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1967 MGB Convertible

Thumbnail: MGB roadster at Santa Maria  CLICK to see larger version
Photographer? I don't remember.
Found:  Robert Ginn, P.O. Box 232, Santa Maria CA 93454. Thank you.

Here it is in July, 1969, at the Santa Maria Airport, site of a "black lake" of asphalt laid especially for the North-South slalom (autocross) State Runoffs. This may have been the first run of the day. I am usually impatient to get with it, and when they called for entries in the scheduled class, I drove a couple miles to warm up, and still found myself first in line.

It happened that Sports Cars Illustrated had a reporter on the scene, and in a story describing the Runoffs, he wrote of the "...first competitor out, an MG driver with his arms flailing..." I'm sorry. I was not flailing. I was driving. Sheesh. If memory serves, I finished eighth and twelfth.

[So, it comes to light SCI turned into Car & Driver well before this 1969 event. That means either: 1) I missed who it was that printed the article; 2) I was stuck in C&D's past; 3) None of this ever happened. I'm going with #1: It must have been Sports Car Graphic; me and R&T were too close for me to misremember them. Plus which, I think part of the SCI thing was that the writer mentioned it was an event distant from headquarters. R&T is California-based; the others are backeasters, somewhere.]

This event was held over the Fourth of July, on Friday and Saturday. On one day the rules of the Northern California Council of Sports Car Clubs prevailed, and on the other, the rules of the Southern California Council of Sports Car Clubs were in effect.

Since the Fourth holiday was on Friday and a full SCCA program was scheduled for that day and Saturday, the California Sports Car Club region of the Sports Car Club Of America laid on an extra event on the Sunday. I knew that, and stopped at Willow Springs Raceway on the way from Santa Maria state slalom runoffs to my home in Paradise. I thought I might sign on to help, or at least watch.

Bill Swan and Bruce Bassham met me as I towed the MG down a gravel road to the track entrance that Saturday evening. Bill had been set to co-drive in the 3-hour "enduro" with Syd Cole, whose MGA was on the scene but inactive. Bill hoped I would be so kind as to join him in the race, he would even pay the entry fee. By the way, could we use my car? You betcha.

Bill was a very talented driver. Within a year or two he was butting heads with P.L. Newman and Pat Daily at the SCCA National Runoffs. I was eager to partner him. We had some night-before-the-race adventures (I'll defer to Bruce for the telling of those tales) before hitting the sack—literally—in a tent in the paddock. In the windy desert. With the entrance of the tent faced in the direction the wind was going.

Refreshed but gritty, we managed to jump through the hoops and get on the grid, something like 25th of 27 qualifiers. Here you see Bill Swan in the No. 41 MG as yellow-shirted Dr. Kerry Willetts directed the throng onto the course for a pace lap of the three-hour 'enduro':

                                                   Photo by Larry Crum

Bill was to drive the first hour and a half or more. He turned it over to me in about tenth place, after an hour and forty minutes. If you've seen the "At Play" blurb on this event you'll know about the fuel filler. It took a while to pour the ten or so gallons through the top radiator hose from an MGA.

Meanwhile, the engine was idling away without benefit of fan blades. By the time I was all strapped in and juiced to go, the water temp gauge was pegged, and I drove conservatively for a couple of laps until it came down. Much to the disappointment of Bill, who had passed a number of cars that took advantage of my slothful pace and bumped us down the list.

Of course you know we finished seventh overall and second in class, 13 laps and change behind the winning Porsche 911 "B Sedan". Second overall and three laps back was the Datsun 2000 of John Morton and Frank Monise. All the bigger and faster guys kept stopping for reasons of fuel, rubber, and mechanical integrity shortages. The MG was running out of gasoline on the last couple of laps, or I'd have raced that Spridget for sixth. Sez here.

Click the left image below to see the Willow results.
               (37k image, 15 seconds at 28.8)

See a LAP of Willow

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Thumbnail: results sheet from Willow enduro           GIF: REgional Points Standings from Gridlines  CLICK to read

Click the right image to see Regional Points Standings for 1969. Several familiar names there, and one error: the "Peter Devel" in Formula Ford is actually late actor Peter Deuel, of Alias Smith and Jones. (also a 37K file)

Is this the right place to tell about the last effort I made to race the MG B Tourer? Did I already mention it elsewhere? Seems so familiar to me.

Any road, I entered the MG in the Regional Races program run in support of the Trans Am, 1969. I was there for Friday evening technical inspection. While I sat in line, Mark Donohue walked by, made eye contact, and smiled. The MG passed everything with no difficulty until the very last check: the man said, "Put on your helmet and strap yourself in and stand on the brake, hard." I did, and my head was an inch above the rollover bar. I could scrunch down to clear, but pressing on the brake pedal showed the true facts: roll bar was too low, or my spine was too long.

I considered cutting the innards out of the seat bottom (as I saw somone do at a Holtville driver school), but just for a second. I also thought about zipping around the City of Riverside, finding materials and skills to add a couple inches to the top of the bar, for maybe three seconds, but rejected that solution as requiring more dedication or intensity than I could muster at that time. Plus which, it would mean the convertible top would no longer fit.

So I withdrew my entry and worked as flagman during the weekend, principally at Turn Four, I think. I'm sure I wrote this up somewhere else, here.

Other -centric pages on this site:
MGB on Riverside International Raceway, 1968
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