Second Strike On
Virginia International Raceway
Sunday Morning - 14 of the 38 Superformance Mk III's
Dawn breaks over the rolling Virginia Piedmont. The drivers gather in the morning mist. Their leader gives them the mission for the day and the rules of engagement. They turn and walk to their waiting machines, slip into the cockpit and strap themselves in. They pull on their helmets and goggles. One pump, a second pump, then hit the starter. The starter whines. One cylinder lights off, then another. The engine bellows to life. The sweet perfume of high octane fuel permeates the air. A few revs to clear the plugs then taxi to the starting grid. Oil pressure - check. Water temperature - check. Oil temperature - check.
Then it is your time to launch. Revs up and
holding. Breathe deeply. The flag drops. Tires claw for traction. The
engine screams to the redline, then second, then third, then fourth.
Speed builds rapidly - then it is time to brake and turn. Heavy g forces
pull you forward against your harness, then sideways, then back in your
seat again as you apply full throttle toward the next turn, the engine
thundering in your ears. And
now you know! This is your destiny! Your
machine was born to run!
Bob and Dennis Olthoff round Oak Tree corner and nail it down the Back Straight
A lot of horses champing at the bit on the Starting Grid
SP116 and The Coupe
On a warm sunny September weekend, 38 Superformance Mk III owners, 18 Mustang owners and 6 owners of other high performance machines gathered at VIR - Virginia International Raceway - for two days of fast cars and fine camaraderie. The weather could not have been better - clear bright skies with temperatures in the mid 80's.
The event was sponsored by Olthoff Racing, the Southeastern Superformance dealer, and Second Strike, the Superformance Mk III Owners Group. We had the South Course and a Porsche group had the North Course.
Registration and tech we completed early Saturday morning, then it was on to the track. First timers and others who wanted to went to the Autocross area in the North Paddock for "Introduction to Driving at the Limit of Adhesion" hosted by Dennis Olthoff and Bob Jordan. The rest started with a few preliminary runs to get the groups sorted out. We broke for a buffet lunch at the North Paddock and got serious in the afternoon.
The run groups were:
We didn't have any slow cars, so we didn't need any slow classes.
Within groups, cars were released onto the track at about 5 second intervals to give everyone some room on the track. Passing was allowed only on the straight away. Drivers were able to run at their own pace without being pressed from behind or blocked in front.
While one group was on the track, the next group staged in the pit area. As soon as one group pulled off the track, the next group was released. Each session was 15 to 20 minutes, so everyone got a session every hour or so. The intervals between sessions were filled with tweaking of machines and some first rate bench racing.
Saturday evening was filled with more bench racing by the pool back at the Holiday Inn in Danville. Groups broke off to invade the local restaurants. Some folks elected to retire early. Others resumed by the poolside, visited the local nightlife hotspots, or joined the local cruisers.
Sunday was another fine day. We started early and by lunch, everyone had completed a number of sessions on the track. We returned after lunch and ran as long as there were cars on the track.
All in all, a great opportunity to learn to drive a truly fine high performance car a little closer to its very high limits. And just as much fun, a chance to renew old friendships and make new ones. Does it get better than this?
Opened in 1957, Virginia International Raceway had more in common with the long fast European circuits than the shorter tighter American circuits of the era. The course was 3.27 miles long with 12 turns - known as the "dangerous dozen" - and two fast straight-aways - the longest at 4000 feet allowing the competitors the chance to really stretch their legs. The rolling hills of Piedmont Virginia contribute 150 feet of elevation changes to the challenging course.
The first race was won by Ed Hugus in an Alfa-Romeo on August 4, 1957. Ed went on to drive one of the first two Cobras at Le Mans in 1963. The first feature race was won by Carroll Shelby in a Maserati 450s. Carroll described the course as: "One lap here is like a hundred at Watkins Glen."
Distant from major population centers, the track did not draw the crowds it needed to be successful and reverted to a cow pasture in 1974.
A few years ago, a group of enthusiasts purchased the track and re-opened it as what can best be described as an motorsports country club. The facilities are first rate. The buildings are in a Virginia colonial style that adds a vintage touch. The track has been divided into a North Course and a South Course so that two groups can use the facility at the same time.
The 1.65 mile South Course has 8 turns, a 2300 feet straight-away, and 80 feet in elevation change.
One Hot Lap
Coming out of Oak Tree corner in second gear and heading down the Back Straight. The black marks were left by those learning about decreasing radius turns. The 2300 feet straight drops 40 feet (that is a 4 story building) over the first half, then gains it back in the second half.
Into third and then fourth. Speeds reach 130 mph heading up the hill. At this point the Bitch is invisible.
|Cresting the rise reveals the Bitch. Cones on the rise marked the braking points, but if you ignored them and still have your foot on the right petal at this point, its time to look for the escape road. Several people made this wise (and safe) choice. This is a fast second gear or slow third gear corner, but the line is more important than the gear. The Bitch is not constant radius and requires careful attention to line to achieve best speed. It is aptly named.|
A short 900 feet straight follows the Bitch. Speeds of 100 mph in third are attained before braking for the Spiral. Watch the braking points. The track topography make the Spiral a blind entry.
|The Spiral is left-right-left combination that is fast enough to be taken in third gear. It is perhaps the most interesting part of the South Course. The track drops an undulating 80 feet from the Bitch through Spiral to Fish Hook. The elevation changes combined with the turns makes it seem as much like flying as racing. The lead car is headed for Fish Hook, a flat second gear right-hand u-turn that lured a number of drivers into the grass.|
Out of Fish Hook, into third, and accelerate 800 feet to the kink called South Bend. It seems fast enough to take flat out. It isn't. Tap the brakes, set the car, and continue to accelerate.
An up and down 650 feet straight after South Bend allows red line in third at 105 mph before braking for Oak Tree.
Oak Tree is a double apex decreasing radius turn requiring a heal and toe downshift into second while turning and braking. It takes some skill to extract the potential of the car in this complex turn and to set up correctly for the run down the straight. Abundant tire marks coming into, inside, and exiting the turn testify to the learning experience going on.
Dennis and Bob instructing a couple of rookies on the correct technique for water-skiing on asphalt.
Billy and Rosemary O'Briant with matching driving suits. Way cool dudes!
OK Pat, we're back. You can open your eyes now!
Tony and Angela Spence with Billy O'Briant exhorting the Mustangs to greater speed
Not as weather resistant as the original top, but it goes up quick!
The King of the Sports Cars
Jeff Robb launches the beautiful and quick Malachite Green SP443
As always, creative plates abounded
A fan watches Mark Ray stage his 2000 Mustang with Vortex supercharger
A potent 2000 Mustang Cobra R followed by an 1967 Mustang with a wild 427
Lee Davis showed up with his
Steve Sunshine brought his CSX 4000 down from New Jersey
There were quite a few families and a number of spouses and other family members taking a turn behind the wheel.
The Superformance Mk III's
Dick Abbott SP 195
Lee Brock SP 427
Kenny Brown SP 285
Daren Cave SP 580
Mike Caveness SP 311
Dean Coates SP 606
Dan Cullather SP 648
Terry Freck SP 263
Kevin Frederick SP 774
Jerry Hall SP 615
Gene Harris SP 670
Bob Jordan SP 181
John Klein SP 572
Ralph Lovelace SP 544
Mac McCombs SP 732
David McRae SP 151
Walt Malcolm SP 313
Lou Matthews SP 256
Billy OBriant SP 453
Carl Page SP 735
Chris Phelps SP 674
Richard Pike - SP 705
Gerry Poynter SP 534
Marvin Preble SP 607
Richard Price SP 746
Doug Reed SP 116 One Lap Car
Chuck Bacigalyn - Other Bordeaux One Lap car.
Mark Rhoades SP 603
Jeff Robb SP 443
Tony Spence SP 197
Mike Stenhouse SP 218
David Sugg SP 239
Bill Sullivan SP 487
Rod Waltermann SP 227
Alan Wisne SP 345
Jerry Witt SP 410
Ed Zaptin SP 714
John & Amy Klacik SP 421
Mark Smith SP 803
Wade Brown - Mustang Cobra
Dr Ed Bull - 86 SVO Mustang
Bobby Byrd - 93 Mustang
Rich Fekete - 84 Mustang
Andy Killian - Mustang
Andy Kirby - 90 Mustang
Anthony Moretz - Ford Mustang
Chad Moretz - Ford Cobra Mustang
Earl Morris - 85 Mustang
Jerry Mullins - 86 Mustang
Don Pendleton - Mustang GT
Steve Pendleton - Mustang
Mark Ray - Mustang 2000
Will Sadler - Mustang
Jerry Schneider - 69 Mustang
Bryan Shugg - Mustang
Robert Thornton - Mustang Cobra
Ed Turner - Mustang
Bill Bradford - Ford Thunderbird
Lee Davis - 300 Berlinetta GTO
Mitch Franklin - NAF Cobra Replica
George Moretz - Porsche
Dan Ostrower Porsche 944
Steve Sunshine - Shelby CSX 4000 Series Cobra Replica
Bob Olthoff, Jim Smith, and Larry Miller at the Driver's Meeting
Susan Smith giving Jim his instructions at the starting line
Nice digs for technical inspection
A Special Thanks
A number of folks put in a considerable effort behind the scenes to make this event work smoothly and enjoyably for everyone. Many thanks to:
Bob, Baby, and Dennis Olthoff for putting the event together.
A special thanks to Bob Jordan for producing the Second Strike t-shirts.
A special thanks to Paul Whitlock (aka Ace Mechanic) for the assistance he rendered to the wounded machines.