Weekend One, The Season Begins at Laguna Seca

Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey, California was our first race of the season just a couple of weeks ago. What venue could be better?  I grew up on the Monterey Peninsula, actually worked for the Jim Russell Racing School at Laguna Seca, at age 22, in return for race time in their Van Dieman Formula Fords–cars very similar to the car I am racing now, almost 36 years later.  How far I have come!  I like to think of Laguna as my home track.  Not that I am necessarily at my best there, but time spent in the stands as well as in the garages has generated in me a fondness for the place I have for nowhere else.

Hosted by the Historic Motor Sports Association (HMSA) it was a two day event that transpired in what seemed like a matter of hours.  20 minutes of practice Saturday morning, then a race that afternoon.  Race results Saturday determined the grid for Sunday’s “Feature” race which followed a brief morning practice.  But this time, Saturday’s race was different, and was in fact the real “feature” race.

I’ll explain.

In most US vintage racing, there are bragging rights for victory or a fast lap, but generally that’s about it.  Some of the older and more historically significant cars can be pricey.  Fender banging, wheel rubbing, fist shaking, and generally risky moves are to remain the purview of professionals and therefore refrained from by we mere mortals. The powers that be tend to think trophies or a championship points race might just be the impetus for bad acting.  No trophies, no podium celebrations, no championship points to accrue in pursuit of glory at a year end awards banquet. And certainly no champagne spraying on a podium! Such is the nature of most vintage racing. Sigh!

This time, though, Saturday’s race was different.  It marked the beginning of The CrossFlow Cup; a five race series to be held at four different tracks with the blessings of three separate vintage racing organizations. Points to tally, trophies to win, medals to wear, and maybe a girl to kiss. And….Champagne to spray!  Wonderful. The powers that be have been won over, for now, and been convinced that we Formula Ford drivers could be trusted to behave with an acceptable level of civility and not kill each other before turn two, or destroy our cars forever and ever. And if we did wreck the cars, well, what the hell, they aren’t really that pricey. Well, not like a 1967 Ferrari Testa Rosa, anyway. So they said yes to the idea of scored competition and The Cross Flow Cup is born.  Game on!

Saturday morning I was able to qualify 16th out of 27 entries.  Nothing to brag about, but I’ll take it.  Now that a championship is afoot, some serious folks are getting more serious and some heretofore mild mannered racers are finding the fire in their belly once again.  I did manage a good start passing five cars before turn turn two. https://youtu.be/g35aOP7S2wA Nothing like that feeling.  Were it not for the concentration needed to manage turn two and not throw away all I had just earned, I’d have been screaming in my helmet as though I’d won the lottery.  No, I just passed 5 cars at the start of The CrossFlow Cup, this is better than the lottery!  I gave up a couple of spots during the race, one entering turn 10 that I particularly regret.  Should have blocked, ah, I mean defended, more, and made the aggressor really earn the position.  Lesson learned. 12th place finish.

Sunday’s race was not nearly as exciting for me, though I managed a 10th place finish.  No drama to report–neither having to defend nor ever in a position to attack.  No points on offer for the Sunday race, “just” a race, old school, vintage style.  A fun factor that is still off the scale, but not the same as the points race.  What could the difference be? Check out: http://www.norwestff.com for more details about The Crossflow Cup.

Next report; the recent weekend at Sonoma Raceway.  Martinis, ballet shoes, and left foot braking.  I’ll explain.

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