The political run up to the 2012 Mitty seemed appropriate in this election year. Tires were everybody’s issue, and apparently we started it!
We had a problem with HSR allowing Lola T70s and McLaren sports racing cars in with the normal production cars in Historic Production, aka Group 5. To compete with these purpose-built racing cars, the Corvettes, Mustangs and Camaros have to somehow overcome a weight disadvantage of about 1,000 lbs, while pushing about 5 square feet more frontal area with a car whose center of gravity is higher by about a foot. They also have to run on stock based rim widths (maximum 10 inches) while the Sports Racers get to run 12 inch wide rear wheels. On the face of it, that is anything but a level playing field, but it gets worse. Despite the fact that Goodyear and Hoosier make tires for the Lolas and McLarens; HSR allows the Sports Racers to run hand grooved Avons, which are 1-2 seconds per lap faster and almost twice as expensive as the comparable Goodyears.
The Avons start life as slicks. Hank from Sasco Sports grooves them by hand.
To make matters even worse, the Goodyear 8 inch rear tires are out of stock and Goodyear is not going to make any more until June! The big bore production cars only legal tire choice (to run in Group 5) was Hoosier.
Following last year’s Mitty we threw the back flag and plead our case with the HSR people. We asked HSR to require the Lolas and McLarens to run Goodyears or Hoosiers just like the production cars run. Instead, HSR responded with a new tire list that basically legalized almost every tire out there for everyone in Group 5. Now with Avons legal, it looked like a production car driver with any hope of competing with the Sports Racers would pretty much have to spend the extra money for the Avon tires.
We ordered all the Avons we could get, but there weren’t enough available to fill even the orders we had from our customers.
When we showed up at Tech, we were told there would be separate podium ceremonies for (new) Group 7T to go along with the podium ceremony for the traditional Group 5. If you were running a production car on Avons, you would run against the other Group 7 Avon shod cars (the Sports Racers) for the Group 7T podium; but if you ran on Hoosiers or Goodyears, you would be competing for the Group 5 podium.
HSR also told us this was the last event where the production cars and Sports Racers would be in the same race group, and that the recently published tire list would be retracted after this weekend.
After considering it all day on Friday, by the end of the day we chose to run the event on the Hoosiers and spot the Sports Racers the additional advantage of the Avon tires. Amazingly, on Sunday we pulled it off!
Chip Wright, HSR’s Technical Director looks over Clair Schwendeman’s Corvette
We brought four cars to the Mitty this year, three customer cars and our black #38. Dr. Clair Schwendeman’s 68 Corvette was joined by Chad Courty’s orange 68 Camaro and Jim Kitzmiller’s powerful steel gray 69 Corvette.
This was Clair’s fourth Mitty, but only his third as a driver. His first was in 2009 when he came as our guest. Edward won the race that year and Clair was hooked! He bought Edward’s car and went to school to become a first class vintage road racer. At this year’s Mitty Clair graduated with honors!
This was Chad’s first race at Road Atlanta, and his second year in racing. This year Chad wisely plans on learning all the major tracks with a conservative engine in his car. Too often people get the big engine before they learn the tracks, and that is learning the hard way!
This was Jim’s third race at Road Atlanta, but his first Mitty. He was on the DL last year with a knee injury, so this was his first race in a while. Nothing like jumping back in at The Mitty!
Edward and Clair picking up the pace during Thursday’s test day.
Thursday test day was largely uneventful. We tweaked on the swaybars on the #38 car and bedded brake pads on all the cars. It was of course wicked crowded with about 50 cars on the track every session, so decent lap times were hard to come by. We did manage to get one half way clear lap in the #38 car at 1:32.9 with fairly old tires, so we knew we were pretty close on the setup.
The one Friday practice session counted as qualifying for the Anglo-American race scheduled for that afternoon at 4. The plan was for Alan to run the Anglo-American, but to do so he had to have logged practice in the car. Edward ran almost the entire session and brought it in just in time for Alan to get in one lap! That out lap earned him 9th place in the 57 car grid, but he got a great start and was third by turn 9. Our customer Jody O’Donnell was leading with Larry Ligas in the Jag right on his ass.
Alan ran one fast lap before backing off due to a serious rub in the right rear that trailed smoke down every straight and of course just bellowed smoke in turns 3, 5 and 10A.
Alan eventually got around Ligas for second, but by then Jody had checked out. Alan’s first lap was ½ second faster than Jody’s best lap, but the rest of them were ruined by the tire rub and he finished 8 seconds back.
First and second on the podium were Duntov prepared cars. Clair was 8th.
Our next session was qualifying Saturday morning. This time there were 60 cars on track, and if you are going for the pole, by definition all of them are going to be to some extent slower than you! The trick is to find some clear track to get in your Golden lap. At a normal race you can line up on the false grid about an hour early and get a clean lap that way, but at the Mitty with so many cars on a 2.5 mile track, if you go out first, when you get back around cars are still pouring onto the track. We use radios to help our drivers find clear track space. We brought Edward in for a slow drive through pit lane and got him some room for one flying last lap. It turned out to be clear only through turn 10A, after which he was held up all the way to the finish line. Amazingly, that lap was good enough for the Pole by .001 seconds over one of the Group 7 Lola T70's running Avons.
The Saturday Feature Race saw Edward first overall for three laps after which a Group 7 Lola T70 slipped by going into turn 10A. On the last lap, the silver McLaren that was running third tried the same move in turn 6, but couldn’t make it stick. Edward and the McLaren traded positions several times between turn 6 and turn 11 before the McLaren spun off. Edward won Group 5 and beat all but one of the Group 7 cars. Clair finished 9th in Group 5, and both Chad and Jim moved up several positions during the race.
Clair and Alan were to share Clair’s car during the Sunday morning GT Enduro. Clair started 8th and took the lead during the first round of pit stops. Clair radioed in that this was his first time to run behind the Pace Car! It was also the first time Clair has led a major race, but the joy was short lived as something went BANG in the differential and he came in on the hook.
This is not how we planned on finishing the Enduro! Sometimes parts just break.
The Group 5 feature race saw Edward start third behind the two fastest Group 7 cars. He split the two and was second coming out of turn one. On the third lap he passed the McLaren for the lead and that is how it ended; Edward 1st overall and 1st in Group 5. In the 7 lap race, his margin of victory was 6.3 seconds over the McLaren and 10.5 seconds over the nearest Group 5 competitor. Clair finished fourth in Group 5, and Chad finished 12th! Jim had an electrical issue and did not finish.
This was Edward’s 3rd. Mitty. He has won them all, but this one was really special!
Edward summed up the weekend simply as “The best weekend ever”! After last year, it really felt good.
Edward was First in Historic Production in Race 1 and First Overall Race 2!