Summit Point Labor Day Double, 2013
My racing season got off to a very late start this year. My God, September! In April, I was set to race the Ginetta until the VRG guys raised a ruckus about its provenance. I am convinced that VRG has had it in for the Maisey’s after Sean’s incident at the Jefferson three years ago. I wasn’t took comfortable with the roll safety aspects of the Ginetta, so I withdrew my April VIR entry. I had already decided to sell the Ginetta as it was just too much bending over and crawling under for my aged back and knees. With the VRG guys casting stones at my ads, selling the quite beautiful Ginny was proving quire difficult.
We bought a new house in Williamsburg at the end of April and it would be consuming many hours of my time specifying renovations and soliciting contractors. Prospects of several long weekends of Pro racing as Sean’s crew vanished with his recurring problem. I began searching for a “replacement” race toy. I was looking for a Crossle or Van Diemen Club Ford that I could race in either or both SCCA regionals and vintage. A good quality car was impossible to find quickly and, for a long time, it seemed like not at all.
In early August, an ad appeared on Apexspeed for a Crossle 45. Perfect, sort of…. It came from an estate and had not been raced for 4 or 5 years. It was “clean” and I bought it immediately. I quick drive to Summit Point (of all places!) and my new “silver bullet” was rescued from Buddy Puliese’s dungeon. (You need to visit Buddy/Formula Haus in the dark bowels of one of the old Bill Scott apple warehouses to appreciate the dungeon designation.)
The Crossle was in good condition, but the clutch was balky. Neil Porter advised to do nothing and give the thing a chance to free up after its long nap. I moved the pedals and adjusted the steering wheel. A set of new Panasports was ordered. The original wheels and the RCCA spec American Racing tires were very heavy. I would be using some 2 year old Pro1600 tires for testing. The car came with Fox shocks with remote canisters, which are not vintage legal, so I got a used set of Koni’s from Porter. A little graphics work and a couple of spins around the block and I declared the Crossle ready to test. I did corner weight the chassis and set the suspension. The carb would not idle at less than 1800 rpm, but that fix could wait.
Given my back and age, I knew doing a full test day before a 3 day race weekend was not reasonable (i.e. insanity) for me. With Sean’s availability in question, I asked Mark to drive on the test day. Let’s see, an unknown, barn find car at speed for many sessions. What could go wrong? But Mark agreed to drive perhaps with clouded judgment after blowing up his FF a week or so earlier. It wasn’t for the pay.
The first session of the test day lasted one lap (we were still getting tires mounted) when a FF driver (perhaps over eager) rolled his Van Diemen. Surprise, surprise, the newly mounted tires made the ground clearance near zero. So much for a careful corner weighting. Sean and Tina showed up to help. We cranked up the spring perches. . Mark did get out for the next session but quickly returned with an extremely poorly running engine. We pulled the engine cover to discover that I had left a plastic bag over the carb. Mark went out and ran lap after lap for six sessions, progressively getting faster. He complained about the clutch and we worked on it. After replacing the clutch arm return spring, the clutch got a lot better. Mark would run 6 full sessions, and I was even tired just watching. It was hot and sunny. Car ran like a train, although a modest speed train with a best lap time of 1:23.xx. Add gas and go. We judge the new race toy a success.
Mark would head home to work on his car. Frank would show up for Saturday and Sunday. My first session (ever!) in the Crossle was a 12 minute qualifying session Saturday morning. Nothing much worth reporting except I found the car very easy and forgiving to drive. Nice. The Swift and the Piper were definitely more on edge (but faster). I ran 13 laps in the afternoon “qualifying race” with a best lap of 1:25.3 which was my last lap. I was consistently improving. I lost contact with the 5 or 6 car FF/CF pack mid race and drove what were essentially practice laps. The foot box is wide, very wide and I was finding my accelerator foot in high G turns was having problems finding its way back to the pedal. Many times it would wedge beside the pedal and the frame. Frank and I would address a solution afterwards with some scrap aluminum plate. (Much better.) My AIM SmartyCam apparently didn’t like the long nap and was problematic, not turning on automatically and recording video at double speed. (AIM is replacing it, known problem.)
Sunday provided only one race as the DC region was running some trackday session also. I didn’t ask Frank to take lap times, so only have what was on the video. Race start was truly bizarre when Slocum who was in front of me thought she couldn’t pass the stumbling CSR beside her to keep up with the pack. As a result, we started at least 100 yards behind the others. (And this was NOT her first rodeo!) I was running at the end of the main pack behind Holmes, Slocum, and Gecelter in a very nice Swift DB6/Honda. Gecelter would race past 2 to 3 of us on the straight (huge overtaking speed . . . JD King suggested we inspect his restrictor plate) but would be passed by turn 7. This process continued for 10 of the 12 laps. Gecelter’s moves caused the three cars just ahead to scatter a bit entering turn 3 and I took the opportunity to cease the apex from Holmes. He came over and I wasn’t sure he saw me (he said he did and was going to give me room) but I drove over the apex curb. The nose of the Crossle came adrift by turn 10 and I turned into pit out and got it pulled off. Finished 15th of 19 with a best lap of 1:23.0
Both my and Mark’s data showed the Crossle’s maximum speed to be 117 mph. Sean and my FF’s/Honda (admittedly with better aero) routinely get 130 mph. My Crossle is definitely down on HP!
By Monday, Mark, Sean and Frank have gone and it was time to test how well I can manage the car solo. Passed that with flying colors and managed to avoid any rain (to speak of). We got a 12 minute qualifying session in the morning. I did manage my only spin of the weekend exploring corner entry speed in turn 5. I came in early figuring there was not much to be gained.
Monday race. Slocum had been educated on starts and the pack got off together and stayed that way for many laps. I was no match for anyone on the straight, but eventually got around Van Nostrand and Joe Marcinski for 11th overall. Best lap 1:23.9 needs to be 3 seconds quicker to be the front runner. A few laps from the end, I started to lose contract with the “pack” and the car was handling “funny.” I thought the 15 cycle Pro tires were finally giving up. Not so, as I was having a tire going down and it would be totally flat by race end. (I have not been able to find the cause despite liberal doses of water and soap)
Overall, it was a highly successful first outing for my “barn find”. I like this car! Buy HP!!!