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Motor Racing Casts Its Spell on Number 38

It’s been a while since I posted the first episode of Roy Jacobson’s adventures in motor racing – definitely time we heard more. So here is an account of how it all began for him:

Roy and an Old M.G. Make Their Entrance

In 1971 I entered my M.G. TD in a hill climb, a small M.G. club event. I won outright and that was the spark that lit the fire.

Roy

Lime Rock, Connecticut VSCCA All-comers scratch race 1973 – (I finished a distant 2nd)

Early the next summer I entered an SCCA autocross event. The TD was considered “H production” and that meant running with Austin-Healey Sprites and Fiat 850 Spyders. The first run was really difficult; the M.G. barely made it through the pylons and it’s turning radius… well, driving a bus might not have been much different. Four runs per car and I’ve botched the first – a walk around, study others’ mistakes and plot a new strategy. It may have been the last run but I eventually won the 3rd in class award and a nice ceramic coffee mug. Considering the little cars on gumbo tyres I ran against, I gave myself a pat on the back as some displaced Fiat owner gave me the boot! 1972 and 1973 were mostly club events and my first try at road racing at Lime Rock Park.

No hero driver am I – the first thing I learned was to stay out of everyone’s way.

An old sage, a Ferrari driver, took me aside once and taught me… enough! The last race that day found me gridded in the second row behind a Formula Jr. and a Lotus XI, and ahead of a pair of OSCA MT4s. The sight was profound, my lorry among these streamliners.

The Lotus ran away, the Formula Jr. broke, but I managed to confound the OSCAs so much in the esses and up the hill that their superior speed couldn’t make it up on the straight. With a head as big as a blimp, I sent my entry in for the first “vintage car race” at Watkins Glen, a 10 lap affair just prior to the US Grand Prix, October 1973.

Number 38

To be continued…

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All Quiet on the F1 Front

Okay, I admit it, I do like a bit of controversy, something that I can throw a few ill-chosen words at to get everyone even more outraged. And F1 has let me down badly this morning, having apparently fixed the flexi-floor debate and the customer car row waiting for arbitration. The only thing happening seems to be testing in Malaysia with times that are all over the place, confirming the old adage that testing proves nothing.

Sato

Sato in the Super Aguri

Silverstone is threatened with a buy-out by a shadowy group called Spectre, prompting PitPass to speculate on a return of James Bond’s old enemy, Ernst Blofeld, but Damon Hill has denied that the circuit is up for sale. So much for any fun with that one.

Even F1 Fanatic is reduced to a post on a Formula 1 photograph exhibition in London. Definitely a day with no pots to stir and no fur to ruffle.

Which leaves me writing what I refer to on my personal blog as “a nothing post”. I am expert on these, having resorted to them often in moments of desperation. Mention of my personal blog reminds me that there are a few motor sport posts on it, however, and it occurs to me that I could duck this one by sending you over there to read them. They’re hugely out of date but might at least assuage my pangs of guilt at not being able to think of anything to write about today.

The Indianapolis Grand Farce

The Other Italian

Motor Racing Memories

Okay, there are only three but I do have other interests, you know…

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Sebring 1977

In my recent post about Number 38, I promised more of Roy Jacobson’s accounts of motor racing at grass roots level. Well it’s time to deliver – here’s how to take an old M.G. and challenge the big boys.


Roy in his trusty M.G.

Just An Old M.G…

The Australian Grand Prix was held over the weekend but it was also the 12 hours race at Sebring. I had an experience there that may be entertaining.

In the early 1970s I began racing an M.G. TD, a Mark 2, which the company had offered in 1953 as the competition option. Larger carburetors, 4 extra dampers and a lower rear axle ratio – hardly competitive options. Over time I learned to drive and developed the car to a high degree and became bold enough to enter it in a “curtain raiser” race just prior to the Sebring
12 hours race of 1977.

Long sentences are not necessary; just imagine a 1,400 mile drive in an old bread van, towing the M.G. on a trailer, no reservations, a room I found in Lake Worth – I had to chase the chameleons out first. At entrant registration came word that an IMSA competition license was necessary and that cost about all the cash I had – I had not even entered the circuit yet!

MG TD and friend

Practice went well but the competition looked rather intimidating; have a look at the photo – that’s a 1959 Lister-Chevrolet, 5.3 liter V-8. Final practice confirmed we were ready but Sebring is a long way around, 5.3 miles in those days. It can get lonely out there and the IMSA folks must have realized this during my practice for they sent out a few modern cars to do “exhibition laps”.

Half way down the long straight, topping 100mph, a glance in the mirror – NOTHING – but as I reached the 90 degree right hander I felt the ground shaking. John Greenwood’s Corvette was passing me! On another lap a Porsche 908 passed me doing 170+. That car didn’t make noise but you could hear the air displacement as it ‘whistled’ past.

The race went better than expected; that monster Lister-Chevrolet lost a wheel in turn one, others expired from the flat out running, but the M.G. never failed me and I remember some cheering as I managed to pass a single car, a 6 cylinder Mustang which I had harried for 10 laps or so.

With a 15th place finish in my logbook and a time sheet, the M.G. loaded on the trailer, some sandwiches and a Thermos of orange juice presented by a friend’s wife, I headed north in the bread van. Many, many hours later, freezing cold, late at night, north of New York City, the van’s fuel tank ran dry. I had to drain the M.G. tank to feed the van for the final 100 miles!

Not really F1 is it? But come back next week for another adventure.

Number 38

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Number 38 and the Spirit of Racing

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned Number 38 and his comments on the F1-Fanatic site. Since then, #38 and I have been in correspondence and it turns out he is actually Roy Jacobson, a man with long experience of motor racing and the occasional brush with F1. Roy is 62 years old now and still races his kart locally in Virginia – you can’t keep a good man down!

Roy

Roy and his M.G. at the Christie Sprints, Hamilton, Ontario, CANADA 1996

In talking with Roy about his experiences, it occurred to me that readers would be interested too and so I will be posting a few of his stories in these final few days before the season commences in Australia. Here’s a taster from early on in our correspondence:

Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix of 1983

“I had entered an M.G. powered car called a Lester-MG and was assigned to a class filled with Lotus XIs, Lolas, Porsches and Ferraris.

“In practice, I qualified well but was gridded last as the stewards didn’t know what a Lester was and didn’t expect much performance.

“Just prior to the race someone asked if I was in the right class – after all the entire field, about 20 cars, had alloy, overhead cam engines and the M.G. engine was just a ‘push-rod , lump of iron’. I replied, ‘That’s why I’m starting from scratch, don’t want to embarrass anyone.’

“In the race, I went from last to 6th. No champagne, no trophy, no ribbon but I always get a time sheet! It was a personal victory.”

Roy Jacobson

Against that sort of competition, a victory indeed. Roy’s exploits range from kart racing, amateur events driving his MG TD and hillclimbs to racing in F1 GP support events and even helping out in the Lotus pit for the 1979 US GP at Watkins Glen. Through his eyes we can glimpse not only the history of motor sport going back almost fifty years but also get a feel for the vast sweep of motor racing that goes on every year, unrecorded, unsung, and yet the scene for deeds every bit as heroic as those we see in F1.

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