– Pirelli Trip – Day 2
© 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’.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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