We flew in on Tuesday to SFO, arriving late, and after the long car hire queue at the end of the efficient internal airport rail link, we headed the couple of hours to Carmel, to the apartment in Ned Spieker’s guest wing where we stayed in 2008.  We had successfully bid at the FJHRA Charity Auction to stay during the Reunion, but Ned had very kindly extended the invitation to include the first weekend as well. Downstairs were Norman and Candace Thersby, looking after Ned’s BT6, as well as his Maserati 200 SI and Ferrari 250 GT…

Thursday, we headed to the track to await the arrival of the Passport Transport truck from Connecticut with eight touring FJ’s on board. Duncan’s Alexis, Ray Mallock’s U2 Mk2, with enough kit to build a second car! Jeremy Deeley’s Cooper T56, much repaired at the rear end after Mosport by GMT Racing and the gearbox back from the UK after a rebuild at C & G, Jac Nellemann’s Alfa Dana, Colin Nursey’s Lotus 22-J-19, Chris Drake’s all conquering Elva 300 003, and making their tour debuts were Malcolm Wishart’s Cooper BMC T65 and James Claridge in the familiar yellow Lola Mk 5A ex-Picko Troberg. Joining us in the tent would be Peter Strauss’ Brabham BT6 and the (quite) similar car of Mark Shaw, just flown out from the UK after the Silverstone Classic, with Michael O’Brien, fresh from his FF double header victory at the same meeting in attendance.  Completing the tent would be the MRC 22 of Don Thallon, with poor Jeanette hobbling after a fall back home, and a delayed flight from Queensland.

Dave Innes’ motorhome had arrived independently, with his Lola 5A and Marty’s Lotus 27 on board, Dave having driven solo from the East Coast, while Marty had been on baby duty in Perth. Kim Shearn’s Lotus 18, ex-Roger Ealand, was down from storage in Sonoma awaiting transportation to the East Coast, and wouldn’t be taking part here, as Kim was waiting expectantly back home in Melbourne for grandchild no. two to appear!

An enlarged group of Texan’s parked opposite, Tom O’Grady and Jim Yule adding Stanguellini 00157 and Elva 100/28, Hugh Ruthven II back with Bandini 054 and John and Marilyn Breidenbach (18-J-766) and Bob Merrill (#159 with BMC Mk I – 10.)

Tupper Robinson arrived late with his Scorpion-BMC that Duncan drove in the 2008 Reunion, while Captain Marco was displaying BMC Mk I XP001 and the ex-Julian Sutton F2 HWM 52/107.

Chip Fudge had a variety of cars, including the FJ, Cooper T56 FJ-17-61 with Mk 4 Hewland, but correct BMC motor.  Jim Brown’s Lotus 20-J-937 is a truly original car, and excited to have finally found the frame no 101 in the correct location between engine and driver.  Mitch McCullough, who rode with Duncan and Nick Grewal to Brighton a year or two back, had his ex-Morici Lotus 22-F3-68, newly repainted in bright original colours, with added “Lotus” stripe – his Lotus 18 still being under restoration.  Another BMC Mk 1 (#155) was the early car of Jim Smith.

A bevy of Lotus 27’s, including the Fernandez bros waiting for next weekend sat under US preparers’ awnings.  Scott Drnek of Virtuoso’s red Brabham BT6 was sharing the stable with Tim de Silva’s Gemini Mk IV and Harin’s mongrel BMC Mk 3. Dr Nick Colyvas was driving Andrew Wait’s 22-J-5 for this weekend, and young Robert Stoker had 22-FJ-37, a further 20 being the dark blue car of Ed Nigro, ex-Carl Moore, with early Canadian history, although reframed since, following accident damage.

Two likely contenders were Art Hebert in his familiar grey US BRJ 59 Lola Mk 5A and Danny Baker’s Lotus 27, with father Bob, now 87, in the 5A.  However, Andrew Hibberd (in Nick Grewal’s Lotus 27 – Nick driving the OSCA) and James Claridge were taking early instruction lessons on the track!

There was no general testing on Friday, but many FJ drivers took advantage of the TOP (Track Orientation Program) from E. Paul Dickinson and a long walk round the full track, while signing on and scrutineering (“tech”) were completed. SA 2005 helmets were deemed illegal here in USA, but fortunately an “FIA waiver” was granted for the overseas competitors.

The Saturday briefing was 7.30! and the first (Front and rear drum) session was out at 9.15. Chris Drake was in a different league, from Joe Colasacco in the ever fast Stanguellini 00169.  Chip Fudge was next, with Jac in 4th, and Ray Mallock 6th.  Duncan took it quietly with a 2m 14s.  Jeremy Deeley was struggling with gears, while Nick Grewal was 11th with only one lap to his credit, before a valve seat unseated with nasty OSCA engine consequences. Jim Smith was off on the first lap, and when Jeremy joined him we had a black flag period to clear.

Qualifying for the rears followed at 12.30.  Nick Colyvas set the pace in the Andrew Wait 22, with Tim De Silva in the Gemini IV, Joe Colasacco in the Stanguellini ‘Delfino’, Marty Bullock (27) James Claridge, Art Hebert and Dave Innes (Lola 5A’s) and Mark Shaw (BT6) prominent behind.  Andrew Hibberd was late out, and finding his feet.  Joe stopped near the end with a flat battery.  No official times were issued, as is usual, but Danny Baker (27) was up to second behind Art Hebert, while the Gemini was untimed: the new transponder had not linked to the ‘cloud’. (a fault that occurred both at Hockenheim and Most with new transponders.)  – a protest showing him a1 m 42.56 lap time brought reinstatement to p4 for the race.

Saturday pm brought the first races – In the Front/Rear Drums, behind Chris Drake was an equally lonely Joe Colasacco, but a good battle for third between Chip Fudge (T56) and Ray Mallock (U2 Mk 2).  The excitement of the race was provided by Jeremy Deeley (T56) who was last after the start with only 4th gear, and after 2 laps, all gears now effective, worked his way up to pass Jim Brown (Lotus 20) at the end for 8th spot, just behind Jimmy Domingos (T52) who had risen from 11th, poor Jimmy having to cope with back to back races for the Bobtail and the FJ. Duncan had a good chase of David Allison’s 18, until a fuel pipe came adrift and he ground to a halt on the pits straight, out of petrol, fortunately with no fire.  Tupper Robinson (Scorpion) had joined the grid, despite no practice but an explosion of water after losing a core plug brought his race to an early close.

The rears now provided one of the most thrilling FJ races, enhanced by the fact that for the first time in 44 years a Gemini Mk IV took the chequered flag!

First round past Turn 3 was Art Hebert, but that was it: a controlled spin just keeping the Lola out of the gravel, but it was first to last before he could resume and start his pursuit through the field, followed by Scott Drnek who had had a problem on the pre-grid and started form the pit lane. Danny Baker (27) now led from Tim de Silva, from Joe Colasacco (Stanguellini Delfino), Marty Bullock (27), James Claridge (5A), Nick Colyvas (22), Chris Locke (27), Andrew Hibberd (27), Mark Shaw (BT6) and Ed Nigro (20).

Into lap 3 and Art was already up to 15th and Scott to 17th. Up at the front it was as close as pie with the Gemini now in the lead by lap 4, but Danny and Joe all together: a bit of due deference as they lapped Danny’s Dad, Bob (5A) saw Danny ahead but the final lap had the Gemini in the lead again for a very first FJ victory for the Mk IV for 44 years, and on the final lap both Andrew Hibberd and Mark Shaw, sawing at the steering wheel round Turn 3,slipped ahead of Nick Colyvas, with Art now right behind in 4th, and Scott up to 12th at the line.  There was also a great battle group in the mid field with Phil Ribbs (27) and Don Thallon (MRC), Ned Spieker (BT6), Peter Strauss (BT6), Colin Nursey (22) and Harin de Silva (BMC), but Ned going as well as ever before, eventually headed the group.

Sunday morning was for test practice sessions only, with no time to count: a real blow came when Tim broke a drive shaft on the Gemini coming out of Turn 2, and with some collateral damage was subsequently destined to take over Scott’s BT6 and start from his grid slot, while Joe Colasacco had yet another of those tow car incidents, losing a wheel when the stub axle broke in the Delfino Stanguellini, the tow truck started off while a Marshall was under the front of the car fixing the body and Joe was still fixing the hitch to the roll over, resulting in damage to the Delfino body and to both people. Joe consequently gave the front engined race a miss as well in the afternoon.

The drums were out after lunch, Chris Drake led from Ray Mallock as poor Chip Fudge had been relegated to the back due to a defective transponder and no times in R1.  John Breidenbach (18) and Jimmy Domingos (T52), Bob Merrill (BMC Mk I) and Jeremy Deeley followed, the latter after a slow start with no working first gear.  Chip was already up to 8th after the first lap while Jeremy displaced Jimmy, and then the 18, but by now a long way behind the U2, while Chris Drake was in another race up front! Chip was up to 6th on lap 3, taking Jimmy who slipped right back behind Bob Merrill to 8th.  Chip was up to the 18 on the 5th, and finally catching Jeremy on the last lap, after the blue T56’s oil nappy came loose.  Jimmy recovered past Bob Merrill, while a great scrap between Jim Brown (20) and Jack Fitzpatrick (18) ended in Jack’s favour.  Duncan, also starting from the back, had a slightly wild moment with Jim Smith’s BMC on the first lap, but when free of the Stanguellini, shot ahead but now out of sight of the field, at least improving to 2m 06.8.  Tupper again retired the Scorpion.

Penultimate race of the day brought the discs out for the final battle but with no Gemini, Stanguellini or Nick Colvyas, and Art back in 6th, with Tim now behind in the BT6, it was going to be interesting how Danny would fare. Sure enough on lap 1 Danny led from Marty Bullock (27’s) with James Claridge 3rd, Andrew and Mark Shaw behind, so the Brit’s showing at last. Next lap and Art had taken Andrew for 5th and Mark, next time and up to 2nd ahead of Marty on lap 4 – but coming up too was Tim (who had never driven or even sat in the BT6 before!!); 7th on lap 1, 5th on lap 3, past the fellow BT6 of Mark Shaw on lap 4, and by lap 6 up with the leading duo of Danny and Art, and a long way ahead of 4th place, Marty.  Next lap it was Danny, Tim and Art, and with two laps to go Tim was ahead while Mark Shaw, showing his F3000 form had scrambled past Marty for a deserved 4th place.  Further back, Jimmy Domingos (T59) and Don Thallon (MRC) were swapping places, Don recovering to take the place, while Phil Ribbs (27) and Colin Nursey (22) also had a good scrap.

A great weekend, no rain, only damp early morning coastal ‘haa’, and Howden Ganley our loyal Patron was there on the great Gemini weekend.