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ALMS – Pirelli Trip – Day 2
July 25
© Gary Horrocks

Oregon is a proud state. The citizens are proud of their heritage and they are proud of their land. The travels today (Monday) gave some indication as to why that is.

But first, a little background. Oregon likes to have visitors come and see the sights. Come and spend money too. But they don’t want those visitors to become too long term, as in moving into the State. Tom McCall, a former Governor of Oregon, adopted a policy towards visitors, especially Californians, of “come visit, but please don’t stay.” The people of the State do not want the influx of ‘foreigners’ to ruin the ‘livability’ of the State. While that attitude has lessened somewhat over time, there are still times when cars with California plates receive notes attached to their windshield, “asking” them to return home. This attitude is much more prevalent in the outlaying areas of the State, away from the Portland metropolitan area.

The day started again early, with a short drive into Grants Pass. The destination was Hellgate Jetboat Excursions, for a two hour cruise up the Rouge river. Cruise might not be the right word here. Our jetboat was powered by two 454 cubic inch V8 motors, which combined, gave close to 800 horsepower at our disposal. You could sense the desire of all three of the Panoz drivers to have a crack at it. But even more amazing than the power was the ability of the boat to travel in depths of water of only 8” when ‘on plane’.

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It was here that we picked up a cameraman for one of the local television stations. He rode in the back of the boat, along with Hal, who was with us for the entire trip, to document the proceedings for the Speed TV coverage of the race.

As we cruised on the river, our pilot explained to us what we were seeing, pointing out some of the houses along the way, including a house that was built upon a large car garage, complete with doors on both ends. We expected to hear an explanation about all of the spectacular cars that are there, but instead were told that when the river rose well past flood level awhile ago, the owner simply raised the doors, allowing the river to flow under the house, thus saving it from any serious damage.

dailysportscar.comOur pilot had an uncanny ability to be able to spot wildlife as we were cruising. Ospreys and bald eagles were easy prey for his sharp eyes. At one point, an osprey was spotted that had just caught a fish and was attempting to carry it to a tree. The fish was a bit too big for the bird to carry properly, so it was struggling to gain altitude. It landed on a low branch, where we pulled over to observe, which is when Bryan Sellers was heard to say, “man, this is like a freaking live version of the Discovery Channel.”

dailysportscar.comOnce we got out into more open waters, the pilot was able to show off his mastery of the boat, pitching it sideways, drifting it into the corners with an ease that impressed even our race drivers. It was impressive. Once we wound our way into the canyon as deep as we could, we turned around and then the real fun began.

All of a sudden, the drifting turned into complete spins.

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In an attempt to achieve a complete 360 degree turn, it was suggested that everybody might want to move up towards the front of the boat, as this would give the proper weight distribution in which to achieve the spin. We were had. Instead of performing the spin, he cut the throttle while we were at high speed, causing the nose to dive, and giving us, the passengers another morning shower, whether we needed it or not.

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Surprise may not be the proper word for the reaction. In fact a rather startled Robin Liddell, once he gained his composure turned and spewed forth “you w***ers. We were had.” Yes we were had. We had been properly set up.

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NB. Gary forwarded some short video clips of the fun and games on (in?) the water. The clip of R. Liddell uttering that 'w' word was very funny indeed. Ed.

After a few more spins in the water, our time was up. We headed towards shore and met up with a local reporter, who took some photos of the drivers and talked with them about their impressions of the boat ride and also their racing exploits.

Now this was more like it. It met and exceeded all expectations. Everybody was buzzing about the ride and what they had seen and this buzz carried along the rest of the day.

After loading up on snacks and Starbucks, it was everybody back into the car and off we headed to Crater Lake. But here the trip hit a few snags. Lunch was marginal, (due to nobody’s fault in our group) and then we ran into the typical summer road construction that is always present, placed at ‘convenient’ spots, just to insure that it interferes with vacation travel.

dailysportscar.comThis driving time gave Marino Franchitti plenty of time to discuss his racing career thus far and racing in general. As stated earlier, he is a genuine historian of the sport, talking about all eras and disciplines of racing with great knowledge and depth. His enthusiasm for what came before was evident, when he shared a story about driving at Le Mans this year, which was his first time driving at the fabled venue. “The sun was getting low in the sky and I was just exiting Mulsanne Corner. Tom Kristensen had passed me and he raised his hand, signaling something. As the sun was low, I was having a difficult time seeing, but I could sort of see marshals waving their flags. Even though I was driving at speed and couldn’t see that well, the movie “Le Mans” flashed through my mind.”

Stories such as this were typical from Marino. One time he was giving driving demonstrations at Hockenheim. He pulled over to the side of the road on his first lap and stopped where a memorial had been placed to remember the tragic death of fellow Scotsman Jim Clark. He later found out that his brother had done the same exact thing when he was at the track for the first time.

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The discussions drifted into his current drive with Panoz, which he feels should be a competitive proposition for the rest of the year. “Bryan (his usual co-driver) and I get along quite well. Unfortunately, because of the Grand Am race in Birmingham, Bill Auberlen will not be available, so Bryan will move into the car with Robin. My car is the older chassis, which has been through quite a bit. While there is nothing really wrong with it, there are just little things here and there that add up, but we are getting it going pretty well. I think we might be able to get some good results the rest of the season, if we can keep the reliability.”

Robin had earlier explained that one of the problems with the car had been concerning driver comfort. “The heat inside the car has been tremendous. We’ve been working on making it better inside, as we added some ducting. It’s not perfect, but it is much better than it was. These are things that you just can’t address until you came across them. The last few races have been very hot, but we’re making progress.”

Bryan, who has raced at Portland before, while racing Formula Atlantic, reckoned that “while I have raced there before, I’m not sure how much of an advantage it will be. With the Atlantic car being so much lighter, the braking points are all different. I have found that when I go to tracks that I have raced at before, it takes me a bit to adjust to the earlier braking points and the different lines that the Panoz requires. I’m glad that I made the step into sportscar racing and I’m really enjoying it. I think Portland might be a good track for us to race at.”

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dailysportscar.comEventually we arrived at Crater Lake National Park. This lake, as the name implies, is a crater from Mt Mazama, which blew over 7000 years ago. It is among the deepest lakes in the world, having been measured at over 1900 feet deep in places. The deep blue water and the steepness of the crater are definitely sights to behold. An oddity about the lake is that its only source of water is from rain and the melting of the rather large quantities of snow that falls in the area.

It was here that some additional footage was filmed, and an attempt at filming an interview with Marino was halted. It seems that any filming of a commercial nature needs to have a proper permit. In what was greater than the time that it would have taken to film the piece, the Park Ranger explained that he could assist in getting the proper permit, but that it could take a day or two to get resolved. No thanks, we won’t give the park any publicity. Government regulations – you gotta love it.

In the meantime, Jack had taken Robin down into the city of Eugene, our destination for the night, for an interview. The rest of us meandered down into Eugene, making a quick stop at Salt Creek Falls.

dailysportscar.comIt was here that it was discovered that the men’s room had some issues, and well, let’s just say that Bryan failed to heed the advice to “stay to the right” when entering. We’ll leave it at that, but it did make an interesting before dinner conversation. Thankfully, by the time we were able to get in our room, clean up and finish up some more interviews with local television, it was quite late and there were not many people left in the restaurant, so the general population was spared the details.

Jack promises that tomorrow will be an easier day. He is even allowing us to sleep in, as we don’t have to leave until 9:00 am. He must be getting soft…

 

 

 

 

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