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Vintage Grand Prix Au Grattan XXVI

Vintage Grand Prix Au Grattan XXVI: Grattan Preview


August 17-19, 2012

I was talking with Jeff Janus tonight, confirming that he will again generously allow us the use of his ZO6 Corvette as our Grattan pace car. I have always admired the new Corvettes. So we agreed to exchange rides. My offer is a ride in my non-supercharged 1932 MG J2. How cool is that, driving cars at two ends of the automotive spectrum, both in terms of time and technology, on the same track? On this weekend, you can experience that, too. On Sunday we will be having rides for charity in an MG race car of the vintage of your choice! And all monies will go directly to the Children's Tumor Foundation.

It's what I love about vintage racing. We are doing good things while I get to play with how engineering has changed over the years. I love driving these cars, seeing them pushed, drivers working with and against them while competing with each other. I really don't think too much about who finishes first; I like watching the play, the moment, the thinking. And we will get a show with the MG Vintage racers joining us for their focus event.

Now Grattan is far from the fanciest track where we race. When Chris Meyers, editor for the MG Vintage Racers first approached me with the idea of holding their annual Focus event at our "Au Grattan" weekend, I paused. We were sitting in a "California wine country" style bar of an upscale hotel in Marin County after a day of racing at Infineon (Sears Point) Raceway. I said, "You do know the facilities are not quite the same at Grattan as they are here?" And Chris said, "Yeah -- but it's a fun race track!"

He's right. It is a hoot to run at Grattan. Now it's fully repaved with a somewhat smoother track surface, lots of elevation change, many different, unusual corner combinations, a long fast straight and lots of places to slice and dice. If the best view of a race is from the driver's seat, then some of the best views in racing are at this track. And it is the perfect track at which to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the MGB.

The MGVR Focus events attract people from all over the country and Canada, and they are a clean group of racers. They are fun and pretty darn fast, too. I think we can be flattered that the MGVR folks liked the way VSCDA plays, having joined us at Mid Ohio some years ago, and they are anxious to run with us again. Grattan can give experienced drivers fits, and, given we will be hosting drivers new to this track, we are enhancing our driver coaching program to include not only two lunchtime chalk talks but a track walk at the close of racing Saturday. If you have raced Grattan but never walked it, I strongly advise dropping your lap times by learning why your car "misbehaves" on this track. Our Grattan coach, Bob La, knows this track very well and will reveal its secrets during the walk. Over the weekend we also will host the next installment of THREE different series, the Trans Am B Sedan series, the Spridget Race Series and the VVV challenge. It guarantees a mixed and interesting weekend of racing. We are working to keep the number of race groups small to maximize track time. The combination of our regular run groups, specialty races and a one-hour Enduro should give everybody more than enough time on track.

But wait, there's more! We will have a spectacle worthy of Cecile B. De Mille, except it is courtesy of Cecil Kimber. The University Motors Summer Party will do an MG parade lap on Sunday. The general rule is no more than 25 race cars per mile of race track. Grattan is two miles long. Years ago, The Summer Party joined us for a parade, and they had three hundred cars entered! I remember them filling the track, two wide, with cars still coming on as others were exiting at the end of their lap! They, too, will be celebrating the 50th Birthday of the MGB.

We have invited the Summer Party folks to join us at the track at our dinner. After all, they are us. They love the cars and the racing. Many have worked hard on their "prides and joys," just as we do. The fun thing about MG's is that they run the gamut from accurately, meticulously restored cars to V8 hot rods. Most have been uniquely personalized, and they take me back to my youth. Of course, you can't return to your youth if you never left it, but that is beside the point.

And the Summer Party crews have invited us to join their Saturday night impromptu car show/parking lot party at the Hilton, just down the block from our hotel, after our combined VSCDA/MGVR banquet at the track. Just be sure not to stay too late drinking "Old Speckled Hen" beer and chatting. We gotta get up and race on Sunday morning! By the way, we have a block of rooms reserved under the VSCDA name at the reduced rate of $79 a night. Check the Grattan microsite at vscda.org for more information.

A few pieces of business: We will have a Hoosier tire distributor on site for our weekend, if you need tires. Gas is available at the track but is not always convenient. Perhaps they will have installed the new credit card machine attached to their pumps, but don't hold your breath. We are researching gas stations in the area selling race gas and will have that on the website before the race. Paddock space will be at a premium, and the MGVR group will have its own area. Figure on having a space for you car and one for a tow vehicle or trailer, but that's about it. We will be tighter than in past years. We intend to have paddock guides to help you settle in comfortably.

We had intended to bring in the Taj Mahal of bathroom trailers, but it appears the infrastructure at the track won't support it. Instead we will have folks cleaning the restrooms and showers during the day and bring in more porta potties to lessen the "strain"--hard to talk about this without making puns. Clearly, it all comes out in the end!

The track is emphatic that we cannot gain access before 6 p.m. on Thursday, due to a presumed super-secret Ford test day. (How secret can it be if I know about it and now so do you?) Anyway, we will open registration a bit early and line up those rigs that have completed registration along the access road going into the paddock. If you have an annual tech, Dave Young and crew will have a table set up across from the gate to tech you even before we can get into the actual paddock! Of course, after we have access, Tech will move to the barn in the upper paddock.

Anticipate a social weekend. The track banquets under our traditional tent are arranged to allow for conversation and mixing together all of us who race and make our racing possible. Closed wheel, open wheel, workers, old friends and new...these meals are planned as low key and low pressure ways to enjoy the best part of vintage racing--each other. Of course, the pool is available to us throughout the weekend, and it is hard to be formal in a bathing suit! For those of us on the west side of Lake Michigan, Grattan is a bit of a haul. But then it is no more so than for the "east siders" who come to Elkhart Lake. If there was ever a year to make the trip, this will be it. We'll look forward to seeing you, and, as ever, if you have a question or thought, please contact me on my cell at 847 212-9388 or at Sfohr777@gmail.com.