Below are my thoughts regrading the preparations for our last race. The race has now come and gone, this post being a bit behind the time line. Priorities did not allow for a timely posting. Sooner than later I hope to post a bit about how the weekend went. And with luck, I’ll attach a bit of on car (helmet) video.


Proudly, I mentioned to a fellow competitor that I had changed the gear ratios in my gearbox for the first time and with my own two hands. He politely held back some, though I could tell not all, his inclined laughter when I added it had taken me three days. Most experienced with the procedure can make the change in 30 minutes or less. Nonetheless, I remain proud. There is a lay shaft, pinion shaft, spacers, hubs, shift forks, lions and tigers, oh my! And of course the cogs. And each of these things must be in it’s assigned spot if you want first gear to be first gear and second second, and so on. All new to me. It is not underheard of in the history of formula car racing for a driver to venture out on track to quickly find second gear is now where fourth gear should be or vice a versa, or third where first should be, etc., etc., etc. Many combinations of wrong are possible. But low and behold, after three days and several phone calls to patient experts, I got it right, and venturing out for the first time onto the Summit Point Motorsports Park main course, each gear was where it was supposed to be. And the shifts felt as they should.

Four speed Hewland racing gearbox. Choose ratios wisely.

And changing ratios to suit the long, high speed straight between turns 10 and 1 at Summit Point was not the only heavy lifting done in preparation for this weekend’s Jefferson 500 (still need to ask why the name) hosted by the VRG (Vintage Race Group). In addition to the needed ratio change, which now allows for a top speed of around 120 mph–15 mph faster than the bigger cogs used at tighter tracks (look at your bicycle and it will make sense), we also replaced motor mounts that may have been on the car since its birth in 1972. Their wear was allowing a minor shift of the engine we suspect may have been part of the reason the car was difficult to control in right-left, or left-right for that matter, transitions. It felt like excess body roll with but with a delayed reaction.

We also discovered the metalastic rubber bushings that connect the two axles to the transmission were worn and needed replacement. They, too, were very old. Replacing them took considerable effort. Bolts were bent, bolts were stuck, and bolts were installed backwards. Cutting implements that plug in were needed!

Gearbox left, axle right. Metalastic donut in between.

Finally on the list of heavy lift items, the broken frame member–discovered while cleaning the underside of the car (cleaning always a good idea for reasons beyond vanity). The failed part was a piece of tubing that triangulates the box tubing that makes up the back of the car–where the engine is. Its failing could also have allowed some motion of the engine within the frame thereby adding to the feeling that something big behind me was sloshing back and forth and taking the car with it. Not ideal. Melting bits of metal together is best left to skilled professionals, so off to the local welder the car went. And after some much needed cajoling and banter with the professional welder, the separated frame member was as one again and rigidity restored. Relative rigidity, of course. These old cars are nothing like today’s. To say the frame is rigid, an important feature for great handling, is a stretch by any of today’s standards.

Frame repair, beneath clutch line. A little rough in appearance, but good enough for now.

Additionally, intake and exhaust valves were adjusted, brake master cylinders replaced, some fluids renewed, and lots of cleaning and polishing done.
Beyond the car stuff, entry forms were sent, additional in-trailer storage was developed, hotels reserved, and travel plans finalized. And, at least 10 hours spent in my racing simulator–a pretty slick contraption we developed specifically for the purpose of learning new tracks. Time spent in the box is a great investment in the weekend. More about it, and its nauseating virtual reality goggles, another time.

And now we are here. Summit Point Motorsports Park, northeastern West Virginia. A long way from home and on our own. Day one a success. Registration easy, unloading the trailer and car easier. The car ran well and the hotel is more than adequate.

Tomorrow we qualify in the morning, race in the afternoon. 47 Formula Fords, most probably repaired or maintained in ways similar to mine, have arrived to compete. 17 Historic Formula Fords (1972 cars or older) and 30 Club Formula Fords–slightly newer though not always faster–cars. Both groups will race together but scored separately. My goal; top twenty overall, top 5 in my class. Possible, though perhaps a bit optimistic given my disinclination to crash, well, ever, but especially the first time racing at this track and racing with this group of people, each new to me. Always good to have a goal. A sort of payoff if reached, even if only in measures of personal satisfaction.

Our home for the next three days. Hospitality suite at the rear.

Huge accolades thrown Fred Hecker’s way. Were it not for his strong work ethic, ingenuity, and help in prepping the car and keeping the car running, I would not likely be able to go out and play as easily as I do. And of equal importance is his willingness to get the car to and from the races so that I can remain home working as often as possible to pay for all this merriment.


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