To say I was nervous would be an understatement. It was Willow Springs, it was cold, and I had zero wheel-to-wheel racing experience. What could go wrong?
Fortunately, VARA holds a class on Friday and Saturday night. It’s for the rookies and those who were black flagged. But even there I was second guessing myself. All the other drivers looked like experts, even the other rookies.
All that goes away when you are bunched up side by side, two by two waiting for the green flag. At that point it’s a mind/body experience like no other. All of your senses are on high alert, especially in a vintage race car with no roof. The other race cars being so close, the sounds coming from my engine and the smell of my tires when I over cooked a corner were so pronounced. Again, this was all new to me. After lap 3 or 4, I settled in and did my best to focus on just being smooth and consistent. I had to keep the momentum going through all of the corners as the Triumph is a low horsepower car. That meant I had to carry as much speed through the corners as possible so that I had a chance at a good run onto the straight aways. Everyone says slow in and fast out, but it seemed like the other cars were fast in and faster out. To make matters worse, during the 8:00 a.m. morning practice, my glasses kept fogging up.
During one of the qualifying sessions on Saturday, I spun going up turn 3 into turn 4 where there no room for error. I got loose and lifted the throttle which unbalanced the car and sent me spinning off the track and into the inside dirt area. Fortunately, it was a slow speed spin so I was able to gather myself, look at the flag person for the ok and then back on the track I went. I got that corner right the next time. I often tell people that’s one of the coolest things about racing. You can make a mistake and in about two minutes, you’ll be right back at the spot of the error with a chance to make it right. There aren’t too many places in life where you’re given a second chance in about 2 minutes. The rest of the weekend was a blur. It was exhilarating and tiring - emotionally and physically. On the drive home I probably didn’t say more than ten words to my wife for the first ten miles. One thing I do remember was saying to myself on the cool down lap of Sunday’s flag race: you just raced Willow Springs in a vintage Triumph!!!!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention all of the down time. Someone told me a vintage race is a picnic where a race breaks out. So true. What made it fun for my wife and daughter was staying at the track overnight in a vintage Airstream trailer while making what would become new life-long friends.
The Airstream was made possible by Tino’s RV rentals in Chino CA. Tino delivered the Airstream trailer to the track on Friday and picked it up on Sunday after the races. How cool is that?