The Observers Stand / November 15, 2021

The Observers Stand 9


The Observers Stand

Editors Note

By David Brown

The Competition season is wrapping up as I type this out in early November. Since you probably don’t want to hear much from me so I’ll be brief. We’ve got stuff in this issue! Lots of stuff! Many thanks to Racer Phil and Rich Grunenwald for Runoffs write-ups. Great work from our Rallycross group on hosting Nationals and lots of photos from Michael Berchak and Mary Jane Berchak and Tami Tackett even provided a quick couple paragraphs and some photos too. This is what our E-Magazine should be like and thanks to all that sent material. KEEP IT COMING!

Congratulations to all the competitions on great seasons with special congratulations to John England and Scott Rettich for bringing home National Championships in Rallycross and Road Racing.

Hope to see you all at our Elections Socializer On Wednesday November 17th. Ballots are DUE BY 7:00PM. Location is Joe’s Pub and Grill, 9890 Brewster Lane, Powell OH 43065


I tried to come up with a witty statement on this photo, but I couldn’t find the right words… Maybe RT should stick to the pavement or even take lessons from his wife(((KIDDING))) (below)…-editor
By Tami Tackett

Donna England (John England’s wife) and I co-drove their white Chevy Aveo in SF class.  This was the first National event for both of us.
There were 16 drivers in SF class.  Clearly we need more experience in doing RallyX to do better since I came in 15th and Donna in 16th for SF.
Or I just need to get into a car that I’ve actually driven before since the event was the first time I drove that car.
I’m more accustomed to AWD cars with my WRX for AutoX.  Our current project car for RallyX is an 04 Impreza WRX so I’m hoping that having our own car and getting used to that one will help me get better for RallyX.

Overall for the National event, I came in around 101 out of 125 drivers.  I guess that isn’t too terrible when looking at the big picture.  I came in ahead of many Stock AWD drivers.


By RacerPhil Alspach

It’s Thursday afternoon and I check in for my Media pass.  As usual the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is awesome. Not having time to check out the Paddock or museum I head for the inside of turn 1 to watch the last chance desperation of SM and SRF3 drivers trying to make the big show.  Ran into Rich and Kathy GrunenwaldJohn Mills, and Ron Lindensmith who also waiting on the carnage. Actually, the two races were very good, and I felt sorry for the drivers who didn’t qualify.  Went to the all Participant party and saw a lot of racing friends; food and drink were good, then back to hotel near airport.

FRIDAY:  Planted myself in the grandstand outside turn 1, and found Dave Kutney and a couple of other Cincinnati Region members to watch with.

T4: As predicted, John Heinricy dominated in a Toyota 86.  Unfortunately, Rich Grunenwald tangled with another racer at turn 2 on the first lap, got suspension damage and a tire knocked off the rim and a big DNF.  This, after a terrible week with a blown motor the first day, a trip to a Middletown Ohio junkyard and an engine replacement.


Only 9 laps, the first of the shortened races.  Again, as predicted, Steve Sargis ran away in his dominant Triumph Spitfire.  OVR had four drivers in this class.  Scott Hileman got an excellent 7th place in his VW Rabbit, while Brayden Connelly (14th) ended up beating his dad Matt Brannon (15th) after Matt spun.  Matt also had some engine problem during the week, both of them driving the family Fiat X-1/9’s.  (Honda)Ron Copeland finished 38th in his Honda CRX.  So, four OVR drivers, 4 finishes in a very large class – good job.


In a super competitive field Scott Rettich jumped to the lead on a yellow flag restart in his Alliance Formula Enterprises 2 and was never headed, as he won another National Championship.  The restart was awesome as Scott beat the field to turn1.


In a huge full field Preston Pardus won again,  No OVR drivers were entered.


In a very competitive field and race Andrew Whitson took his Protoform P2 to the win.

Jeff Loughead had a very good race, finishing 11th in his Vortech.


Snooze. Kurt Rezzetano won in a Phoenix (I think) Mustang GT.  Why are there so many Touring classes (T1, T2, T3, T4, STU, STL)?


In a race full of Toyota Tercel’s (anybody remember what a Tercel is?) Scott Twomey won in his, while Kenneth Gassin ran a good race in his Tercel into the top 10 with a 9th place finish. OVR friend Rusty Bell fought his Jeg’s Tercel to a 13th place.


As predicted David Daughtery took his Mini Cooper shoebox to a well deserved win.

Dan Hardison looked good  with his 16th place in a Honda Fit, while Matt Downing drove very well to finish 23rd in his Honda Fit (Matt won both days at OVR’s Autumn Classic XL two weeks later.). This race was shortened  to 17 laps by double yellows.


In a very fast, very expensive class Lee Alexander won in a Stohr WF1 Suzuki.

Day #1 was sunny and I got badly sunburned on the right side of my face (think of “Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind”).  I would pay for that on Saturday and Sunday.

My friend and ex-OVR Membership Chairman Jeff Milligan and his new wife Sue arrived from the Atlanta area to watch. After, we headed down Main Street to Dawson’s for a super dinner.  Wow, a whole street of great places right across from the Speedway.


SATURDAY: Planted myself in the turn 1 grandstand again. Weather dicey with off and on rain.  Good for sunburn, but bad for racers.  Moved to covered grandstand later in the afternoon to stay dry.  The yellow shirts were nice as they let me park right under the grandstands.


Joe Moser did his thing in his unbeatable Honda CRXsi to dominate in the shortened 18 lap race.


McDermid did not win.  It was James Jost in a Mustang GT who won in a thrilling race.

Phil Smith, OVR’s 2020 Driver of the Year, ran near the front, and made 15 laps to get a 21st place, retiring with something mechanical.


Another very fast very expensive class.  With the race shortened to 12 laps perennial competitor James French, Ralt RT41 Toyota, took the win.  Austin Hill  finished great with a 6th place in a Elan Proform Mazda.


Another shortened race at 17 laps.  It was wet, so Tom Patton probably got a good shower in his Tiger.  Tim Kazman got his first win in a Fall-Line Porsche 991.2.


Again it was a shortened race at 18 laps. Danny Steyn, a Spec Miata ace, won in a Mazda MX5 (Miata).  This also gave him a Super Sweep.  In a large field Tim DeRonne was 32nd in a Pontiac Solstice.


Jonathan Kotyk won in a Mygale S/14 Honda (whatever that is). Didn’t know anyone in this race, but it was exciting.


A drying track caught several drivers on the wrong tires, and it was another short race at 16 laps. Cliff Ira switching to a Honda Civic Del Sol VTEC on slicks had the right combination to win, while Kevin Ruck (Acura Integra) who led the race for quite a while was done in by fading rain tires still finishing 2nd.   Mason workman hand grooved some slicks and finished 2nd on the track, but the stewards moved him to 6th for contact and racing room, maybe a controversial decision considering the slick track conditions.

Larry Gallagher (coached by Pro racer son Patrick) moved his Acura Integra way up to 10th place and won the Sunoco Hard Charger award.

P2 (my old DSR class obsoleted by Stohrs):

Tim Day Jr. won in a fast Stohr WF1 Suzuki (don’t know why this is different than the P1 winner).   Kevin Bus did not start but qualified 16th in a Radical SR3 Suzuki.


Simon Sikes won in his Citation US2000. Luckily no one needed the Zetec motor out of my SVT Focus.

We’all trooped down to the bar at the end of Main Street for wings and craft beers while watching OSU tear up Rutgers.  Then back to the hotel where my Friday sunburn wouldn’t let me sleep on my right side.


SUNDAY: Back to the turn 1 grandstand again, using my OVR Majors umbrella to shield against any rain or sun. In three days hotel never made bed, replenished wet towels, or soap products – lazy or covid procedures?


Troy Ermish, Nissan 350Z, came back from his serious rollover wreck in practice to win handily.  John Mills tangled with Joe Carr in turn 2 and came back to finish a very fine 7th place in his rotary Miata.


Another touring, Phoenix racing class.  Andrew Aquilante won in a Mustang.


Predicted winner/pole sitter Jessie Prather repeated his 2020 win in the dominant BMW Z3 2.5L. Ex-Runoffs winner Sam Halkias took his beautifully prepared Triumph TR6 to a nice 10th place finish on a rapidly drying track.

GT 1:

Thomas Herb changed tires to wets on the pace lap and outsmarted the field, winning in his Porsche 991.2 GT3 Cup car whipping all the Corvettes. Another timed shortened race at 18 laps.


Huge field.  Last chance winner Connor Sanda made the field and and the 2020 winner Bobby Sak won again.  Scott Rettich spun in turn 1 and recovered to finish 14th, while 2020 OVR Regional Driver of the Year, Greg Miller ended up 41st after being docked one position for racing room.  Of course, they were all driving equal SRF3’s.


And another shortened race (18 laps).  Sven DeVries took it in a Novakar J9 Suzuki.

Boy, do these semi-gokarts have an awesome sound!


And another Touring class.   And another back to back win with Marshall Mast defending

Last year’s championship in a Mustang.


At this point I hit the road to Columbus.  The sun had come out and was reflecting off

the aluminum seating onto my sunburn forcing me to hang a handkerchief from my ball cap over the right side of my face.  Talked with Ron Lindensmith and saw his new Miata on the way out (he had been photographing all week).

FORMULA X: (ex-Formula Mazda ++)

A bunch of mostly young guys with newcomer Vaughn Glace (USF 2000 Mazda MZR Mazda) taking the win.  Austin Hill was on the podium in an Elan DP08 Mazda.


A long three days of racing, somewhat impacted by weather and cautions causing shortened races sometimes impacting the results. Many OVR workers attended, including

Bob Antoine (Pace Car), the Rupps (Paddock), and Alan Garside (Tech).  But, overall a great week of racing – better than the Pro stuff.  On to VIR.





1. IMS’s Safety crews do not go out on a hot track and they apparently don’t know small cars,  It seemed to take forever to clear the course each time there was a double yellow, thus leading to time constraints leading to shortened races, thus affecting the race outcome in some cases.

2. SCCA should adopt NASCAR’s green, white, checker finish to give competitors a chance to win under these circumstances.  Try and make up time lost somewhere else.

3. An example of the Safety Crew’s problems happened at turn 1 during Thursday qualifying.  An F Prod yellow MGB flamed out along the front straight.  First they

sent a flat tow who gave up, then a rollback who gave up, then a flatbed truck with a crane who gave up.  Then they brought the flat tow back and he got the MG hung up on the turn 1 curbing while the driver let go of the tow strap.  The MG was hand pushed off the curbing and hooked up again to the flat tow who took the MG out the gate where a golf cart towed it away!!! Wow, what a MF!!

A few photos from the 2021 Runoffs® courtesy of Eddy Eckart
Read More
Fabulous photos from Michael Berchak of Berchak Media from the 2021 Rallycross Nationals!
SCCA Runoffs 2021, Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Back At It

By Rich Grunenwald

It was like somebody said “I can’t wait to see the Spec Miata crash fest”, and T4 said “Hold my beer…” – Matt Downing

This was a tough one to write to completion.


I’ve been a bit lax in my event reporting so I figured I would do something before the end of the year. I haven’t reported anything since last year’s Runoffs at Road America.

Here’s the condensed version leading up to this year’s Runoffs.


The SCCA Overlords gave the Robust-ang a few allowances.  Cold air intake, long tube headers, rear ration change.  After spending more than I care to admit, the CAI and headers made a whopping 1 hp and 1 tq difference on the dyno.  Should have spent the money on driving lessons.  The rear gear change helped though.

Also, I sold off all my “Bullit” style wheels and picked up a bunch of “Starfish” style wheels. The Starfish are about 8 lbs less each than the Bullit wheels, and they are cheap. Got two for free, a single for $25, one set for $100, and another set for $150.  Sold of the Bullit wheels for $300 a set.  Racer-math working well.

Cumberland Majors, Pitt Race, April 30 – May 2

Strong competition at this event, with 12 or so T4 cars and good drivers.  Event went flawlessly from a car perspective.  I walked away with a 5th and a 6th if I recall, and drove the car back on the trailer.

Great Lakes Race of Champions, Mid Ohio, May 22 -23

A great event hosted by OVR.  A small T4 class of 6 starters, but I had a legitimate shot of podium both days.   Tom Fowler in a Miata ran away both days.  I had a good battle with Dave Kutney (Solstice) on Saturday, and we were both pulling in on Ralph Porter (Z4), and a coolant hose blew ending my race. But, it counted as a finish.  Sunday was much better, and I finished 3rd on track, and 2nd after impound when Kutney was called for a (questionable) pass under yellow.  I’ll take it.

Glen Region Super Tour, Watkins Glen, June 18 – June 20

I was excited about this race for several reasons.  I had not been there since 1993, and we were using it as a mini vacation – you know, like normal people.  Plus, after this weekend, we’d be qualified for the Runoffs and would have 3 months to prepare.

We went up several days early to enjoy the village of Watkins Glen, hike the Gorge, and visit a couple wineries.    I was Group 5 and took to the track late Friday morning.  On the first lap of practice, coming out of the boot – BOOM!   Noise and ugly smoke in the mirror.  Towed back to paddock to discover ventilation of the block.

June 21 to September 23, 2021

Did some research and found out the spare engine that came with the Mustang was a known good engine – low mileage, only had a few races on it, etc.  Spent a few weekends taking my time and got the new spare in by mid August.  Had it dyno’d and a) it didn’t blow up, b) it made more power than the old one ever did!  Did a track day at Mid-Ohio during Labor Day weekend, and all was well.  Spent the next few weeks on details and prepping and packing.  Even washed and waxed the car. 

Plans are to hit the road, Friday, Sept 24, mid-day to get to the Speedway, get registered, unload the car, and hit the hotel.   We are paddocked next to Paolo Salvatore, another T4 Mustang, who I battled with at Road America.  Paolo’s crew guy is Tim Meyer, the gent who built my car originally!   OVR’s Larry Gallagher (FP Integra) is right behind us, and I think Dan Hardison (B-Spec Honda) is a stone’s throw away.   We are paddocked along the Hulman Straight at MG 31 for those who can stop by.

Friday – Sunday, September 24 – 26, 2021

Prepping and packing was straightforward, and we had everything ready for a Friday departure.  Plan was to get to the track early and unload the car on Friday, use Saturday for set up and tech, and Sunday to relax and prep for the Monday test sessions.

Everything went according to plan.  Paddock, setup, tech was a breeze.  20 gallons of Sunoco 93 purchased at the track to make sure we met SCCA spec.

OVR F-Prod competitor Larry Gallagher (Integra) pulled in the spot behind us, so it was great to see him and Sheila.  Plus, Patrick would be there and might be willing to share a few driving tips.  Turns out Larry is a guitar and banjo player, so we made plans to play a bit Tuesday night.

As mentioned, T4 competitor Paolo Salvatore was paddocked next to us.  Quite the setup with a Renegade hauler and gooseneck, with full crew and both a T1 and T4 Mustang.   We were sort of at the other end of the spectrum with the Excursion, open trailer, and pop-up canopy.  But we had everything we needed.  Or so we thought.

Spent Sunday visiting with folks.  Friend Paul Magee stopped by.  Hadn’t seen Paul for a couple years and got caught up with his exploits in vintage racing.  Jeff Blumenthal stopped by.  Visited with folks throughout the paddock.

Went down to the F1 garages and talked to OVR members Matt Downing and Dan Hardison for a while.  They along with 6 or so others rented a couple garages together.  Matt told me he brought more spares than ever including his engine hoist.  Of course, I made fun of him for bringing so much stuff for a B Spec car.

Karma, as I would find, turns out to be a vengeful woman…

Monday, September 27, 2021 – TEST DAY

Monday was a test day, and I was feeling pretty good about it. Car ran great at the MidOhio HPDE so I was looking forward to relearning the track in preparation for qualifying.  Sun was out, clear skies, and temps forecasted for the 70’s.

We got to the track around 8:00 am and went over the car one more time.  Had a set of stickers I wanted to scuff in advance of the first qualifying session, and some old brake pads to use up since I was going to take it easy that session.

Went out on track around 10:30 am.  Everything is good, finding my way, hitting one apex, missing the next, starting to develop a little bit of a rhythm.   On Lap 5 or so, headed down Hulman Straight I was behind a Miata that was smoking bad, and a small splash of water showed up on my lower right windshield. Looked in my rear view for smoke, checked my gauges, figured it was from the Miata, and went around him into 7.

Took it easy watching gauges and watching mirror and seeing if workers were flagging me.  They weren’t so I figured that it was, in fact, the Miata that put water on my windshield.

I figured wrong. Head down the start finish straight, I felt something was off.  Slowed, and pulled in.

Back at the paddock, the radiator reservoir was dry. Immediately saw the hose from the thermostat housing to the heater inlet had popped off, draining the system. Damn.  Let the car cool and sent Kathy out for distilled water.

While letting it cool, got it up in the air and looked at it. Cranked it, and it did not sound good at all.  Kathy got back and I filled it up with almost 3 gallons. This was bad.  Hooked up the cooling system pressure tester, pumped it up, and it wouldn’t build pressure. Checked the reservoir, and it was dry.  The coolant was going somewhere, and there were no puddles, so….pulled the dipstick and the news was not good.

At a minimum, the head gasket was blown, and more likely the bearings were shot also.  Decision time.

Right about this time, our lifelong friends, John and Cindy Ivancic showed up.  John and Cindy were the ones who introduced Kathy and me to each other in college.  John and I were best friends in high school and college, and Cindy and Kathy went to nursing school together. I held back the status of the car from Kathy while decompressing for a few and catching up with them.  Then I had to break the news to the crew chief.

Our choices:

  1. Drop out of the event.
  2. Find another car to drive in T4.
  3. Get an engine from a salvage yard and swap it in to make qualifying on Thursday.

The first option was the least desirable though the most financially responsible.  We’d get a big chunk of our entry fee back.  But, the last thing I wanted to do is sit around all week and watch everybody else race.  There’s no amount of alcohol that would have soothed that pain.

Option 2 was the easy button assuming I could find a car. I put a note out on FB and elsewhere to see if somebody had a car.  Within 15 minutes, OVR member Matt Downing shows up and the following conversation happens:

Matt: “You know Rich, I have my old T4 Solstice back in the garage in Columbus.  You’re welcome to it.”

Rich: “Really?  That’s a great idea! Is it race ready?  What’s it need?”

Matt: “Well, not too much. Belts and window net are expired. Probably should change the fluids.  And the tires are old, so a new set of A7’s.”

Rich (doing the math in my head):  “How much are tires?”

Matt: “Oh, about $1,600.  And, you’ll need to do something about the seat.  It’s bolted in the floor for me.”  (Matt is just a half a foot taller than me in the event you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know Matt…)

Rich: “I really appreciate it…let me think.”

It was really above and beyond that Matt offered, and most sincerely appreciated. 

So, that left Option 3.  Got on to search for engines that might be nearby and available.  Everything with, say, less than 80,000 miles was $2,000.  Engines under $1,000 were all over 170,000 miles.  Got lucky and found one at a yard in Middletown OH for $800 and it had 100,000 miles.  Called them to talk about it – yep, they still had it, knew its history, and was confident it was good.

Conferred with Crew Chief Kathy.  Option 1 was out. Period.  Option 2 was a good one, but we still had a lot of work to do to get the car ready, and there was at least $2,000 to spend (you know I am a frugal chap).  Plus, if I had any crash damage, repairing a Solstice would be a bit more pricey than repairing a Mustang – an unusually fortuitous observation in a chaotic week.  Option 3 was cost effective, but it meant a mad thrash for the next 48 hours.

Kathy pointed out the obvious.  We needed to put another engine in the car anyhow so it was sooner or later.  We had the time, and Paolo and his guys next door offered to help. Plus, chances were that any part, tool, or expertise we needed would be somewhere in the paddock.  A decision was made and it was going to be a fun filled Tuesday and Wednesday at Indy for us.

Realizing we had a thrash ahead of us, we figured we’d enjoy dinner with John and Cindy, and hit Dawson’s in Speedway.  Had pasta to store up the carbs in advance. Great place, great food.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Plan was to get to the track and start pulling stuff to get the engine out, and then go pick up the JY engine.   Ideally, be back with the JY engine by 5:00 pm so we could transfer over what we needed, and maybe even get it dropped in.

Given I had just swapped engines about 6 weeks earlier, disconnecting the old engine went well. Got everything disconnected, called the junkyard, and they said the engine was ready for pickup.  Paolo’s crew guys, Richie Trombley and Logan (???) told me they’d pull the engine, and to go get the new one.

We found out the arm on the cherry picker we had was too short, so once again Matt Downing to the rescue.  His engine hoist (the one I made fun of him for bringing) fit the bill AND he let me use his truck to go get the JY engine as it would be easier to load in compared to the Excursion.

Left Indy around 1 and headed to Middletown. Given construction on I-70 between Indy and Dayton, I figured I-74 to Cincinnati would be better.  Wrong decision.  It took almost 3 hours to go 110 miles to the Middletown.   The folks at the yard were nice enough, and we loaded up the JY engine in the back of Matt’s truck and headed back, this time north to I-70 to Indy.  Traffic was equally bad, and got to the track with the engine by about 7:15 as the sun was going down.  Knowing that Wednesday would be a long day, went back to the hotel, showered up, and got a good dinner somewhere. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Arrived on site while the sun was just starting to peek through the sky.  Started mapping out the plans for the day, how to organize, etc.  Got the old engine on the ground, and separated the transmission.  Moved the flywheel and clutch over to the JY engine. Pulled of the exhaust manifolds from the JY engine.  Put new water pump and tensioner on the JY engine.  Transferred a few other things. Bolted up the trans to the engine.  Ready for install.

Got the engine on the hoist and with the help of Richie, Logan, Paolo, and others, got the engine in the car.   Started the whole process of reconnecting everything.  None of it was really hard, but it was tedious and the sun was hot and I was getting tired.  Paused periodically for something to eat and drink

During all this, I was oblivious to what was going on around us.  Had no clue how any one was doing in qualifying or what was happening on track.  People stopped by to check in. Bob Antoine, Kevin Ruck, Matt Downing, Dan Hardison, Matt Miller (T4 Mustang driver), others.

Though we moved the EZ-Up over the car, the sun was coming in sideways by late afternoon, and I was running out of gas.  You get to the point in a thrash where you are tired but you have to keep moving to get things done. You enter an almost zombie like state, where you know what you are doing right now but can’t remember what you did two minutes ago and aren’t thinking about what you need to do two minutes from now.

These are the dark moments.

Richie, Logan, and Paolo (and by now Tim Myers) were all next door enjoying Dos Equus, Jameson, and a variety of meats they smoked.  I suspect they were having a few laughs watching me, but by around 5:00 Richie and Logan took pity, came over, and told me to sit down and they would go at it for a while.

Man, I needed that!

After a 30 minute rest, I got back at it.  Richie and Logan were buttoning things up and we were close to a test fire. There’s a gap in my memory from about 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm when I reinstalled the shifter and the exhaust, but we were ready to turn the key at around 7:00.  It started but ran rough.  Spark plug wires had been hooked up incorrectly, and once we fixed that, it fired up into a smooth idle. Success!

We spent the next couple hours chasing down a faulty thermostat, but by 9:30 or so had the car on the ground for a drive around the paddock.   Car accelerated, stopped, turned, gauges looked good, no leaks or funny noises.  We bolted the hood back on, had a beer, and went back to the hotel for some sleep as I had to be on track for final qualifying Thursday at 8:00 am.

Thursday, September 30, 2021 – QUALIFYING (Finally!)

We had missed a decent dinner Wednesday night as we didn’t get back to the hotel until 10:30 pm. Got up early to get to paddock before dawn so we could double check things prior to qualifying. Went through McDonald’s for breakfast on the way to the track, and upon arrival, started double checking all the work.

Basically, looked at everything that might cause a catastrophic failure or end the qualifying session early. Coolant hoses. Engine mounts. Plug wires and other key wiring. Fuel line connections. Driveshaft bolts.  Surprisingly, all good. Actually had a spare 30 minutes to get settled prior to heading to grid which was really nice.  The last thing I wanted to do is head to grid with a head full of doubts.

Gridded DFL since I missed the first two qualifying sessions.  We were the first group of the day, and the track would be a bit green. Plus, I had not built up any kind of rhythm or pace given I missed the test and qualifying sessions. It was a 20 minute session, so figured maybe 9 laps including the out lap. The plan was two laps to warm the tires at a moderate pace, and then start picking up speed.

The session went reasonably well though I was slow.  Really struggled with braking points at 1, 7, and 12.  Every lap was held up by somebody – that’s what happens when you are gridded at the back. But the car was good, and there were sections that I did reasonably well.  Best lap was a low 2:01 something which was 3 seconds faster than what I did in 2017, landing me 38th / 48 on the grid.  Based on video, there was another easy 2 seconds out there which would have put me in 25th or so which I would have been happy with.  I was confident for the race.

Really happy the car was perfect given the thrash.  The JY engine seemed solid, maybe even as strong as the old one, and it didn’t display any bad symptoms.  Oil and coolant looked good, checked a couple plugs and they were good, no leaks, etc.  Pretty impressive for an engine that had sat for a year or more. It still had the old fuel injectors in it – I was surprised they weren’t gummed up.

The rest of the day was spent in recovery.  Swapped tires and brakes for Friday’s race.  Went over the car again, looking for loose bolts and wires. All the tools we used – ours and Richie’s – were strewn all over our paddock, so I got them all cleaned and organized. Started packing a few things that (I hoped) we would not need for the remainder of the week.

While I was pondering what to do with the old engine, Logan came over and offered to buy it as he wanted to rebuild it.  I told him he could have it as they were so good to help us, but he insisted.  We settled on a number, and he saved me from figuring out how to get it back home.   Then, Paolo asked me if I wanted a set of rain tires mounted.  I told him I already had a set, and he said “No, these are free. I am tired of hauling these around and don’t use this size anymore.”  So, I now have a set of 2010 Mustang wheels with BFG KD-W’s (for sale soon).

Things were looking better.

Thursday afternoon was spent resting. Had a nice nap with Stella. Dinner somewhere I can’t remember. Might have been at the track for all I know.  The only thing I had going through my head was the track layout and where I needed to be and how I needed to drive.

Friday, October 1, 2021 – RACE DAY!

The weather for Friday planned to be beautiful as it had been all week.  Sunny, high 60’s for our race scheduled for 8:10 am.

Got to the track early again to get ready.  Went over the car one more time, got dressed and we were ready to go.  I was waiting for the call to grid, but it never came, so went up there around 7:55 am and most every body was there.  Previous owner of our car, Greg Vandersluis, stopped by to wish me luck, and I promptly dropped my glasses. He had to scramble finding them, but with 5 minutes to go, we were ready.

Kathy started the camera, wished me luck, and took off to get positioned for the start.  I figured as far back as I was (19th row), I could be pretty aggressive with the start, and pick up a number of spots.  We went out for the pace lap as planned – damn that sun was low in the eastern sky causing a bad glare out of 1, 3, and to a lesser degree, 7.  Coming out of 13 towards the front straight, the field was bunched up, picking up speed. Anticipating the flag, and…no green.  The start was waved off due to the front of the field being out of line.

Another lap around.  I knew that this time we would go green for certain, and I would be ready. Secretly, I was happy we got a second pace lap as it gave everyone more heat in the tires, hopefully lessening the chance for incidents in the first lap.  

Coming out of 13 towards 14 I hung back maybe a couple car lengths then hit the gas coming on to the straight. Timed it pretty much perfectly, passing several cars before start / finish and setting up into 1.  There was a gap in the middle, so I took it into 1.  Turning through 1, we were all tight but there was room.  I saw on the outside of 2 cars in the grass, and coming out of 2 was following a black FRS.  He hit his brakes hard, and I tapped him in the rear.

All of a sudden, the FRS turned hard left, and a Miata was coming backwards across the track in front of me.  I turned to avoid him but the right front corner of my car caught him, and the RF wheel on my car took a hard hit.  I heard something pop, but didn’t feel it in my steering, so took off towards 3.  Midway toward 3 something didn’t feel right and I slowed to pull off on the outside of 5.  My race was over.

Full course yellow came out with the Pace Car, and wreckers came for me and the others caught up in the carnage. While the field tooled around under yellow for a few laps, there was four or five of us towed to Impound.  Chi Ho was there and livid as he was qualified in the top 5 or so and taken out at the start.  Others were there with damaged cars – I looked at mine, and it didn’t look bad other than the fender, bumper cover, and a popped tire.

I didn’t know what caused the melee. While my fellow T4 competitors were generally angry about the start, I was simply bummed it went the way it did for me.  Turns out, the incident that triggered it all was caused by Sergio Zlobin who qualified 7th.  Sergio made a bonzai move at the start, broke way too late, and took the inside of the curbing at Turn 1.  This launched him in the air into the midst of the front three rows, and then the carnage flowed back through the field from there.

(Numerous videos on YouTube – this is a good one:

There were three or four wrecked cars in impound with me, soon to be joined by polesitter Ray Blethen’s RX8 and Tom Fowler’s outside pole Miata.   At the restart on lap 5 or so, Blethen came out of two, thought he had cleared the car behind him, and just caught his corner, spinning him around (start watching  Tom Fowler in the Miata was coming back through the field, and hit Blethen hard in the passenger door – it’s ugly to watch.  Fowler’s car is totalled, as is Blethen’s, and Blethen went to the hospital (he’s OK now).  By the time it was all said and done, 11 T4 cars were taken out by crashes, almost 25% of the field.  There were a total of 5 laps under green –John Heinricy picked up his 16th or 17th National Championship, being smart and staying out of trouble.

Meanwhile, there was all sorts of hollering and talk of protests back among the wrecked cars.  While I was mostly concerned about getting my car rolling and back to the paddock, others were a bit more animated and justifiably so.   Sergio Zlobin ended up getting wrecked at the restart, and joined us in impound.  He was not a popular guy.  I understand – though have not seen the official judgement – that he was suspended from events for 4 months and will be on probation for the next year.  Another driver was found to have 98 octane mixed in with his 93 octane, and disqualified from results and suspended from racing for 12 months (again, unofficial).  A bit harsh IMO and doesn’t seem justified.

Kathy and I went back to the paddock to get tools and parts. T4 competitor Matt Miller had a spare knuckle so I could get the car rolling and back to paddock.  By 10:30 am or so, we were back at our spot, and could relax a little bit and watch races.  Several folks stopped by, and I asked all of them that saw my incident whether I could have done anything different or better.  I like to use everything as a learning opportunity, but in this case, there was not much we could have done differently (see comments below).

Not much else to say at this point other than I am exhausted (no pun).

Other Notes

  • Collection of outside and in car videos from the T4 race.  I will eventually post mine.
  • We spent a lot of time trying to think what we could have done different or better to enable a better outcome in the race.  The one thing was that Kathy was more in a position to watch for the green rather than watch for carnage in turns 1 and 2.  I could have had her positioned better so she could have given me a heads up.  The green mattered less since I was so far back in the field and was planning on an aggressive start regardless.  Still, there’s a good chance I would have hit somebody the way cars were scattering.
  • On the coolant hose popping off the thermostat housing:  I had replaced all the hoses over the past year and changed out all of the hose clamps from the OEM tension style clamps to worm gear band clamps.  Except for the one on the thermostat housing, the one that popped off.  Turns out the tension clamps are meant for single use only which I was not aware of.  The more you squeeze them on and off, the more they lose their tension.  Lesson learned the hard way.
  • We didn’t spectate much on Friday except for the B-Spec race at the end of the day.  It was a good one.  OVR drivers Dan Hardison and Matt Downing did very well finishing 16th and 23rd respectively in a 60 car field.  For a while, Matt was up with Dan but IIRC had a bobble and fell back.  They were the 2nd and 3rd highest finishing Honda Fits!
  • After all the carnage in T4, Spec Miata was a clean race – no FCY’s or bad crashes from what I understand.  Go figure.
  • There were a couple big stinks in the Tech Shed.  First one was with B-Spec. The top Mini Coopers were discovered to have illegal parts on them.  This was protested, but it was too late – there is a loophole in the supplementals for the Runoffs that states that a protest for compliance of a car must be done within 30 minutes of the final qualifying session.  The protest was filed way after that, so it was denied, and even though the cars were illegal, they were allowed to keep their podium finishes. There is more to the story I am sure, but it’s not a good look for B-Spec.
  • The other big stink I heard was in E-Prod.  Jesse Prather, multi-time national champion and enthusiastic promoter of the Prod category, was called out in impound for having the wrong intake manifold on his BMW Z4.  What was interesting about this is that Jesse had not touched the intake since purchasing the car from the builder…who happened to be the Tech Inspector who called him on it.  There’s a long story, but you can listen to Jesse’s side here: 


Like I told Kathy when we decided to swap engines in the Indy paddock, “Someday, this will make a good story. Just not today.”  A few weeks have gone by, and we are starting to get readjusted.  We have a bunch of other stuff going on in life so coming back with a fresh perspective helps a lot.

Racing is one of those hobbies that is so consuming that when you are in the thick of it, you ignore most everything else.  It’s easy to lose your sense of balance.  I remember a story from Jim Garry, multi-time SCCA Solo Champion talking about his road racing experience:

I raced Formula V for a couple of years, and never had top equipment, but did well with what I had, even exceeding expectations.  I fell hard for it and sacrificed a lot.  

I was at Nelson’s for a race and had just dropped out in a crash.  I remember sitting there thinking “I have no money, credit cards maxed, and a crashed race car.  How am I going to get home?

It was there I re-evaluated my priorities.

I’ve kept this story in mind as Kathy and I have gone down the path.  I may have misquoted Jim a bit or taken liberties, but the message sticks in my head.  You have to keep balance in life – there’s more to it than just being on track, regardless of what Steve McQueen said.

This balance keeps me going during the rough seasons like we just had.  Racing is one element, one dimension of our lives, and while it sure is a hell of a lot of fun, it is also a demanding and, at times, cruel mistress.  If we didn’t keep racing in balance with the other dimensions, we would indeed be unhappy people.

With that bit of philosophic wandering behind us, we (at least I!) actually had fun this year.  We are still laughing about Richie and Logan bickering amongst themselves on the right thing to do like old ladies on who has the best apple pie, and the fun we had at the other tracks. Playing at the winery as part of our Watkins Glen trip. Even at Indy, there are folks we hadn’t seen since pre-COVID that were great to see and share a story with.

Many people to thank for both the year and at Indy:

  • At Indy, Paolo Salvatore, Tim Myers, and their crew, especially Richie Trombley and Logan who together probably put more hours into my car than I had!
  • Matt Downing who offered me his car, lent me his truck, and provided his engine hoist.
  • Matt Miller who was there always offering to help and lent me part so I could get the car back on the trailer.
  • Everybody that stopped by to offer help or support.  So many folks. Once again proved to me that the number of good folks in SCCA far outweigh the jerks.
  • Dave Wenger and the team at The Northend Wrench for support and advice throughout the year.  All those little things make a big difference.
  • Rich and Erik Johnson at Backstreet Performance for their dyno tunes and insight.
  • My neighbor Mike McCloud who is always there to help with working on the car when I need help.
  • Pete Bates for spending a day with me hooking up the engine.  Always good to see Pete and hang out!
  • Stella for being a good dog and companion.
  • And of course, most of all, Kathy for doing the countless things behind the scenes and at the track that I don’t even see and don’t appreciate enough to make sure our race weekends go smoothly!

See you at the track.

Notes from the Director’s Chair
Area 4 Director Update for November, 2021

I apologize for not getting an October edition of this out to you, but I was REALLY busy at the Runoffs (see more details below). I was a reserve pace/safety car driver, I crewed for a few drivers (we had six in our compound), I had some BoD meetings, I gave away some trophies in Winner’s Circle and I actually got to watch a few sessions and races along the way. Our group also hosted the Prod/GTL party and raised almost $2000 for the Worker Corps. If nothing else, the Runoffs is the one place where you can see your racing friends each year. The folks that, due to distance, you only see once a season.

First off the bat, I have a couple of quick announcements:

  1. GLDiv Spring meeting will be on Saturday March 5th with a casual gathering the night before. Details will be announced as they are finalized on the GLDiv website.
  2. Mike Cobb will have his next Presidential address on 11/3 at 8p. More details can be found here.

Video Conference Meetings:

  • ➢  Club Racing Board (CRB) (9/7): The last meeting before the Runoffs was uneventful as no rules changes can occur. Most of them would be at the event so they could observe the fruits of their labor.

    The results can be seen here.

  • ➢  Electrified Vehicle Advisory Committee (EVAC) (9/8): Our first document (SCREV) was sent up the food chain for review. We viewed this as a major step forward and were proud to be able to develop something of this caliber so quickly. We continued with rules review and policies concerning interaction with tracks, regions, etc.
  • ➢  GLDiv BoD meeting (10/7): I was more than happy to sit in on the GLDiv BoD meeting so we could focus on budget, rules, schedules, website, etc. We also worked on the Spring Training meeting. It’ll be scheduled for 3/5 and details will be announced on the GLDiv website soon.
  • ➢  EVAC (10/13): We continued work on other rules sets and had several wide-ranging discussions on several topics (car prep costs, battery safety, etc.).
  • ➢  CRB (10/19): Due to the Runoffs, we slid back our regularly scheduled meeting from 10/5 to 10/19. As most of the advisory committees had not met since the Runoffs, the agenda was fairly thin but was completed. In addition, a broad discussion about policies and procedures in post session and post-race impound were examined.
  • ➢  BoD (10/25): We had more good news about the financial position. Once again, we are ahead of the curve. Our Track Night in America, Time Trails and Solo events are hosting record entries. Unfilled positions are also helping keep costs down. As for me, I gave an EVAC update and reported on my visit to the Rally Cross national Championships. We also decided to cancel our November meeting (11/22) as we would be meeting in person a few days later (12/4).
  • ➢  Rally Cross Board (RXB) (10/26): As this group just held their Championship event, they did some “post mortem” on the event and started looking forward to next season (events, rules changes, etc.).

SCCA Events:

  • ➢  WMR Solo @ Grattan Raceway (9/6): I competed in this event in my new 2020 Chevy Bolt EV. I decided to stay in the H Street class and not classify myself in the EVX class so I’d have some competition. Other than one run, I got faster with each run and had a great time. I finished 8th of 13 so I didn’t feel too bad about that. The video is on my YouTube channel page.
  • ➢  SCCA National Championship Runoffs (9/24-10/4): Boy was this a busy week. As Director, I had a few responsibilities during the event. I had volunteered to give away trophies in Winner’s Circle ceremonies for three races (HP, BSpec, EP), I had a few meetings (both scheduled ahead of time and some that were impromptu) and I was a reserve driver for the Pace/Safety car team.

    As a “non Director”, I had some stuff on my plate too. My group of friends have always thought that the mantra “there’s safety in numbers” was true at the Runoffs, so we’ve generally set up compounds with several drivers. We’ve been doing this for years. This year we had six drivers all paddocked together. We shared meal prep, living quarters (Air B&B), infrastructure (power, compressors, welders, etc.) and generally worked together to help each other out. We had cars in HP (5), BSpec (1) and GT3 (1). In general, it was a pretty good week but a couple of DNFs and a visit to the hospital cast a bit of a cloud over the event.

  • ➢  SCCA Rally Cross National Championships (10/15-10/17): I went to this event purely as an observer. I was not an official in any way. I wanted to see how they made their sausage, as it were. It was a blast and I had a great time. This event reinforced that notion that I need to try this type of competition to understand it better. Now if I can only find someone who will let me co-drive their car……
  • ➢  WMR Solo @ Grattan Raceway (10/24): I had usually entered my Bolt EV in Solo events in the H Street class. But I decided to help the EV national numbers by entering in the EVX class this time. Would have finished 7th of nine in HS.

    November has me, once again, driving to Kansas City, MO for another BoD meeting (11/30-12/6). I’ll use the trip to visit some family who lives nearby in Lawrence, KS.

    Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you may have about any facet of the GLDiv. I want you to make the most of your membership and I will help out in any way possible to make that happen.

    Dayle Frame

    Dayle Frame Area 4 Director Great Lakes Division 517.889.1117 (h)

November Membership Numbers
Family          254
Reg              474
Life                26

Total             754

Dual              30
Free                5

Rallycross Photos by Mary Jane Berchak from 2021 Rallycross Nationals

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