AA Grattan and Grandkids

27 August 2007
This is out of sequence, I wrote it last week but didn’t post it.

We had an interesting race weekend at Grattan. The track is fun, bumpy and swoopy with lots of elevation changes and some interesting corners. The weather looked threatening, and ultimately cut my participation short, but we had a good weekend.

My daughter Cassie joined us at the track, along with grandsons James and Shea. They were camping in a tent, which seemed like an iffy proposition considering the threatening weather and Cassie’s bad back. But it’s less than an hour to their house, so it wouldn’t be that much challenge if it didn’t work out. As it turned out, Cassie’s back was fine and their tent was snug.

Saturday night she moved it under Nero’s awning just in case it rained. About four in the morning the awning was making nasty noises in the wind, so I got up to change the angle more downwards. I discovered the awning was bellied with rainwater so I carefully lowered one corner and the water poured in a torrent onto the ground. I thought it was all gone, so I lowered the other end a little less cautiously, and got ten gallons of ice cold water right in the kisser. Soaked me to the bone and left me gasping.

When we arrived on Friday our paperwork said we were running in Group 2, with the Triumphs and Porsches and such. That sounded great to me, a big part of this trip is meeting fellow Triumph fans, particularly the FOT (Friends of Triumph) which is an internet organization of people who race Triumphs. I practiced all Friday with group two and discovered I would have a good race in the group, with a Lola and an extremely fast Porsche 356. My times were mediocre but I knew I’d be bringing them down. The Lola was running away from me on the straight, but I figured even that would improve as I figured out how to carry speed on the last corner exit.

Turns out the paperwork was wrong, they really wanted me in Group 6, but I talked my way into staying with the guys I’d practiced with. I knew I’d have a good race in that group.

On the last practice on Friday, I swapped cars with Tony Drews, driving his fast TR4. I struggled with the car and it’s overdrive, winding up in the wrong gear more times than the right. The car felt solid but didn’t have the quick turn in that I’m used to with Peyote. I suspect I turned lousy times though I passed a few cars. Tony was relatively unimpressed with Peyote. I think he expected a lot more of the car, but his times were very good (his Mom had a stopwatch on him). It takes a couple of times on the track before the odd dynamics of Peyote start feeling good.

On Saturday I qualified third with greatly improved times. In Saturday’s race I got a good start, went on the inside at the first corner and got past everyone. I held first for a few laps, aided by the Porsche and the Lola battling out who was going to chase me down. I got a little lead, but once the Lola got free it evaporated in half a lap and he was right on me coming onto the straight. I coaxed every bit of exit speed out of the corner, but so did the Lola, and at the end of the straight, his nose was inside and in front of mine at the turn in. I could have braked a bit later and possibly snaked him on the outside, but a pass was inevitable so I decided against taking the chance.

I stayed on his tail for three laps, hoping for a mistake, but his driving got smoother and smoother as he extended the lead to a few car lengths, so I figured on second. That’s about when the Porsche started really chewing on my tail. I’m not used to that from a 356. There are some fast ones in the Northwest, and if I’m off my game or they’re having a good day they can make a race of it with Peyote, but it doesn’t happen often.

This guy was a very good driver, smooth as glass, and the car was extremely quick. He was all over me for the last few laps, and in a good position to pass me down the straight for the checker, but Peyote had him by a car length. I’m fairly certain he thinks I was blocking him, but that thought never enters my mind when I’m racing. I was just pedaling as hard as I can. Peyote slides around a lot, and I certainly never cede a corner–you gotta take it. Our times were within a few hundredths of a second, and more than a second faster than qualifying times, so we had a hard race. But I’m sure he was planning to avenge his car’s honor the next day.

Unfortunately, he never got the chance. We woke up to a soaked track on Sunday, with every indication being that the rain would get worse as the day wore on. I’m not racing Peyote in the rain on this trip. First I’m not carrying tires for that, and second, I don’t want to take a good chance in whacking the car into a wall just to drive slowly around a greasy track.

Sunday morning I put stuff away in Nero and we watched movies on my computer with the grandkids. Wonderfully cozy and snug on the couch with two grandkids and lots of blankets watching “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” ,”Herbie the Love Bug” (the original version) and “The Absent-Minded Professor”

Most everyone decided against racing, and the Paddock started clearing out. When the group two race was called there was only one guy on the grid–Bill Dentinger and Ol’ Blue, his trusty Triumph. We went to the fence and watch Billy drive around sportily. They gave him a checkered flag for the victory lap which he took proudly and smartly. The corner workers got into it, giving him full on flag waves at every station. Very cool.

So now it’s off to Chicago to drop Diane off at the airport for her Girl Trip. I’m going to miss her. I’m staying at the Four Seasons to mitigate the pain, though the pain of Four Seasons prices will be pretty acute at checkout time.

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