Monday, November 13, 2006

Big Wheel Keeps On Turnin'

When Mike and I got home from the day at the track, Hugh already had his car on the trailer and ready to go. All we had to do was transfer my toolbox and a few other little items from Mike’s car to the truck, and we would be ready to leave the next morning.

The throttle repair had been made and every thing was under control. We didn’t have to rush. It was a nice feeling.

But Hugh gets antsy on race days. He’s like that when he goes fishing too. He just won’t be happy until he is under way and moving. Heaven help you if you want to sleep in a little. We were leaving the house at six forty five because it was a magic number in some mental schedule he had not bothered to communicate to anyone else. At least this way we could stop for breakfast somewhere.

So, at six forty five we were off, Hugh with the truck and trailer and Rusty and I in the Porsche with it’s FOR SALE sign stuck firmly in the window. We gassed up and stopped at the local Waffle House to fuel the humans. Before Rusty and I had finished breakfast he was up and itching again. We let him go, finished our coffee, made a pit stop and got on the road. It didn’t matter. Nothing was going to happen until after the drivers meeting at nine o’clock anyway.

When we got to the track he had already picked a spot and we started unloading the trailer. We got the car down and erected our new shade tent although it was one of those dark and overcast days that indicated it was more likely to be needed to keep off rain than sunshine.

Everything had pretty much been checked so there wasn’t much to do but torque the lug nuts a final time, add fuel, and check the tire pressures. I was trying a different tire pressure setting this time and was anxious to see if Hugh felt it made a difference.

All the usual open wheel guys were there except Charlie (vintage Brabham) and Robert (Swift Formula Ford).

Bill Roland, (the only other driver my age) and his son David were pitted near us. It is sort of neat to see Bill there with his teen age grandson pitting for him. Bill drives a Spec Renard and David was piloting a sports two thousand. The sports two thousand is a closed wheel sports racer sort of car but it was running with us rather than with the much taller fendered flounderers. Like I said, it is and embarrassment thing.

The other new comer was Rory White, who showed up with is Formula five hundred car. These are neat little things, which are like big go carts in that they have no real suspension. They do however run a very potent water cooled snowmobile engine which puts out more horses than a vee to a chassis that weights less than ours.

Barry Brussard arrived to help us and we got Hugh launched for the practice session. All went well and he seemed to be settling in with no hassles. When he came in the car was smoking badly but we found the culprit quickly. A valve cover was leaking oil on one of the exhaust headers.

When it was time for the qualifying session we sent him out with instructions to post a decent lap time. He seemed to be working at it this time. At least he was pushing hard enough that he spun twice during the session. Best of all however just as the session was about to end he put in the fastest lap he had ever run.

I was getting excited as he started around again, thinking that maybe he was going to give us another.

Not to be. He didn’t show up again. The session was over, but still no Hugh.

That meant something had happened out on the track and he was stranded.

After a while we got word that he was OK. We watched as the wrecker was dispatched to go pick him up

As he explained it later, he was just getting to the end of the long straight (where you are going your absolute fastest) when he felt a little thump, and then a larger bump as the left rear of the car settled down. Just about then he looked up to see his rear wheel pass him. Remember that this is all while you are going about a hundred miles an hour.

Since he was riding on three wheels and a backing plate the car slowed down and eventually spun to a stop. Pretty exciting for a few minutes, but no cuts no bruises, no bleeding. Damp trousers maybe.

A wheel nut had come off. It had sheared a cotter pin and released the brake drum from the splined axle shaft. A soon as Hugh put a little pressure on it setting up for the turn at the end of the straight it had slipped right off, gone on vacation with the tire and dropped the brake backing plate on the track to take the abuse.

They eventually found the wheel, with the brake drum still bolted securely in place, a hundred yards down the track, sitting on top of the safety tire wall. I guess it felt at home there.

We didn’t make the race. Where are you going to find a 1964 Volkswagen wheel crown nut on Saturday morning in the south Louisiana sugarcane fields……………………and there wasn’t even a lawn mower shop in sight.


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