Lime Rock Historic Festival; 1st – 4th September 2017

After a 10-day break – for Duncan and Mair via Salt Lake City and then with Nick Grewal in New Hampshire, and for others by road, rail or air – the team regathered on the East Coast at the super picturesque Lime Rock Circuit, CT. Malcolm Wishart aptly described it as “Cadwell Park on steroids!”

New additions to the NA Tour included Erik Justesen, having acquired the Koala from Mike Rowe, Kim Shearn (Lotus 18, ex Roger Ealand USA car), after a commended refresh and repair by Norman Thersby, and grandson safely delivered back in Melbourne. Jo Fuller in the ex-Zappa 18 (9871/78), Hervey Parke, joining the Michael Clifford run Team of Elva 200’s, Mitch Eitel with his OSCA, although present, destined not to run as the rebuild was incomplete. Also joining were Bob Mirabile (Cooper T59), Larry McKenna (Stanguellini), and Crispian Besley, borrowing Nick Grewal’s Lotus 18, which Duncan had driven previously at COTA and Hampton Downs.  Those rejoining us after a break, included the WARM team, now with David Kent’s Lynx Mk 3 117 fully functioning, John Rowe with wife Annette on a last US Tour race before leaving for a cruise to Alaska, Doug Durrell with the Kiki, Bill Gelles (Stanguellini), although not managing to run after qualifying, with stated transmission problems.  In addition, Dick Little and Joe Colasacco had respectively, two Stanguellinis (00121 and 00113) for sale and on display.

We popped in to the circuit on Wednesday evening, but the GMT and Passport transporters had been delayed, only Don and Jeanette Thallon at work, Don changing gears in the MRC 22.  The Lola Mk 3 prototype BRJ 30 was now in the collection of Dave Marco in PA, after the Valerio restoration for Bob Mirabile.

Thursday offered a complimentary driver instruction session for all FJ drivers, with Peter Krause kindly arranged by Lime Rock organiser, and past FJ Cooper T59 and Stanguellini owner, Murray Smith, and we then walked the track.  With lots of fast corners, it’s amazing how different it looks when you are actually out in a race car, and ‘memory points’ pass in a flash!

Bob Goeldner’s Brabham BT2 was also entered and present, but had just been sold to former FJ Volpini owner, and A7 & VSCC stalward, Ed Bradley, for self and son Richard, who comes with highest recommendation from JR, after a one-off appearance in a Pescarolo stateside last year.  He might join the Tour at Watkins Glen.  Racing in other categories were the former 18 owner, Mike Taradash, John Mayo, past owner of Gemini Mk II 1019 now sold to Burns Moore (PA); and Earle Tucker, with Elva 100/036A not readied in time, after rebuild, while Daryl Wilson, past owner of Elva 300/002 is still searching for the one missing chassis, but was able to add to the other 300 histories.

We were blessed with two separate grids, Group 2 being the front, plus the Canadian Class Kiki, Lotus 18, and Elva 200’s, while Doug Elcomb (Dreossi) switched to join the pack, leaving the discs and three fastest drums, Chris Drake (Elva 300/003H), David Watkins (Elfin) and Jeremy Deeley (Cooper T56) in Group 6.

For the newcomers, Q1 on Friday morning was very much acclimatisation, but for Group 2, old hands Joe Colasacco and Tom Grudovich (Elva 200-Ford) were dominant over the new boys, Tony Olissoff (Elfin Mk 1) and Ray Mallock (U2 – 2) barely separated.  Duncan as always was a slow learner, while Nigel Russell, back with Sadler FJ.01 after major repairs at GMT after Mosport, lost all steering on the outlap, fortunately on ‘No Name Straight’ coming to rest unharmed.  John Rowe (Lotus 18) had plug lead trouble, the Jocko had a coil lead detach, but poor John Stammers in his Sadler expired in a cloud of smoke.  Crispian (18) missed the session.

Q2 for the fronts was uneventful, but somewhat truncated as the session was brought to a halt, with a black flag, and then everybody sent out again without any apparent explanation.  The first two were unchanged, but Ray Mallock and Phil Lamont (Lotus 18) were faster, Tony Olissoff barely improving.  Jo Fuller (Lotus 18) came in with the undertray loose, and this was hastily removed, and he was sent out again by GMT.  Crispian Besley was now in his correct session, just ahead of Kim Shearn (18), but no match for the Elvas.

Q1 for the rears had Joe Colasacco’s Delfino comfortably ahead of Robert Hoemke (Cooper T59), with Chris Drake (Elva 300) a shave behind and a resurgent David Innes (Lola Mk 5A) fourth in front of an all Australia quartet of Bullock, Watkins, Thallon and McCrudden.  Erik Justesen was getting used to the Koala, while Crispian joined the session, behind Malcolm Wishart (T65), and had a lurid 360˚ spin at T1, while poor Peter Strauss (Brabham BT6), cut across by another car, hit the guardrail at the same spot on lap 3, and damaged wheel and suspension.

Q2 for the rears had a more orderly look, with Colasacco being the only FJ to break one minute, and Chris Drake nearly 2s behind, Bullock was third, with Neil McCrudden (Lotus 20/22) well up in 5th and David Kent, his new engine clearly strong, moving up to 6th.  After some swift work by GMT, Peter Strauss (Brabham BT6) was back ahead of the similar BT6 of Sharon Alderman. Mitch stopped with gear linkage adrift in his Lotus 22.

Friday night was the track party in the tent – full dinner, with several courses, and ample beer and wine were in order, and a most interesting panel, including celebrity guest, Richard Attwood, winner of the 1963 Junior Prix at Monaco in his MRP Lola Mk 5A, and Ray Mallock, constructor of many Le Mans and BTC cars, and now building new electric supercars for a Chinese concern.  Richard’s Lola victory was the subject of the event poster, by Chuck Queener, limited edition copies of which would later be given to the one chosen car in each Group.

Saturday was first race day – early for the fronts, too cold and early for John Stammers (Sadler), Neil Tolich was still refitting the sump after breaking the dip stick, no Gelles, while the Kiki was late, checking an oil leak, and Nigel Russell was later still, both joining at the rear of the 2 by 2 rolling grid. Colasacco held the lead for a couple of laps, while Ray Mallock moved past Grudovich and was ahead by lap 3.  Joe Colasacco could not believe the speed of the Mallock (as he jokingly said, that’s what they said about his Stanguellini 9 years ago!!), but Joe was ahead again, before Ray consolidated to the end, with Joe recovering ahead of Grudovich and Jac Nellemann. The Dreossi was an early spinner at T1, while Tony Olissoff followed on his last lap, letting both Ralph Salomon (Elva 200-BMC) and Phil Lamont (Lotus 18) through. On the last lap Michael Sexton (Gemini II) eased up to let Bill Goldkind (Lotus 20) by, not realising it was the chequered flag ahead.  Duncan had an early dice with John Rowe and Nick Grewal (OSCA), before dropping back behind them.

The afternoon front race was this time a Mallock/Colasacco duo, the latter again ahead, but they were side by side after 4 laps and Ray was not being stopped, his best time almost a second faster than Joe.  Jac was a strong 5th until lap 7 when the BMC engine faltered and cried enough – already long in race miles. Towards the back all were going well, Doug Durrell in the Kiki ahead of David Allison (Lotus 18) and Roger Herrick (Lola 2). Duncan in his Alexis cut his time again by over a second, but John Rowe (Lotus 18) who was going better than ever, doubled that, leaving only Nick Grewal, already disheartened, behind.  John Stammer (Sadler) finally expired with a holed piston.

Race 1 for discs started badly for Neil McCrudden, straight on at Turn 1 on lap 2, when a steering arm broke in the WARM Lotus 20/22 with resultant front-end damage.  Joe Colasacco led for 7 laps, but then a misfire brought him in to the pits leaving Marty Bullock a good winner from the drum braked Drake, after a great battle between these two, Drake edging ahead, but being unable to hold it.  Coming up to lap Nick Grewal’s 27, Marty made for an inside gap that turned out not to be there, and the 27’s touched.  Subsequently Nick was hauled before the Observers, and had his Lotus 27 entry withdrawn: those who witnessed the incident, feeling that was a hard decision on the facts. Star drive for David Watkins (Elfin) moving up from 7th to 4th, with David Kent (Lynx 117) behind him from David Innes (5A), while Jeremy Deeley’s T56 dropped out from 9th with a broken throttle cable, nothing more than a disconnected nut.  Erik Justesen (Koala) was now enjoying himself, seeing the gap, and moving up from 16th to 12th, splitting the BT6 battle of Strauss and Sharon Alderman.

Race 2, taking place second after lunch, and it seemed a bit of a rush. The Stanguellini managed one racing lap, still misfiring, while Mitch McCullough just managed to join the back of the grid. Lance Carwardine started from the pit lane, as did Erik, but at least a lap behind.  Terrific stuff at the front, with Marty leading Drake until Drake was ahead on the 10th lap, but first Drake played the back-markers and then Marty did the same, outplaying Chris on the final corner and just crossing the line, ahead. Poor Erik blew a hole in the ‘race ready’ block going up the hill on lap 8, while David Innes’ Lola 5A engine stuttered also on lap 8, and he stopped as a precaution, later only to be diagnosed as a fuel feed problem.  Drama of the race was provided by Robert Hoemke, a worthy 3rd, who on the near penultimate lap got pushed off while lapping at T4 and had some lurid slides, missing the wall by inches, before recovering and resuming. Poor Nick Grewal had started in the 27 under appeal, but subsequent discussions ended his racing weekend – an unfortunate turn of events felt by many.

Saturday night was the formal fundraising dinner in the same tent as Friday, but thankfully the sides were up this time.  Celebrity panel this time, introduced by track owner, Skip Barber, were former track owner and manager Jim Haynes, who had had an illustrious career with a succession of 500 Coopers, Mk IV, Mk 8, Mk X, and finally the Mk XIII now owned by Phil Lamont, winning the 1959 FIII Championship, and in particular the 500 stand-alone race at Lime Rock on 4th July 1959, when 23 500’s started and 21 finished, with Lex Du Pont leading until Jim overtook on the last lap to win.  Subsequent drives were in Formula Junior, starting with a Stanguellini belonging to Fred Bull, and sponsored by Harry Carter, then the Jocko Special, first raced at Sebring in 1960, followed by Lotus 18 and Lotus 20, winning the National FJ Championship in 1963, that particular car going on to win the National Championship again in 1964 with, it is believed, David Freiburger and the NE Division in 1965, presumably then FC, with Mark Donohue.

Also on the panel were legend Sam Posey, now sadly suffering from Parkinsons, who went on to own the Jocko, an equally amusing, now F1 commentator, ex Lola FJ driver David Hobbs, and P.J Jones, son of the legendary Parnelli Jones, and the all-time lap record holder at Lime Rock set over 20 years ago in an AAR Eagle.

Sunday is habitually no racing at Lime Rock, the Church almost overlooking the track, although, unlike 9 years ago, there was no outreach Sunday Service for the participants.  It rained, and it rained.  The first rain we had seen all of this second tour – what a shame for the Concours participants. The FJ’s bravely put their cars out for all (not many!) to see, Dick Little kindly provided tents for both Stanguellini and Alexis, but the others, Sadlers (John Stammers and Nigel Russell), Brabham BT6 (Sharon Adelman), Dreossi (Doug Elcomb), Lotus 18 (David Allison), Cooper T65 (Malcolm Wishart), Kiki (Doug Durrell), Jocko (Neil Tolich) Lynx Mk 3 (Lance Carwardine) and Cooper T56 (Jeremy Deeley) deserve special mention and thanks.  Ironically the Concours Rosette was awarded to Ray Mallock’s U2 which (wisely!) sat dry in its stall all afternoon!!

So, for the last day, Labor Day Monday, the heavy rain of Sunday thanks to Hurricane Harvey had largely gone, but nonetheless we were wisely given two pace laps for the first Fronts race.  The poor Kiki was rewarded with water on the electrics after sitting in the Sunday rain, but otherwise the survivors, less Nick’s OSCA, lined up, still in qualifying order.  Familiar story up front with the first three all close, Joe ahead until Lap 6, and then Ray moving ahead, still with Tom Grudovich (Elva 200-Ford) hanging on.  Then drama changed the race: Jac’s Alfa Dana had had an engine change, thanks to JR and his team, but on lap 7 the oil filter ring came out, and for a lap the track was liberally coated. Crispian must have caught the early drops, spinning at T4, coming back on track in front of John Rowe’s 18, and then slowed, bunching the group, and allowing Duncan to catch up too, setting his Personal Best of 1’10.981” in the process. Next time round at T1/2 there was mayhem, the leaders who were lapping a big gaggle lost Grudovich, then Phil Lamont and Besley joined them in different directions.  Amazingly no damage was done, and the chequered flag was brought out after 9 laps, Tom Grudovich recovering back to 3rd.

One o’clock and all the FJs, with an almost 100% turnout were assembled for a Tour photo, with and without drivers, and then a special ” ladies” photo as well: well deserved for all the terrific support that the wives and partners have given.

The final Front race in the early afternoon missed Jac, the first race that he has missed on the whole NA Tour and Nigel Russell, with a problem with a replacement carburettor needle. Another repeat at the front with Joe ahead for 6 laps and Tom holding off Ray for the first two laps.  It was very hot and Duncan’s engine/electrics suddenly failed, through it picked up and he nursed it to the finish.  Tony Olissoff was a good 4th with Phil Lamont (18) getting the better of the Dreossi after 4 laps. There were some good battles mid field, Hervey Parke (Elva 200) keeping ahead of Kim Shearn (Lotus 18), but both, and Michael Sexton (Gemini II), who spun at T1, eventually passed by Ralf Salomon (Elva 200).  The Kiki sadly pitted after 9 laps holding station behind John Rowe (18).

Race 3 for rears on Sunday and the temperature was warming up.  The Delfino was now on form and Joe held his lead from Marty and Chris, with Robert Hoemke a secure 4th.  Dave Innes (Lola 5A) was a good 5th, but Dave Watkins (Elfin) going better than ever, got by on the 7th lap as Dave began to slow, David Kent (Lynx 11&) also passing before the Lola stopped again.  Further back Mitch McCullough (Lotus 22) finally overcame Sharon Adelman, but Sharon responded and held the place to the flag. Strauss, almost lapped, took the flag eventually in the pit lane.

Last race was mid afternoon, and Sharon, and indeed Colin Nursey on Sunday, had departed for the Goodwood Revival. Poor Lance’s fuel pump failed on the first pace lap, necessitating another while he was moved aside.  Dave Innes recognised his old engine had gradually dropped from 5th to 9th. Joe was again master at the front, and the old order of Marty Bullock, Chris Drake, Robert Hoemke and David Watkins prevailed, with David Kent behind taking Don Thallon.  Ever solid performances without drama for Robert (Bruce) Edgar (Elfin, discs), Malcolm Wishart and local boys from Ohio, Gary Harrison and Roger Sieling enjoying some unencumbered racing in their Lotus 22’s.

So, a great weekend: Tom Grudovich and Robert Hoemke deservedly received the ‘Lola’ prints from our host Murray Smith.  The transporters were packed in remarkable time, drinks were enjoyed around the David Innes motorhome, and the hardly souls dined at the Millerton Inn before a welcome pillow called!