NZ Update #9

NZ-Navigation Page

NZ-Original announcement (Sept. 2003)

NZ Update #1 - Preparation (Oct. 15, 2003)

NZ Update #2 - Shipping the cars (Oct. 24, 2003)

NZ Update #3 - The second container (Late November)

NZ Update #4 - A Small Glitch (December 8th)

NZ Update #5 - Cars in NZ and OK (January 9, 2004)

NZ Update #6 - Arrival in NZ (Jan. 24)

NZ Update #7 - After first race weekend (February 2)

NZ Update #8 - Levels Raceway-Timaru

NZ Update #8.5 - Touring Queenstown Area

NZ Update #9 - Teretonga Raceway in Invercargill

NZ Update #10 - Dunedin Street Race

NZ Epilogue - The Last Update (March 6, 2004)


Warning. This Update #9 is highly racer oriented. Sorry 'bout that.

It's Monday evening, the day after our third race weekend at Invercargill's Teretonga race track. YEAH!!! We finally had a wonderful full DRY day of racing (Sunday). Damn. That was a long time coming! Not a totally dry weekend, you understand, but good enough and an absolutely a welcome finale for the three-race series. It really lifted everyone's spirits to have dry racing on Sunday and to put the cars away unharmed. (Well almost anyway--see below.)

As noted in last week's NZ Update #8.5, we arrived in Invercargill on Thursday evening greeted by just awful, cold, blowing-sideways rain. Crap. This, after another travel week of great weather. The weather during the week has been exemplary, but come the race weekend it rains. Then, Thursday evening, it really looked like the pattern was going to repeat. In fact it looked so bad that Elaine decided to blow town. Not really. She'd planned all along to leave Invercargill early Saturday morning, and go to Auckland for a couple of days before returning to Houston. We talked to her Sunday evening and she had a nice tour out of Auckland to the Bay of Islands.

Anyway, back to Invercargill news. Fortunately the weather on Friday was very nice and we were able to set up our pit area, do some minor service to the cars (brake pads), and get in three or four quality practice sessions to learn the track with nice (even SUNNY!) weather. That was most welcome. While the track is a rather simple layout (Sort of another LaJunta on steroids with a lot more twisties on the back side), going fast on the track (and a FAST track it is!) was difficult. Neither Diane or I felt we really had it figured out until Sunday. For you racer types, the cars were both re-geared (26:26 for me and 25:27 for Diane) for about as fast as the cars are capable of, faster than LaJunta or Pueblo. By Sunday we were both almost hitting red-line on the front straight. This means RJA was approaching 130 mph and Diane 120. Then, at the end of that front straight, there is the most amazing fast sweeper (shades of Pueblo). But it is a much bigger, faster sweeper and it comes around a full 220 degrees, not just 180. Man, it just goes on, and on, and on. It then leads into a series of twisties which were also very fast and hard to get right.

But once we figured it out on Sunday you could really fly, flat out in 3rd, thru the twisties. Very cool.

On Saturday there was some overcast and "spitting" rain. We decided that in NZ it "spits" in sheets and "drizzles" in buckets. Actually Saturday wasn't too bad compared to the other wet days. At least no torrential downpours like we had at Timaru. Even so, Diane wisely opted to skip her morning qualifying in the wet. But I forged ahead. While the qualifying session was only about 10 minutes long, it was basically on a wet track. For all you Formula Ford racers here's a hint-pump up the old Dunlops tires to 25 pounds, undo the rear sway bar, and it goes thru water like sliced butter. Very cool. I was able to qualify about 5th, but most of those were 2.0 Litre winged cars. Maybe 2nd or third in FFs. The Rainmeister LIVES!

Then, alas, Saturday afternoon races (one each) were in the dry. And, as already noted, Sunday was totally dry and everyone got in three more very nice races. Diane and here nemesis, Phil Shires, duked it out in almost every session having a great time. I was able to run well, finishing 1st or 2nd in FF. The race groupings are so weird down here. Diane ran in a group with a bunch of twin cam Super-7 type cars. I ran with things like FF's fitted with 2.0L Toyota engines. You just never knew what the hell the cars actually were, complicated by the fact that they don't require class designation on the bodywork. So . . . you just run as fast as you can, never sure what it is you're actually racing against. The concept of "Legal and Proud" (if it existed here) would be joke. It's like the bad old days at VARA. And, of course, not knowing the individual racers introduces an element of caution. Discretion was the order of the day when being around strange cars/drivers on strange tracks. To everyone's credit we avoided any trouble. Terry did get tapped pretty good at the first Ruapuna event, but it only scrapped up the rear bumper a bit. Other than that, we got away clean. And there were a number of metal-to-metals during the three events. More than we would have at home, fur sure.

As I said, the good day of racing on Sunday lifted everyone's spirits. Terry Hefty ran very well with his Elan. Dean Meiling had a good time, but the Super 7 that he was racing (Terry's car) was never quite on full power at full revs. We did a lot of Weber carburetor jetting and got it better, but Dean's top-end was a bit compromised. Nevertheless, we kept all the cars running for all three weekends with only minor adjustments here and there. WHEW! Oh, did I say "all the cars"? Oops, not quite.

Poor Paul Morgan continued to accrue points for the trip's hard luck award. Actually, he was the only one of us to accrue any hard luck points. In addition to his previously documented hard luck tales, on Saturday afternoon he sheared all the half-shaft bolts on the left side. But since not all of his luck can be bad -- there was no collateral damage as the half-shaft stayed in place and didn't flog around. Miracle man Bob Hildreth, Paul's ace mechanic who traveled with him on this trip, was able to get it fixed that evening. But then on Paul's last race Sunday afternoon something went sour on the engine after a few laps. I was behind him at the time and saw the puffs of smoke. Not good. He quickly slowed and when I went around the engine was really off song. He was able to limp back in but they just packed it in, not even worrying to analyze what went wrong since it was his last race anyway. It'll keep until the car gets back to Denver.

So, hands down, Paul gets the hard luck award for the trip. We did manage, however, to convince him of a c'est la vie attitude about his setbacks. (That's French for "shit happens".)

The Formula 5000 boys again put in a great appearance with 17 cars! This is the group of guys (and one gal) who were also at the first Ruapuna event in Christchurch where they too ran in a downpour. Yikes! 600 hp in the wet. This is probably as many F-5000 cars as you'll ever see at one time, maybe even more than raced here at Teretonga back when Brian Redman was kicking butt in the series back in the original F-5000 races down here. At this event there were 5000s from England, Hong Kong, Australia and NZ. One of the organizers for this great F-5000 assemblage is David Abbott, a racer from Christchurch and a very good friend of Larry's. (You may recall that David and his wife Anna hosted a wonderful party at their home for Team Denver and F-5000 folks.) David is a key organizer of the F-5000 cars, creating a really nice "feature" race for events here and in Australia, a traveling circus like some of the vintage F1 guys have done in the States.

Which reminds me. We were told that there were a total of 29 international entries in this series of races including folks from the US, Hong Kong, Australia, United Kingdom, Spain, and Macao. From the U.S. there was the six NZ or Bust racers from Denver, 5 or so from Seattle, and one from LA that we were aware of.

Larry Detrich also brought his Ralt Formula SuperVee down for the weekend and ran very well, dominating his group. He has raced here before and knew the track was a blast. Sho' 'nuf! 'Tis!

For the trip so far, everyone in the Denver NZ or Bust gang went separate ways for touring and stayed in places of their own choosing. It wasn't until this past Saturday and Sunday evening we were able to socialize over dinner. On both occasions it was great fun, especially considering the spirits lifted by the improving weather. Sunday evening's dinner was a great bon' voyage for all. Then to cap it off, John and Trish Crawford and their mechanic lads (here to support a flock of the F-5000 cars) came in to eat at the same restaurant. Those guys have really been busting their hump in the past few weeks. Those honking F-5000 cars are very HIGH maintenance machines to say the least. So no doubt a nice dinner was a welcome respite. It was fun yukking it up a bit with the lads all of whom we've come to really enjoy.

As you may recall, only Diane and I have opted to continue on for the fourth event in the Southern Festival of Rain, I mean the Southern Festival of Speed, series. The rest of the Denver NZ or Bust crowd is touring or continuing on their way. The Heftys (Terry and Noel), Phil and Renee Shires, and Dean Meiling and his lady friend Madylon (Sorry, Madylon, don't know your last name) are all touring for another week in NZ. Paul and Glenda Morgan and Bob Hildreth are off to home or other international destinations. No doubt about it. Paul and Glenda spend more time on international flights than anyone I know. Diane and I, meanwhile, are staying in a nice little kitchenette motel in Balclutha (near Dunedin), doing laundry this evening, writing these notes, kicking back a bit, eating some wonderful leftovers from restaurants, and getting ready to hit it another lick next weekend in Dunedin. Oh, the leftovers are from places we ate, not out of a dumpster, in case you're wondering.

We'll do some touring without the trailer on Tuesday and Wednesday before hopping over to Dunedin.

When we get back to Denver, I'm contemplating burning a CD slideshow with all the pictures taken while down here. More on that digital trick in late March when (and if) I get it done.

That's it for now. Wish us luck with the final Dunedin weekend. It turns out it's a Sunday only street race. So we'll just try to show up, take it real easy, put on a nice show for the locals, and bring the race cars back in one piece. This street race is apparently now a forty year old event, or something like that. Should be an interesting experience. Not a race, you understand, more of an experience. We WILL be taking it very easy.
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John and Trish Crawford had to put down their 17 year old cat last week. So, Kay Detrich, being the cat lover that she is, arranged for Trish to pick up a replacement kitty in Invercargill. The kitty was named "Ticket" (as in just the ticket). This is Trish and Ticket in the kitchenette of the transporter which brought the Denver race cars to Invercargill.
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As noted above, all the Denver racers and significant others finally got together for a dinner Saturday evening in Invercargill. The Morgans and Bob Hildreth, unfortunately, missed the dinner as they were at the track struggling with the broken half-shaft on the March.
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On of the other U.S. racers was Peter Giddings and his pre-war Maseratti. Got to hand it to Peter. He races significant cars all over the world (including having raced with RMVR at Steamboat). Yet here he was, low key as could be, working out of a little pup tent (in the background) and hauling the car in an open trailer to all the races. Very cool.
teretonga8dinner.jpg (17386 bytes)Sunday evening the Denver NZ or Bust gang also went out to dinner. Turns out John and Trish Crawford brought their gang of mechanics to the same restaurant that evening. Don't know where Ticket was, but the rest of the lads were enjoying some well earned beers, for sure. Keeping those F-5000s running was damn hard work.
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Before we started racing at Teretonga Raceway (in the town of Invercargill), Diane and Elaine went down the town of Bluffs, only about 5 miles south of Invercargill. This town is probably the southern most town in New Zealand. Look hard and you can see Antarctica some 3000 miles to the south.
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As noted in the above narrative, the highlight of this meet was another appearance of all the Formula 5000 cars. There was seventeen of them, all in a row. These guys travel in style, having their own tents set up in the pits. Not sure how much was driven by style or just local knowledge that the tents are great when the weather gets bad (as it does with great regularity). Quite an amazing display of the grand old open wheel race cars.
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At weekend's end, Chris and Ben, two of Crawford's mechanics, give Diane a congratulatory kiss for finishing up another successful weekend of racing. Chris is also the resident racing instructor at Ruapuna, the same track where John Crawford has his race prep facility.