Jump to content

A Christmas Gift (Of Sorts)


Recommended Posts

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.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

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....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...