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Formula Motorsports

Repudiation Revisited

By Michael Tashjian • September 24, 2015

Nick was out of the game for a long time. Indeed, when he approached me to reenter the fray my concerns were expressed, with punctuation, I may add. Achieving 25 years of club membership is to pay homage when you consider the short attention span any club is capable of drawing to the table. It’s not “their” fault; it simply is the way of organizations such as ours. Nick Ventura has in every position contrived by Metro PCA over the course of time and as controversy can surround my opinion, members, considered antagonists, would enjoy our former chief instructor’s subtle yet capable “Bruce Wayne/Batman” demeanor. Fortunately, his personality has “rubbed off”, as my hubris was difficult to fit through a 12×12 commercial door, only recently to arrive at a comfort level in attitude helped through an emulation of his quiet charm.

With the last engine’s life span terminated due to piston failure at 45 hours and difficulty in procuring many vital parts, did I dare assume Nick may have strapped his helmet on for the last time? Inclusive to germination of this article lies with factual evidence of racing prowess. Skills which have delivered dozens of overall/class wins for Metro PCA and with a mere, Ahem, 914. As non-controversial as this metro driver has been, the “914” he pilots, has drawn a maelstrom where rules were put into place, especially so at National PCA levels. Many believe that this car, stylistically dubbed, The Batmobile, along with its 750 ponies arranged amidships, was the hybrid birthed in Club Hell. National rules were in a constant state of flux, in part based specifically on the Batmobile, finally insulting it through it’s installation in the prototype category; a group inclusive to the 962! Honestly, why would they put this “simple” 914 there? With every component unique and state of art, it was appropriate to leave the rear taillights as a reminder of what was once an “entry level” Porsche. I’ve no intention in rehashing his record as it truly speaks for itself, “Bruce Wayne” and his Batmobile began a legacy which spanned decades only to succumb to a lack of spares. It’s easy to understand his distaste in amassing another ride when nothing would approach performance figures in which this unique creature would put forth on qualifying sheets at Club races across the U.S. As to my satisfaction? It came in the creation of something NO ONE had ever seen before, or after.

Allowing two years for engine completion, this creature and its new power plant left our Gotham cave recently. I cautioned this quiet hunter as to how the competition has been recently, only to look into his eyes and realize caution never comes to Nick’s thought process of speed. I extolled the virtues of the new generation of track cars and factory examples of GT3’s based on the current 996. Graced with experience on the current crop of cars, along with much driving experience in Europe, my comments fell on deaf ears. Nick hears no evil, speaks no evil. Decades preceding, many club drivers opined of his driver prowess, “Nick was not just ahead of the curve, Nick was the curve!” The once famed Batmobile’s reintroduction in competition would prove agonizing to me though healing to its drivers dry spell, culminating in the ever familiar Nick-Brando-Godfather tone; “Build it, I’ll drive it, nothing else matters”.

Procuring Porsche 962 racing engine parts proved to take over two years, vital parts typified by the crankshaft and engine block, once common, would actually be recreated from scratch along with rods, valves, oil pump, and pistons. There were lessons to learn from this exasperating/time consuming project as vintage racing engines waste too much time in the details. My fortunes in racing originate in principle due to the people I hold close to me. Brought forth to this equation is one such person, Ed Pink, a famous/versatile race engine builder. Mr. Pink would prove crucial in the assemblage and testing of this, a most sophisticated and complex assemblage. His L.A. facility is a virtuoso of what true engine shops personify. In addition, Pink’s personality is so “Southern Californian Cool”. Akin to bronco riders on a ranch, we pulled a herd of ponies during our engine test sessions and properly broke in, “mapped”, crated, then shipped back one happy “blown hybrid” to NYC, along with a return promise in the form of “Marks famous artichoke sauce” for Pink’s table. Thank God the Pink man loves my sauce, as I love his shop!

With a pleasurable install/run process completed, the venerable Batmobile’s initial venture would take it to Watkins Glen PCA Club Race in June. The once common 17” tires were no longer available, as everyone of substance went to 18’s. “Batman” would run the week with old rubber and out of date brakes, feeling the pavement like Fred Flintstones feet! Again, veins thickened with ice, no tolerance towards discourse in lack of driving time, Mr. V “ponyed up” in muted volumes, “if the car’s up to it, so am I”.

Lap times, like the weather, changed radically. Rain times were impossible based on our rain tire situation, as in “none”! Dry weather/lap times spelled us on race day and went from paltry 2:18’s (two laps in two years) down to 2:03’s for qualifying position. Allowing for lack of real grip and a brake pedal that “came and went”, the oft soft spoken Metro driver was ecstatic, as was I; noting we were a mere 3 seconds of the pole! Mr. V’s goals were actually achieved in general reliability and a desire to obtain vital track time in honing his driver skills. When asked of his re-entry to competition and hiatus in driving, the mighty warrior of Gotham would again quip in a final indicative epithet, “the King isn’t dead yet”!

Indeed, this “King” would arise subsequent to a brake system correction as he assaulted the banking of Pocono for Metro’s driver ed. “long course” event. This would be a prelim to the next “real” race, with “real race rubber”. For a real sports car driver “life begins at 200”, and that time/space continuum would be gifted to us, along with the “full course” through Andy, Dorothy and Barry, members who ran the event. Those Metro Showman enlivened our show by obtaining permission to running a full, late afternoon session on the Tri-Oval! I, as well as, Nick had not been on the banks of the tri-oval in more than two decades, yet once there we lapped the field twice, as the Batmobile, and Batman would begin the process of being a “curve” for another millennium.