Carl McLelland and 61/FF/79

2005 Season


Willow Springs Report

Hi everyone.....

We're back from the campaign's: slightly 'bloodied, soiled, and war weary', and unfortunately this time not very much to show for it. Applying a phrase most often used with relation to weddings but applicable this time.....
"Something old,
    Something new,
"Something borrowed,
    Something Blew!"
I should have been wary on the drive down.... all 409.5 miles of it. The wind (when it did blow) was at our backs and absolutely no problems with the motorhome or trailer. As we usually do, we spent Thursday evening in the Boulder Creek RV park just south of Lone Pine. All the connections plus cable TV, and trees separating every pull through site, so it's as peaceful and private as you could ever want.
Friday morning we were back enroute about 0900 for a very easy 120 miles to the track. It's been warm on the Mojave desert; warm enough for all the butterfly's to be born... and airborne! By the time we arrived at the racetrack we could hardly see out the windshield(!!) and the entire front of the motorhome looked like a very poor quality yellow paint job! There were virtually NO area's of clean fiberglass. Needless to say, I scrubbed the whole front of the unit before it could get 'baked on'..... even before unloading the car from the trailer.
When I loaded the car last week it was running like a 'fine Swiss Watch'! I should have been wary...... if things are this good NOW then it means things will go sour LATER!
Tech inspection was little more than a formality. Absolutely no problems. Heck, the car was as 'prepared' as it could possibly be! Friday nights get-together was a warm and friendly reacquaintance of friends from last year and from Phoenix, just three short weeks before. The historic NASCAR folks were here again. Lord do they make a lot of noise!! However, with all due respect they go as fast as they sound. It's quite a spectacle and if you've NOT seen them on a road course it's something you need to see. They won't be with us at Reno-Fernley next month but will be at Thunder Hill the end of April and the Southern California Historics at California Speedway in June. If you miss them.... well.... it's YOUR LOSS!
All of the formula cars were grouped together for all sessions except the trophy races Sunday; when us formula Ford folks had our own race. This was a good plan, considering the differences in performance between say, a formula Ford with 115 horsepower and an Indy car with 750 plus!! It wasn't so bad on the front straight but entering turn eight in a 'Ford' at about 140 when one of the 'Big Boys' entered the corner behind you at close to 200..... well..... it was exciting to say the least.
But getting 'back on track' so to speak.. First (untimed) practice session I'm the first one out. As usual, I start slow and easy. Second or third lap the engine quits as I exit turn 2. Hmmmmm..... What's wrong?? As I've described in previous reports from Willow, I don't have enough fuel capacity to finish the race at full race speed. But, I've got a full fuel load on board so this shouldn't be a problem... at least not yet. As we progress the problem gets steadily worse. The engine is quitting for anything from 'a split second' to two or three seconds.... Now I AM WORRIED!!!
I deduct that the problem is electric rather than fuel. After coming in I head back to the pits and check a few things out. I change the condenser in the distributor and recheck the timing; noting a fluctuation at maximum rev's. OK.... this may make me run 'poorly', but shouldn't make the engine actually quit on me. Back out for the qualification session..... As I'm entering the pre-grid the engine stops cold.... dead! I get a restart and start taxiing back to my pit, then stop! If it's gonna quit (on the track) then they can tow me in.... I NEED to run a qualifying lap! Turn around and back to the grid and onto the track. The first couple laps I'm warming the tires and brakes... so far so good, but my confidence in the car is in question. Then it starts quitting on me.... at times for two or three seconds. I complete about seven laps then limp into the pits. My "qualification time" is 1:41 and change; 6+ seconds slower than I normally qualify.
The "Readers Digest" version of this story, I change everything electrical on the car that I have the ability to do, hence, "something old, something new".....
Just before the start of the qualifying race I borrowed a distributor from a fellow competitor. Crank the motor and it runs like it's old self...... for about 15 seconds, then dies! ....... "something borrowed".........
I talk to three professional mechanics in depth about my problems and just like Doctors hear three completely different diagnosis'...... Since I've touched everything electrical on the motor I decide to switch to my spare carburetor first thing Sunday morning. This I do, and now the engine won't even start. YES, I rechecked the ignition and everything tested positively, but now it won't even start. The "coup-de-gras" is when the starter motor itself fails........ "something Blew!".......
I've now decided the car is telling me something: it DOES NOT want to race this day and is doing everything it's capable of to prevent me from going on that track. I call it a day and become an 'unwilling' spectator.
Just to add insult to injury, I watch the Lotus Sports Challenge race. If there is a 'humorous' note to all of this it's the race announcer on the public address system. Bill and Barbara Oker drove up from San Diego to watch the races and Bill to pit for me. Bill and I are sitting in the turn one grandstand when they announce the starting grid for the race. Imagine my surprise to hear that I'm on the inside of the second row!! Then the start of the race and we are equally awed and amazed to hear that I'm leading into turn one at the start!! The last time I heard from the announcer how well I was doing was after the third lap when he said "McLelland in two forty seven didn't come around that lap.....". At least I got a good chuckle to hear how well I did when the car was disabled in the pits and I was in the stands!!
Phillippe Reyns started outside of the front row but was back to fifth place entering turn one. He had a short battle passing Doug Warnecke (Lotus Super 7), then a battle that lasted the majority of the race as he 'see-sawed' back and forth with Ed Cardan (Lotus Super 7). Phillippe, after a few laps of side-by-side driving in turns one and two, made his final pass entering turn one and held out to a photo finish for first in class and second overall. Regretably I wasn't out there. I beat Ed with regularity and Phillippe and I are so closely matched that neither of us holds an advantage. It would have been a very interesting race......
Same announcer for the Pacific formula Ford race, and true to form, I was in second place at the start even though I was walking around watching the race and the car was disabled in the pits.
I still cannot tell you what is broken on the car, but I can assure you I will find the problem and correct it before the next race at Reno Fernley Raceway in mid-April.
A rather disappointing report as far as I'm concerned, but as they say... "That's Racing!"
A couple photos... first is Phillippe in turn one (Lotus 51C) having just passed Doug (Lotus Super 7).












Next is Phillippe late in the race.





Last is the start of the Pacific formula Ford race. Todd Strong (Titan Mk6), Bob Hatle (Crossle club Ford), unknown driver (Crossle club Ford) and John Viggers (Crossle)... all four at 100+mph in the middle of turn one and barely a wheel apart! (And I should have been right in the middle of them!!).

Until next time................










return to LFFR home page Return to Carl McLellend Race Reports