Whimsey Racing Team’s Season Opener

 hershey by hyman

hershey by hyman

           The Whimsey Racing Allard team has only fielded one car so far this season, as team driver Mike Donick has yet to be available. He’s been otherwise occupied leading a two car Toyota Scion team in left coast endurance racing. He and the team have done exceptionally well, including a first overall, and new lap record in a recent outing at Buttonwillow CA. That’s wonderful and his father is proud – but it doesn’t do much for his Allard team, does it?

            With the “young gun” not available, the old guy has been on his own with the J2 while the K2 has sat in reserve.

            The opening race of our season was the annual VSCCA/Jaguar Club event at Lime Rock Park in early June. The weather was pretty close to perfect, and the entry list was nicely filled out. Yrs Trly hadn’t been out in a wheel-to-wheel event in over a year, as weather last season failed to cooperate on the appropriate weekends. There have been a number of hillclimbs with reasonable success in the interim.  

            The J2 was assigned to Group 4, a gaggle of mostly early to mid-fifties sporty cars that included MGAs, a couple of Alfas and Porsches, the usual Healey contingent, and several well prepared Morgans.

            Mike DiCola had hoped to freshen the heads on the J2’s Cadillac, but time wasn’t available so we gave the rest of the car the once over and off we went. Practice went better than expected, and we managed to lower our lap times pretty consistently throughout the two practice sessions. The tyres seemed to be working pretty well by the time we had warmed them – and our self – up. There is currently a shortage of Dunlop L-series racing tyres, so we are running on a set that have a couple seasons on them. That would come back to haunt us at the next event – but more on that anon…

            Practice showed that we’d have to find a way to fairly quickly deal with a very hot little Bug-eye Sprite that was all over the Allard in the corners, and might prove difficult to get by unless I can hold him in a corner that leads to one of the straights. A well-driven Morgan looked like he could be a problem as well.  

 lime rock by dow smith

lime rock by dow smith

            The first race saw the Allard gridded seventh, but that wasn’t a great worry. For reasons I can’t explain, I’m usually faster in a race than I am in practice. With the green flag, we worked our way through the pack after holding back from the first corner scrum. No reason to finish my first race in over a year with an accident in the first turn. Holding back cost some time, but by the end of the race the J2 was in second place behind a Frazer-Nash LeMans Replica and the Sprite.  One more lap and the Sprite would have been mine. Still, third wasn’t too bad.  

            The second race found the J2 on the outside of the front row for the pace lap (the guy with the Frash had suffered an accident at the wheel of another car and was out). The inside, or pole position, was taken by the Sprite. The start would depend entirely on when the starter showed the green flag. The earlier he shows it as the pack comes down the main straight, the more time there is for the Allard’s horsepower to make itself known before the first turn. As fate would have it, he held it as long as he dared because he has known me for years and knew what the Allard would do in the drag race to the turn. There was still enough time for the Caddie’s horses to make themselves known. Leading through the first turn, we let the lads behind us sort themselves out. The rest of the race was watching the mirrors, and keeping the speed fast enough to hold off the Morgan that had gotten past the Sprite in the first turn – and then hold off the other chargers while Yrs Trly and the Allard disappeared through the second turn. First overall was a welcome result. Mike DiCola builds a good car and a great engine.

 Hershey by hyman

Hershey by hyman

            The second event came later in the month with the annual Hershey Hillclimb, also called “The Grand Ascent at Hershey”. This is a seven tenths of a mile sprint up a very narrow access road to the Hotel Hershey. “Narrow” in this case, means less than twenty feet wide. The course has been run for enough years that it holds a special place in Pennsylvania hill climbing history.  I first came there in the fall of 1970.

              Snaking through the trees that come right down to the edge of the road is not exactly what an Allard J2 was designed to do. We like wide sweeping turns and an open track for best result. Still the J2 has proven successful here over the last few years. We’re always in the top five, and that is ahead of any number of Loti and other nimbler beasties. A couple of seconds short of a minute is a very good time for anybody here at Hershey. We usually do about a 58 second run before all is said and done. This year wasn’t meant to be, though. All but uncontrollable wheel spin at the start was quickly traced to having worn most of the last of the tread from the rear tyres at the Lime Rock event. Dropping the pressure to 22 psi back there pretty much solved that problem and all was seeming well with the world. Well on the way to winning class 2, though, we heard what sounded like a very expensive noise from the engine compartment. Fortunately it happened crossing the finish line so it was a no-brainer to shut down quickly and just roll down the back side of the hill. While the very loud “rap, rap, rap” sound suggested a rod had let go, inspection proved that we broke a rocker arm for the rear cylinder on the right hand bank. The noise was that cylinder blowing back through the intake after firing.   

            As Chester A. Riley once said: “What a revoltin’ development dis is”. He was right. 

            The car will be back before the end of the season with freshened heads and two new tyres at the stern. Watch this space.        

-Jim Donick

 Hershey by hyman

Hershey by hyman