SVRA Quaker Funds Vintage Grand Prix

Pocono International Raceway, August 1-3, 1997

by Kyle Kaulback

You are hurtling down the half mile front straight not 2 feet behind the car in front of you, a classic slipstreaming battle. At the end of the straight is a banked turn with a huge radius that, you have heard at least, can be entered without lifting and taken flat out. As you approach the banking your tach steadily climbs, far do you push it? Finally you make your move. Did you lift? If you did you probably lost 100 yds to the guy in front of you. It isn't too much of a stretch to imagine you are Jimmy Clark chasing the World Championship nose to tail with Graham Hill's BRM.

SVRA's Quaker Securities Vintage Grand Prix at Pocono International Raceway was a fun event for those with Lotus Formula Fords. For those not familiar with the track, the road course encompasses both NASCAR turns 1 and 2 (aka tunnel turn). A chicane is thrown in between them to break up the monotony of going flat out for such a long distance. The infield course after tunnel turn is a series of alternating left and right handers with varying radii and camber culminating in a very high speed left hand sweeper emptying onto the front straight which is imperative to do well, as I'm sure you all know, exit speed is everything. The NASCAR turns are unique in vintage racing and offer an experience that one is not likely to have on any other circuit. If you have not yet experienced the thrill, you may not get a chance. There is another infield road course that will, in all likelihood replace NASCAR turn 1 in future Vintage events.

Lotus Formula Fords were represented en mass with 4 types present. Joe Griffin and Mike Zappa both had beautifully prepared 31's. Stephen Haller drove a rental 51. As usual 61's were the most numerous with Kyle Kaulback, Harry von Ertfelda, and Henry Crouse Jr (in Bill Dolson's rental car). Harry still has the original Cortina motor that came with his car supplying the horsepower. The 69 present belonged to Ralph Stechow. Ralph's car was clearly the most exotic. If you ever have a chance to see one up close the differences between it and the 31/51/61 are obvious. Every time I see one I get green (Lotus Racing Green of course) with envy.

The race was typically a US style rolling start with Joe Griffin on the Formula Ford pole. Joe sprung for a hot (and very legal) Wenz motor, and that coupled with his obvious talent resulted in a qualification time 3 seconds faster than the next guy. A competitor in a Titan seeking parity endeavored to do the same but could qualify no faster than Kyle so clearly the motor isn't everything. At the start Joe was a bit slow on the throttle allowing Kyle to very briefly take the lead, but Joe was by him by the entry of turn one. Joe never looked back. Kyle was desperate to keep his position because Titan boy was behind him with his killer motor and an endearing likeness of Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes cartoon fame) urinating on a Lotus badge. Holding up the Lotus honor Kyle handily kept Titan boy far behind him. Ralph, Mike and Henry followed behind Titan boy and for the most part were nose to tail throughout, interrupted only by a few off road excursions. Harry and Stephen had their battles further back in the pack.

SVRA divides Formula Ford into 2 groups - pre and post 70. Resulting in two Lotus class wins. Lotus performance during the race is listed below with overall and class placings given.

21Joe Griffin66 Type 31
41Kyle Kaulback70 Type 61MX
63Ralph Stechow71 Type 69
72Mike Zappa67 Type 31
84Henry Crouse Jr70 Type 61MX
166Harry von Ertfelda69 Type 61
208Stephen Haller68 Type 51

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