Petit Du Jour and Backroads from Berkeley ( part one )
Saturday morning, a large latte and the big box is on awaiting the start of Petit Le
Mans. I am sifting through a large pile of photos and documents of what occupied
my time the past week. Checking old race records of a 917 is never an easy task,
most of the stuff in print is questionable at best. At least I have some copies of
factory documents. Hearing about what may be a Lotus 26R that has been stored
in a shipping container in Marin County was something else altogether.
Looks like a decent crowd for Petit, weird to see the Audis so far back on the
grid…. this is the best ALMS grid since Sebring.
It was late last week and I got a call from Mike Youles AKA the Padre. He was
Ireland for some vintage gig along with a pal of his named Pat Thomas. I asked
Padre why he wasn’t at Spa running at their gig…. his answer ? We have the
fastest car here, mate ! Obviously Padre was in a pub and in the process of getting
suitably refreshed, as Brooksie likes to say. It turns out that Padre wanted to know
of any Lotus 26R’s for sale in the U.S. as Pat’s main business is that of a Lotus
specialist in the U.K. ( Kelvedon Motors ) Sure, I told him. I know of a few and
some good wrenches that work on them, call me in a few days and I will tell you
What a great start Weaver had in the MG Lola… and the Creation just looks like
what a prototype should. It can’t last, the Audis are just to good but this is just too
cool. When did Field take driving lessons, he is absolutely flying out there ! How
can anyone get pumped up watching Grand Am, hell I wouldn’t take their whole
field in trade over these six… or seven. Whatever… how the hell did the Saleen get
by the Pratt brats to lead the first lap ?
One of the better race prep guys in the biz is Jim Groom and his shop in Berkeley
always has the world class machinery in the process of mechanical rejuvenation.
Problem with Groom is getting him to talk… a real man of few words. “ Jim, any of
your customers want to sell their 26R’s ? …. Hmmm, well maybe one but I know
of a series 1 that is local and has been in the same hands since 1977…. can you
check on it and get back to me asap ?… I will but why don’t you call back tomorrow
”. So it goes…
Flying Lizard doesn’t seem to have their act together, the Alex Job cars look good
but this is only the first hour and the Lizards are somehow always in contention for
points. But Roman Dumas is on a whole ‘nother planet. That looks like Kussmaul
in the AJR pits… what an unsung hero of Porsche success. Big shunt, looks like a
LMP and a Porsche Cup car, no replay except for hitting the wall. That one has got
to hurt, another yellow…
The weather is pretty nice in Berkeley today. I rode up from L.A. with Terry
Burkhart and then borrowed a ride to get to the bay area. At the moment I am
looking at a Ferrari 250 LM that is at Groom’s shop for a routine service after
running the Monterey Historics. We are going to look at this 26R that is over in
Marin as soon as Jim gets off the phone. I mentioned to my friend Steve about this
26R and he expressed interest if the Brits bail on buying it.
What a letdown. Most didn’t think the Dyson MG Lola’s would go the distance but
this is way to early for them to have problems that will cost them any chance of
winning. The Creation looked good while it was running… when you consider that
these teams are doing their own development against what Audi has spent on the
R8 it makes their performances against Ingollstadt all that much more impressive.
Audi is going to win Petit Le Mans again but they certainly didn’t dominate the race
in the early proceedings… but to finish first, you have to finish as the saying
Ric’s shop in Marin is a cross section of everything automotive in the bay area.
Bimmers. Porsches, VW’s, Benz product, Volvo and out front is Ric’s toy of the
moment, a 32 hi-boy rod. John Milner lives… in the conversation I bring up the
name of a shop in Marin years ago and if Ric knew the owner.
“Sure do, his son works for me, his name is Mark and he is in the office”.
“Hi… are you Mark Kirberg ? I bought a Porsche 906 from your father back in
1979”. The 26R was in a shipping container to one side of Ric’s shop. As the
doors swung open to reveal the little white Lotus, I knew instantly that it was a
good car. Deal done but to whom ?
The two Alex Job cars have not looked this good since Sebring. Alex may be a
somewhat reserved individual but his bulletproof image has taken a beating this
year with solid efforts from the other Porsche teams, especially the Lizards from
NoCal. Whether a change at PMNA from Alwin Springer to Uwe Brettal has
benefited the other teams remains a topic of conversation among conspiracy
theorists but I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. The hardest thing to
do in any form of competition is to remain on top for constant period of time. Job
has delivered impassively for a number of seasons now but can no longer take
anything for granted.
Now I am sitting in the cramped seat of the 26R talking to Steve on my mobile.
You are buying this car… the motor has less than 1000 miles on it and everything
seems in order and a no questions about it’s history is a rare find these days. I
may be throwing away a decent profit but knowing that Steve will keep this Lotus
for a while means I get to drive it. That’s worth a lot right there.
The Corvette battle on track between teammates has been a good one. Feehan
is fortunate that things turned out so well this season after the shake up of
personal. Would the results be the same if the massacre had not happened ? Of
course they would be the same. However, that wasn’t the point was it ? Of course if
Prodrive and their Ferrari were active again the song would be sung in a far
A deal was reached on the 26R and it would be sent over to Groom’s shop for
prep so Steve could make the vintage race at the Coronado Island naval base off
San Diego. Now I just have to get it down from Berkeley in time for the race. Maybe
I can ask Terry Burkhart to do the haul… no, it’s harvest time at the farm and Lizett
Bond is punching cattle near Reno so that means it’s backing up a trailer time for
Only a few laps to go before Dr. Don let’s the fireworks go off over Road Atlanta
signaling the end of another Petit Le Mans. Anyone with a memory knows that
anything can happen in the Georgia darkness… just ask J.J. Lehto when
teammate Jorg threw it all away the lead by dumping the BMW LMR in the dirt thus
handing the win to Panoz. All in all, this year’s PLM was a good race, lots of action
even with a slim prototype field in the top class. There are still class
championships to be settled at Laguna Seca so the final season results are far
from certain. Just ask the Flying Lizard gang who recovered from what should
have been a disaster to finish in the points and take their battle with the Alex Job
Porsche team to the Monterey peninsula.