March 27,28, 2010

By: Rick Norris

Back in the cold dark months of this past winter I was thinking about running some regional SCCA races as this is the last year of my eligibility on a novice permit.

The rules say you have two years to complete two regional races to get a regional competition license. Otherwise if you don’t you will have to do a drivers school again and start over. I originally did the drivers school to satisfy the requirement for an HSR or vintage racing license. It seemed to me that to have come this far I should at least get my SCCA comp license if nothing else.

Spence Shepard from Charlotte NC had mentioned that there was an upcoming double regional race at Carolina Motorsports Park in April. He said he was going to do it. He needed the race to keep his license current. Having another Corvair there was a bonus for me and an incentive to sign up and do it.

After checking out the site and the track online I decided to go for it. The thought crossed my mind that I might wad the car up or otherwise hurt it and not be able to run the Mitty but I decided to chance it and signed on the dotted line as it were.

Car prep wasn’t much as I had not changed anything since last years Mitty. I checked it over good, changed the oil and checked the suspension settings and pronounced it ready to race.

We loaded up Thursday evening and it rained all night plus most of the way down to the track which is about an hour south of Charlotte in Kershaw SC.

By the time we arrived at the track it was not a bad day so we picked a spot to pit, unloaded and checked out the facilities. CMP is a relatively new track located on an old WWII training airfield. It is essentially flat with the exception of one 30 foot “hill” as they call it. Ain’t no hill where I’m from!

The track is a bit technical and there is more than one way around it. We used the full 2.279 mile layout. Spectator viewing is not the best as half the track runs through a wooded area and crosses a creek. There is a bridge there of course.

After reconnoitering we covered the car and went looking for a place to eat. Not much available in the local area. We stayed in Lancaster which is about 45 minutes away.

Saturday morning dawned bright, cold and clear with frost on the car but, warmed up to be a beautiful day at the track! We got to the track around seven as there was no hurry. We were in run group six, the last ones to get on the track. Spence and Mike Smith arrived too late to pit with us as the pits were crowded with a good turn out.

When it was our turn to be on track it was combined practice and qualifying. I had new disc brake rotors and pads to bed in plus I was on my new Toyo RA 1 vintage legal 13” tires. There were lots of unknowns. I only ran as many laps as needed but I managed to bed the brakes, heat the tires and kind of learn my way around the track. As Spence said its self explanatory!  We had 26 cars in our group (the largest) which was a combined class with slower and much faster cars than us.

Finally, it was time for our race of 14 laps or 30 minutes, whichever came first.

I qualified near the back which was what I wanted. There were 27 in the group when we started and four dropped out by the end. I finished 20th and got a 5th place in class out of 8 in EP due to three EP cars that DNF’d. To finish first you first have to finish. The fastest car doesn’t always win.

Spence finished 16th with a 2nd in class. He was smoking. Literally!

The Sunoco Corvair was very popular with the crowd all day. Even while sitting on the false grid waiting to go out the track officials would come over to comment on the car. They all loved seeing the old cars actually racing like back in the day.

The car ran flawlessly. I did not really push it as I was sticking to my plan which was to finish the race both days, keep it on the track, not hurt the car and not do anything stupid.

Those spec racer Fords have a real fast closing rate if you haven’t noticed. Shades of the Mitty practice for us newbies last year.

The spec Miata’s however didn’t have such luck. On the first lap one of the drivers got antsy and tried to make it three wide. In doing so he took out seven cars several of which became instant parts cars. Thank God they have their own class! As usual, it’s bumper cars with those folks. Several nice race cars were totaled as a result.

After the race was over we were checked in the impound area. They weighed the cars without driver and then weighed the drivers. When I stepped on the scale it said one at a time please!

After we cleared impound and stowed the car we headed over to the club house for the free beer and pizza! As we were the last group to finish we were late getting to the party so all I had was two pieces and a beer. Not near enough for a growing boy but, it was a nice time.

Sunday morning arrived with the predicted rain. There were tornado warnings in the Charlotte area and we got the edge of the wind and rain. It was sprinkling on the way to the track but at least the temperature was higher.

The rain quit for awhile but, it showered on and off all day. I had my Hoosier R6’s on the car from Saturday’s race and was toying with the idea to put the Toyo’s back on as they have some tread and are supposed to work in the rain. By the afternoon it hadn’t rained anymore and we were hoping it would hold off until our race was over. It was not to be.

I ran my practice and qualifying on a dry track and improved my time by 8 seconds.

Late in the afternoon it was our time to grid. As we sat there on the grid waiting for the big V8’s to finish it began to sprinkle. By the time we pulled out behind the pace car it was raining. This was going to be interesting. I have run in the rain on R6’s before so I knew what the car would do.

After a pace lap the green rag flew and off we went. No, I stayed on track but, some others didn’t. As the race progressed it rained harder. Finally the double yellow came out and we fell in behind the pace car for some slow laps. I really hoped they would end the race under caution as the official number of laps was shortened to 10 or 25 minutes because of the weather. Just when I thought they might do it out came the green! I ran some pretty good laps and had some butt puckering moments. Finally the mercy flag (checkered) came out and it was over.

As we waited in the impound area I discovered I got a 3rd in class! There were only four of us in EP as some folks bowed out due to the weather. I would have been last except for the fact the Mazda RX7 that was ahead of me spun in the rain and never caught me.

Spence and I got our paperwork signed off and my wife Janet took photos. It was a perfect weekend for me and the car which never missed a beat. I did what I set out to do. My check is in the mail to the SCCA for my competition license. The realization of my dreams keeps unfolding. Life is good!

Rick Norris

#36 Sunoco Corvair

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