Carl McLelland and 61/FF/79

2005 Season


Reno Fernley- April 2005

Hi All,
Holy Smoley, I've thought and thought about what to 'name' this particular race report. It was, to say the least, a hell of a weekend. Many many thanks to Chip Buell for pitting for me this weekend. I'll be the first to tell you, pit crews are the real unsung hero's of racing. Secondly, thanks to Mike Goo, Administrative Assistant at the Sheriffs Office. Mike spent Saturday with us, asked a thousand questions and took a million pictures. (Photo's forthcoming). Pat, thanks for coming out Friday. Looking forward to seeing your new boat and looking forward to seeing you at the Russell Racing drivers school. Also Dale and Joanne for spending the weekend with us! We sure enjoyed your company.
I drove several sessions in open practice Friday, testing and fine tuning the car. That 1 3/4" exhaust pipe and collector I spent so much time making.... Choked it down to where it felt like it was running at half throttle when at full throttle. After the engine cooled from the first session Chip and I removed it and put the two inch exhaust back on the car. MUCH Improved performance...
This track is "outrageously fast"!! I was using my Willow Springs gear ratio's, and those of you from the south who know Willow..... now you know just one of the many, many reasons I like RFR (Reno-Fernley Raceway). Looking at the track map, I was arriving at turn 1 at about 6300rpm in 4'th. A quick lift of the throttle to 'load' the front suspension then back on the power and turn in for the corner.... A very interesting corner because of the myriad of camber changes.. Wide open up to the brake point for turn 5. I can't explain it, but these esses from "1 to 5" really remind me of the esses at Riverside Intl Raceway. Turn 5 and 6 are really one corner. You can do it as a single apex corner (my preferred method {for all EVOC instructors... an absolute PERFECT example of "outside-outside-inside"}), or you can double apex it. GREAT passing corner! Whatever the guy in front does, you do the opposite! Further, turn 6 is a perfect example of a type 1 corner. Proper setup in this corner will make a 500rpm difference All The Way to turn 12!! Mess up the exit from 6 or overcook in turn 7 and your gonna be a "rolling roadblock" all the way to 12! Turn 12 is a great 'mystery' to many drivers. Basically an 'almost 90' with a huge runout... a fast corner. What seems to trick folks up though is the little kink on the approach to 12. Simplest way is to 'ignore' the kink. Start in from about mid-track or slightly left of mid-track and aim directly at your 'reference mark' so you can straight line threshold brake. At your turn-in point the kink is behind you and no longer a factor. Roll in to the corner and nail the throttle. Also an excellent passing corner! Into turn 13, the "Horseshoe". Its more than a 180 and it's banked 20%. Another interesting corner. One of those you must 'drive....'. If you try and go too fast you pop out the top early and/or get yourself crossed up and lose a lot of time. And lastly, turn 15; interesting in many ways. One of the few corners in the world where the best line is actually the 'geometric' apex! In the Lotus I would approach at 6000rpm in 3'rd gear, brake and downshift to first gear (Willow Springs ratio's... 85mph in 1'st gear!), turn in and "both feet on the throttle"! This corner is deceptively FAST, and like turn 6, could easily make a 500 or more rpm difference down the front straight.
Last practice session Friday and I'm really starting to "feel my oats"!! I try something at turn 12. It doesn't work and I miss my apex by 15 feet or so. Rather than spinning the car I stabilize it and 'drive it' off track then back on.... Completely safe but lots of dust so I know the track officials are watching me now. A few laps later I'm experimenting with my line through turn 15. I try a way late apex...... ahhhhhh, ahem........ This time I "picked the spot" where I would spin off the track! Since there wasn't anybody behind me, once under control I let the car roll back onto the track, put it in 1'st gear and motored off, but decided to 'call it a day'!
HMSA (Historic Motor Sports Assn), does not do any official timing and scoring. The girls working pre-grid do get an unofficial scoring of the qualification race and use this to loosely set the grids for the races. Otherwise, if you want to start on the pole position.... Be the first one on the pre-grid! I really enjoy racing with HMSA; just as I do HSR-West, but for different reasons. The way the schedule worked out I had two practice sessions, a qualification race and heat race on Saturday, a practice, heat race and 'final race' on Sunday. Quite a lot of track time(!!), much more than I ever had with CSRG.
Andy Walker, my 'mid-west friend who bought and is now racing my Alpine' sent me some photo's from Hallet recently. One particular photo was of the first formula one Brabham race car. Well it turns out that David Jacobs, owner of said Brabham, was here this weekend with 'said Brabham'. A nice fellow; one who is really enjoying the car. Another 'old friend' who I had not seen in 'many a moon'; Brian Redman (competition director for HMSA). Brian and I had some nice chat's and together "skipped merilee down Memory Lane".
Saturday morning is clear as a bell and nicely warm! Drivers meeting, then 'off to the trenches' for the days contests!! The qualification race I'm starting fifth, on the inside of the third row. Green flag; we're off and running. A couple cars slip by early-on, so I'm about 7'th or so by the time we reach turn 5. I work my way through the pack until I'm 3'rd behind Steve Hoogs (Merlyn) and David in the Brabham. Out of the horseshoe is an 'ominous' trail of oil, and as I pass the pits see Steve sitting on the sidelines. Now I'm after the Brabham 'with Gusto!!' I watch him closely and pick my spot... turns 5/6. He's 'double apexing' the corner so I sneak inside him away I GO!!! Build enough of a lead up the back side so I can hold him off down the front straight and "We're STYLIN....."!!  A couple laps later I lift as I enter a corner and, much to my chagrin, discover the throttle is sticking on the floor! Hmmmmm, NOT a good sign! Following this, every time I lift I'm doing so a little early so I can switch to "alternate plan B" if the throttle doesn't come up. David manages to squeek by me and I finish second. Not too disappointed though; the only race that really counts is the "Last One".
Into the pits and off comes the engine cover.... Ahaa! The lock tab has failed and the nut has come off the throttle butterfly shaft. Easy enough to repair, and we're out in plenty of time for Saturday's main race.
Out onto the grid for Saturday's race. I'm starting outside, front row. Green flag and I wind the Lotus to 7800rpm in 1'st (remember, 20:30 first gear.... it just 'revs forever!), but that 2.5 liter Climax engine in the Brabham has torque like a tractor(!!), and he leads me into turn 1. Going into turn 5 the throttle sticks on me again. I let most of the pack go by while analyzing this. It free's up so I continue.... 'give it one more chance'. A few laps later I'm in a drag race with Ed Smith down the front straight and pass him, but it also puts me off line for turn 1. I 'lift' momentarily to load the front suspension but we're still at Full Throttle! Oh S H I T!!! (We're at about 6200-6300rpm in 4'th)! I reach up and kill the ignition, maintain control and 'coast' all the way to turn 5! By switching the ignition on and off I'm able to nurse the car back to the pits, but we're done for this day.
Sunday morning I discover the problem. By shortening the throttle return springs I can assure the problem will not happen again, and confirm in the warmup practice. I drive conservatively in the first race, finishing about mid-pack.
After lunch and we grid for the final race. I start on the outside of the second row. Good start, but with that tall first gear most everyone gets by me going into turn 1. I start working my way through the pack and catch up to Ed SMith and Dave Smith; both driving Winklemann's. Ed takes a very wide line through the Horseshoe and Dave and I pass him. Then Dave bobbles in turn 15 and Ed gets around both of us. Next lap and 'Same scene, take two'.... Ed is wide and Dave and I pass him, and this time hold him off down the front straight. I've now studied Dave's line in turn 12 for several laps, and this time pass him on the inside under braking and pass him for the final time. I'm now in third position.
I suddenly realize that I'm staying even with both Steve in the Merlyn and David in the Brabham.. I "turn up the boost" (Yea.... I Wish!!) and set out after the two of them. Steve obliges by spinning while coming out of the Horseshoe and I pass him! OK, Great! I was in this same position Saturday..... Let's do something about it!! I go after the Brabham..... Down the front straight I hear this little voice in the back of my head.... "Relax, Breathe, Concentrate, DRIVE"...... Can't explain it, but it's as if the Lotus is suddenly on rails. Everything comes together and I close up on the Brabham. REALLY Close! On the next lap he obliges me by going wide in the last half of turn 6... Opens the door and I'm by! I just continue 'doing what I'm doing', and a couple laps later can no longer see anyone in the mirrors. I slow down a little; shifting at 6000rpm and not exceeding 6200 on the front straight, and (after what seemed like a lifetime) the 'starting flagman' holds up one finger as I pass start/finish to indicate Last Lap!
Two point three miles to go and your in the lead. Two point three miles for your mind to hear engine bearings rattling, wheels falling off or going flat, suspension failing, transmissions seizing, etc! Back in the days when I was flying for Sierra West Airlines and made many, many flights to/from Santa Cruz Island, we used to call it "the engine going into Automatic Rough"..... anytime you were beyond gliding distance of land your mind would falsely fabricate any number of problems with the plane!
However, everything stays together and we get a very enthusiastic Checkered Flag!
After loading everything up I get to enjoy the one last really great thing about racing at RFR..... (No, not the beer, but that was great too!)..... TOWING for Minutes instead of Hours to get home!!!! It's all of 34.9 miles from the pits to 'home plate'.
So we close the chapter on the "Reno Historic Grand Prix". I think a great time was had by all. Good clean, safe racing. A few people took little jaunts into the desert during the weekend, but I don't know of any 'shunts' or damage caused by errant driving.
Now we look forward to our next adventure..... Thunder Hill in two weeks and the "Formula Ford North-South Challenge"!
    Until then.........
David and I standing beside the very first Brabham formula one car..

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