We had a great four day racing event. Actually, there was only two days, Sat, and Sun. of actual racing with the rest leading up to and following the fun.

Sunday was the last day for the Savannah Classic vintage races hosted by HSR at the unusual and mostly abandoned race track called Grand Prize of America on Hutchinson Island in Savannah GA. The10 turn track was laid out to replicate a street circuit with a famous race track banked sweeping corner, turns 1  & 2. There is not much room for error as there is no run off area only concrete walls and Armco steel fence.  The track, located on Hutchinson Island was designed as a dual-purpose venue. The intent was to use the surface for traffic within a commercial office park and then block off side streets for the occasional race.

Alas, it was part of a pipe-dream that failed and the only race held there was an Indy Lights and NATCC weekend in 1996. Only recently has it been resurrected for vintage races hosted by HSR (Historic Sportscar Racing.)

The Corvair Alley team arrived and unloaded Wednesday and was soon followed by Mike Levine and Dave Edsinger and respective wives. Also Mike’s son Eli was present to help consume the food!

I was the only one signed up for Thursday’s Test & Tune. There were three sessions, two in the morning and one in the afternoon. I was not ready for the first session so I got my car through tech. I got my first annual by HSR too. I ran the last two test and tune sessions to see if my newly assembled engine and the car were working and for me to learn the track. I’m happy to say the engine ran great and it does not leak!....yet. This track is definitely a street circuit with all the lumps, bumps and uneven pavement you would find in most any city. The real hoot for the day was taking the car over to Ellis Square in the middle of town for a racers display. Certain cars were selected by HSR to go as there was not enough space for all of them. I won by default as they picked Mike Levine’s V8 Crown car but he turned them down but mentioned me as the one Corvair to represent the breed as it were. Of course I was more than happy to oblige and I had my show board with me just in case. At the appointed time of 5:30 we lined up on the track and a police escort was on hand to herd us over the public roads into downtown Savannah with all the noise race cars can make. Talk about ego raps on the loud pedal! People were coming out of buildings with big grins and clapping like the circus was in town. As soon as we parked we were surrounded by the crowd and the usual questions began. I did my best to answer all and correct the usual inaccurate information concerning our friend Ralph Nader and his connection with the Corvairs. By 7:30 it was time to wind’em up and head back to the track which by this time was dark as there is no lighting! My race car has no headlights but we all made it to our respective parking spaces. What a hoot!  

Friday was another great day at the track. We had practice and qualifying for which I did the afternoon session. The morning session was at 9:00 and I really didn’t want to go out first on a wet cold surface so I opted for the 1:00 PM session. The Sunoco Corvair was running great for several good laps then, it began to cut out and buck really bad. It was intermittent but I could not accelerate at all. I managed to limp around the track to our pits hoping the problem would be easy to diagnose and fix. I pulled the deck lid off thinking it may be the distributor. It was the coil which had come loose from the rear frame where I had mounted it with a large sheet metal bolt. The threads had finally stripped out allowing the coil to roll around on the engine tin. The wire to the distributor was shorting out on the sheet metal when the cars movement caused it to move. I had a bare spade lug connection for a quick disconnect and that was where it was shorting. Remounting the coil to the head in the stock location was the fix and all was well for Saturday morning’s late qualifying and practice session which went off without any more problems.

Saturday was our first Sprint race for the group and was to begin at 2:00 PM but several things happened as they always seem to do and we were about 30 minutes behind schedule. Finally the race was on and I had a ball. I out qualified Dave Edsinger by a mere .041 of a second! However, during the first few laps in traffic created by a 47 car field Dave got by me and I spent my time trying to catch him. As we came by the flag stand I saw the white flag so I thought one more race lap but on the back stretch everyone was slowing down and waving at the corner workers then they drove to the pits. I thought we had to see the checkers but not today. Great race and my engine ran great and still no leaks! It was a fun time as I tried to pass an 85 Alfa GTV/6 that got between us and that’s how we finished. Dave was 26th out of 47 and a second place in the VP3 class. I on the other hand was a 28th place overall with a second in the class of VAS. There was only one other car, a 66 Mustang GT in the class. He was over 5 seconds faster than me. DUH! Suddenly it was beer-thirty! Mike was running in his usual Group 5 with the fast guys but had to come in early with cooling issues.

Sunday was the warmest day yet, heading toward 80 degrees of beautiful Savannah weather.  The weather has been great all week end. Our race was scheduled for 10 in the morning which was good because it wasn’t real hot and the track was dry plus, we could all get on the road to home quicker. Our race was crazy as there were 44 cars on track in Groups 2 &3. They were also late in getting started this morning because the ambulance was late in getting to the track and no racing can happen without it. Finally we came to grid with Dave, the Alfa and then me in line. The Alfa and I were all set to have some close racing fun but he made only one lap and went in with ignition issues. I had fun chasing and passing several cars that got between Dave and me and was working on catching Dave. Dave said his brakes were going away toward the end but his car had no other problems and ran strong. After several good laps of hard racing a full course yellow came out. That means no passing but as usual several drivers didn’t get the memo. We had several DQ’s as a result. I never did see what caused the yellow flags. The race ended under caution and two drivers got together and crashed on the last lap in front of the start finish line. Mike did not run Sunday as he did not want to hurt his engine any more than it may have already been. Our overall best lap times were: Dave = 1:37.326, Rick = 1:37.230 respectively.

To sum it all up I can’t think of anything better than to spend quality time with great friends racing classic Corvairs at an historic venue in the old South city of Savannah on a great fall week end in front of an appreciative crowd. As I have said many times my idea of winning is the car went back on the trailer the same as it came off. I won.

Did I mention my engine has no leaks??

Rick Norris

No. 36 Sunoco Corvair

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