The drivers that attended the opener at iconic Laguna Seca Raceway, had a ton of fun and set a really positive the tone for the series. There was great racing up and down the grid, new friendships were made, and we truly celebrated these historically relevant racecars. If we keep this up, those of you that plan to run future races are in for a treat. The weather was great and we had VIP treatment from HMSA (including a group photo taken at the top of the corkscrew, and big shiny trophies for the overall podium finisher).
The first race of the season always seems to have an added element of tension, and this was no exception. The winter cobwebs for most and a new track for some, meant the first session needed to be clean, provide a good learning experience and good warm up. Things got off to a rocky start, with a black flag all on the first lap caused by Kurt Joerger's brand new engine throwing a rod through its block. But after a pause in the pits, we went back out and qualified 26 cars without further incident. Dan Cowdrey set the pole-winning time, followed by Nic Colyvas, Eric Sidebotham, Tom Kruger, John Anderson, and David Cooper all breaking the 1:45 barrier.
The race started with an unfortunate mechanical, on the start Eric Sidebotham's engine also failed, but everyone successfully got by. There were great battles up and down the grid and everyone got a race. 11 laps later Nic Colyvas finished first, having escaped his pursuers in traffic and crossing the line with a 12 second lead, followed home by Dan Cowdrey, Tom Kruger, and John Anderson, all covered by less than a second. David Cooper fought back from a busy start for 5th overall, followed by Norm Cowdrey the day's Club Ford winner. Right behind Norm, Adom Moutafian, Nic Hunziker, Ed Lauber had a massive dice, watched closely by Andrew Wait... all four cars crossed the finish line within a second of each other. Steve Hoogs, Mike Wirrick, Paul Kitchen Dan Wise (second in Club Ford) and Jason Zide were the next batch to cross the line. Mike, in particular, got a monster start gaining and keeping 4 places on this qualifying spot. Jim Cody showing his strongest form to-date, led home Jay Streets, Matt Ammer, Jonathan Kitchen and David Buchanan and the tail gunners with Dan Wardman and Bob Hancock brought the first edition of the Crossflow cup over the line in style.
In the end, the final historic ford podium promoted John Anderson into third, as in the rush to change gears, Tom Kruger did not fuel up completely and came in a few pounds underweight (his car quit as it rolled up to the scales!).
There were stand-out stories and drives all up and down the grid, and to call them all out would make this too big an update, but to call out a few.
David Buchanan got his first ever open wheel experience in Martin Lauber's car. He had so much fun, anyone with a nice car for sale should contact him. There were two father and son teams. Norm and Dan Cowdrey both podiumed in their classes. And Paul and Jonathan Kitchen were out for the first time in their Lotus 61's after a very long, arduous restoration process. Its one thing to race, but another to be so visibly having so much father-son fun. Jason Zide had two big firsts; he was out in his car for the very first time, and at Laguna for the first time and scored creditable lap times and the confidence of the more experienced guys around him with his smooth driving. It's also nice to see the younger generation represented so well by Jason, Dan and Paul, lets draw in more young people! Mark Ammer and Bob Hancock are out on their grand tour together with Mark's super rare Koing-Heath F1, and one of the best organized two car trailers ever. And it was also great to see John Anderson back in his car after almost two years away from the cockpit. In typical fashion, Kurt set aside the exploded engine blues, and he and Roland pitched in to help Mike Wirrick align his car and Nic Hunziker broke a record... he posted a well-edited video of his race about 4 minutes after getting out of his car!
Driving standards on Saturday looked good, with guys running very very close but heads up and respectfully; and we pulled off the reverse grid blend and race procedure on Sunday perfectly. However on Sunday during the non-points exhibition race things got a little tougher with two minor incidents. They were minor but nonetheless, two incidents too many. Keep in mind the other clubs we run with are far less tolerant of over the top behavior, and for us to have real longevity, we need to prove to all of them, that we are keeping the competitive elements in perspective.
Our driver/observers and the course marshals had a few comments.
1. There was a bit too much blocking and ignoring blue flags especially in the practice sessions. If you are in a practice session and there is a car in your mirrors, let him pass. He is faster than you. If you defend, you will mess up your session and his. Instead, let him by and try following him to see what line he drives, when he brakes, et cetera. In the races, defending is permitted, but blocking is not. You get one move, not as many as required to keep a guy behind you. And remember, this is vintage racing for a $2 trophy. So if a guy is behind you pressuring you for two laps, he is clearly faster. So let him by, and then get in his draft and together you can get into the fight further up the road. If he is not faster then you can repass him. But blocking is frustrating and not in the spirit of what we do.
2. There were too many locked wheels banzai passes. Again, remember this is vintage racing in 50-year-old open wheel cars. Banzai passes are not safe for anyone. Laguna is wide, and the walls, for the most part, are fairly far away. But as we go to more technical tracks like Sonoma and Portland, with harder edges, the margin for error will go away. Plan your passes, and try to execute them on the exits of turns, which is safer and more fun!
3. When we combine fast locals, with guys new to the track, let's give each other more room and avoid passes on the tricky stuff, like the corkscrew. A very close pass freaks out the guy trying to find his way around.
4. Know the flags, and know what not to do when a flag was shown. During Saturday’s practice session, the course went from full course yellow on the parade lap to waving black. A solo waiving black flag does not warrant threshold breaking on the front straight. A black flag combined with a yellow is an indication that you are approaching the incident. A waiving black flag just means that you need to head back into the pits.
The Thank Yous... without support this would NOT be possible
rogerkrausracing.com for tires and support
www.iveyengines.com for race-day support
www.nicolashunziker.com for the really cool shoes... discount code for the racers: NORWESTFF will give everyone 15% of all purchases
www.parrlawgroup.com for the scales and legal support
Mike Wirrick for the Podium Champagne
Mike Summers, John Anderson, Eric Sidebotham, Kurt Joerger and Jim Cody for operations and moral support.
Things to know for the next race
Early registration is still available for the next few days, so sign up soon. There are 26 cars registered so far, we expect 3-4 more.
Many of you are coming to Sonoma for the first time. It is technical, a bit unforgiving and huge fun. So if you test on Friday, there will be local drivers available to do lead follow with you and we will have chalk-talks and coaching for anyone that needs it. We will have driver observers there to help you find speed and enjoyment at Sonoma. As a special run group, anyone not in a garage should try to pit in the lane opposite the garages so we are all grouped together.
Some of you did not come to the podium celebration, please do attend, we have the beer budget with you in mind, and to add an extra incentive, you will need to be present to win any prizes. It is more fun, and safer to race guys you know so come to the party.
If you did not get series decals or patches, there will be more available at Sonoma.
Results and more news will be posted on www.norwestff.com and the facebook page within the next few days.
Thanks, and we will see you all and more at Sonoma.
The Crossflow Cup Team