Indy 2017; Making America Great Again by Bill Hemming

MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN   (2nd instalment  11/6/17)

All the Aussie FJ’s arrived at GMT Racing headquarters and vaguely made race ready for the first event at Indianapolis from 7th to 11th of June,. The one big issue in touring through the US is transport of the race cars.

In the past we have hired big 6 car transporters, complete with driver, at a cost of about $15,000 for a few weeks. This group of tight-arsed ANZACS are trying several “cheaper” methods. David Watkins (Elfin plus wife) sent over from Perth – via Melbourne, Sydney and New Zealand –  his converted Merc Van with  flash living quarters and room for the car, and is doing it easy. Bill Hemming (Tojeiro minus wife) brought his ex Roger Ealand van over from the UK with un-flash living quarters and room for the car. He’s happy farting around (literally) in his own company. Marty Bullock and David Innes imported David’s extra flash UK motor mansion and a 2 car trailer for their Lotus 27 and ex Boel Lola. Unfortunately, the mighty motor home wouldn’t motor, so they have hired a truck to sleep in and tow the trailer. They’ve gone from 5 stars to 5 seashells! Lance Carwardine convinced the yanks that his  West Australian Truck Licence was OK for an articulated lorry, and he, Peter Boel, Bruce Edgar, David Kent and John Rowe threw their cars (Lynx, Panther, Elfin, Lynx and Lotus 18) into a huge rig they hired for $2 a mile. The prime mover has a living area of sorts and 3 of them are air mattressing. John Rowe wisely chose to travel with David Kent (plus wife) in the most sensible outfit…a hired motor home. Tony Olissof (Emeryson Elfin) brought his much travelled yellow transit van over from NZ via Los Angeles to join us at the circuit.

After a 13 hour drive from Connecticut, we all parked up at the HUGE Indy complex and drove in under the banner… “THE RACING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD”…a slogan obviously penned by Donald Trumps’ twitter writer. But I guess when you consider that the Indy 500 pulls over 300,000 paying spectators, and has hosted Formula 1, Moto GP and weekly race meeting, the claim may actually be justified. A visit to the fabulous Indy Museum (in the grounds) certainly reinforces the sensational history of the place. And driving onto the track through the famous “Gasolene Alley” was a buzz.

On to the track for a Test Day (2 x 15 minute sessions for only $295!) had us all in awe of the complexity of the layout. Three 90 degree corners at the end of very long fast straights, two chicane sections, and two diversions onto the banked oval track make for very hard work. Half of us loved it, and half hated it. And half of the hating half stuffed it up completely. David Kent’s (Lynx) expensive new motor destroyed a push rod – out for the weekend, Bruce Edgar (Elfin) broke a valve – repaired for the weekend, John Rowe (Lotus) ran his bearings – his weak end buggered his weekend.

Friday practice saw Marty Bullock (ex Glynn Scott Lotus 27) show ‘em what Aussies can do with a great 2nd fastest time behind Professional Champion Driver Joe Colasacco in his gorgeous rear-engined Stanguellini. Joe and this car have been unbeatable for years. David Watkins was great with a 6th in his drum braked Elfin, Bill Hemming (Tojeiro) was a surprising 10th, Lance Carwardine (Lynx), 11th, Bruce Edgar (Elfin) cruised in 13th, John Rowe (Lotus 18) limped his sick car for a few laps for 16th and Peter Boel (Panther) pulled in 19th.

At Indy, they have 2 Qualifying sessions, 1 Qualifying Race and 1 final “championship” race. No, we didn’t understand the system, and no one could explain it to us, but grids were set based on fastest lap time so I guess everything before the final race is “qualifying”. Anyway, who are we to argue with “THE RACING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD’.

Qualy 1 confirmed Marty at 2nd and David at 6th. Bill dropped to 13th, Bruce to 15th, Peter 16th, and John’s big end ended after 1 lap.

For the “qualifying race” Marty changed his ratios and while he was just beaten to the flag by the Stanguellini, he set a quickest lap! David and Bruce brought their Elfins home in a great 6th and 7th, Bill got 12th and Pete’s Panther 16th.

Saturday night and the circuit put on a big party. It was Bill’s birthday and he thought they did it just for him. Apparently not. But a few rugged Australians were among the last table to leave, and in our emotional state, thought it would be a good idea to jump the fence and do the time honoured tradition of “kissing the bricks” (Winners of the Indy 500 kiss the strip of original bricks left at the start/finish line from the days of yore when the Indy Brickyard was completely paved with bricks.

Problem was, we looked like a line up of Muslims praying to Mecca, and we were a tad nervous The Donald might deport us if seen. So we drunkedly stood up and climbed onto the winners dias to pose in front of another understated slogan “THE WORLD’S GREATEST SPECTACLE”.

Then back over the fence and hide in our RV’s. The world’s greatest riff raff strikes again.

Not to be outdone, Margaret Ealand has sent us a photo of Roger in his Lotus 18, crossing the “Brickyard” strip when he came 2nd in his last ever race in 2015. He might be gone, but his media presence continues to haunt us!

On the Sunday, there was only one race for us, but it was billed as the Championship Race.

Once again, Marty drove his butt off to a fine 2nd place. David made a habit of coming 6th (and second in class for drum braked cars), Bruce’s Elfin was 9th, Bill 12th and Peter 15th.

Trophies were presented by Jennifer Revson. Jennifer was sister to the late, great Peter Revson who had a distinguished career in Formula Junior before moving onto to Trans Am, Can Am Sports Cars, Indianapolis and Formula 1 before tragically being killed testing at Kyalami for the 1974 South African Grand Prix .Peter was interred in a crypt in New York with his brother Douglas who was killed in a racing accident in Denmark in 1967. Revson’s replacement at Shadows F1, Tom Pryce was also killed at Kyalami in 1977.This is all a bit gouhlish, but we’d like to think that Roger, Peter, Douglas and Tom are up there looking down on us remembering them.

We’re now off to Mosport in Canada, just outside Toronto. Another famous track steeped in history.

What a life….where else could you have a fabulous weekend by providing THE WORLDS GREATEST SPECTACLE in a CHAMPIONSHIP RACE at the RACING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD!