“Through the Dark Night Brightly”

OR ‘How I Learned to love the ground clearance of my Austin-Healey exhaust.’

The Hurst shifter and radar detector cord dangling from the sun visor should have been a dead give away. Larry was considered a novice by the Northern Ohio Valley SCCA and as such was entitled to a get-acquainted run through the autocross course, with an experienced driver before the timed competition. By the time I unbuckled myself from his “fivc-oh” Mustang, I learned that ‘novice’, unlike ‘virgin’ is a relative term! Larry launched off the line and through the timing lights at Fori Stuben Mall in Stubenville, then into the 90 degree left-hander wringing every ounce of torque from the Holly fed monster. The tail of the car wanted to change ends with the front, and Tom Selik, (or was it Tom Vogcl’s) life flashed in front of, then behind me. My student drove the remainder of the fast and open course in a slightly less spirited manner, while I told myself and him to look like we/was/were in control! When things quit spinning, my “novice” and I spoke of the need to be in control, to be smooth 3nd know what you and your, auto can/can’t do.

The Bill Vargo designed course was wide with smooth transitions and plenty of speed, but the unique feature was that the event was held on a Saturday evening in August. I”he heat of the day was past, most of the mall was closed and incidental traffic was at a minimum-a new and exciting concept, at least in this area.

As evening gave way to darkness and my son Eric, and I became accustomed to the relatively high speed, our Healey began to bottom out on several parts of the course. Kissing asphalt at speed produces a beautiful, orange plume of sparks from the all too low 100-6 muffler. Also remember that in D Street prepared, the car is further lowered by virtue of the fact that out tires arc 60-series 195 X 14 Yokohama’s on seven inch rims, as if the muffler placement isn’t low enough already! It also became apparent that the class competition was at a disadvantage with our BJ8 engine turning the ‘yokes’ across the course the way Sister Frances Marie used to like to twist my ear! The vintage ’59 kicked a little asphalt onto the windscreen and into the stacks of two Weer-fed Triumph Spitfires, and at trophy time I managed to grab first place and my son Eric won second in class. He vowed to beat me next time-this is not backyard hoops!

Bill Vargo had FTD in his obscenely fast C Mod car and should be commended for the excellent course and evening autocross concept. However not all of the lights in the mall lot came on, and maybe reflective vests and high beams wouldn’t be a bad idea, but the sparks in the dark looked beautiful! (Hmm, maybe I could install a light bar with a dozen or so high intensity off-road lights too?). Bob Mann in “Kermit”, a frog green Bugeye sports racer also blistered Mike Ancas in his Honda for a trophy.

And Larry? Last time 1 saw him his smile was lighting up a dark corner of the lot. He has the qualities required of a good competitor, spirit, good reactions and the ability to listen and learn,(he thought the Healey was V8 powered!). He has four more events to run in novice class and take that get acquainted run at the beginning. Does anyone have a spare helmet?

Walt Peterson
Pittsburgh, PA. Series “C”

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