By Jim • 

Sports Fan: Brakes, engine on racer fine; top gears a no-go

The new master cylinder provided ample braking power, and the replacement engine purred like a kitten; however, the gears that were balky in July of 2013 still wouldn’t cooperate as my OMS P2 sports racer made only one lap around Portland International Raceway in the annual Rose Cup races on Friday, June 13, the opening day of the Sports Car Club of America’s triple regional.

Fearful of over-revving the new engine, I made only the first green flag lap around the 1.9 mile, 12-turn course before slowing on the second lap as the paddle shifter couldn’t find at least the top two gears, meaning I was pushing the rev limit in fourth, with two gears lost somewhere in never-never land.

So, my small crew (Molly and I) made the decision to remain at the track and watch the various groups compete over the three-day event, which culminated with the Rose Cup feature race on Sunday. Unfortunately, the field was sparse in most classes and groups, with the exception of Spec Racer Ford, Spec Miata and the vintage group. Several officials thought that predictions of intermittent rain throughout the weekend might be the reason for such a light turnout; others felt the economy was still impacting drivers without outside sponsors; one said he felt racers were losing interest in the sport. The last opinion I don’t agree with, but without a full survey of what brought racers to the track or kept them away, it’s only a wild guess.

In any event, it was one of the smallest fields I’ve seen in what used to be the largest sports car racing event west of the Mississippi, with fields of around 500 entrants. The group I was supposed to be competing in was down to only four cars on Sunday afternoon following the Rose Cup feature race. Friday, there were 10 cars in my group taking the green flag, but no two entries in the same class. Not much fun if you like competition and wheel-to-wheel racing.

Even the Rose Cup feature race started Sunday with only 13 entrants (19 had qualified) in four classes, with some missing racers staying in the paddock due to the wet track conditions. Lap times were as much as 15 seconds off qualifying times as drivers were more concerned about the slippery pavement than dueling for positions, with pools of water at various points around the PIR facility.

After the last event on Sunday, I dropped the car off at my mechanic’s shop in Aurora, and we talked about the shifting problem, which we hope to correct before the next regional race set for August 22-24 at PIR. I might also try to compete in another event, perhaps at Thunderhill near Williams, California. I’d really like to race the July 12-13 event at The Ridge, a sixteen-turn course located in Shelton, Wash, but a Saturday wedding takes precedence.

My other option is to enter the August 9-10 double regional at The Ridge. SCCA drivers need to finish four regionals to maintain their full competition licenses, which I now hold, to qualify for a license the following year — or appeal to the powers-to-be for a waiver of that requirement, which I’ve done several times in the past.

Even sitting on the sidelines for most of the weekend, I still enjoyed the camaraderie of my fellow racers, several of whom I haven’t seen in years, and I was thrilled when veteran racer and seven-time Rose Cup winner Monte Shelton beat all the faster vintage cars in the Wemme Trophy race with his 914 Porsche — in the rain. Monte has been racing for decades and still has the ability to get the most out of any car he drives.

So for now, the car is in the shop, but we’ll get the shifting problem sorted out and enter at least one or two more events before the end of the 2014 racing season. The next time out, I hope to finish what I started — a full race from green to checkered flags.

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