by Jerry (Siddhartha) Bradbury
It’s springtime in the high desert. Wildflowers cover some of the hills with a mosaic quilt of yellow, orange, red and blue. Landmarks clearly visible are deceptively distant in the dry air and the surrounding peaks of the big shouldered mountains appear to be cut from cardboard and pasted onto the cerulean desert sky. In the Pahrump Valley everything is straight or jagged lines. The only curves to be seen are on the lovely ladies threading their way gracefully through the throng of Minis in the paddock and the sinuous 2.2 mile circuit of Spring Mountain Raceway. It’s nice to be back here and see all the changes that a large infusion of cash has accomplished over the past year. What was formerly just temporary vinyl Quonset huts next to the track has been transformed into a real bricks and mortar facility, all new and very upscale.
First, a big thank-you to my sponsors, the folks at Mini Mania, who have generously agreed to provide me with race parts and some cash, and Jacques and his crew at Bay Bridge Motors for building me such a fantastic race car out of what we all thought at first was a totaled wreck.
We’re here, about 45 minutes from Las Vegas, for multiple reasons:
It’s the weekend of A Mini Vacation in Vegas, organized by Sin City MINIs, and next to MINI Takes the States and MINIs on the Dragon in North Carolina, probably the biggest MINI/Mini event in the US. This year, almost 600 cars and their owners showed up for trips, tours, cruising the Las Vegas Strip and the vendors’ tents, hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones formerly known only by their internet handles.
Then too, Phil Wicks is holding a something-for-everyone event at Spring Mountain Raceway this AMVIV weekend. It’s a novice training school/track day/Solo I/track tour/North American MINI Cooper Challenge race event here at the track, and I have been asked to instruct as well as race. One of my favorite things is to help some folks achieve their dream of navigating a racecourse safely and having a whole lot of fun at the same time. I’m assigned two students, a novice and an intermediate. Since there are only three groups, the other being instructors/experts/racers, I’m jumping around like a flea on a hot griddle and there is NO WAY I could have done that without the help of my dedicated crew. Thank you, Marcel and Michael!!
But first and foremost, we’re here to race. Except for Canyon Bob Scheer, who is just too stinking fast for me, I’ve only run against other marques, so I’m looking forward to some track time with other racing MINIs. Phil has fielded a race prepped JCW MCS driven by Clark Brownstein from Novato, CA, and is taking on all comers. Unfortunately, all comers turn out to be me and Jeff, who drove his silver MCS #233 car down from Oregon for his first ever race. Well, as you may recall, it’s only my second, so that shouldn’t be a factor. Phil’s driver, Clark, on the other hand, drove the car last year and is starting his second racing season with it. He’s a good driver and a tough competitor.
As the day wore on the schedule slipped further behind. It was not entirely the fault of the organizers by the way, because everything came to a screeching halt while some guy landed his Cessna on the back straight and then taxied slowly and obliviously past a hot pit full of suspended Minis on his way to the clubhouse, and then because Jeff, our other racer, had a spectacularly dusty shunt and had to be towed out of the weeds. Because of the schedule slippage, the race shrank from fifteen laps to ten, to eight, and finally to five.
Jeff and Phil’s crew made a Herculean effort to get Jeff’s car back to race worthiness and finally we lined up on the grid. By this time, Jeff was pretty shaken and Clark and I had decided that since there were so few of us, and since the race was so short, we should try to stay close together and make a good show for the crowd.
It seems like there has never been a Phil Wicks event without controversy, and this one was no exception. I made a terrible start, somehow misplacing second gear, and Jeff led off the first lap. Clark and I caught him and passed on the back straight. Our plan was to barrel into the chicane side by side with the inside guy taking the lead and then reverse it next time around.
Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. And since Clark will be driving the whole NAMCC season in Phil’s car and since I’m only doing this one event for the experience, it seemed like a good idea to make it close but give the win to Clark. You can’t please everyone, however. Many spectators commented to me how much they enjoyed seeing us dicing down through the chicane before the main straight, but my racer friends were aghast that because I could out brake him and out corner him, I didn’t just drive off into the distance and leave the others to drone around on their own. What do you readers think? Show or go? Did I make the right decision?
video by michael leonard
As it happened, Clark took the medals and the glory and I got to thank my sponsors and wish that the two sleepers in the paddock, TC Kline with his suspension test sled R56 and Matt who was driving the Way Motor Works R53 had been on the grid adding to the fun, since they were both very fast – maybe next time, guys.
Now it’s back to business as we prepare the car for the April 12-13 USTCC event at Infineon Raceway. For sure I need new axles since mine are clicking like castanets. Maybe we’ll have time for some other Mini Mania mods as well. We need more horsepower and less weight in order to be competitive.
The last two times I have been to Infineon, I have wrecked the car. What will happen this time? Stay tuned. Or better yet, if you’re in the Bay Area, come on out to Sears Point and watch.
Here’s some interview video taken at Spring Mountain that day. You can actually see the car before it was buried in Stickers.