Racing a Formula One car is an experience we all wish for - read on :-))

















Racing a Formula One car is an experience we all wish for. Since my client has been lucky enough to get to do it, I want to share our experiences with our VRL and CVAR friends. If the photos in this post do not come through on your browser, please copy and paste this link:

If you missed the first installment, copy and paste this link:

The weekend of June 25th, we took the Lotus 23B to an SVRA race at the beautiful Mid Ohio Sports Car Course. It turned out to be a really easy weekend with few problems, and resulted in a win for Doc Bundy on Sunday, many seconds ahead of the second place car, a Ford GT-40.

Nathan Thompson and I had removed the Cosworth DFV from the Lotus 79 Formula One car and sent it to Phil Reilly just before we left for Mid Ohio. It showed up again on Wednesday after we returned. We installed the DFV and prepped the 79 for another outing and the car left on the following Sunday for a long road trip to Mont Tremblant, Canada.

On the grid with the 23B at Mid Ohio
(Ours is the blue one)

Mont Tremblant is a stunning track about one and one half hours northwest of Montreal. It is located just a stone's throw from a world class ski resort with many first class hotels, shops, restaurants and bars. It seemed like a French-Canadian version of Monaco. The track itself is one of our favorites. At 2.65 miles in length, it features some fast straights, challenging turns and several which go off camber or turn over the crest of hills. Being relatively fast, it is easy to make a catastrophic mistake. Fortunately, we did not have to endure any. Doc is a clean and fast driver.

Installing the Cosworth DFV in the Lotus 79

The weather in Mont Tremblant was fabulous most of the time, although the midwest US was sweltering. Temps never rose past the 70s. During Friday's practice, our session began with sprinkles from the clouds and soon it became a steady rain. Doc came into the hot pits for rains which gave the crew good practice in hot pit tire changes. He was fastest in that session. During dry qualifying, he posted the second fastest time. The Historic Grand Prix has a Saturday qualifying race (which we won!) but the qualifying times are still based on the fastest lap time, not on finishing position. We garnered the spot on the outside of the front row. Eleven Formula One cars started the race including Chris Locke in a Lotus 77 and Bud Moller in a Ferrari 312 T-5.

Mont Tremblant grid just before race time

Hamish Sommerville got around Doc on the first lap, but Doc set his sights on him and re-passed him a few laps later. On the final lap, Doc was hounding the leader, Chris Bender in a March 821, and finished only 0.36 seconds behind for second place. Our first three times out resulted in a 3rd at Barber, a 7th at Montreal and a 2nd at Mont Tremblant. We felt like a win was within our grasp in this hotly contested series but knew we would have more competition at Road America.

The truck made a quick road trip from the Montreal area to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin and arrived at the track ready to unload and set up on Wednesday. Thursday's practice had us ahead of most of the field but still searching for speed on the straights. We found the 'sweet spot' where we had good aero and mechanical balance without (so we thought) excessive downforce. We even managed to avoid the understeer plague which usually confronts everyone through the Carousel. The result of all our efforts, however, was a somewhat disappointing 6th on the grid of 16 Formula One cars.

The wheel bearing problem which gave us so much trouble at Barber had not beseiged us again, but it was a constant worry. The other Achilles heel of the 79 is the rear brakes. During the 1978 season JPS Team Lotus had several issues with the rear brakes including the shunt at Monza that year which caused Ronnie Petersen to start the race in a Lotus 78. The first practice at Road America overheated the rear brakes drastically but was traced to a malfunctioning front master cylinder which kept the front brakes from working at all. Very confusing considering the brakes were flawless at Mont Tremblant. Other than a gear change and a spring change, very little else occurred except for the routine maintenance and set up items.

Road America grid, Chris Bender and Michael Fitzgerald on the front row

In talking to other racers of our group as well as walking around the paddock to check out other cars, it became apparent that the fastest cars were fitted with small wings, front and rear, which allowed better speed down Road America's three long straights. Phil Denney of PRD Engineering told us they had installed a new rear wing on the Ferrari 312 T-5 which got them an extra 300 rpm at the end of the front straight. We just got out winged! Sunday's race began for us three rows back. Duncan Dayton was beside us in another Lotus 79 in the 5th spot. The green fell on 16 Formula One cars while 13 Formula 5000 cars started behind the F1 group. Doc soon passed Duncan, who had suffered from an understeer problem all weekend and the leaders pulled away, able to achieve a few more mph down the straights. At the finish it was Chris Bender in the March 821 crossing the line first again, followed by Michael Fitzgerald in his Williams FW-08, Dan Marvin in a Brabham BT-44, James King in the orange March 761 and then Doc in our Lotus 79. We did beat Duncan in the other Lotus 79 who finished 6th and Bud Moeller in the Ferrari who finished 9th.

Both the crew and the car were pretty beat up after two back to back weekends of tough competition. Even though it requires a lot of effort, we are pleased that the HGP series is so hard fought. The cars running up front run hard and are driven well. We might even speculate that they would have done well driven by their current owners and drivers in the days when they raced for the World Championship. The cars running further back are certainly not slouches, either. All in all, the HGP series is just as tough as some of the pro series we have run. Nothing is given to you; you have to earn it all. We are hoping we can earn the win we have been chasing at Infineon Raceway in California's Napa Valley the weekend of August 27th. Until then, we have a lot of work to do.

Metcalf Racing Contact Information
220 Gold Street, Garland, TX  75042   Office:  972-494-3434    Cell:  214-298-9837

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Comment by Stephen Page on August 1, 2011 at 4:15pm
Way to go Robert :-))

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