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1971 - Ontario

Questor passes were a reward offered by the organizers to many of us who had worked hard and long in aid of amateur and professional road racing in Southern California, and who had no assignment for the weekend. On Friday and Saturday we had free access to everything Ontario had to offer, and it was considerable. I hadn't thought of photography in conjunction with a racing event for quite a while, busily official-ing with little opportunity for pointing and shooting, so all I have is the (fading) memory of my second view of Genuine F-1 Machines in action.

As opposed to the 1960 Riverside racers, these 1970s cars were quick and noisy, turning out twice the RPM of what seemed by comparison to be very deliberate, narrow-tired, earlier cars. The Matra was most remarkable in that respect. One of our friends was assisting in the starter's stand. He was wearing communications-net head phones, and lifted one ear-cup to hear a nearby coworker at the moment a Matra changed gears passing under his perch. The sound caused severe pain.

We spent a little time in the Press box, where a Babel of journalists were stacked in several rows nearly on top of one another, so steep was the incline their desks were stepped upon.

Loitering and gawking in the garages and pits left me with the impression that the F-1 contingent were enjoying the event, were confident they would dominate, and had nothing to prove. Most of the FA racers had this spirit, too, or at least maintained that appearance. Others seemed intent and tense, and eventually a little desperate.

Observation of on-track action was easy from the pits, grandstand, and from the infield, but not very fulfilling. The most exciting view I encountered was from outside the track. It was run clockwise, and the highest-speed section included the front straight and most of the oval's "Turn Four". This portion was a mile or so in length, and while I have no recollection of anyone announcing terminal speeds at the point where braking and turning-in to the esses took place, I'd guess it had to be nearing 200MPH.

Making the Speedway-to-roadcourse transition as gentle as possible meant taking an apex on the right side of the oval's pavement (oval Turn Four, road course Turn One), a drift out to the wall on the left, and a right-ish turn to apex on the entrance to the esses section of the track (road course Turn Two)(diagram).

You had your Formula One missile decelerating and turning within inches of the wall and within a small fraction of its inertial maximum. And you could walk from the infield through the cool shade of a tunnel under the track, and stand on the outside of the wall near the cars' closest approach. Get sprayed with rubber dust. Inhale hot, unburned fuel fumes. Feel the heat of physics and spirit radiating from the red, blue, white, and black projectiles, as they bent space and time and trajectory, successfully, for the most part. Literally see the whites of their eyes.

After a few seconds of being steeped in the most sensually satisfying brew possible external to a racing car, some other physical and spiritual circumstances bubbled to the surface: a couple of molecules out of place could send a car through the pig-fence and cables and our location; I was afraid. Whites of MY eyes became THIS BIG, and I took them out of there, quickly. A real high point in many ways.

I have to admit a bit of my motive in describing it to race officials—apart from having access to that dangerous area restricted (and it was)—was to maintain the exclusivity of the experience.

Any road, if you haven't been around Ontario Motor Speedway, you can have a tiny, tiny taste at these pages: OMS 8mm frames lap
Click THIS TEXT to see some original 8mm Vega OMS laps on YouTube.

` Frank S

 
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