A Monterey Diary
AUGUST 16, 1995 - LAGUNA SECA
Laura and I moved the car to what we thought was our pit assignment (the beginning of a minor irritation). We left the car in pit stall assigned to us and headed for the DoubleTree hotel to check in. We rested, had a bite to eat, called Dan Wardman, who was staying with his group in a condo in Watsonville. That evening we headed to Watsonville with a van loaded with programs, envelopes, coupons, maps, and other stuff. The Wardman gang which consisted of Alvin from the UK and member of the HLR (Historic Lotus Register), Brian (Dan's brother in-law), Sharon (Dan's wife) and Dan, along with the two of us spent the next 4 hours assembling over 500 registration envelopes for the Lotus Festival.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 17, 1995 - LAGUNA SECA
Once semi-settled in we headed to tech. Due to the fact that 384 entrants occupied the entire paddock, tech was moved to the parking area near Turn 5 (where our Lotus corral was). This location required the race cars to be driven on the park roads from the paddock to tech and back. This was sort of an unexpected surprise. Let's just say driving an open wheeled formula car around sedans, trucks and semi's is a real experience! Tech was a breeze. The 41 continues to get rave reviews and comments from even jaded tech inspectors. They seem to love the originality of the car (recall it's never been painted and the original bodywork is still in its unpainted white gel-coat state).
We returned to finish getting settle in our pit and then toured the Lotus museum. One of the displays was a large photo mural of Chapman tossing his cap in one of Lotus' many F1 wins. The mural was cut off just above Chapman's extended hand. Jackson Pike (National Sales Manager for Lotus Cars USA) and I were commenting the day before that it seemed a sin that the mural was cut off in a manner that excluded the actual hat flying across the track. Laura and I were able to get down to Fisherman's Wharf and found a Greek Fisherman's cap similar to the one Chapman wore at Grand Prixs. We purchased the hat and took it to the Museum and Jackson then hung the cap above the mural from the ceiling.
In the car museum all four Lotus Indy cars were being placed. This was a first, never had all four car types that Lotus raced at Indy been seen together. Across from the Indy cars were many of the famous Lotus F1 champions; The 25 driven by Clark, 33, 49, the 72 driven by Ronnie Peterson, the 79 driven by Andretti, 95T and Senna's Detroit winning 99T. It was quite impressive.
The folks from Group Lotus were arriving, including Patrick Peal, Clive Chapman et al., and of course the large gathering of personnel from LCU including Jim Blackwell, Arnie Johnson, Helen Lindner, Uwe Lindner, Erin Quin and others. After a couple of hours of helping out and getting things settle Laura and I headed back to Monterey to hook up with our two girls and Grandmom.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 18, 1995 - DAY 1
By the time I finished working with the 41 and then checking in at the Lotus tent and the Lotus merchandise tent and returned to the corral it was 10:30. The Greg had arrived with the trailer and registration was up and running. Already there was over 50 folks lined up to pick-up their registration materials. The Corral had over 50 cars in it and with more rolling in by the minute. I gotta admit the Golden Gate Lotus Club is blessed with some great people. Mike Ostrov was dealing with the problems. Charley, Dan, Cherie Carney and Joel Farber had registration handled. Tom Carney was dealing with the cars as they arrived. It was if it were totally planned... I was impressed!
12:00 noon roll around and I decided to leave the festivities and head back to my pit in order head up to the media center for the driver's meeting. As so typical with HMSA meetings it began a half-hour late. Steve Earle presided. Steve is always good at setting the tone for his events. He emphasizes that we are here for the cars. This is not real hard racing. And, contact causing damage (any damage, even a scratch) is grounds for 1 year suspension and dismissal. It's clear that either you play by his rules or you don't play. What I didn't expect was the nearly gushing words of appreciation of Lotus; for their support and museum, for the number of entrants, for Chapman's contribution to the modern era of racing.
I decided to concentrate on the 41 rather than returning to the corral. Tom Carney joined me at about 1:30 and we went over the car one last time. The family had arrived as well. I went over the Alex Bollinger's pit to find and see the Lotus 62 that he and son Kevin had restored. There will be plenty of photos taken of that 62! It is absolutely one of the finest restorations I have seen. I remember first seeing the car (it was in pieces) at Jim Loose Automotive in Palo Alto 10 years ago. I remember thinking I wish I could have it. I can also recall vividly the sorry state in which the pieces were. I recall the day I heard Alex had purchased the car from Loose and thinking that at least the car was going to the best possible home. Now, some 10 years later Alex has brought the 62 back to it rightful environment! The other 62 is in Portugal and there are rumors it is being sold to someone in Japan (recall that only two Type 62's were ever built by Lotus).
I then headed over to the Lotus Museum where I bumped into Patrick Peal. Patrick had just arrived with Hazel Chapman and Clive Chapman. Patrick was beside himself. He was positively gushing. Patrick was nearly overcome by the turn out, the support and enthusiasm for Lotus. "Kiyoshi, there are Lotus models here I thought I would never see. But, there's not just one; there's two or three! And, they're racing!!!"
Anyway, to continue with Patrick... He and the others from the UK were amazed at the enthusiasm and support they received. Over the course of the weekend Patrick and others shared with me that they had never seen such enthusiasm for Lotus (not even in the UK!).
I returned to my pit and suited up for my afternoon practice. I was in Group 5B. This group was an unusual group in that all of the cars in it are normally ineligible for HMSA. 5B was a special group put in place by Steve Earle just for the Historics because Lotus was the featured marque and as such the entire grid of our group was made up of Lotus opened wheel lesser Formula cars - F2, F3, FB and FFord. In the group were: John Springett (1965 Lotus 35 F2); Jack Gordon ('65 41B); Greg Carpenter ('67 41C); Gunther Hansele ('66 41 F3), Steve Thein ('67 51B FF); Randy Phelan ('68 51C); Tom Rodberg ('68 51); Jim Degnan ('67 51A); George Gaynor ('68 51A); Vern Jaques ('67 51A); Neil Gray ('67 51A); Jack Arntzen ('67 51A); Dick Jutras ('67 51A); Jeremy Braithwaite ('70 Lotus 61MX); Jim Bennett ('71 Lotus 69 F3).
I was like a pig in a mud pond. Practice opened and I headed out about mid-pack. The first two laps I used as warm-ups, getting engine, gearbox, tires and me up to temperature. On the 3rd lap I decided to start working on some times. Immediately I dropped to a '47 and then a low '48. I was passing most of the FFords at will due to the superior power of the Twin Cam. I went reasonably hot into Turn 2, and put an inside braking move on a couple of FFords, interesected the line, clipped the apex and was back on the power exiting the corner. The Gunther Hansele spun right in front of me! I wasn't able to figure out which way he was rolling (he was totally perpendicular to the track). I was still finishing the corner and under full throttle at the time and without thinking I dropped the throttle. The 41 instanly snapped around in a 270. I jumped on the brakes and clutch, stabilized the spin and rolled off the track backwards. I saved the engine. It didn't stall and kept the car off the wall. Nice save. But,I did do at the exit of Turn 2, the most convenient place for the Lotus Festival folks to view!!! Oh well....
After the pack got through I got going again, cooled it for the next few corners while I scrubbed off all of the dirt and gravel from the tires. I proceeded to work on my line, shift and brake points. I could feel my confidence level growing and my driving getting smoother. My times showed by their steady drop, finally getting into the 1:45's by the last couple of laps, plus I put in four consistant laps in the '46 (all within 1/2 sec). The brakes were still bias too much to the rear. All in all I was pleased. It was a good session. Better still that the radiator leak had stopped (we used some Bar's Leak).
We checked over the car, packed up (it was getting late). And headed back to the Corral to close up. By the time we got back to the hotel we only had a half hour or so to change and get over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for dinner.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) is an incredible museum. The exhibits are some of the finest in the world and then to have a dinner for 675 people all who have a love for Lotus and cars was a double treat. It was a wonderful evening. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Mike Ostov had arranged for three very special guests to speak in the Auditorium; Graham Arnold, Doc Bundy and Ron Hickman. Arnold is know as the former marketing director for Lotus and now is the President of Club Lotus. Bundy continues as the lead driver for the LotuSport Team here in the US, and Ron Hickman was the former Design Director for Lotus and designed the Elan (Type 26) and is the inventor of the Black & Decker Workmate. Hey, and the food was delicious too!!!
Mike and I met briefly in a corner to review what had to be done the next day. We had not clue that it would be an overwhelming day. The Festival had now taken on a life of its own and Mike and I were only its servants...
Oh yeah, the USA Today article did appear and my mug was plastered in color on the front of the Life section! And, the reporter did use that "Walter Mitty" quote! In bed around midnight...
SATURDAY, AUGUST 19, 1995 - LOTUS DAY!
Registration was already up and running and a long line was trailing off into the corral. Already well over 100 Lotus cars were assembled and they were rolling in on a continual stream. Tom Carney was already concerned that we would run out of space. He had begun to double park them and was pushing all the non-Lotus cars out of the area. The Wardman-Rockwell team was doing a great job at registration. Festival folks were seen wearing their hunter green embroidered polo shirts and caps. There was air of excitement as Lotus after Lotus arrived.
Time flew by, soon it was 11:15 and we held a meeting to explain to the massive group how we were organizing the Lotus Track Parade. I had been back and forth between the Corral and the Lotus Museum to arrange rides for the guest from Group Lotus. Both Clive and Hazel Chapman had requested rides around the track during the parade of Lotus. The English group joined us and I escorted them to the head of the line of Lotus. Chris Tchorznicki headed the line in his Mark VI where we placed Hazel. Immediately behind Chris was another Chris (Locke) with his Elan. There we introduced Chris to Clive Chapman. Patrick Peal was next and he rode in another Elan. And on we went stuffing the English into whatever open seat I could find. The most fun was matching Tim Holland with Barry Spencer. This was a match made by a mad man... Barry, a transplanted Brit, who once worked for the factory, who still knows many of the chaps in Hethel, who drives a Europa Autocross car that has little Europa left in it, who has no real passenger seat, who had a Union Jack hanging out the passenger window, who had to jamb a beach chair into the passenger compartment for Tim.... Tim was game and appeared to have a ball. He held the Union Jack out of the window and had a grin that could be seen for yards...
Promptly at 11:30 the morning practices were completed and it was time for the Lotus parade. There were thousands of race fans lining the track and the pace car picked up the lead car of the parade. One by one, Lotus after Lotus; Sevens, Elans, Elites, Europas, Esprits, Elan+2s, Eclats, New Elites, M100 Elans, Esprit Turbos and more streamed out onto the track. The pace car had gone completely around and was now nearing Turn 2, but still Lotus cars were filing out on to the track at Turn 5. And, they came, and came, the Pace car had now rounded Turn 4 and was well on its way to Turn 5, but still the corral was being emptied!!! It was a sight! In all nearly 200 Lotus cars were on the track encompassing the entire track, lead by Hazel and Clive Chapman (who was actually driving Chris Locke's Elan!). It was absolutely amazing!!! It was over too soon and the cars filed off the course and back into the corral and moved into position for a panoramic group photo. Tom Carney and I estimated the Lotus count at 250!! Add over 150 Lotus race cars in the race paddock and have nearly 400 Lotus cars at Laguna Seca!!!
The panoramic photo was a nightmare. It was impossible to keep people organized. I was amazed that the Doug Chapwick even got anything resembling a group of cars. Too soon the excitement was over and everyone went about meeting new friends and watching the afternoon's racing.
Simultaneous to the Lotus Corral photo the Lotus Museum cars were making a demostration run. To hear Senna's old Honda powered 99T fire up in the paddock was nothing short of tingling. It made the short hairs on the back of your neck tingle. They even got the Indy winning 34 fired and it took a few laps around the track! Now, that was a sight... Pete Lovely in his very own 49C, the very same car in which competed in the US Grand Prix and brillant yellow 99T.
It was on verge of sensory overload; a dream for the true Lotus enthusiast. It would never be duplicated. This was truly a once in a lifetime event!
The afternoon flew by. I met folks from everywhere! Later Tom and I returned to the 41 to make some changes in preparation for my Sunday warm-up session and race. Everywhere you turned people were taking pictures of the cars. Everywhere you looked there was someone wearing a Lotus shirt or hat. It was kinda weird. I'm so used to seeing Porsche shirts, Ferrari jackets and stuff that to see more people wearing Lotus stuff was unsettling, but FUN!
Tom and I finished up around 4:30 and we headed into to town to clean up and get to the Hyatt Regency for the banquet. I raced back to the hotel, took a quick shower and got the family in the van. We arrived at the Hyatt around 6:25 only minutes before the cocktail hour was to begin.
It was time, open the doors!!! 500 Lotus enthusiasts made their way into the room and quickly the room filled with excitement, enthusiasm and anticipation. By 9:00 pm most had completed eating and were relishing desserts and coffee. We began the evening with a quick welcome. Mike introduced some of the dignitaries and representatives of Lotus clubs from North American and around the world. From the 4 corners of the globe they had come. From North Pole Alaska to South Africa and Australia, they were there. This truly was an international gathering. Next Dan Wardman announced the concours awards. There were many fine examples of each Lotus model, so to pick just one was not easy (People's choice). Then Dan introduced Jay Chamberlain. Jay was the first official distributor of Lotus Cars to the US. Jay was an accomplished driver and raced with Team Lotus at LeMans.
Jay was eloquent, and there were a few touching moments during his presentation. For one, Jay had not seen Hazel Chapman in over 32 years! This was the first time in so many years and they sat next to each other at dinner! During his talk Jay mentioned his very first Lotus that he raced, a Mark IX. At the close of this speak Betty Hunholtz approached the podium and asked Jay if he knew where his Mark IX was? He said no, that he had not seen since it left his shop nearly 35 years ago. "Well, it's in the paddock and we own it!!!" Jay, was clearly taken aback. And asked if he could see it. He and Betty exchanged notes and Jay made arrangements to see the car the next day.
These moments were followed by Charley Rockwell and the awarding of Long Distance, Stress Cracks, Liars Stories and other such awards. In usual Charley fashion it was amusing and quite entertaining. I'm not quite sure what the Brits thought of all the craziness.
Round about 10:10 Dan introduced Stirling Moss. What followed was about an hour worth of interest commentary, stories of Chapman, historic reference and enlightening antidotes. In its own way Stirling pulled on a few heart strings as even Hazel Chapman got involved the "Ask Stirling" session. All too soon an hour had slipped by and Stirling retired to the audience.
Next it was the closing. First I invited Jim Blackwell, VP of Lotus Cars USA, to share a few words. Following Jim we thanked a few others. Then we invited Hazel and Clive to the podium to be formally recognized. There was a standing ovation that lasted nearly 5 minutes. It was clear that Hazel was overwhelmed and a bit uncomfortable with the adulation, but it was also clear that every person in that room understood the sacrifices she made and the unending support she gave to her husband, the late Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman. Clive briefly spoke on behalf of his mother and himself. He mentioned that his father some 30 years early, at an age not much more than his went to Indianapolis and brought home racing greatest prize. He spoke of the undying enthusiasm of the thousands of Lotus enthusiasts around the world, and most interestingly he thanked Chris Locke for his first opportunity to drive an Elan!
It had been a long day and we closed the evening at well past 11:30. I had a full day of racing and wanted to get back to the hotel and in bed.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 20, 1995 - RACE DAY
Tom arrived shortly after me and we made some final preparations to the 41. It was much cooler that the previous day. The fog had rolled in and the early warm-up sessions were held under full course yellow with the pace car in use. I told Tom I would only go out for a few laps if the conditions didn't change just to check the changes we had made to the car. But, then the fog lifted and the course went green.
Again I went out starting with a couple of warm up laps and then got to it. The times were reasonably consistent holding around 1:46 with a final lap of 1:44.85. That was pleasing because I knew there was more in the car. I still felt as if I wasn't going deep enough under brakes; my confidence level in the brakes was still not there. The brake bias was improved, but still off just a hair with still a bit too much rear and with a high pedal.
Once back in the pits we lowered the brake pedal (this made heel and toeing much easier) and cranked in more front brakes. Tom picked up a grid sheet at race central. I was grided and behind the 51 of Steve Thein. But, front row!!! Alright!!! I knew I would have my work cut out since it was clear Steve was a good driver with lots of experience in his well prepared 51....
We went over the car from stem to toe. Check everything. All checked out okay. We were ready. Barry Spencer had wandered over and lent a hand. All that was left was the drop of the green.
We stopped for lunch, participated in the Lotus Racecar parade. Good fun, not fast, but fun. It was great opportunity to check the brakes. They felt better than ever. With just a tiny bit of rear lock-up at threshold. The Racecar parade was followed by another demonstration of the Lotus F1 and Indy cars. The shriek of the 99T is so ear piercing and distinctive, it absolutely can't be missed.
It was soon racetime. This was the culmination of a what was an incredible week. Soon it was race time. Some last minute instructions from the grid marshall, the 2 minute mark, then the 1 minute mark and we were rolling off onto the grid. I was lined up on the outside of row 1. There were two pace cars in front of us. The one directly in front of us had a photographer hanging out the side and top waving Steve and I forward as he snapped photos! Turn 8, the corkscrew, it was now time to get serious. Steve brought the field down the hill at an even pace, we rounded Turn 11 side by side, with Steve just slightly ahead. A nice steady pace, I lagged back a bit further to about the rear axle of Thien's 51 and then started accelerating. My timing was perfect, the Green flew and I was under full acceleration and began to pull the 51 over the Turn 1 hill. Down into Turn 2, I was clear of the 51 and used a line in the middle of the track. There was some oil dry on 2 and the turn was a bit greasy. I launched toward 3 and then 4. Thien was close. I pulled out some distance going into 5 and 6. But, his superior traction and experience allowed him to gain on me coming out of the Corkscrew. Going down into 10 he was at my left rear corner. I could have blocked, by moving over, but I elected to drive my line and let him try to out braked me. It was a nice clean pass, he intersected the apex and proceeded to pull away.
I was turning 1:47's by now, and the track still felt a bit slick. By lap 3 Jack Gordon (his 41 was shod with Avons) was hounding me and got by at turn 5 in sort of a banzai move... I let him through rather than chance contact. Now I was in 3rd and falling back slightly. The next few laps I really started to feel good in the car. The brake balance was better. I could get on the brakes later and harder without having to worry about rear lock-up. Tom and Barry were flashing my times which were steadily falling; now into the 46's and then into the 45's. On lap 8 I got into the high 44's equalling my best time.
The last few laps I was lapping traffic and I was reeling Jack back in. The final lap was a 1:43.6!!! I was pleased. I was getting smoother, more consistent and better connected to the car.
During the cool off lap I was amazed by the number of spectators who seemed to recognize the car. As I was approaching they would suddenly get more animated and begin waving. Had I made that great of a mess that they happy to see that I survived?
Back in the pits there was some celebration by the entire group. Lots of smiles. This had been serious fun. It was time for the final event of the weekend. The awards ceremony for the 1995 Monterey Historic Automobile Races. Steve Earle gave out a number of awards. The final ceremony was to recognize Hazel and Clive Chapman. As Steve asked them to step forward the entire mass of drivers, crew, corner workers and stewards stood and applauded. It was clear that every person there recognized the achievements of Lotus and Colin Chapman. In fact the house never sat until Clive had spoken and thanked everyone. Tom Carney, whispered to me that in the 22 years of the Monterey Historic Races never had there been a stand ovation!!!
And, with the final applause the Monterey Historic Automobile Races and Lotus Festival '95 was over! We thanked Patrick Peal, the Champions, and Jim Blackwell.