Trials and Triumphs: The Resurrection of the Red Car
We know a lot of you have been wondering if we're still racing. The truth is that's ALL we've been doing! Whether it's at the track on the weekends or every night thrashing in the garage, we've had racing on the brain. (Which really is nothing new.) We have a couple of weeks off before the next race so we thought now would be a good time to bring you up to speed, so to speak.
Well, we decided to go GT2 racing this year, which meant putting #7, the black XKE roadster, in the paddock for a year and resurrecting the "Red Car", a 1962 XKE Coupe.
For those of you who have followed our racing for a while you may remember the "Red Car" as the #88 that Bill raced in Vintage more than 20 years ago. Trent then raced the car for a couple of years until he unfortunately wrecked it in 97 at Road Atlanta. The wreck was so damaging, the "Red Car" looked like a total loss. It was given a sentimental spot in our old airplane hangar, blackflagged but not forgotten.
Necessity, though can be the cause of all "Terry Inventions". We needed a car to go GT2 racing and whether out of logic or sentiment, we kept thinking of the "Red Car".
Resurrecting the car, we soon found, was going to be quite a project! We had a whole new set of SCCA rules and guidelines that the car had to be built by and of course we had the huge problem of the bent and twisted chassis.
After a lot of hard work and many man hours, we were ready for out first GT2 race; Gateway International at St. Louis, Missouri. It didn't take many laps, however, to realize we had serious suspension problems. Although it was only an hour and a half drive from the track, it was a long ride home, and in the rain. The "Red Car" wasn't going to come out of retirement without a fight!
We had two weeks to get ready for Memphis Motorsports Park and it was a solid two weeks of throwing everything we had at the car. Even though Bill and Trent worked in the garage literally day and night, they couldn't have accomplished what they did without the help of our good friends, Bob Flowers and B&D Motorsports, Steve Parkinson, who you might recognize as the Jaguar mechanic for Al Ferguson, and of course the occasional begging of services from our in-law, Ray Bonthron of R&R Motorsports. Two Weeks however would prove not to be enough. Not only did we have the normal teething pains of a totally rebuilt race car, we had a much larger set of problems, unique to this car. After everything we had thrown at the car, it was no better. Somehow, though, we managed to pull out our first National win. It was still a long drive home, again in the rain. The win however had given us some measure of hope and the determination to come up with some workable solution. After all, you can't keep a good car or a Terry down for long!
Bill and Trent put their heads together and realizing that our major problem was with the twist and bend of the chassis, felt that putting a solid axle rear end under the Jag might be the only hope we had in salvaging the "Red Car" as a race machine. If the solid axle worked, not only would it solve our chassis problems, it would take a 150lb SCCA weight penalty off of us.
We went to the SVRA race at MidOhio with the intention of using it as strictly a test weekend. The SCCA National Runoffs would be at this track in September. We needed to run well here. Going to Ohio, we had high expectations, a rear suspension that had never been done before, and our breaths held. We nervously looked to the forecast for rain.
We threw some serious changes into the suspension! We went all the way from 150lb springs to 300lb springs. We went up and down the shock range. We changed tires. We changed toe. We changed camber. Every session the car got better. Every session we grew more hopeful. It kept threatening rain. By Sunday the patience of Trent as a driver was wearing thin. Trent really hadn't had the opportunity to even get the feel of the car yet. It was time to let the driver and car do what they do best, race.
Since we had used qualifying as a test time we were ridded last. As we were in the group with the GT1 Camaros, Pantaros, & Group 44 V12's, we tried to be realistic. By the 4th lap Trent had moved up to 2nd. It started to rain. Trent did two 360s; we all made sure our lucky pennies were heads up. He ended up going in the right direction and held off a 914 Porsche to finish 2nd overall and 1st in class. We were elated! Old #88 was going to make a race car again after all! Maybe it was about time we started giving the "Red Car" it's due. We took the old numbers for the 88 off the race trailer and preparation for the car's new number, 05. No one has ever denied that racing families can be a superstitious bunch. We'd take the help wherever we could get it. In 18 days we were going back SCCA racing and we had something to prove. We felt that the general consensus in our division was that "Boy that's a pretty Jag, but...!" We wanted to show them what a "Terry's Jaguar" could do. The solid axle had gone a long way in solving our chassis problems but it still needed something more. We went to Hallett Motor Racing Circuit with a lot of chassis changes and anew rear sway bar.
When we got to Oklahoma there would not only be suspension adjustment to make, but also Trent would have to learn the track. He had never ran here before. Hallett prove to be a much more technical and challenging track than he had anticipated. Still he qualified 6th for the Regional Race. Trent moved up quickly through the pack and challenged a BMW for the lead. They battled for the rest of the race but our #05 Red Jag held him off. We had taken a first and finally earned some respect in our division.
The hard racing and 100 degree Oklahoma heat had used up our tires. We had to go shopping for Sunday's National Race. Since we had Goodyears on, we went there first., No tires. We went to the Hoosier trailer. They only had two. We were clearly in a bind. After a lot of sorting, our only good choice, if there was one, was to go with the two new Hoosiers on the front and the two older ones we already had on the back. The old tires already had eight heat cycles on them, one of those being an enduro. Unfortunately, we were out of options.
Trent was gridded 5th for the 25 lap National race. By lap 5 he had already moved up to battle for 2nd. We had the better car but in the end it proved too much for the spent tires. We ran a strong 3rd, but as Trent�s luck would have it, at impound they informed us we were one decimal over on sound. The guy they moved up to 3rd was 5 seconds slower and we had lapped him. OUCH! It's always something!
We go to Elkheart Lake next and we promise to keep you informed as we chase the National Championship in September. But all in all our weekend in Hallett went well. We're almost home from Oklahoma and it hasn't rained on us once. We'll take that as a good sign. And really all the trouble and challenges we've had with the red car's resurrection has made us remember something we might have forgotten even after all these years of racing. It made us remember how hard all of us work, (you out there and us here) just to get these cars ready to go racing. Sometimes we finish 1st, sometimes we finish last, and sometimes we DNF. But when we're trailering home we're already thinking about what it's going to take to get it ready for the next weekend. It's a love of the sport.
So it's back to the garage for us so we can get ready for Elkheart. After all, we do have that sound problem to fix and some how, some way we've got to take our wives to dinner!
*** A special thanks to Tom Owens and Bob Waggoner for all their time and great advice! Much appreciated !