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April 2004 racing article (Las Vegas)

mark belrose

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Below is the text from my fourth submission for the Z Owners of NorCal newsletter. Read the Jan 2004 article first for a bit of background on the car.

The saying, “Speed cost money, how fast do you want to go?” is true in most types of auto racing. At the Vintage Auto Racing’s March 12-14 event at Las Vegas Speedway, this slogan once again became apparent. What makes competition within VARA rather unique is there are often a wide variety of experience and preparation levels on the track at the same time. The track at Las Vegas is a very tight, technical course – the opposite of my last race at California Speedway. Top speed means nothing here; being able to corner well and pull hard out of the corners makes for good lap times. The best drivers in the best machines really have an extra advantage at Las Vegas.

Saturday morning’s session is like a time trial, where your best lap time is used to place you accordingly on the grid for that afternoon’s qualifying race. The finishing order of the qualifying race then dictates the starting grid order for Sunday’s final. To spice things up, the few “faster” A and B Production cars at Las Vegas were thrown into our C Production race. For some reason I did not run well during Saturday morning’s session, running 11th best out of 28 cars. One of the B Production cars, a 1965 Mustang, qualified 12th and as a result gridded up next to me for the afternoon qualifying race. The Ford was like a hulking monster next to our 2000-pound cars. When the green flag dropped the Mustang floored it and by taking advantage of his huge horsepower, mowed through the middle of the field, scattering our little cars like dust in the wind. I sort of got a kick out of it except for the fact that the Ford was now in my way and I needed to figure out how to get past him. The Mustang didn’t handle or brake very well but pulled away in the straights. After three laps of trying to get around him, I finally was able to late brake him coming into turn 1. After I got around him, it was like turning on a spigot. I looked in my rear view mirror just in time to see three more C Production Porsches pass him all in one shot.

I passed four cars during the qualifying race, and thanks to the generosity of the fastest Porsche 911 driver who decided to make an off track excursion, I gridded up in the 6th spot for the final event. The most exciting part of any race for me is actually before the green flag, when the cars form up in preparation for the start. Once the flag drops, I seem to settle down. That’s probably a good thing too, as when the green in waved there is barely controlled chaos with everyone trying to pass everyone else in turn 1. During this particular start no one gained any positions and the starting order held true to form after completing lap one. The 911 in front of me had a nice gap, as did I over the 914-6 chasing behind.

Three laps from the finish I started having trouble downshifting. The 914-6 rapidly started rapidly making up ground when all of a sudden a cloud of smoke erupted from my transmission and I knew that once again my day was done. I came into the pits and proceeded to correct the problem by having some beers with my buddies. All in all, despite not finishing, it was an excellent weekend. The weather was great; we partied with lots of people, and enjoyed our time down on the Strip.

Mark Belrose

'70 Datsun 240Z vintage road racer

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