An insomnia-driven dew hazes my tender, surgically improved eyes from the luminescent bulb burning over my typewriter this early morning. Outside, the Autumn rain is gaining strength, beginning its rhythmic beat, which Gotham will subconsciously follow, its traders and players of world markets affected by a dismal commute to the canyons of deal ecstasy. Within my domain dwell many of their spoils and some “leftovers” that you and your friends consider fast or want to be “made” faster.
“BOOM BOOM ROOM” evolved from personal nomenclature. At times, it has characterized either of two crucial, if not redeeming stations of the vital forces within. Events spilling forth from Room One initiate through cataclysmic reactions to the brain -chemistry, upon presentation of seemingly unsolvable issues (Crunch time). Inside that second room, the sonic shattering of silence is created, constrained by the four walls of my establishment, replete with unmuffled horsepower dying to be engaged by some road surfer or track junkie, quite. possibly you.
I cannot express how meaningful your comments to my columns are, and as busy as I can get, the scripting of experiences in this life of Porsche is most impelling. Profound incidents should be lessons to learn from, and this year’s pole positions by Nick Ventura must be heard loud and clear. His horrific, yet captivating crash occurred two years ago. As spectators filled their eyes with the graphic realities of racing, the guardrail of Lime Rock’s “Pit In” surgically sliced his famously successful racecar in half. Not an end. Just another round in the chamber. Both he and I have driven to or been driven from the hospital. And always the discussion, as the rotation of a revolver’s chambers, is about. justifying the next round that must be readied. And it would be.
It is said that a revolution begins with the. first act of violence. The “been there, done that” life of service to the Porsche car has offered me an auspicious career, along with its tutelage on taming crushing defeat and building upon it. Thinking ahead allows us to contain this violence and continue to climb the ladder of significant speed. Late in 1998, work began (again). While simply buying a. ready-made racecar is fantastic-, building one from scratch offers up a much richer reward.
Subliminal accolades aside, realizing a pole position or overall win is secondary to a competitor’s opportunity to sour the air sarcastic! The pits have a propensity for negative enunciation. Racers without talk, those with don’t. F both. Money needs talent: talent requires money. Do your own homework and come to the table with something to offer.
I have been forever spoiled by having the use of a CAD (computer assisted design) program in our construction of Batmobile 11. It proved itself over and over as an invaluable tool for foolproof positioning of a 993 suspension system in a new chassis, when there were seemingly endless ways to achieve this objective. Painstaking measurements of both the chassis and suspension were essential to success of the transplant. With measurements “plugged in,” another software product enabled us to achieve a virtual picture of how components would create a marriage of -sophistication and simplicity. Having this capability would allow a change in ride height and alignment specifications at will. with predictable results.
Armed with this “blueprint,” I began in earnest on the actual hammering and cursing interlude last. fall. *As mentioned in previous columns, the back half of the frame was removed from my elaborate pulling apparatus. Then, we created a “surface Plate” on which the new “tub” would reside. This fixed anchoring on my geometrically square chassis correction machine would offer perfect alignment of parts as I attached newly manufactured pieces of this ‘4120 mph puzzle Bear in mind, that the silhouette of the completed machine had to duplicate its prior appearance, or interpretation of rules might come into play: Completion of the chassis would not be in the cards, until this March, with the first race date looming a mere three weeks later. Nick was, as usual. succinct. His only demand was, “if it isn’t ready for Lime Rock, I don’t -want it.”
Remember that Room One of mine? Boom Boom went my brain’s chemicals for the ensuing weeks. We cobbled together a crew to reassemble the finished chassis. Hotel accommodations were provided, as 24 hour days would be the norm in our reuniting Nick with “The Rock” for PCA Racing. The machine had to provide a safe haven for the driver, good adhesion and predictability, along with an advanced drivetrain delivering gobs of power. However, several questions remained while on our way to the track with a racecar still warmed by my tig welder.
Hours earlier, BOOM BOOM ROOM two had exploded into a cacaphony of eurythmy, escalating to music heard in the only two practice sessions that were allowed on race day. The Chief Scrutineer for PCA Racing salivated at our presence, since he had been forewarned of our inevitable return. Inspectors pored over this innovation, expecting to find our tradition of pushing the envelope. I could remain undemonstrative. They would engage in dismay as we did not register in our typical (justifiable) class. Batmobile 11 was promptly “bumped” into the Prototype class, where we would be competing with 962’s, etc. Thank you very much.
Rational thoughts were clouded in a sea of lost sleep and exhaustion at eight o’clock on race day morning, and any adjustments or changes could only come from the results of two 20 minute warmups. Ugh! Were we WAY over our expectations in this pseudo battle environment” Our machine would essentially compete against itself and its previous “official time” of 55 seconds. To go out on a track after a two year hiatus, with a “new” racecar that never turned a wheel is a feeling tantamount to your first ride on the Cyclone of New York folklore… in the front car, sitting on top of the seat back, locked in only by your feet to the bar as the first drop begins and your hands let go. It’s like that when you get up on boost with 800 horsepower straining to be free. The cold rear tires beg for heat to create traction and make Batbobile 11, like the front car of the Cyclone, stay on the track.
I’ve never before experienced such flawless behavior as I witnessed that day. The driver and car delivered all of my expectations in one fell swoop. First session out of the box, Nick ran a 55, An adrenalin rush offered up the correct adjustments demanded by chassis and engine management for a second trip, and we were ready for official qualifying. Nick drove professionally and took the Pole Position, Fastest Time of Day with a low 54. Elated by this result coupled with our previous racing tenure, I knew our performance window had been only partially opened.
The disappointment which ensued was immeasurable, sending me to my room to ponder our sporting chance. Pacing his race group off the downhill as he has done many times before, and awaiting the drop of the green flag, the only failure Nick would encounter befell him. The car stalled and he coasted in. Disillusionment abounded. A race we had “in the bag” was lost to a @##$ broken battery. Nevertheless, I counted the day as a victory of sorts. One short weekend later, we came home from Pocono armed with another pole position; but another “easy win” eluded us, simply because of “racing luck.” Ahh, the faster you are, the faster you had better be faster.
It was my father’s idea to take me to my first sports-car race. A group of Bridgehampton, Long Island businessmen had organized races for foreign sports cars on the public roads south of town. The 4 mile, roughly rectangular course enclosed the golf club, ran past stately homes, over bridges and around potato and cornfields. The races were held in June, starting in 1949, and the whole town pitched in selling hot dogs, programs and parking places on the front lawns.
Slender men in English clothes carried heavy leather helmets, while lovely women in plaid skirts and camelhair coats sat on picnic blankets with wicker baskets that had been unloaded, along with the spare tire, jack and other nonessentials, from cars that were about to go into combat.
The drivers didn’t look like the burly sports heroes my school friends emulated. They looked like me-or at least the way I wanted to look if only I would grow a little. I guessed that to be a race driver, you needed to be brave, a daredevil, which was my own adolescent self-image. It required some knowledge of cars and engines, which I didn’t have, but I knew I could learn. This was something I might be able to do-and do well.
On the drive home, we passed restaurants and hotels with sports cars out front, some still with their race numbers on the sides. Inside, I pictured those streamlined drivers with their golden-haired women, having a wonderful party.
“This is the perfect life,” I thought. Beautiful cars, beautiful people.
It was a new summer romance. And the beginning of a life-long love affair.
This significant excerpt was culled from the writing of a great driver, definitive gentlemen and a friend to all whom were lucky enough to have been graced with his presence and kindness.
If this small sampling of his motorsports wisdom touched you, if you relate to this youthful experience, well then, he will always be here, in our memories and serve as but a small tribute to this special sportsman..
NEVER FORGET-BOB AKIN
I’ll race with you on the other side of anywhere, my friend
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