During my time working for TRACO I (like many others I’m sure) wondered what it would be like to drive a car on a track, I never did, but I was chauffeured around a few tracks by a couple drivers, at lower (non-racing) speeds, interesting but not the same.
One weekend in July (?? Year), I returned home to CA from some track just in time to light fireworks for the kids in the driveway, when Roy Woods called and said they were having problems with both Javelin engines at a track in New England, where they had rented practice time for a day or two, he said I needed to come and sort it out immediately as it was costing him a lot of $$, so I jumped on the first available midnight special.
Both engines were missing as if sabotaged, so I disassembled the ignition systems and the carbs, checking everything and replacing some components, nothing was wrong. George Follmer was Roy Woods co-driver then and he was really upset that the engines were causing problems, more so because I could not find the problem after a few hours searching. Follmer insisted that I ride the track with him and experience the problem first hand, so I donned a helmet and wormed my way into the role cage where the passenger seat would normally be. The engine was missing, just as it had been all day, not really any different than I could hear from the pit area, but I guess it made Follmer feel better.
Two laps, one of the regular pit crew mentioned that he broke the track speed record on both laps, which he may have said just to make me feel “better”. I remember his driving skills, amazing to watch, amazing what he could make that car do. I also remember a few of the really sharp turns and how scared I was seeing them coming up at those speeds, but one particular turn, a reverse camber right turn which ended in a short concrete tunnel (I say short as we were through it in no time flat), is forever burned in my memory, I was sure we were dead, twice, when I saw that tunnel wall coming up, absolutely no doubt.
When I exited the car, I’m sure I was “Green”. I had a new “Very high” respect for drivers and their extraordinary skills; I also knew that I’d never be a track driver.
The laps did have a good affect, they woke me up, as I hadn’t slept for a day or so. Being able to think for a minute or two I finally realized the common denominator for the problem; With a Chamois in a funnel and a few gas cans, we removed the water from the gas tanks of both cars, they had both been filled there at the track when they first pulled in. We removed about 10% (by volume) of water, which I would have thought impossible for an engine to run on.
So to all you drivers; I salute you and I’m truly impressed with your capabilities, now when I watch a race, I have a much better feel for what’s involved.