When arriving at Columbus Motor Speedway in Columbus, Ohio, I was greeted by Dave Wenger, the man in charge of the sign up table for the Mid Ohio Region Porsche Club of America (MORPCA) autocross. Dave talked to me for a little while as people were arriving, pointing at Mopar Connection’s latest project car “Orange Crush,” asking, “Is that a ’73 Dart?” I told him it was a ’72 but he was very close and I was impressed he knew it was a Dart. Interestingly enough, Dave used to own a 1969 Formula S Barracuda 340 car in high school. He really misses the car and wishes he had it back but that’s not an easy car to find anymore.
“I sold the car to a guy up north and he ended up wrapping the car around a telephone pole a few weeks later,” Dave said in disgust. As Dave and I were finishing up our conversation, I opened the trunk to start unloading when Dave looked at me and goes, “Well, that won’t pass tech, you can’t have anything in your trunk.” I smiled and told him, “Thanks, I was aware but with the car being older I try to come prepared for anything.” He chuckled and had to get back to the sign in station.
As I was emptying my trunk, I could feel the competition watching my every move, wondering why I had so much stuff. Most of them had a small bag of tools and a cooler. After unloading half of my garage out of the trunk, I needed to rejet my carburetor. Luckily, I got to the track early enough that I had time. I spent the night before installing smaller jets because the weather had been in the 90s with high humidity. That morning, while driving to the track, the weather cooled off into the 70s with low humidity. The car was stuttering and needed the bigger jets put back in. So here I was pulling the carburetor apart and reinstalling the jets I took out the night prior. Luckily, the Holley 650 DP is pretty easy to work on and I had the bigger jets back in and carb back together with a few minutes to spare.
I was able to relax for a little while and enjoy all the cars rolling in. As one would have guessed there were a few Porches but not as many as I assumed there would be. Later, I found out that a lot of the MORPCA members were in Indianapolis for an event. There were a couple Porsche Caymans, Boxers and a few of the front engine Porsches of the 80s. The rest of the cars varied from BMWs, a C7 ‘Vette, a ’13 Viper GTS, Mustang 5.0, a ’12 Challenger R/T, a LT1 Camaro, BRZ, S2000 and more. Once again I was the only car there with a carburetor.
As the last guy pulled in, we started the drivers’ meeting. They split us into two different groups, gave us some basic rules and we were off, my group was up first. They had us get in line and started sending us out. Your first couple laps is all about getting a feel for the track and learning the course. If you miss a gate, or 3 (like I did), or not sure how to enter a slalom, this is the time to learn. After that, you can continue to increase your speed and decrease your times. The first couple laps I missed a couple gates and it took me until my 4th lap to get a good feel for the track.
My tires were finally warming up and the car was sticking really good. The first session we were able to run 6 laps and I continued to lower my time all the way up to Lap 6. The group I was in finished up our first session. We had to work the track as the second group or “fast” group was up next. As I was walking onto the track, I started talking with Mark, the owner of the Viper GTS. I told him I just barely got into the 47’s with a 47.9-second run. He hadn’t gone that fast yet, and congratulated me. As we worked the field picking up cones as they were knocked over, I tried to learn from the faster drivers and cars. I picked up on a few better lines and was ready to see if I could continue to decrease my times further. It was a confidence booster to see that I was running faster than a couple of the cars in the “fast” class. As the second group finished up we broke for lunch.
We only had about 45 minutes to eat and I wanted to give the Dart a quick once over before we started our second session. I scarfed my lunch down, checked over the Dart and was ready to for a few more runs. In my first lap back out, I clocked my fastest time yet at 46.7. In my second lap, I went almost another second faster than my first, pulling 45.8! I was amazed how much faster the track was than in the morning, but then things went south.
My third lap felt really good and half way through the car stuttered and my time increased. I wasn’t sure what the stutter was so I decided to make one more lap and that didn’t help. It stuttered and almost died a couple times on the track. I knew I was done at that point. I have been fighting some vapor lock issues but I thought they were all resolved. I pulled the car back in the parking lot and shut it off, missing out on the last couple laps.
I talked with Mark again and asked how fast he got with the Viper, he said he broke into the 46s but that was it. He could tell his tires and the track felt a lot better during the second session but still had some traction issues. He asked me what happen to the car, I told him about the stutter and had called it a day. He asked if I got any better times and told him I hit 45.8 and his jaw dropped. The last event I was at with Mark, his Viper beat me by at least a second. At the end of the day I looked over the time log and noticed there were multiple cars in the autocross that I beat. Even though I had to cut it short, the day was still a win for me!
I was excited to be racing at Columbus Motor Speedway because this is the last year the track will be operating. The track is being bought by the city of Obetz and will be turned into a park. Built in 1945 as a motorcycle-racing track, it later was was used for stock cars and super modifieds. It has continued to be a great asphalt-racing track in Columbus since then. They have had drivers such as Neal Sceva, Dick Freeman, Benny Parsons and Ralph O’Day race here over the years. Its closure is very sad news for the racing community. It has been a great autocross track for MORPCA and other groups for many years.