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What Have We Been Up To? - Page 4
It has been some time since I have been able to write a race report for the Lotus 79 Formula One car. The reason is an unfortunate short schedule for the 2012 season which only began with a race at Lime Rock, Connecticut on the weekend of September 2. To fill in the gaps, however, we must go back to November of 2011.
You may remember that one of the two major problems we had with the car (and the same problems Lotus Cars had with it in 1978) was with the rear wheel bearings. Last November, we conducted a three day test at Motorsports Ranch near Fort Worth, Texas. During that test, a wheel bearing failed resulting in a wheel departing the car at speed. Not wanting a reoccurrence of that event, we discovered that Duncan Dayton of Highcroft Racing once had, and repaired, the same issue with his Lotus 79. Greg Ellif of GE Motorsports in Indianapolis had worked with Dave Klym at Fabcar Engineering to design and build new rear uprights using tapered roller bearings for the axles. Since Greg had already made these modifications to Duncan's car, we chose to let him do the same for us rather than to re-invent the wheel bearing ourselves. We had plenty of time to have the parts made, get the car together and test again prior to the first race at Lime Rock on Labor Day weekend.
During that time we had many more cars and activities to keep us busy. We took Kerry Stehlik%u2019s 87 March Indy car to Indianapolis for the on track vintage Indy event before the 500 and had a couple of tests with Johnny Spellman%u2019s matching Kraco March Indy car. We continued the restoration of Jim Dillard%u2019s Fiat Abarth Allemano. We also had several very successful races with Paul Rego%u2019s Lotus 23B which Doc Bundy drives and in June we accompanied it to Mid Ohio for an SVRA race. While leading the Enduro there, Doc spun and a Porsche 914 hit the Lotus causing severe damage. Doc was only a bit sore. The entire rear half of the 23B frame had to be reconstructed and the next race was only a month away in Mont Tremblant, Canada. After a great deal of work by all of us at Metcalf Racing and the Regogo crew, we made it and were second in the USRRC there, being beaten only by a V8 powered Lola. We were the first of the under 2 liter cars. Click here for a series of frame reconstruction photos: http://metcalfracing.com/live_pages/fabrication.php
Dave Klym of Fabcar did an excellent job of fabricating three steel uprights for the Lotus 79, one for a spare, and I saw these near completion when I was in Indy during May. Shortly afterwards, however, we discovered Greg had not even ordered some of the numerous other components to go with the uprights such as halfshafts, brake calipers, and wheels. (By changing from the magnesium inboard rear calipers to aluminum outer ones, we could solve the other major problem with the car, an inconsistent brake pedal.) So the summer was spent scrambling around, looking for parts all over the world, with which we could make our scheduled test at MSR on August 18th, and the races at Lime Rock and the following weekend at Watkins Glen.
We also chose to have the 79%u2019s Cosworth DFV freshened up while we waited for uprights and the other parts and sent it to Chuck Corneilison at VDS Engines in Indianapolis. Chuck runs a tight ship but had a couple of unexpected issues with the engine which resulted in our receiving it only two days before the car was to leave for Connecticut, about the same time we finally got some of the rear suspension parts. This, of course, set up the dreaded last minute thrash.
Nathan Thompson did the bulk of the work and the Lotus looked like a race car when it was loaded into the truck for the long trip to Connecticut on Monday, August 27th. Once we all arrived at Lime Rock, we still had a great deal of work to do to make the car actually work. Nathan and I spent the first three days there completing the car. We decided to use Lime Rock for the test we missed, and were content to put the car on the track only when we felt it was ready. That turned out to be on Monday, which is always race day at Lime Rock. We did the pre-race warm up which went well and then the race. Technically, we finished fifth in the Lime Rock Historic GP, although we didn%u2019t really care too much about finishing position. We cared more that the car worked well. The Lotus 23B finished second again, this time to a different Lola T-70. Doc Bundy was happy and so were we all.We left Lime Rock on Tuesday for the Glen and the drive though the Catskills was a nice respite from all the work we had been doing. We set up the truck and big blue awning just behind the garages at Watkins Glen. Our Formula One competitors used the garages but we had the Lotus 23 with us too, and wanted to have both cars together. Ten other Formula One cars showed up for the Glen, which does not make it the largest HPG grid, but did provide some stiff competition. Bud Moeller was there in his 79 Ensign and James King is always tough in his March 761. Eric Lang looked really good at Lime Rock in his Tyrrell and we expected he would be good at the Glen, too. There were also some unknowns, like Chris MacAllister%u2019s Ferrari 312 T2 and Phil Gumpert%u2019s Shadow. All, including us, were looking for a good finish at the Glen in preparation for having a good race at the USGP at Austin in November.
Paddocks are always great places
to catch up on the latest news and we learned at the Glen that several of the
HGP competitors are working to put together a Historic Formula Atlantic
series. The talk is that the Atlantic
cars will be run along with the Formula One cars but in a separate group. With the contingent of Formula Atlantic cars
we saw at Monterrey, it should be a very successful series and compliment the
HGP quite well. It would certainly be
nice to see a full grid of mid 70s and 80s Atlantics at Mid Ohio and Trois
We took to the track with the
Formula One car on Wednesday afternoon in an unofficial test. We had taken a lot of wing out of the car for
this faster circuit and found the car was well balanced and that our educated
guess at fifth gear was about right. We changed second and third gears, though,
so that Doc was not required to
short shift before some of the turns. By
Thursday morning, several engines had ruptured on track and it was covered with
oil dry. The 23B was partly responsible,
since we put a hole in the side of the
Twin Cam block. The engine was changed
on Thursday afternoon and ready to go again on Friday. The
oil dry prevented good lap times for the F1 cars, though, and meaningful
testing in general. A Thursday evening
rain cleaned the track for Friday but also washed all the rubber away creating
a green track. Not the best for good lap
times, but we recorded a 1:52.2 on the 3.4 mile circuit in the morning
qualifying session. By the afternoon,
the track had some rubber laid down again and Doc set out to get in a good
time. The watch showed continually
dropping times during the second qualifier, and the best one during the session
was a blistering 1:47.2 - exactly five seconds quicker than his time in the
morning session! And it was 1.2 seconds
faster than Bud Moeller%u2019s Ensign which qualified second.
Friday evening has become the traditional time of the Regogo Racing Fish Fry. This time we fed around 300 of our competitors under and around the awning. The most frequent question we heard was, "What the hell are you guys doing?" If felt good to know that no one else had figured out how to be as quick as we were.
Saturday morning brought heavy
clouds with it. Still dry as our session
began, everyone went out on slicks. We
were prepared to see Bud and James King step up their game. But we were ready for them. The clouds immediately began to disperse
their contents, though, and all cars returned to the garages after only one
lap. The afternoon session was called
because of continuing rain. We had
removed more wing and changed our cambers slightly to better use all of the
massive tires%u2019 capability. We were ready for Sunday%u2019s race,
but knew we still faced some good competition. Before race time, the cars were parked on pit
road and spectators allowed to get close to the cars, have photos taken with
them and ask questions of the crews. We
heard time and again that some of them had seen the Lotus 79 run at Watkins
Glen in 1978 and what a pleasure it was to see it again. We could not describe to them how much
pleasure we garnered from running the car there.
At 1:45 PM the cars moved out for a 10 minute warm up. Doc did three laps and returned to the grid. At 2 PM all the cars fell in behind the pace car under a threatening sky. The pace car pulled in, the green flag dropped and Doc sliced into the lead. The first half of the race saw the competition we expected, and Bud Moeller even took the lead for a lap. James King
Thanks to Paul Rego of Regogo Racing for letting us be a part of the Lotus 23B and Lotus 79 efforts!
pressured Doc from close behind. The three of them pulled out a bit of a lead on the others, but less than half way into the race, it began to rain in %u201CThe Boot%u201D. If you are unfamiliar with Watkins Glen this is a steeply elevated section between the long back straight and the shorter front straight. It was dry in the hot pit. This brought out the pace car, since everyone was on slicks, and bunched up the pack once more. When the green came out after only two laps, Doc found a hole that allowed him to pass Bud and, with clean track ahead, concentrated on putting in some quick laps. He pulled out a good lead and won the race by about six seconds.
Eric Lang made a giant charge in his Tyrrell starting eighth and passing James and Bud to take second. Eric also had a VDS built Cosworth engine installed, so VDS Engines finished one and two. James passed Bud too, and brought his March home third. The trophy girl was none other than Lynn Saint-James. All in all, it was an exciting race. As you might expect, we were all ecstatic after putting in all that hard work and finally winning a Historic Grand Prix. We came close at Infineon Raceway last year, but this was our first victory with the Lotus 79.
During the Watkins Glen weekend, Josh Anderson of Metcalf Racing accompanied Brian Findley and Porter Brownlee to Texas World Speedway with their Formula Fords. By all accounts, that was a successful weekend, as well, with Porter getting his Novice permit and Brian setting his personal best lap time there ever. I wish I could have been there to see it.
The Lotus 79 will be at Austin in November for the HGP support race for the U.S. Grand Prix and we hope to be just as competitive there among a larger field. Being close to home, we hope you can be there to share the race with us. I know it is wishful thinking, but I hope you can share a victory with us there as well. Wishes combined with hard work produce rewarding results.
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