MITTY REPORT 2011
ROAD ATLANTA TRACK, ATLANTA GA.
By: Rick Norris - Wednesday, April 27, 2011
We arrived here at Road Atlanta around 1:30 and met Mike Levine at the gate just like previous years only this year there was a big traffic jam of semi haulers, trailers and other support vehicles waiting to get into the track. It took two hours to get to the Pro Pits where we have always pitted. We have a motor home and a big enclosed support trailer thanks to Mark Bush, James Reeve's old crew chief.
Today James arrived to do the test and tune day with me as he hasn't raced here since 1986 and it has changed. Jeff Moore of Automotive Archeologist arrived with the Stinger for James to drive. As usual the Corvairs have drawn a lot of attention and it’s not even the week end!
Thursday, April 28, 2011, Test Day.
Today was a big test for me and my car. I am very happy to report the engine runs great and the car handles better now that it’s on stiffer springs. I ran four of the five test sessions with out incident. Of course we were out with all the crazy fast “porch” guys. They told us in the drivers meeting that it is not a race, be patient. BS! It was nuts as usual and I ended up in a gaggle of them dive bombing you in every corner. The race was on anytime they were on track.
I did get to go out behind James for a lap or two then he took off. Jeff's stinger is running triple Weber’s and a vertical fan among other things. I am the closest to vintage prep. I do have front discs and they are wonderful!
The LeVeque clan arrived from Anderson, IN as did Spence Shepard from Charlotte, NC. We now have all five Corvairs present.
Also we are all displaying the windshield banner with Dante's Down the Hatch logo. They were sponsoring James back in the 70’s.
We all got our tech inspections signed off today also. Not nearly as stringent as SCCA though. Tomorrow is practice and some qualifying, it should be good.
Oh, I did have one mishap. On my last test run I forgot to plug the dip stick tube. Yeah, I really oiled down the engine and rear cove but, it cleans up. It just had to mark its spot. I did cruise around on the mini bike.
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Today was another beautiful day for racing.
James is fast in the Stinger as expected and the Sunoco Corvair is running very well.
I'm trying a set of slicks from Bob Coffin so I’m learning how the tires act. Very slimy the first couple of laps until you get them hot.
The only incident we have had was Mike Levine’s V8 Vair broke the diff. He had a spare of course and the swap out team with Barry Ellison changed it in little time. He'll be on track today for practice and his race. This Mitty has had more black flags than any I have ever seen due to cars in the wall. During the drivers meeting we were all reminded this is not a big time race for money or a driver contract. It’s a bit nuts! I got dive bombed in corners by cars that could easily passed me in a much safer area.
I'll do the practice/qualifying session this morning and try to lay down a good lap then wait for our turn to race. It is very crowded as this is the best turnout (Over 400 entries) the Mitty has ever had. What economy? Some of these folks have very deep pockets.
I am so honored to be on track with all the Corvair Hero drivers. My car is the closest to vintage prep. I'm the only one running the stock 4 carb setup among other things.
What a great day at the track! We have had some problems and some solutions.
Yesterday Mike Levine lunched the diff in his Crown mid-engine V8 Vair but replaced it with a spare. He elected not to do the qualifying run today and stood on an earlier time for a starting position as he wanted to save the diff. He ran well and had a good dice with a GT-40! Yes, a GT-40. I'll let him relate the saga.
Spence fixed his rising blower pulley well enough to finish the race.
The LeVair team lunched their main engine in a catastrophic way but, they had a backup engine which the crack team of engine and diff swappers had in place in record time.
When Warren did the deed it was during our practice and qualifying session. I saw the yellow come out and then saw his car off the track along the back straight. The next time I came by I saw the Red Cross flag and an emergency vehicle!
I hit the pits and waited to see if everything was okay. Warren was not hurt but the engine was.
James of course was flying on track. We all came in and then it was a wait until almost 5:00 for our feature race.
My car was running as usual...perfect! Also I was getting more adjusted to the slicks. As usual today’s crowd was large and the Corvairs got lots of attention. We staged them side by side out front of our pits. I parked the mini bike in front and it was like a fishing lure! The folks were very attracted.
We had another photo op with James posing in the middle of all the Vairs. There were a lot of cameras clicking away. He is walking on air! Again I cannot say enough about the honor of being here and racing with the Corvair race elite.
As for my race, it just couldn't be any better! As per last time we had to drive over to the main grid from the pro pits. Then it was a Chinese fire drill as they tried to figure out who went where. To make it worse I cannot get reverse so they had to park me differently. It’s an adjustment problem.
Finally we get the go sign and after a rag tag pace lap the green waved and it was on. I began picking off some cars and stepping it up after I was sure the slicks were working. I caught up to this nice MGA which, I thought I recognized. I was working on getting by when I remembered this was the car I ran with back in 2009 and was trying to pass. He was slower than me in the corners but a bit faster than me on the straights.
I had the bit squarely in my mouth now and proceeded to hound him. I tried to get him in several corners but couldn’t so I tried him on the back straight. The first pass I began late and we ran out of road. The next time I really took turns 6 and 7 fast and exited 7 in second for more power. I also got inside of him and hammered the gas shifting as fast as I could. As we got the end of the back straight I was ahead of him but, thought he might brake deep and dive bomb me inside. I went deeper in before braking and cut earlier to keep him from getting by. It worked because after that I didn't see him. I drove hard until the checkers flew. Everyone watching said I looked good and the car sounded great. Vindication from your peers, it doesn't get any better.
It has been my best Mitty car which is running great but for all the history being repeated and made anew. Tomorrow will be a bonus. We race late in the afternoon and there is no more practice so its one last shot.
Sunday, May 1, 2011, the finale’. Recap
We are home now, arrived about noon. Pleasantly tired!
I don't know where to start....no, I'm not at a loss for words, just inundated with tons of memories from the big event.
I honestly thought the 2009 Mitty was the absolute best with seven racing Corvairs in one place at the same time and my very first experience with vintage racing and the world famous and very intimidating Road Atlanta track.
Then the 2010 Mitty came to be. I went there intending to have another great time with no issues. It was not to be as the crankshaft broke during the Saturday morning practice and qualifying. It was not a loss though as I did enjoy the actives from a different perspective of a spectator with an old high school buddy. I was still disappointed that my car broke.
As the time for the 2011 Mitty drew near I was in a quandary as to whether I wanted to spend the money for another shot at the Mitty or use it to do several other less expensive events. As the months dragged on and I talked with Mike Levine about what we were planning he mentioned James Reeve might do the Mitty in Jeff Moore's Stinger. He had been offered the ride in 2010 but other commitments had prevented it.
Well this was some food for thought! Still, I was not going to commit, then James made it official, he was going to do it. After spending the seventies living vicariously through James and other Corvair racers exploits reported in the Corsa Communiqué I had to do it.
This was going to be an historic Corvair event that may never happen again. The paperwork was dispatched and the serious work was about to begin.
Most of you have read my earlier posts of my six days of trials and tribulations trying resurrect my race car from the year old piles of parts scattered about my shop. I really hadn't done anything to it since the previous Mitty when I brought it home, tore it down and left it sit over the cold, snowy, nasty winter months when all I wanted to do was sit by the fire and hibernate!
Several days into the flog I was ready to throw in the wrenches. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done in a very short span of time.
In fact I was at a point where rolling it out in the driveway and setting fire to it looked like a good plan! Somehow the desire to be a part of this event and just to say I was on a race track with James Reeve in a Corvair became my driving force. (Puns are always intended!) As work proceeded I still had doubts. I was worried I would have another engine failure or not get it all done in time to make the race.
As has been proven I did make the race along with James, Warren, Spence and mike. What a fantastic time! I was vindicated in that my new engine ran like a top, never sputtering or hesitating once. It didn't have any leaks either. It pulled like a train to my preset redline of 5800 RPM and easily had more. However I did oil it down good when I forgot to reinstall the dip stick plug and went out for a test session. You all know it is amazing how well a quart of oil can be dispersed by the cooling fan!
Saturday’s race was great. I had a dice with an MGB that beat me in 2009. It was great fun to race him and on my third try pass him and never look back. It was another one of those times when I had to catch my breath just to exit the car. My driving suit was stuck to me with sweat.
As Sunday rolled around we had to wait until late in the afternoon before our race. There are no more practice runs. I was already kind of letting down from the excitement of the whole thing and was thinking maybe I'd just go out and peddle around. The MGB guy and others had packed up and left Saturday so I was not sure with whom I could have fun. I had serviced the car so when the time to race came I suited up and we all headed over to the main grid on the other side of the track. It was the usual HSR fire drill trying to line cars up in a qualifying position. Also I could not get reverse so they had to push me backwards into the slot. When they finally waved us off I found myself behind Warren in the beautiful replica of his old Stinger. Man, those fat wide steam roller rear tires look like gorilla arms! I was wearing a set of wide Hoosier cantilever slicks on some nice wheels thanks to Bob Coffin who loaned them to me just to try out.
We all jockeyed around on the pace lap and the green flew as we came down the hill. I was following Warren thinking I'll go to school here and see what lines he uses. I was trying my best to stay nailed to him.
I don't remember what lap it was but, I was really moving through turn six where I usually go third to second gear between them entering seven so I'll have good power out onto the long back straight. I was right on Warren's tail when I realized he had over cooked it in seven and went off in the grass. I tightened up my line as I exited noticing he hadn't lost it completely and was right beside me heading back on track. I said to myself or maybe out loud, I'm gonna pass him! He did say to me earlier in the day that with the smaller engine he expected me to pass him.
Damned if I didn't! I thought for sure he would catch me and try to re-pass but, I wasn't going to lay down, he would have to work for it. I hammered down that straight making sure I did not miss a shift and kept the loud pedal on the floor. I was driving like a mad man! I kept looking in my mirrors for that white Corvair to come boiling up behind me but it didn't. Huh? Not being sure what the trouble was I hammered down. I was gaining ever so slowly on Triumph which had just been passed by a Mazda that I had been following earlier. They have very obnoxious exhaust fumes and blow torch flames out the pipes when they let off the gas.
My race ended too soon and I didn't catch the TR but, it was the best race I think I ever had at Road Atlanta. I could not have asked the car to run better. It was also great to see all the Corvairs complete our races in spite of some set backs. We all overcame the demons.
We could not have asked for better weather or for that matter, better friends.
We now have a new poster but, I'm not sure about reprints. That info will come later. I have a ton of photos to post and maybe some video.
Group 2H, Race 1, April 30, 2011
Just us, no others.
James Reeve: 1:46.747
Warren LeVeque: 1:52.638
Rick Norris: 1:54.989
Spence Shepard: 2:03.458
Winning time, non Corvair, Group 2J: 1:42.374, Lotus Elan 26R
Group 2H, Race 2, May 1, 2011
James Reeve: 1:46.974
Rick Norris: 1:52.855 (my best at Road Atlanta)
Warren LeVeque: 1:57.413
Spence Shepard: 2:02.928
Winning time overall, non Corvair, Group 2H: 1:43.804, Lotus Super VII