At Big Willow, on the edge of the Mojave Desert; snow covered peaks in the background

I was up at 4.30am and dashed outside to see clear skies – yippeee!!! I seriously don’t know who was more wired – me or Chuck! By 6.10am we had hit the road for Willow Springs Raceway; 75 miles’ drive for us through some of the most amazing country I have seen. Stupidly, I packed my camera in a bag behind my seat and was kicking myself for doing so. As the sun came up, we crossed from one valley to another and yet another and the scenery was breathtaking in the early morning light. Willow Springs is located near Rosamond in the Antelope Valley on the Western edge of the Mojave Desert. About 10 miles away is Edwards Airforce Base and every so often I could see a jetstream form in the sky as one of the jets left the base. The backdrop to this scene was snow covered mountains. There I was, standing on the edge of the Mojave desert looking at snow on the horizon – bizarre!

So we meet up with Mike and the evil Evo 8 at the gas station (we call ’em petrol stations over here) a couple of miles from Willow Springs. I grab a coffee (mandatory sustinence), we fill with gas (petrol for we Aussies!) and set off for a day that delivered everything it promised and so much more!

The buzz from everyone was amazing. This day had been in the planning for several weeks and everyone was hyped and ready. It was cold and clear for the morning – I started with no less than 4 or 5 layers of clothing (which is why I look like the blimp in some pics), but by the afternoon it was a beautiful mild day…hell the snow could have fallen right on the circuit and we still would have had fun!

 Mike's Evo, The TLG Auto 356, Chuck's 2.4S/2.7 and Chris' 2.4E/2.7.

Ray and Dan had the organisation down to perfection – thanks again guys! Not sure how Ray managed to organise Team Penske to show up with the RS Spyder, but we were all suitably impressed! The Penske guys were terrific. They seemed to get a lot of enjoyment watching us all have fun and were gracious enough to show us around the pantechs and allow us to get up close and personal with the LM2 car. Tony (TLG Auto) and I spent about half an hour talking with the team manager about their testing, our fun day, collective Porsche involvement and Tony’s 356 which really caught his eye. In fact the engineers allowed Tony and I to get a good look at all sorts of things on the car, but I kept the camera in its case for the most part – some things are best not “documented”. But I felt honoured and very lucky to be able to get a really close look at the car; she’s one gorgeous piece of raceware that’s for sure.

Team Penske arrive

 ….and unpack this beauty…the RS Spyder!

A driver’s briefing (of course) and then the track was hot for the advanced group. Tony and I spent some time in the stands mainly watching Marco in the 356. The little car wasn’t behaving herself and Marco’s frustration showed. Back into the pits, a good ol’ fashioned father-son “discussion”took place, resulting in tyre pressure change and dialling up the rear sway bar.  So Tony and I settled back down to watch Marco’s second session – by the second lap he gave us a huge thumbs up as he went past – now “the kid” was having fun and the car looked awesome and FAST out there!

Mike is an excellent steerer, but he hadn’t driven SOW before and hadn’t had the Evo on a circuit. So Mike starts off in the beginners group to get a feel for the place and the car’s behaviour out there. Didn’t take long – he was running at the pointy end of the intermediate group very soon after! By the end of the day, the tyres were finished – we spoke to him on Tuesday and he had already ordered new rubber for the Evo.

Mike offered me a drive of the Evo in the afternoon, but I declined. SOW is a technical little track which I was only starting to get to know from the shotgun seat in a few cars. Couple that with a car I didn’t know (and a turbo at that) and sitting on the wrong side (left) trying to pick apexes.  But if he offers next time around I don’t think I’ll hesitate – too much bloody fun out there to be had! Awesome little car…

Mike takes Chuck in the Evo

At the start of the second session Chuck says “how about a run”…I say “thought you’d never ask” and pull the helmet on. We set up the harness as I am still carrying the residual of a back injury and I know how Chuck drives so the more restraints the better! A few of the guys look around with raise eyebrows as if to say, she’s going out with Chuck, does she know what she’s in for? I just beam at them knowing full well what I was in for – FUN with a great driver in a fast little car.

 I spend the first couple of laps coming to terms with the circuit – like where exactly we were going! This track has a little of everything. In a way it compares to our old “Winton” in Vic, but then it has rises and dips more like the old “Amaroo” in NSW. The geographic location means that the track is rougher than anything I have experienced here in Aus. (And to think I thought Chuck was being just a little anal taping up the car and running her with her bra on….SoW has very rough edges and plenty of stuff coming onto the circuit which can easily get thrown up by the running cars.)

Last minute checks and rechecks

After a couple of laps I had the hang of the place; knew where to relax a little and where to hold on! Chuck’s car has a great set-up for what he does with her. He knows this circuit very well and the car is like a train on tracks around SoW, even with a passenger. We did enough laps out there for the tyres to start to go off on us. So Chuck pulled her in and I jumped out all smiles…I am a track tragic and proud of it!

Then Chris says, “so little lady, wanna go for a run?” I was in the car, adjusting the seat and buckling up before he could even open his door. Chris’ car is set up a little softer than Chuck’s and as such it’s behaviour on the track was very different. Chris can throw his car around like a go-kart. It responds very well to Chris’ style of driving and it’s FAST. Again, we did enough laps for the tyres to start to go away…

Chris’ gorgeous 2.4E gone 2.7 with Dave from TRE behind in his very fast 914/6

 We broke for lunch, courtesy of Tony and Marco of TLG Auto – Subways lined one wall of the briefing room! One thing that never ceases to amuse me is the love affair that the Americans have with potato chips – the crispy-in-the-bag type…along with the Subs were loads of potato chips, which all the guys promptly put in their Subs! Cute guys, very cute….

 After lunch I spent some time catching up with people – had a great chat with some of the girls; Cheri, Gloria, Sheila…caught up with Lars and Mona (the latecomers for the day and no I do not need to know why you guys were late!), hung around with Ed, Randy and Curt for a while which was great as none of these guys are California locals – they had all come from other parts of the States for the weekend. In fact I had time to catch up with (nearly) everyone. Next time I’ll make sure I do manage to see each and every one – it’s a long way to come and not do that; apologies to those I didn’t get to this year.

 Lars and Mona

Then Marco comes up behind me and asks “hey Lisa, wanna come for a run?” “I thought you’d never ask” I almost scream at him…and hollered at Tony to “please give me a hand with the harness!”. This was one ride I had been waiting for all day…hot laps in a hot 356. Granted, she does have a very hot Type 4 base motor (correct me anytime Marco) and a 901 transmission and rear suspension, but she’s still a 356 and my heart still skips a beat when I get in a good one. So before Tony gets a chance to do up the harness, I am moving the seat forward so I can plant my feet firmly on the firewall…Marco looks at me incredulously and says to his Dad “she’s the only one who has thought about moving the seat”…

Woohoo! If only you could see my smiling face under that helmet!

So we hit the track and get clean air for the first couple of laps. Then we come upon Johnny in his Red Rooster, who is having a daydream moment, enjoying the view, taking his sweet time…Jeff is catching us fast in the amazing little Alfa…I can hear him behind us just as we enter some esses…oh boy, I’m thinking, this is going to be some fun…

Marco utters some choice words as Jeff bears down on our right. We split around Johnny and Marco just manages to slip away from Jeff – it was a beautiful piece of driving by Marco; he was using all the car and her tyres and then some!

After this, Marco actually turns to me and apologizes for the “macho behaviour”! My response…”Shut up and Drive!”

Marco and me; Dan following in “Stay Puff” with the camera running

There was a great mix of cars and drivers of varying experience. It was a clean, fun and safe day at SoW…more than one of us has said that this was the most fun you could have with your clothes on!

Guys doing their stuff at SoW

The great thing about this day was that everyone got plenty of laps and also plenty of time to socialize. That’s the beauty of a relatively small group at days such as these. I saw nothing but smiles all round, all day…

Me looking like the Michelin man in 4 layers of clothing with Chuck and Mona

We finished the day at SoW just after 4.30pm. Then we headed off to the Cantina a couple of miles down the road for dinner (Ray thought of everything; including dinner booking). I sat with the four giggly and silly “boys”; Chuck, Mike, Chris and Randy – and laughed so much with them that my face hurt! By around 7.30pm I was fighting the abject desire to fall asleep as Chuck drove us home…the date is already in my diary for next year!

Mike, me, Chris, Randy, Lars and Mona

If you’d like to see more of this great day, check out the thread on the Early 911 S Registry Board here:
http://www.early911sregistry.org/forum/showthread.php?t=19383

Credit for some of these photos goes to Chuck – thank you!

A huge thank you to Chuck, to Chris and to Marco for the laps…and to everyone who planned and assisted with the running of this day. A big thank you to everyone who came along and made this day what is was….SoW Mad Monday; or as Marco says “drive the pigs day”….


3 Responses to “Monday at Streets of Willow”


  1. 1 Chuck Miller
    March 19, 2008 at 1:54 am

    This entry is so much fun I can’t believe it!!!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    More, more, more!!!

    I will say that after the food, fun, and a little libation 🙂 at the Cantina, Lisa was a real trouper, staying awake and chatting me through the 75 dark desert miles back home……… would have been allot tougher without’ya darlin 🙂

    Chuck

    Like

  2. 2 Ray Crawford
    March 19, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Lisa,

    You being there really added to the day. It REALLY was that much fun.

    BTW: The track is reserved for next year, save the date, bring your helmet. The LA Lit Show Weekend is now 4 days long. We saved the best day for the last day.

    Like

  3. March 30, 2008 at 1:02 am

    Ray,

    Thanks again for a spectacular day and yes it REALLY was that much fun! Date is saved – just hope it doesn’t clash with the Phillip Island Classic otherwise I have a tough choice to make…but I reckon SoCal might win out!

    Like


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