Words and Pics by: Scott Smith
Magic City RC of Billings, Montana hosted the 2008 ROAR Region 11 Carpet Championships over the weekend of March 7-9. As an added bonus to entice people to travel to our comparatively remote location relative to the region we added a couple opportunities for additional racing activities in addition to the typical ROAR classes. One of these opportunities was the inclusion of the Vintage Trans-Am class Magic City has been running for almost a year now. This is, undoubtedly, the first time Vintage TA has been exhibited at a ROAR Regional event.
Twelve cars/drivers took part in this particular class. As it is not a ROAR class yet we could not offer a Regional Championship but we DID offer nearly unlimited fun for those brave enough to have a go. The class was run to the rules we established which are very much in line with what USVTRA started out with…4-cell / 27T Stock motor power, 1525 gram weight minimum (helps keep older chassis competitive with new ones), HPI Vintage wheels and tires, and the limited list of bodies acceptable (far and away mostly HPI).
There were 12 hours of scheduled open practice on Friday and two more hours available on Sunday so everybody had a chance to get their TA cars dialed in for the track and conditions. The track itself is somewhat older Ozite carpet which proves to give a very consistent grip level from start to finish when we hold bigger events. Part of the reason for this consistency is that the carpet is VERY “stable”—not much fuzz at all and the knap is nicely laid over. The layout 62’ X 90’ with a full-length straightaway but an infield that proved to be a point-and-shoot technical adventure. Everybody praised the layout but it proved challenging for the TA cars with their higher weight and 4-cell power—sweeping lines were unquestionably the fast way around the track but REALLY left the door wide-open for someone to stuff it up the inside for a pass…JUST like the real Trans Am!!
Four 5-minute qualifiers (three Saturday, one Sunday) were held that proved this would be a tightly bunched field. The main was a hotly contested 8-minute orgy of rubbing sheet metal (well…rubbing lexan anyway) and loud laughter and hoots from both drivers and everybody watching. When the TA cars were on the track the pits pretty much emptied out as everybody wanted to see the show. There was a GREAT deal of interest in this class and I’m very certain we’ll have close to double the number of participants next year. In fact there have already been two absolutely new RC racers who have built cars in the two weeks since the event and are preparing for their debut at our next club race.
The first round of qualifying saw MCRC 2007-2008 Vintage Trans-Am champion Justin Poulson put his Alan Green ’68 Chevrolet Camaro on the pole with a run of 19 laps / 5:11.0. He was followed closely by championship runner-up Bryan Grummett’s orange Bud Moore ’66 Mustang on a 19 lap / 5:12.7 with guest racer Aaron Violett’s ’66 Mustang only a half-second behind him. Aaron had the fast lap of the heat with a 15.486 second circuit.
The second round saw a lot more “action” than the first as everybody was seeking advantage now that they had “one in the books”. The same three ended up atop the heat, though the order was Grummett, Violett and Poulson. The times were, overall, about 2 seconds slower for the heat so JP was still the provisional pole sitter.
Round three saw the drivers settle down a bit and turn some faster times. Same three on top but yet another shuffle in the order. This heat Aaron Violett put his Mustang on the provisional pole with a 19 lap / 5:00.6 time having, comparatively, walked away from Grummet and Poulson who were 3 and 4 seconds behind at the buzzer.
The final round of qualifying saw Poulson put his head down and turn some truly amazing laps. He didn’t just break the qualifying mark, he pulverized it by nearly a full lap turning a 20 lap / 5:03.5 time. Folks mid-pack weren’t playing so nicely this heat as they were trying to protect their A-main standings…the B-main boys had stepped it up a couple notches and had eclipsed a few times of the slower A-main drivers. Violett encountered some difficulties and finished this fourth heat right at a lap down from Poulson (thus not improving his own time) and veteran TA racer Rick Keiser poked his ’66 GT350 into third position though another 10 seconds behind Aaron. Grummett had a ROUGH time in traffic and finished well down the order. So, heading into the mains the order was Poulson (Camaro), Violett (Mustang), Grummett (Mustang), Keiser (GT 350), Watts (GT 350), and our Concourse winner Kiely (Camaro). James Rowen (Mustang), driving in his first-ever Trans-Am race, bumped up from the B-main to take part as well.
The main was, to put it mildly, a hair-raising affair--enough bumping and grinding to rival a burlesque show. We’d probably set them up for this as it had been announced that all Trans-Am entrants would be receiving a new HPI body for participating in this class. It looked like they were ALL intent on using up the old bodies they had on. There were more “Oooh’s” and “Aaaahhhh’s” from the assembled crowd in this one 8-minute race than we’d heard in all the Regional Championship events combined. Drivers were giving no quarter as they barged up the inside corner after corner seeking to gain position. When the smoke cleared and the dust had settled we found that the top three had finished within 4 seconds of each other. Bryan Grummett had managed to take an early lead and held it through to the end to emerge victorious. Aaron Violett had battled his Mustang back and forth with Justin Poulson’s Camaro but took advantage of a late-race misadventure on Poulson’s part to secure second place while Poulson held on for a well-earned third place. James Rowen, our B-main bump-up, fought his way onto Poulson’s rear bumper to take a close fourth and was followed, in order, by the trio of Kiely, Keiser and Watts.
No one can wait for next time—there are scores to be settled!