MITTY REPORT 2009
By Rick Norris
Wednesday, April 29
The trailer and truck were loaded the day before and we hit the road for Atlanta by 5 AM.
The weather was not looking too good at home but, as we traveled further south it got better. It took us about eight hours and the trip was uneventful. We went straight to the track and met Mike Levine who is a local guy at the main gate with his V8 Vair racer. He had an area of the pro pits lined off for all the Corvair race cars but before I could follow him in I had to go to registration and pick up our credentials and various passes.
We found our way down to the pit area and the first thing you notice about Road Atlanta is it’s on a hill side. I feel at home!
We began unloading and dropping the trailer. Norm Latulippe showed up with his rig and we parked him side ways to the others as the motor home would be Corvair Racing HQ for the week end.
Soon it was time to go check out the hotel and get a bite to eat. Tomorrow is a big day.
Thursday, April 30
It was another beautiful day at the track. Actually, the temp got to 87 degrees with a bit more humidity but with a breeze. It was cool in the low 60's this morning so the three layer fire suit wasn't too hot.
Today will be our track orientation and our first drivers meeting. There was quite
a few of us newbies. We had a track drive in an instructors van. It looked like a
circus car full of clowns! We did three laps while he explained the tracks various
corners at speed. Fun! It must have been a rental!
Then we began our group run sessions. They had us on track with the test and tune crazy fast serious guys! Trying to learn the track is hard enough but when you have to drive with your mirrors it's not fun. These guys were twice as fast as we were and passed anywhere and everywhere. I pinched one Porsche guy off because I didn't see him so I got a fist salute. I could have been No. 1.
As the sessions wore on, two in the morning and two more in the afternoon lasting 30 minutes each I began to get a little more comfortable with the track. Also, I was getting used to the Hoosier Street TD's. I miss my R6’s!
I got a black flag because they thought my deck lid had blown off and was somewhere on the track. I had to talk to the pit steward. I returned to the pits to find it still in the stand! In my haste to get back out for the session I forgot to install the damn thing after squirting silicone on my fan belt! That’s an old Corvair racers trick to make it slip and not fly off at high RPM’s. My hold down pins were gone too as I stuck them in the rear grille as is my habit. That's a trick I learned from Seth so I blame him. Nobody was happier than I was to see it still sitting in the stand rather than smashed on the track by the lead foot crowd.
The bad news is, Spence blew another engine and had to come in on the roll back but, the good news is he brought a spare! It looked like Roebling Road part II! All around pit monkey Barry Ellison was under the car with grease up to his elbows. At least it's on hot asphalt here and not wet sand like Roebling.
Warren, Sharon and Michael LeVeque pulled in this morning and Bob Coffin; the old track pro showed up in the afternoon. More folks are arriving and the vendors are setting up on the hill above us. The NASCAR vintage stock cars are pitted behind us and they are LOUD!
I have the echo cans on the Vair so I'm kind of loud too! Lot's of people stopping
by to look at the Sunoco Corvair and the other racers. A video guy came by and shot
some footage of the Corvairs. He said it will be in the HSR DVD from this year and
will be available at a later date. He said there would be some shots on track too.
Well, as usual I'm tired and it's about bedtime, more fun tomorrow.
Friday, May 1
And again another nice day!
We had clouds in the morning with a threat of rain but, it was dry all day and breezy. Good weather for old fat guys!
We ran in Group 2 with some cars not quite as fast as yesterday but, still way faster
than us. We all took our practice laps. Bob Coffin (#31) was having some electrical
issues so he didn't get on track much. Spence Shepard (#66) went back home to Charlotte
NC and brought back a third engine. The spare he brought with him smoked so badly
when they fired it up last night he knew they would black flag him.
He got here late this afternoon and they have the engine installed but have not fired it yet.
Dan Giannotti (#88) was having handling issues. They found the rear toe was out a half inch. Also he bought a new set of Hoosier tires on site and was able to pass some cars on his next session. Tires here ain’t cheap! Race fuel isn’t either at $9.13 per gallon for 110 octane.
We had tour the track rides at noon today so I let David Clemons use my car. He said
it was hard to get up any speed on the interesting corners! Atlanta traffic man!
Warren LeVeque (#361) was having some fuel pump problems but replacing the old pump did the trick. One thing about a track and event like this is they have everything here you could possibly need. Ask Norm about his safety belts. He left them at home!
Yours truly (#36) is getting more comfortable on track. I can't say I've mastered anything but, I now enjoy the ride more.
I followed Warren out on one session and was thinking how lucky I am. Here I was driving my car on a famous track with a very famous old Corvair that I only knew from magazines and Corvair publications driven at the time by Doug Roe. Speaking of Warren I got to not only see the red mist, I got to taste it! As I said I was following him when he went off course on turn four and sent up a big cloud of red Georgia clay dust. I was blind then I inhaled a mouthful of dust!
Later on in that same corner I had an off track excursion too. It was a case of brain fade. I lost my concentration and got off line. I knew I was going off so I elected to drive off rather than slide. Man! Did I ever plow up the red dirt! The front end bounced several times and I tore the front spoiler clean off and I had red dirt in everything. I waited until the corner worker waved me back on track and took off. I ran slowly to test all the systems and see if all was okay before hammering it again. I ran one lap and pitted to see if I was missing anything else. I thought I may have smashed a header tube. I went back out and ran several more laps then decided I needed to do a more through inspection.
I found I had bent both the end links on my front sway bar. Luckily Bob Coffin had some spares and Mike Levine (#4) will bring me a new spoiler in the morning. What a bunch of good guys!
Speaking of Mike, we got to hear his Corv8 roar to life and run on the track. What a beastie! He hadn't raced in several years but he was in good form and all the new things he tried worked.
Norm Latulippe (#41) was looking faster with the change out of his diff to a 3:55.
They flogged on it until the wee hours of the morning. I can't do that anymore!
There was way more people here today and I expect more in the next two days.
I saw Bobby Rahal today and Bob Tulius of the famous Group 44 racing team. This evening they put on a big feed with free beer! My kind of people!
While I had the car up on the stands I checked all the bolts and didn't find any loose except two of the tail light lens screws were half way out! Racing does crazy stuff to a car, not to mention the driver.
Okay, I probably missed some stuff but, I'm tired again and we have qualifying and practice tomorrow. Supposed to rain again too...
Saturday, May 2
It was another fantastic day here at Road Atlanta! The weather however was less than
good as it came up a good rain in the afternoon.
It had rained hard last night with high winds but, I was snug in my bed and heard nothing. We had morning qualifying and practice and the track had dried out fairly well when we went out. I had decided I would stand on my previous day’s best time so I just wanted to go out for a few laps to make sure the car was running right and I needed to get the feel of the track fresh in my head. All went well so I parked it.
Our race was at 5:30 this afternoon. Mike Levine’s race was just before ours. The
sky was getting very dark when the race with all the thundering V8's began. By about
four laps in it became a down pour! Mike came in to the pits as did the other cars.
However several of them came in on the hook! They got ignorant and crashed out. Rain
and smooth race tires don't mix well.
All racing was on hold until time for us to go out. They were out trying to dry the track and we had one race group go out before us. That is good as they will help dry the track out for us. At first I wasn't going to do it but Norm and I decided to try it. Hell, we paid big money to get here! Dan decided not to go out but Spence did as he got his car going with the third engine in it.
We had to grid on the other side of the pits we were using too. It was really neat.
The first few laps were just to see how wet the track was. It had several places with water running across it but overall raceable. I went out next to the last car. Norm was several cars ahead and Spence was somewhere back, I didn't see him.
He only made one lap and his front lid blew off. He forgot to put the pins in! It broke the stock hinges clean off!
After we got a few laps in it was time for me to go. I managed to pass several cars. The engine was strong and the R6's were holding very well on the damp sections. I learned at the Roebling Road driver’s school what I could do on a wet track. Finally I realized I had the track to myself as there was no one close in front or behind so I practiced being as smooth and consistent as I could be.
I ran fast enough that no one caught me from behind and I had a blast!
I have had good luck as I haven't had any serious mechanical issues. On my last three laps the throttle hung up at two thirds wide open! No amount of foot work would dislodge it so I just left it in third gear and used the brakes to control it. I made it to the finish line and hit the pits. The brakes were real toasty!
The problem turned out to be one of my long carb vent tubes had come loose and fell
down the carb throat holding the butterfly open. I was able to grab it with a magnet
and epoxy it back in place.
I feel like I am now one of the official Corvair racers. This was my very first real race and I finished! It was great to get all the kudos and hand shakes from all my Corvair peers. Even a crowd of folks on the back stretch was cheering and waving every time I went by. What a feeling! They didn’t know me from Adam but they knew the car!
We have one race tomorrow morning and we are done. I will have far surpassed my original dream of road racing a Corvair at a famous track in front of Corvair people...It just doesn’t get any better than this!!!!
Sunday, May 3
Our race was scheduled for 9:10 AM but there were some delays. We finally lined up on the grid but not in our qualifying positions. I don’t know what happened but the officials seemed confused as to who went where so they lined us up hap hazard and that’s how we went out.
There were 36 cars total on track for the pace lap but, there was an off track before we got in half a lap! It seems an old Maserati which was several cars ahead of me slid off the track to my left. What I saw in front of me was the right front wire wheel he lost bounding across the track! We all managed to dodge it but it took three laps under caution before the race began.
By this time everyone was lined up two abreast, strung out and way out of position. It didn’t matter because the green flag flew and it was a mad dash down in to the first turn.
There was brake lights and tire smoke as we jockeyed for position. I backed off and let the smoke settle before getting serious. More than a few cars went by me.
As they say, you can always find someone to race with. After passing five cars which, is a very exhilarating feeling I began catching a black MGA roadster. He was faster than I was on the straights but I was faster in the corners. I was doing my best to pass him. He even waved me by but, I just didn’t have the power to overtake him.
I was starting to set him up for a pass in the corners when the white flag came out so I decided to back off and be sure I finished the race.
I have never driven a car as hard as I did today. When I came in to my pit I had to sit there for a few minutes to gather myself before climbing out. I was drenched in sweat and thirsty as a dog! What a great feeling.
As I sit here writing this a week later I am still thrilled over the whole experience and the historic moment I was a part of. We may never see that many racing Corvairs on track together ever again. I hope I am wrong here. I’m up for next year.