Carl McLelland and 61/FF/79
Southern California Historics
In a word.........
I'm gonna shorten a few
things.. and add a couple photo's taken by Dave Mericle, former owner of my '61.
Great Photo work!! My thanks to all who trekked out to Calif Speedway this
weekend for the 4'th annual So. Calif. Historic Sports Car Races. As it turned
out, many of the "Top Gun's" of the BOSS series (Big engine
Open wheel Single Seaters)
were off in England racing. HSR-West had well over 200 entries, so there was
plenty of competition to go around! First, here's a track map I scanned so I can
explain the course to you.
As you can see, we enter
the 'oval' at the pit entrance, run the front straight and turns one and two,
then go 'inside' for the road course. While you might think... gosh... an oval,
how boring, this is really a VERY challenging track! Trust me; the 40 seconds
your 'on the oval' with your foot flat on the floor is ANYTHING but boring!
Different, YES.... Boring.... NOT EVEN!!
Most of you know that I
graduated from the Advanced school at Russell Racing three weeks ago. In many
ways I looked at this weekends races as my "final exams". Had my instructor's
from Russell been there I think they would have been pleased..
To explain the track: your
coming down the front straight (actually a wide radius curve with 11 degree
banking). Turns 1 and 2 are 17 degree banking, so your really feeling the g's
slamming you down in the seat. As you exit turn 2 the track flattens for the
'back straight' of the oval. For the road course, as the track flattens you go
into heavy braking, coming from the maximum possible speed of your car down
to first gear for a left hand 90, followed immediately by a right hand 90. A
short straight then a double 90 to the left (taken as a 180 with extremely late
apex). (Tyler/John.. the braking techniques you taught.. I was never passed
approaching turn 3, and this was a great 'passing under braking' corner for me!)
Out of turn 6 is a straight and 'chicane' I used to lift for and go through in
3'rd gear. Now.. it's FLAT and in 4'th gear. Turn 9, a decreasing radius
hairpin.. two possible lines. You want to pass someone just do the opposite of
what he does! (Again, Tyler/John.. what you taught me 'almost' made this a 2'nd
gear corner. The result of your efforts to train me.. I used to go through the
'10/11' chicane in 2'nd gear. NOW it's 3'rd gear FLAT, and approaching turn 12 I
used to be redlined in 3'rd.. Now I'm 'almost' redlined' in 4'th!! From 12 to 16
your making the car do a "dance".. Thanks for all the training in weight
transfer and balance! Turn 16 get's a 'lift' and turn-in like turn 4 at Sears,
and your FLAT from the turn-in for 16 until you lift for turn
First practice on Friday
and my practice tires felt like they were WAY out of balance. Changed out
for my race tires, and now I can hold onto the steering wheel! Second practice I
up the redline and I feel like I can get out and walk... I'm mentally so far
ahead of the car now,,, Third practice session and "Im STYLIN'.....!" I'm happy
enough with the car and my performance in it I decide not to tempt fate... Bring
her in and 'save it for the races'.
Saturday morning I head out
for qualifying practice. I catch Philippe Reynes and 'tail him' for a lap,
studying his lines, brake points, etc. I'm amazed.. He's SO predictable, and
really quite 'conservative'. I pass him and "burn a couple hot laps", then back
it down and cool it down. I let Philippe and a couple others pass me, then 'tail
them'. I'm learnin..... I qualified 14'th.
qualifying race. Approaching turn 3 there's at least a 3 car crash (everybody
remained racing.. nobody knocked out), but I backed waaaay down..... no sense
getting involved... you have to finish to win! I chased Philippe for a lap,
looking at places where I could pass him, then drafted him down the front
straight and shot by him on the outside of turn 1. Went in front of him in turn
3, then he went inside me into turn 5 (one of his favorite tricks).
(John/Tyler... remember what we discussed on the guy 'spending' his speed for an
offline pass? I don't think Philippe believed his eyes and ears when he lifted
for the chicane at turn 7 as I passed him, FLAT and shifting in to
I went after another old
nemesis, Adom Moutafian, driving a Mk11 Merlyn. Caught him, played with him,
then passed him! I think I was as surprized as he!! Only problem, the Lotus was
getting REALLY HOT, and each lap I was losing about 100rpm on the banking. I was
down to about 6000-6100 rpm and couldn't hold people off. Adom got by me and
Philippe caught me on the last lap. Adom beat me by 1.2 seconds and I beat
Philippe by 1/2 a second. I qualified 10'th.
Sunday morning it had
cooled a little. I went out for 'warmup practice' to get a heat cycle in the
tires and brakes; and just loosen myself up and prep for the days two races:
Lotus Sports Challenge and Pacific Formula Ford.
I started the Lotus
Challenge on the outside of the front row. Philippe was inside second row. On
the pole was a Lotus Elise. There was a Lotus 23B alongside Philippe and another
behind him, some more Elises and who knows what else. Todd Gerstenburger was
back there in a Lotus 26R, so he was also a factor to contend with. At the start
I tried to jump in behind the (pole sitting) Elise but Philippe had the same
idea and I was trapped outside with nobody to draft. Second lap and I caught a
good draft off Philippe down the front straight and had almost 7000rpm going
into turn 1. I passed Philippe then got down way low on the banking. Philippe
tried to go outside of me, but, with turn 3 a left hander that gave me the line.
I held the line but he stuck to me like a 'bad habit' and tried going inside in
5. We were literally side-by-side down to seven. I gave him the line and started
setting up for a pass under braking at 12. It worked perfect; carring probably
300 more rev's than he out of 11. When I went into 4'th gear I easily pulled
ahead of him and retook the lead. Onto the front straight he tucked in for a
draft. Lap after lap, as he started his pass I would edge out about 1/2 a car
width, forcing him higher on the bank. As he came alongside I would ease back
over to the inside (shortening my radius). He would stay up higher and we
would come all the way around 1 and 2 and into the braking area for 3
SIDE-BY-SIDE!! Lap after lap a repeat of this, and lap after lap I recoop my
lead under braking for turn 3. I don't know how he's feeling, but he's sure
giving ME a run for the money!!
Pre-grid, just prior to
start of the Lotus Challenge.
We pass start/finish and I
see the white flag (last lap). I hope he didn't see it.... now it's all
important to but my 'other plan' into effect. Going into 9 I catch Todd. My
plan, considering the power he has, is to get in his draft going onto the front
straight and 'out drag' Philippe to the finish. I think I may have executed the
plan "too good". Todd spins in turn 12! As soon as I see which direction he's
going I shoot around, as does Philippe. I'm "cool" though, and approaching 16 I
handle it as I did turn 4 at Sears Point in the Russell school. Lift momentarily
to 'load' the car, and FLAT before I'm at the apex. A GOOD drift and power to
the ground and I'm in 3'rd at 17 and 4'th as I 'pop' onto the front straight.. I
don't know if I got 'that good' a jump on Philippe or if he just figured he
couldn't catch me, but I beat him by 1.02 seconds across the line for the class
Philippe and I on the front
Start of the last lap. I'm
'spacing myself' behind Todd in the "26R" and Philippe is right behind me. The
starter has given us a white flag.
Here's a photo of us coming
off the banking and entering turn 4. Note the loading of my left side tires
and the right front is slightly up on the curb. Philippe is giving me "lots of
room here"...... maybe a foot!!
Last race for me for the
day is the Pacific formula Ford race. Adom is not here so I start 9'th. Philippe
is alongside me, starting 10'th. The start today is 'clean'; no pile-up at turn
3. I'm feeling 'the heat' from the Lotus race one hour before though, so I slip
a couple places at the start; as does Philippe. Our "duel" of an hour before is
not to be this day though. He slowly slips back and three laps from the end I
see him parked off the track near the pit entrance.
I got into a tremendous
duel with Olivier Sermet (Dulon LD9) and Roger Pugol (Bobsy). In years past they
had always finished well ahead of me, so it was personally satisfying to be with
them. What I found though was disheartening. They have very little track
discipline, and just simply race 'point-to-point' with no regard to what is
around them. What I did find satisfying was following proper line and driving
'correctly' I was able to stay ahead of Roger most of the time and Olivier some
of the time. My point is this: they would dive into a corner, taking the corner
and forcing you to take evasive action to prevent contact. Not to be confused
with a carefully prepared and executed pass, I mean just 'stuff the car in
there' and force the other driver to take evasive action!
Toward the end Roger
dropped back. Olivier was ahead going onto the front straight on the last lap.
Well...... "What's good for the goose is good for the gander"......... A yellow
flag (NO PASSING) was being displayed at turn 18, due to Philippe sitting on the
other side of the track. Presence of a yellow flag would mean no passing until
the 'next' flag station that was NOT displaying a yellow flag: in this case the
start/finish flagger. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the start/finish flagger was
in sight and NOT displaying a yellow flag which means we were beyong the
hazard. I "lit the afterburners" and passed up Olivier before he had figured out
what was happening and got on the power himself, and I managed to beat him to
the checkered flag with a little over 1/4 second margin, for an 11'th place
OK, last photo is the turn
10/11 chicane. I've exited and Olivier (red Dulon) and Roger (blue Bobsy) are
So all in all it was a
great weekend of racing. I would like to thank one last time everybody who came
out this weekend. And lastly, thanks to John and Tyler at Russell. You guys did
a fantastic job of teaching this ole "Cowboy" some new tricks!!
Being retired is an awful
lot of work, so..... Lynne and I are taking a vacation. We're leaving July 5'th
with the boat and we're spending two weeks at Lake Powell. The trailer will be
emptied out and Lotus parked tomorrow, then that's enough of racing for a couple
OK... here we are, getting
interviewed on the podium after the Lotus Challenge.