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A Christmas Gift (Of Sorts)


csadn
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Since it will never see print, here's the full write-up of the October PIR ChumpCar event (less pics).


 


   Five years ago, a man's fantasy became reality -- "real racing, on real race tracks, in real cheap cars"; a series for those with "more sense than cents", a series for those who wished to experience the days of "run what ya brung" in the most literal sense: The Optima Batteries ChumpCar World Series. Through strict cost-containment measures, John Condren made it possible for the impecunious to not merely drive, but race, at facilities whose names ring through the annals of sports-car racing history: Daytona International Speedway; Laguna Seca; Mosport -- and not mere 25-30 minute sprints, but endurance races lasting twenty-four hours (and more -- the signature event for the series this year runs thirty-seven hours). The dream of racing at famous-name facilities, and the challenge of keeping low-cost cars running for hours on end, brings to the playing field a remarkable variety of drivers, from Olympic skiers to rocket engineers, from a team raising money for a Seattle alternative school, to #99 The "Eh" Team, a Canadian outfit which raced in the first-ever OBCCWS event at PIR and are still running the same car they used in that first event (and whose number now includes a driver who once raced in the Can-Am Series in the '70s, David Saville-Peck; Mr. Saville-Peck did allow as how their car was "about used up", though). But every series has to start somewhere, and the weekend of October 24-26, 2014, the series returned to the facility where it first raced, Portland International Raceway, Portland, Oregon.


 


   That first race at PIR was a 24-hour enduro, the staple race of OBCCWS; however, local noise ordinances now preclude racing at PIR overnight. The desire to run a 24-hour event at PIR remained -- but how to do it? The solution: Run 24 hours' worth of racing over three days -- five hours Friday afternoon, thirteen on Saturday, and six on Sunday.


 


   Friday's event saw 45 cars take the green flag -- and several inches of rain in their faces; the October PIR event is infamous for being run in rain. Worse, PIR is a city park, and spends most of its days overrun by Canada geese, whose effluent combine with the rainwater and oil and rubber from the cars to create a surface which is the literal embodiment of the phrase "slicker than goose-grease"; a fact illustrated by a spinout on the pace lap. Worse, an instance of cars going three-wide past the safety truck barely half and hour in led to OBCCWS stopping the event for a "refresher safety briefing". The message was gotten across, and racing proceeded apace, stopped only by a red flag for a Turn One accident. None of this bothered #172 TSR-1 Racing's 4.3L Vortec-powered Pontiac Firebird (an engine selected by the team because "Cash For Clunkers made them cheap"), which led the entire event save for during pit stops, and cruised to a comfortable 2-lap victory. Behind them, though, there was a dustup between #201 Suprachumps' Toyota Supra, #880 Jetrocco's VW Jetta, and #24 Blue Bayou's Nissan -- with the cars in that order 2nd to 4th, #201 and #880 made contact in the eastern corner complex, allowing #24 to slip through for second, with #880 taking third.


 


 


[Friday Race Winner: #172 TSR-1. Photo by Therese Lombardi.]


 


   Though the event is named "The Return of the Halloween 24-Hour", Saturday's race was run on a somewhat lesser-known holiday -- St. Crispin's Day, made famous by a monologue from Shakespeare's _Henry V_ set at the Battle of Agincourt. Agincourt was fought following appalling weather conditions, including heavy rain and high wind; and the 42-car-strong band of brothers and sisters would find Portland's weather equally unforgiving. For the first two hours, #111 Schwarzchild Radials' Nissan and #69 Racey Divas' Datsun 240 took turns leading; then #26 Team Titleist's VW Golf took a swing at leading. Minor spins and offs were frequent; major incidents included #71 Shift Racing 1 hitting the Turn 12 wall, #931 U-Boot Rennen Werke's Porsche catching fire and spinning after a catastrophic parts failure, and a full-course caution to collect a corner worker who had been accidentally hit in the eye with a signal flag. (A coyote crossing the racing surface did not warrant action.) However, from about halfway on, #10 Martini Racing's VW GTI grabbed the point and held a fairly consistent 2-lap lead over #557 Dog and Pony Show's Ford Mustang. It turned out #10 would need all of that lead, last-shift driver Phil Boznik reported "Two hours from the end, we lost 5th gear, and the clutch began slipping", slowing the car to 2-minute laps. A reprieve came less than one hour from the end, when #557 was black-flagged for having only one working headlight -- a problem fixed by changing the headlight-brightness setting; this delayed #557 long enough that they were only able to get back on the lead lap when the checkered flag fell, leaving #10 to limp home to the win. #557 did salvage second-place honors; #24 Blue Bayou backed up Friday's second with a third.


 


 


[saturday Race Winner: #10 Martini Racing. Photo by Therese Lombardi.]


 


   Sunday's 6-hour event, by comparison, ran under far-better weather conditions; rain was intermittent, and ceased entirely for the last couple hours, allowing a properly-dry line to develop. #557 Dog and Pony Show led most of that second half of the event, and won by two laps over #121 Draggin' Dragon's Honda. #557's closer driver Steve Mahre credited the weather with "giving us the fuel mileage to win"; his brother and team captain Phil Mahre also credited the weather with "leveling the playing field". #121 team member John Gonzalez noted his car was "almost out of fuel" at race's end. #24 Blue Bayou, using "good planning and consistentcy" according to team owner Dave Kandoll, scored yet another 3rd-place, achieving the best results of the weekend overall.


 


 


[sunday Race Winner: #557 Dog & Pony Show. Photo by Therese Lombardi.]


 


   When John Condren created the Optima Batteries ChumpCar World Series, his aim was to "bring back the good old days of racing", when anyone with a car, a tool box, and some friends could put a team together, and not only race, but contend for a win. With three different winners over three days, only two repeat podium finishers, and some half-a-dozen different car makes represented in the various podiums, it would appear Mr. Condren has achieved what he desired. No better summation of the series exists than that of a member of #33 Rumrunners: "We're not here for a long time; we're here for a good time". Perhaps -- but after five years, and still seeing 40+-car fields, it seems ChumpCar may well accomplish both.


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Well written ..   40 + car fields YUP  in the east I have run 7 events so far the smallest car count 55 next 68 and the largest 119 . I'd say its caught on pretty well in the east....

Greater population density, plus the tows aren't quite so horrifying.

 

Considering the first-ever Chump race (at PIR) had something like 80 cars....

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