrilling debut of the new MR2 at St. Louis, things dropped off. Consecutive races at Blackhawk Farms were discouraging. The first yielded my worst finish since 1992, fifth. The second weekend we managed only fourth. Car problems didn't help in the first finish but there were no excuses available the following weekend. We had a bad start and just couldn't catch anyone.

Hopes were higher for CD-ROC, the Mid-Ohio Showcase. The large field made putting together a good qualifying lap difficult. We qualified fourth, but not too far back. The start on the back straight proved disastrous however, and we fell back amidst a sea of Neons. A few laps later, I slid off turn one. We were able to run a few "B" cars down after rejoining, two more spun, but we still ended up only sixth. A new "worst finish since 1992."

A week's worth of out-of-town business followed immediately by a week's vacation followed immediately by the purchase of a new van followed immediately by the double National at Roebling Road made writing a Mid-Ohio article virtually impossible.

But about that double at Roebling Road . . . The new van (necessitated by constant little problems with the high-mileage previous van) was wonderful on the tow. It's a new 1993 1-ton Ford extended-chasis, raised-roof cargo van with a 7.3L diesel engine. If it sounds big, well, it's not small to be sure. It is more car-like than the old ('89) van was and there is no trailer sway whatsoever. It is much less noisy and gets better fuel mileage on cheaper fuel. It has a 3-year bumper-to-bumper warranty. Who could ask for anything more?

Which brings us to the Toyota. Roebling Road and the Toyota MR2 must be kin. The perfectly-flat road course situated near Savannah, Georgia is little more than a series of carousel turns, two of which are flat-out. Perfect for the MR2. The course is very fast and a little dangerous because of the surrounding sandy fields. They frequently grab and upset cars (at least one car ended up on its roof while we were there). The facilities are Nelson-like, but when it rains, temporary lakes form. There is no such thing as a "mud puddle" when the soil is packed sand. The lakes all drain in due time.

My wife, Cheryl, and I paddocked with fellow OVR driver, Tony Suever, his wife Cathy, and their daughter Andrea. Tony had run the test day on Friday and it was a good thing, too. After Saturday's practice session he discovered a broken rear half-shaft. It was terminal and he spent the rest of the day looking for parts while we qualified.

On Saturday, we qualified once for Sunday's race and once for Monday's race. On each race day, we re-qualified before the race itself. I was still learning the track during Saturday's first session and landed second of two (with Tony abstaining) in SSB. We were very near the end of the pack because of large number of fast Miatas (If Roebling and the MR2 are kin, Roebling and the Miatas are Siamese twins).

A mid-day downpour caused a big delay and a wet-in-places course for our second Saturday qualifier. That put us on the pole for Monday's race, subject to Monday's qualifier.

By late afternoon, Tony had decided to fly home to Cleveland and borrow the hub and half-shaft from his street car and fly back to try and make Sunday's race. As incredulous or dedicated as that sounds, it made sense. After spending money to get there, enter, and get back, spending several hundred dollars on airfare would pay off with two good finishes, courtesy of manufacturer and tire contingency money. The choices were to lose everything so far, or spend considerably more with a chance to get it all back.

After he left, I tore his car down to prepare for the arrival of the donor organs. Cheryl and I went out to eat with Cathy and Andrea. It was late when we got to the hotel and we were exhausted. The heat and humidity there takes its toll.

Sunday morning we snatched the pole during the second qualifier for that day's race. Shortly after, Tony arrived and we re-assembled his car with time to spare. He had to start from the back of the pack, but in reality was only about three cars behind my MR2 and the other SSB entrant, a Sentra SE-R.

When the green dropped, I swear I must've been the only one looking. I hit the gas and then watched every other car around me hit theirs. I moved from 11th overall to about fourth. Those are the starts we just can't have often enough. Unfortunately, it didn't last as I spun in turn three, lap one, and rejoined at the back of the pack.

Tony worked his way past the Sentra and took off. I managed to catch the Nissan, but he was tough to get around. In his own words, "You'd move over and I'd block you. There are few placed to pass, so I was waiting for the next opportunity when I spun off again.

I got back on and ran the Sentra down again, this time completing a pass. I held on to second and Tony went on to win. He had already recouped his airfare, as well as scoring twelve National points.

At impound, my radiator was pee-ing a small stream of coolant onto the pavement. It was a bigger job than a can of stop-leak could handle. We found a guy who would attempt a solder job and we removed the leaking radiator. It was soldered, replaced, and the system was bled before we left the track Sunday evening. Again it was late when we hit the sack and we were again exhausted.

Monday's qualifying session was worthless as the track was wet from overnight rains. Once more I had the pole, once more Tony would start from the back. Still, he was only a few cars back.

The start was not so magic this time, but I managed to lead for more than three turns. Tony dispensed with the Sentra and began slowly running me down. He finally passed me under braking at the end of the front straight. I lost a little ground to him during the pass, but started to catch up. I glanced down at my odometer and gauged that I was on the last lap. I mounted a charge that I hoped would take me past Tony down the straight before the flag stand. As we mounted the front straight, I knew I didn't have enough to pass him.

But the checker didn't come out. One more lap! I had such a head of steam up that I was able to draw alongside Tony before the end of the straight and I held the inside line take the lead back. There are few places to pass on this track so I ran a conservative last lap, making sure that I had a good run on the front straight. We finished very closely, with Tony beginning to pull alongside me. It was a great race.

We got some good track time out of the event and, hopefully, made progress in driving the new car. It was also nice to be back on top, even if the pile was not so large. Most importantly, the MR2 brothers helped fix each other's cars and traded wins. That is SCCA racing.

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