I’m a car nut I admit it, a bit of a petrol head to be honest. I love road racing, proper racing none of that stupid Nascar stuff. I’m not into F1 either, cause you have to watch that on the telly and I’m not much of a telly person, I prefer to be in the thick of things, to actually be there at an event, to watch the racing live from the track, to see the cars in the paddock and to chat to the drivers and their crews, to really smell the race fumes as it were.
We go to the Vintage Grand Prix at Mid-O quite frequently, last year we entered our 1972 Ginetta G15 in to the British Car Showdown car show and brought home one of 10 blue ribbons handed out that day. This year, we spent the week before the event watching the weather. We’ve had a lot of high humidity recently which has given way to some quite spectacular and vicious thunderstorms in the afternoons. The reason for the indecision was based on the visibility of our tiny, tiny car to other road users. It’s hair raising stuff on a motorway at the best of times, but put torrential rain, hail and road spray into the mix and we’d be completely invisible to the other much bigger and heavier, road vehicles. The second reason for watching the weather so closely is our inability to source 13″ tyres in this country. The tyres on the car are now very worn, almost slicks. They’re still ok in the dry, not bad in a bit of rain if you’re careful but potentially lethal in the kind of sudden downpour associated with strong thunderstorms.
Last Thursday afternoon I drove home from work in one of those storms and had to avoid fallen trees and debris on the road and rivers of water. I could hardly see a thing with my wipers on full speed. Once home I had to sit on the drive while the thunder crashed directly over head and double and triple fork lightning and hail came down thick and fast. Once in the house we found a picture on the floor, shaken off the wall by the force of the thunder. That storm sat over us for one and a half hours, brought down trees and power lines, left almost 100,000 people without power, knocked out a surge protector on my house and left us with no phone or internet until Monday morning when the utility company turned up. It also drenched us with 3″ of rain in that one and a half hours. And it made up our minds that the Ginetta wasn’t going to Mid Ohio with us, one storm like that on the way down there and it could have been curtains for us.
As it turned out, Mother Nature played a big part in the weekend. This photo was taken on the way down, shortly before the weather deteriorated even more and we pulled off the road, parked up under an overpass and waited for it to move on. There was no one left on the road until this storm was done, everyone had pulled over. Imagine the M6 in England with no traffic and every single vehicle parked on the hard shoulder.
This was taken with the wipers on full speed too. You can just about see the shoulder and the lane we’re in, but you can’t see the outside lane, the central reservation or the lanes on the West bound side of the road, and you certainly can’t see all the traffic in front of us, which IS there, people hadn’t pulled over at this point.
Anyway, we made it to the track safely, got registered, paid for the camping and put the tent up… all in the rain, and then wandered into the paddock to do a bit of car spotting as the rain was passing and the sun was coming back out.
[Lola - hate to think how much this beautiful race car is worth]
[Two Austin Healey Frog Eye Sprites, known in America as Bugeyes. Still one of my favourites classics of all time]
[Lotus Super Seven]
[A very rare 1972 Ferrari 312 brought along for display purposes. Ex Brian Redmond car, currently for sale for $800,000 if you're interested!!]
[A stunningly beautiful Porsche. The number 39 in the background with the rear engine cover up is a Porsche 917, used in the film Le Mans and driven by Steve McQueen]
We managed to see a couple of the practice sessions before the storms returned and racing was abandoned for the day, so we retired gracefully to a nearby bar for a drink and some food, and also tried to dry out as we got soaked to the skin in the second round of storms as we weren’t quick enough to hoof it back to either the car or the tent before the heavens opened! It did clear up late evening though and we were treated to a pretty sunset and a peaceful night.
[Sunset over the campground, with rather a lot of standing water]
Saturday was lovely and clear and they managed to run almost the entire program until the heavy rain returned around 3:30pm. We started hearing reports about roads and a couple of bridges washed out locally, flood warnings were now in pace for much of the region and later when we drove through Lexington on our way to dinner we saw the creek had broken and the road was flooded. The police were redirecting the traffic and the water was pouring into the parking lot of a nearby office building and the cars that had been parked in there were up to their wheel arches in flood water and it was still rising.
But we saw some great racing that day…
[A motley collection of mostly British cars. I can see a Fiat 148 and at the back is an old "Special" a one off car built in the 30's for hill climbing, now restored and on the track.]
[Mostly Alfa's, Datsuns and Porches with a Spitfire and an MG, and the white car just going over the brow of the hill is a Spec Racer Ford]
[Me sitting on the front straight watching the cars being released from grid, behind me, for the next race]
Sunday started damp and drizzly but the racing went ahead. The track was very slippery and made for some interesting races. It dried up quickly and we moved back to the grandstand in the esses, one of our favourite places to view from and watched out friends Andrea and Dave Robertson compete in the 1 1/2 hour Enduro in one of their Ford GT’s. They started their racing career with us at Waterford Hills and we’ve known them for about 12 years now. A few years ago they moved up to ALMS (American LeMans Series) and eventually formed Robertson Racing with a full crew, huge rig, team manager (“H” from England) and two Ford GT race cars. Three years ago they entered the real Le Mans 24 hour race in France and beat out all the factory sponsored race teams to finish third in their class. They became the first husband and wife team to EVER stand on the podium at Le Mans and Andrea was the first women since 1926 to stand on the podium. Quite a feat for the two “unknowns” and their little race team from Michigan, and a huge source of pride for everyone who knew them from Waterford Hills. They’re always happy to see us at any track and still come to Waterford Hills when they can to say hello, we spent part of the wet Friday in their garage and trailer dodging the rain.
Here they are in their yellow and silver Ford GT competing in the Enduro, sandwiched between two Lola’s. They started dead last as their Saturday races were victim to the weather and they had no on track time to set their position on the grid, so that put them at the back of the pack in 21st place. But they finished a very respectable 8th.
We watched more great racing and then had to leave around 3pm to get home. The rain was reappearing anyway and as we left the complex it was starting to get heavy again. We almost had a repeat of the journey on the way down, and that very first photo taken from the car in the rain could easily have been Sunday and not Friday. We got home much later than planned because of it but it was still a great weekend and very worthwhile to make the effort to attend. Hopefully next year the Ginetta can go again too.