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.
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 the 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 sackliterallyin a tent in the paddock. In the windy desert. With
the entrance of the tent faced in the direction the wind was going.
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
by Larry Crum
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.
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.
image, 15 seconds at 28.8)