The drive across Kansas is a long one, spending the night in Kansas City MO seemed like a pretty good idea and as Betty and I enjoyed the company of Ross Robbins and ďLady AnnĒ in the hotel bar in walked William Taylor and Clive Chapman, closely followed by Travis Andrews, Lew Gaskell, Bonnie and Greg Carpenter. Given that we all left the Denver area at different times over a 2 hour span, I thought it was pretty remarkable that we all arrived in KC at about the same time, with identical goals. KC BBQ! It was an adventure transporting everyone, but with a little ingenuity we got the job done. Itís been a long time since I hitchhiked, and wouldnít you know it, I got a ride in a Lotus. The next day featured intense rain storms all across Missouri, adding to the terror of semi trucks barely clearing our trailer and requiring wild corrections to stay on the road. Youíd think an F350 crew cab would hardly be affected, but dragging a long trailer full of cars is a challenge!
When we pulled into the back parking lot of the Clarion, searching for John and Carol Arnolds rig, we discovered an ocean of LOTUS! Yup, this is the place. We did the best we could to disrupt normal parking rules and took up several spaces in and around Johnís trailer and started setting up shop. The first rule of order, wander around and check out everyone elseís stuff! John had brought his 69FF to race, and a 32 F2 for display, almost ready to race but just ran out of build time. They also had transported Greg and Bonnieís 41FB. I lowered the rear door on our trailer to show off Ross Robbins Seven, and our 69 FB. Up walked a couple of likely characters, Ralph Stechow and Kyle Kaulback and discovered that Kyle had his 61FF and Ralph had his 69FF. Oh man, thatís three 69ís at one event, is that legal??
The next day we were supposed to have our trailer at the park very early so the race cars could be unloaded before the street cars arrived. The LOCO crew formed up at the hotel parking lot and we made our way across town with the expert leadership of Greg and Bonnie. Arriving at the park we discovered through all of the rain the field was a little soggy, we almost decided to use Rossís Seven as an ATV to drag the race cars across! After we were positioned It was like the gates of heaven opened when a HUGE caravan of LOTUS came sweeping around the corner and began entering the grassy area. I have no idea how the organizers managed to arrange all of the cars, I was too busy taking pictures and talking, but when I looked up they had all mysteriously lined up and were all busy with polishing and cleaning Missouri mud from exotic wheels. Quite a sight!.
The Formula cars had the front row, and were arranged in an arc, followed by row after row of street cars. The picture was taken by a panorama camera dating to about 1920, we all had to stand perfectly still as it panned across the field, and then during lunch another picture was taken without the car owners.
At the end of the day we loaded up and once again LOCO formed up for a caravan back to the Hotel.
That night was the banquet, and it was the best meal Iíve had in that setting, ever. Then we enjoyed listening to the CEO and plant manager talk about current events, and were introduced to Bob Dance, and Bob Sparshott who entertained us with stories about the past, Lotus racing in F1 and other adventures.
The next day, Sunday, we decided to try one of the tours that had been organized, but quickly determined it was not what we wanted to do and after a minor mutiny absconded with the two Team Lotus mechanics Bob, and Bob, for a visit to the St. Louis Arch. I think most of the LOCO crew were there, and we quickly settled into a form of behavior that was a little like herding cats, somehow we completed that tour, had a bite to eat, another tour of the Jefferson Courthouse, and then back to the hotel for a little recovery before another banquet. Once again Bob and Bob entertained us and really that was the highlight of both banquets for me, I canít get enough of these stories.
Monday was the event I had been anticipating for a long time, the track day. The Gateway race track is actually in East St. Louis, and we had to be there by 8AM for the drivers meeting. Monday morning, rush hour traffic, and when leaving the hotel parking lot I immediately took a wrong turn. The entire commute to the track was more of the same and I wished I had done my homework on planning the route. As soon as we arrived and positioned the trailer to form our sheltered paddock the LOCO ladies unloaded trailers while the ďhigh maintenanceĒ men were given instructions in the drivers meeting. When we got back and began prepping the cars for the event I didnít think it was prudent to mention the meeting was held in an air conditioned room, and I think thatís a detail we should let pass.
Prepping the cars was typical, add fuel, check oil, brake fluid and coolant levels, air in the tires, get engine oil pressure and warm the car up. No leaks were found and we started getting into drivers suits, but with the late arrival we missed the first session.
John Arnold's 69FF, Mike Henry's 69FB, Greg Carpenter's 41FB. Getting the cars prepped for the first session.
Kyle Kaulback offered to show us the way around the track in the next session, which was really a great help but we were still behind in our learning curve all morning, it just really sets you back to miss a session.
If youíve never driven on an oval at speed, which I had not, this banked turn is kind of cool. Except for the really ugly black smear marks on the wall right about where I figured my exit point would be. Yup, except my definite plan was about six feet AWAY from the wall. I had guessed on my gearing based on FF information John Mihalich had shared, which accounted for a top speed of my FB of around 140, and I was at the top of fourth exiting the turn pretty consistently, and using fifth down most of the front straight. I discovered if I did it right, I could reach about 7500 RPM by my chosen turn one braking point. Well, that means I need to work on a higher exit speed out of the banked turn. I actually considered trying the turn in fifth but then my guardian angel began shouting in my ear and I decided to pay attention. The infield is simple, yet diabolical. Turn one screams at you to just carry a huge amount of speed into it, the exit is really very fast. A short straight to a left-right which is also quite fast. Another short straight over a slight rise, which hides your turn-in point for the next turn and it gave me grief until my last session. This is followed by a very diabolical right hand sweeper which is a decreasing radius, or you can consider it as two turns, a sweeping turn terminated by a tight one. I donít like being that patient with a corner, and Greg Carpenter figured out how to get through there better than I did.
Another short straight leading to a left hander, tighter than you expect and it feels off camber but seems to be flat, a number of times I pushed it a little too hard and the rear tires lost grip as I braked-downshifted and turned in. Plenty of room to gather it up but of course thatís slow going. Then youíre back on the long sweeping left hand banked oval turn, maximum acceleration to fourth and I dipped down at a late apex every-single-time to make really-darn sure I made the exit OK. After too many laps it finally started to click, and I enjoyed the flow of the corners, all of them faster than you first realize, but you develop a nice rhythm and after a while realize youíre getting tired when you canít hold your head straight in the banked turn!
Somewhere around lunch John was having a little trouble with his 69FF. We fixed a wiring issue, but then discovered it would stall if you opened the throttle even a little. We were scratching our heads when I looked up and saw that Bob Dance had walked up and was studying our mystery. I asked if he had any ideas and just like that he jumped in and lent a hand. In a short time the mystery was solved, and the rest of the day we complained that John had an unfair advantage. Itís not every day a Lotus F1 mechanic helps tune your FF ! Of course John enjoyed the good natured ribbing from us, and paid close attention to some additional comments from Bob. Can you imagine what that meant to John??
At the end of the day we gathered up the three 69ís for a group photo, this was the first time I had enjoyed having another 69 on the grid and here we had three. Ralph Stechow has an outstanding 69FF and I hope heíll find his way to Colorado for a race with RMVR some day. John and Carols 69FF is also an outstanding car, and Iíve known them for a long time. Hopefully their 32 F2 will be on the track this year.
This was my first LOG, and I hope to do many others. Iíd like to see a full grid of Lotus at our LOG in 2007, and maybe we can coerce RMVR and Nostalgia to plan a vintage race either side of that weekend. Maybe that would add a little needed encouragement for the long cross country tow.
Ralph Stechow's 69FF
John Arnold heading out
In the LOCO paddock, from the left, Carol Arnold, Bob Sparshott, Bonnie Carpenter, Betty Henry, Clive Chapman, Ross Robbins.
Clive Chapman, Ross Robbins.
Greg Carpenter leading in his 41 FB, Mike Henry following in his 69 FB.
Mike Henry on the left, 69FB, Greg Carpenter on the right, 41 FB.
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