In April our monthly run was to the “The Runway Café” at the Woodlake Airport. The airport is for small aircraft only. The town is small and sitting on the very edge of the foothills surrounded by orange groves. Last year when we tried this run, Mother Nature did not cooperate; she decided to send some rain our way. We ended up with 5 cars. This year was very different, the weather was perfect. The weather was cool but with sunshine. The scent from sweet orange blossoms filled the air. Top down weather, oh yah.
This location was chosen since it is located at a midpoint for our club members. A group from the Visalia area met in the parking lot at “The Habit Burger”. The group included, 2 MGB’s, a Midget, a TR6, a TR3 and a 240z. We would have had 2 more but a MG Midget and a TR7 were temperamental that morning but their owners still showed up in their SOB’s.
We had the 240z lead us through some back roads for a more relaxed and scenic route. (and to inhale deeply the smells of the orange blossoms). The Fresno group met up at the Hwy. 163 and Hwy.180 junction. They had about 10 cars and were lead through the foothills into Woodlake. Oddly enough we got there about the same time. There was a late arrival of an MGA that missed our connection in Visalia and a couple of Jag’s that missed the Fresno connection. So almost 20 cars, turned out, much better than last year, and a damn fine site I might add.
The Café has a outside patio, and since the weather was sooo nice we took it over. As we sat around enjoying a fine breakfast we had live action of small aircraft taking off and landing right next to us. Way cool. After breakfast most everyone headed home. My wife and I along with our buds in the 240z decided we would head up the hills for more driving. We hit a couple of antique places and made a pit stop for Ice cream before heading home.
On March 16 the Valley British Auto club held an event listed as the “Erin go Bragh” rally in celebration of St. Patrick’s day. See the definition below:
Erin go Bragh (pron.: /ˌɛrɪn ɡə ˈbrɑː/), sometimes Erin go Braugh, is the Anglicization of an Irish phrase, Éirinn go Brách, and is used to express allegiance to Ireland. It is most often translated as “Ireland Forever.”
So, in the spirit of any good Irishman the meeting place to start the rally was, Grogg’s Traditional Irish Pub. We arrived for registration about 8:45. We went to our Rally Master for the needed information, checked out the competition ( they were very intimidating) and made some final preparations to the car, Top down, water bottles at the ready, clipboard, pencils sharpened, maps ready, sunglasses, on, and hats tightened up. My navigator and I reviewed the rules and continued to eye the other competitors.
At 09:35 hours the first car was released. We were given the route and instructions as we were released. There were 5 points of interest; each point had one or more questions to answer, there was also a bonus question to answer. The route had been carefully evaluated in terms of time and distance, so “short cuts” were discouraged.
And we were off, our first turn, whoops missed that. OK, back on track, we fell in behind a couple of other competitors. First check point, whoops missed that too, found other competitors and was able to get the first check point done. And off we went again. Off to the third checkpoint, wait a minute what happened to the second??? Back we went, second check point done, now off to the third. This next check point was a bit of a drive so my navigator and I were able to regroup. As were pulled into the third checkpoint we got an idea who was ahead and who was behind us, yes behind us, we were not in last place. Now we had new hope, we jammed to the next point, my navigator did a great job of getting us there, and we were off again, we had gained positions. We flew to the next stop, whoops we missed it, ended up taking a tour of a golf coarse, then found the last check point. Then off to the finish we went. Checked in and went to the pub to wait for the results.
The Rally Master entered to read the results, you could cut the tension in the room with a knife. In first place…Russ in his TR4, in second place, Julie in her Mini, and in third place…wait for it…wait for it…yes, we got it. The prizes, a gift card to the pub, a bottle of Baily’s Irish Cream and for us a 6 pack of Guinness. At this point I should note there were 6 cars, which 2 did not finish, so we ended up next to last?? In our minds it all seemed so much bigger. This event was my first Rally, I had a blast. Thanks to Dan my fill in navigator, since the wife decided not to go. Thanks, to Martin our Rally Master and his judges for setting up a fun event, hope we do it again.
Richard, the MG Guy
MINI Thunder is an event created by Shasta MINIs which enables owners of these diminutive motors to explore their vehicles’ (and their own) full potential on a racetrack, with appropriate oversight. In other words, drive your MINI (or Mini) as Issigonis and co. intended; stay on the tarmac, and don’t crash into anyone!
The track used for this terrific event is Thunderhill Raceway Park, an extremely challenging 2.86 mile-long ribbon which writhes and undulates seductively through the hills east of Mendocino National Forest and west of Willows, California. The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) created this marvelous playground in 1993, and has overseen numerous improvements in the intervening years.
Steve Phillips chose this occasion to debut his newly-minted racing engine, which of course makes its home in his 1966(?) light blue vintage Mini racer. Through the use of magical incantations (“race track – new MINIs- old Minis – high octane – speed – beer“), Phillips roped Marty Hardison and yours truly into being his ad hoc “pit crew” for this particular excursion. High expectations for this new motor were tinged with apprehension: Would the new-fangled oil cooler setup yield benefits? Would the ministrations of Brian, the genius engine guru, result in the anticipated Herculean-sized output from the Lilliputian-sized engine? How would the wee terror cope with the rather larger new MINIs, which are fortified with artificial means of induction? Would the beer supply be sufficient? The tension mounted…
Sunday February 17 began slightly cloudy and windy, with the temperature best described as “crisp” – ideal conditions for running a highly tuned 1275 BMC engine; your motley pit crew descended on the vintage machine, checked fluids and pressures, and didn’t fail to add some of Sunoco’s best 112 octane. Soon it was time to launch the latest edition of #37 into the fray, which in this case was the “advanced” group, primarily composed of warmed over street MINIs (including a couple of Countrymen!) with competent pilots, along with a sprinkling of race-prepped machines, with, presumably, even more advanced drivers. Each session ran 20 minutes, usually enough time for about 7-8 laps. The initial sortie saw Steve driving well within his and his vehicle’s capabilities, the better to allow the new engine to settle, and also to gauge the track conditions.
Upon returning to the “pits”, i.e. the shadow of the trailer, Steve reported that the vehicle performed well, and all indicators were in the normal ranges. A minor oil leak from the new oiling system was tightened up; valves were adjusted, and all fluid levels were re-checked. More fuel was added, and then we observed the less-skilled groups circumnavigate the track as we awaited the next session.
The second session proved uneventful, the Mini and its driver performing well, as expected. Shortly thereafter, the afternoon arrived, bringing with it an increase in temperature, though conditions remained comfortable. Fortunately, the afternoon also meant a well-deserved catered lunch for driver and motley pit crew.
Three more runs were scheduled for the pm, however the logistics involved in allowing the #37 crew to return home at a decent hour dictated that the final session was skipped.
However, four runs were more than sufficient to demonstrate the potency and durability of the new motor. The car performed well, and the motley pit crew made no major errors, resulting in the weekend being declared an overall success.
While the track activities were the raison d’etre for the event, there were a number of other attractions for the enthusiast. There was a V-Tech powered original Mini Estate; a new MINI project with turbo engines front and rear; and the appearance of the new factory hot-rod, the 2013 MINI GP, the quickest-ever factory MINI.
Whether you own one of the many iterations of the Mini or MINI, a trip to Thunderhill Raceway to experience MINI Thunder is a must for any motor sports fan. If you own one, then a fee of approximately $200 will allow you to drive as fast as you dare, includes expert instruction, and will enable you to learn more about driving in one day than you will likely discover in five years of street driving. Truly a monster bargain for a mini price.
January 26th, 2013; weather forecast; chance of rain, if not then a chance of tule fog or a combination of both. We were not sure what it was going to do this time of year, but we set up a breakfast run to Kingsburg anyway. Most of our members of VBAC come from Fresno or Visalia and Kingsburg is a midpoint to hook up. The Dala Horse Restaurant was the destination. They are well known for their Swedish Pancakes.
I set up a meeting spot for the Visalia group at a grocery store parking lot at the edge of town. The ride of choice on this morning was our ’71 MGB Roadster, my co-pilot (my lovely wife) prefers the top up, which was fine with me since it turned out to be a high fog with a constant drizzle coming down. Well, three other British cars were daring enough to show up, all three were Triumph TR6’s. I decided to take the long way into Kingsburg, vs. getting on the Freeway. I used to be into farming and love taking the country roads. I like to take my time and check everything out.
Well, after getting some introductions we headed off. One MGB and one TR6 (tops up, I think I heard wimps whispered), two of the TR’s had their tops down. The constant drizzle kept the roads wet and I needed to run my wipers. It still cracks my wife and I up when those three little wipers are doing their best to keep the wet off the wind screen. In order to keep the tire spray off their cars we kind of spread out a bit. In my mind it went like this; check out those TR6’s falling back and can’t keep up with my B. We all have dreams.
When we got into the Swedish Village of Kingsburg and pulled up to the Dala Horse we did see a few more Little British Cars outside, a good sign. When we got inside our group almost took up the whole place, albeit a small place. They added a couple more tables for our group to fit. As I mentioned they are famous for their Swedish pancakes and I had been drooling all the way there thinking about them, (of course I told the wife it was drizzle coming in from my window). My wife loves their oatmeal pancakes and I think she had the beginnings of drool breaking the edge of her mouth also.
Well, we ate and got to meet some new people. We also got to hear about some interesting projects that people had going on and I am hoping for some follow up on a few of those. I think a grand unveiling by one might be in order. After breakfast we took a few pics outside and the group headed off in their own direction. By now the sun was beginning to break, so the wife and I took more back roads home.
As always thanks to all those who showed up, no matter the weather, and those of you reading this from other states, where you drive in snow and have weather much worse than us here in central California, much respect.