Lap 37

 

Liz and I were still big into the gimmick rally scene and were even members of a club -sort of. Actually there was really no club at all, just a group of non-club members. At the endpoints of the rallies, when the sponsoring rally club was handing out trophies, they would announce the rally club affiliation of the recipients. At the mention of their clubís name, all the other members of that club would cheer loudly. If the trophy winners did not belong to one of the clubs, the rally master would just read their names and say "no club."

Jack and Margie, Charlie and Cora, and Liz and I did not belong to any of the clubs. So once, when they called out Jack and Margieís name and announced "no club," Charlie began to cheer, "Yeah, No Club!!!" as Jack and Margie went up to receive their trophy. Cora, Liz and I quickly picked up on this and shouted,"Hooray for no club!!!" After that, it did not matter who was getting a trophy. If they were announced as belonging to no club, we would cheer whether we knew them or not. Our little group was soon known by the other clubs as "No Club". We soon met another couple named Tom and Patty, who also did not belong to any club, and we quickly welcomed them into the ranks of No Club.

We finally decided to sponsor a rally of our own. To avoid conflicts, each spring before the rally season started, all the clubs would meet to schedule rallies for the year. Each club would say how many events they wanted to put on, and dates would be decided. Jack and I attended one of these meetings and told them we wanted a rally date. They gave us one, and we put on the first rally that would be sponsored by no club.

You really needed a group of people to hold a rally. Someone had to be the rally master, and we needed people to do cold runs, work the registration car and check points, as well as drive the point and chase cars. At the end point, someone needed to read the synopsis of the course, someone had to score all the score sheets and put them in order. Someone had to review any protests as well. There were dash plaques and trophies to order, printing to be done, etc. It was a lot of work, which is why rally clubs that had many members were the usual sponsors.

We had the core group of No Club, but the eight of us were not enough, so we had Jackís brother, Jim, and his wife, Sharon, help us. We also recruited the help of another friend we had met at rallies, whom we called Pelican. I even recruited my brother, Greg, and his wife, Sue, as well as a friend from law school and his wife to work checkpoints. They were not members, but that did not matter since there were no members of "No Club."

With some multi-tasking, we managed to put on a very successful rally and even made some money. We used the money to buy jackets with patches bearing the words "No Club" in a circle. Jack, Charlie and I all took a stab at being the rally master, which is really a hard job if you want a good rally. You had to be good or you would be fried alive by the protests at the end of the event.

Fortunately, we were all pretty good rallyists, so when ever one of us was rally master, the other two couples would cold run it. This gave us a chance to work out any bugs, which made the actual event run much smoother. Sometimes, the cold run would give us an idea for a new gimmick. Charlie and Cora were cold running one of my rallies. The route instruction had them looking for a sign reading "Real Tool Co." Along the course they passed a building with a sign proclaiming it to be the "Reel Tool Co". Since spelling had to be exact, that sign was not valid.

Liz and I were following them and saw that they had seen the Reel Tool Co. sign and knew they would realize it was not valid. This was a simple gimmick after all. But after they passed this sign, they continued to drive slowly and I realized they were still looking for a "Real Tool Co". There wasnít one, but I had an idea. For the rally, I made a "Real Tool Co" sign and put it facing the road at the edge of a corn field a couple of hundred yards from the "Reel Tool Co" sign. This made the gimmick much better and tripped up a lot of veterans who stopped looking after the first sign.

Soon, we were sponsoring rallies for guest rally masters. These were people whom we knew to be good master rallyists, but who did not belong to a club. We provided the resources and funding they needed to put on the rally. No Club soon had a reputation for putting on good events and our rallies were usually well attended.

No Club minus the author
Cora, Charlie, Liz, Jack, Margie, Tom, and Patty

Jack and Margie, and even Charlie and Cora, came up to Road America a couple of times, but racing was not really their thing, so they soon stopped coming. I do recall one race weekend when we were joined at the track by some other rallying friends of ours. Terry and Diane were arguably the best gimmick rallyists in the Chicago area. They belonged to the SUDDs Rally Team, one of the best clubs. It was a rare rally in which we were able to finish ahead of them.

Liz and I had a special bond of sorts with them because we had been married on the same exact day. We even went out to dinner with them to celebrate our first wedding anniversaries. We had told them about the great time we always had at Road America and they decided to join us for a race weekend. That night, we were sitting around the campfire, singing along with Jerry and his guitar. Later in the night, as usual, came the dirty songs and, finally, Jerry and I started taking turns singing limericks.

Between the two of us, I bet Jerry and I knew over a hundred different limericks and could sing them for a long time. The problem was, we could never recall all of them after a day and evening of beer drinking. After I had dredged up a dozen or so from my foggy memory, Liz would come to my aid. While Jerry was taking his turn and singing a limerick, Liz would lean over and whisper the first line of another limerick into my ear like, "There once was a man from Duluth." That would be enough to jog my beer-hazed memory and when it was my turn I would sing out, "There once was a man from Duluth who had a big hole in his toothÖ"

The next morning, Diane said, "Liz, I saw a new side of you last night that I never even suspected existed." "What was that?" we asked. "Well, during the singing of the limericks, I would watch sweet, innocent Liz, from whom I have never heard a foul word, whisper into your ear and this filth would come out of your mouth." Obviously, Diane had never played cards with Liz, who is very competitive when it comes to playing games. Liz used to swear like a drunken sailor when the cards did not go her way. But that is another story. At least Diane was not offended by the limericks, since they stayed through them all and laughed at them like most everyone else hearing them for the first time. I guess that she was just surprised that Liz knew them all and would feed them to me.

While Jack and Margie were not big on racing, Jack did own a sports car. He had a very pretty JPS Lotus Europa. It was a special edition Lotus and was painted in the same black and gold scheme as the John Player Special-sponsored Lotus Formula One cars.

I was still driving our Datsun 510 at the time and loved that car. I had picked up a book on how to prepare a 510 for racing, and that was my plan at the time. Once we could afford another new car, I would turn my 510 into a B Sedan and go racing. Old Yeller, my EP MGB, was gone because I had to sell it with our baby on the way. I was OK with that as I had plan B; my 510 to B Sedan plan, as a back up.

One of the things I read in the book about how to prepare a 510 was that the clutch from a Datsun 2000 roadster would bolt right into the 510 and that would greatly improve the carís performance. Pete Brockís racing 510ís used a Bendix clutch, but that was worth a couple thousand dollars. I bought a 2000 roadster clutch at the dealer for around $30 and put it into the 510. The results were dramatic, as that little sedan would now just leap off the line. I also put a set of Michelin X performance tires on it and that greatly improved the handling.

With these simple improvements, I felt quite confident when Jack challenged me to race against his Lotus in a slalom event. A slalom, or autocross, event is usually run on a course laid out in a large parking lot with pylons. Cars race through the course, one at a time, and are timed. The fastest car through the course, without knocking over pylons, wins. Jack was positive his nimble sports car would blow my 510 away. Imagine his surprise when I beat him soundly. In fact, I must admit I was a little surprised myself.

Jack wanted a rematch but wanted to do it at an autocross held at Blackhawk. This was run on the racetrack with sets of pylons that you had to navigate through to slow you down for the corners. Jack figured that since this course was a lot more open than the parking lot slalom, which had no straights to speak of, his carís top speed would give him an advantage. I thought he was probably right, but I had put in a lot of laps at Blackhawk, while this would be Jackís first time on the track.

Many of the Midwestern Council clubs would hold an autocross on Saturday and a wheel-to-wheel race on Sunday. This gave the club an extra source of revenue. Jack and I agreed to enter one of these Saturday Council autocrosses.

I was in line for my first run when it occurred to me that I had not checked my tire pressures. I jumped out and ran around the car checking them. I am not sure why I did that since I had no way to put air in them if needed anyway. It turned out that three tires had the correct pressure, but my left front was down a couple of pounds. I figured that would be all right for the first run, and I would fix it for the second run.

All went well as I started the run, and as I came out of corner seven onto the front straight I was feeling pretty good, and sure that I was going to post a good time for Jack to beat. There was a left-right chicane set up just before the finish line to slow the cars down again. I made the left turn portion just fine, but when I snapped the steering wheel back to the right, that left front tire rolled under and I was upside down before I knew it. The car landed on the roof, bounced into the air, rolled completely over and landed on the roof again. This happened three times.

It was like it was all happening in slow motion. I distinctly recall reaching out and turning off the ignition during the second roll. The car was bouncing in the air so high that it came down from the last roll on top of the three foot high concrete pit lane wall. Thankfully, the wall stopped the rolling, and I was right side up. As I sat there with the car nose high on the pit wall, I was one disgusted driver. I took my sunglasses off and threw them out of the car through where the windshield used to be.

Liz, who was very pregnant at the time, had seen the whole thing since she was standing there by the finish line watching my run. She said she knew I was OK when she saw my sunglasses come flying out of the car. In fact, I was OK. I had a nice scrape on my left forearm where I think it had come in contact with the asphalt of the track on one of the rolls. My driverís side window was open and the first roll had jerked my hand off the steering wheel. Other than that, I was physically OK.

I climbed out of the car and was met by the ambulance crew. I declined a ride to the Quack Shack, (our name for the medical room) which was underneath the timing and scoring stand and just a few feet away. I told them I could walk there, and did. Liz came along with me. When we got to the Quack Shack, I sat down on the examining table.

The doctor that the sponsoring club had recruited turned out to be an OB Gyn doctor. He took one look at Liz and told me that, frankly, he was better prepared to take care of her than me. With those reassuring words, he put his hand on my chest and pushed me back to get me to lie down. That little push sent the back of my head slamming into a shelf. I should have left my helmet on because I was seeing stars for the next few moments. This was my worst injury from the whole event and I decided that the name "Quack Shack" was an appropriate one.

I was still confident that I had put up a time that Jack would be hard pressed to beat. However, I soon found out that the timer was so startled to see me cross the line upside down and in mid-air that she forgot to stop the clock. I had not even knocked over any of the pylons, which would have brought a time penalty. Still, I had no time to show for it all and I was ticked off. The Steward of the event, in all fairness, did offer to give me a rerun, but my poor old 510 was in no shape for that. The car was totaled, so that was pretty much it for my Plan B as well.

On the bright side, I was awarded a case of beer for being the first roll-over of the day. I contended that since I went over three times, I should get three cases. They said, "No, the case went to the first roll-over of the day. There was no award for the second or third roll. On the other hand, I was made a member in good standing of the Midwestern Councilís "Once Over Lightly" club. Only drivers who had rolled their cars in competition were admitted to this distinguished group.

One guy, who filmed lots of sprint car races, told me he was on the bridge and had just packed up his camera equipment when I did my thing. He said he was impressed, and that my car was as high in the air as any open-wheeled sprint car he had ever seen. Because of the open wheels and wheel-to-wheel contact, sprint cars are noted for going airborne. He said he wished he had waited a little while to quit filming. I wished he had waited, too. It would have been something to see.

My poor 510 after the autocross rollover

Copyright © 2006 by Terry Aasen

 

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