Monday, July 16, 2012

Turbo tames The Giant

Up early to Giants Despair hillclimb. First we nip into Wilkes-Barre to the post office and then off up Northampton Street to the races. We park near the startline, guided by Eddie Brooks in the house opposite. Everybody is welcoming and gracious.
We talk to John Hartmett, #232, who is driving a self-built car based on an Elden FF chassis, powered by two snowmobile engines and fitted with a sprint car wing. He says the biggest buzz is being asked for his autograph.

We then encounter Brit Nigel Cass in a 1982 Le Grand Formula Ford, bought as a rust heap. He is wearing a James Hunt tribute helmet and is a huge McLaren fan. A former autocrosser, he says "Hillclimbing is so addictive, it pulls you in." He is currently restoring a Lola T342 Formula Ford.
Steve Mestrow has a Merlyn Mk29 FF, imported to the US in 1977 and bought locally as a basket case. Some twenty years ago he raced a Merlyn Mk6 sports car fitted with an Alfa-Romeo engine, quick but unreliable.
Darryl Danko has the tyre warmers on his 1998 Lola T8900 Indycar, fitted with a turbocharged Buick V6, giving 900 bhp. A time of 40.01 sec looks good for best time on this power hill. The car is bottoming on the new tarmac - the driver says "there is no testing so you have to go with what you know." The Danko shop is at the top of the hill.

In the evening we spot a McLaren supercar in the unlikely setting of the parking lot of the American Legion Post 815. Allegedly owned by Honda for evaluation purposes. Some benchmark. We head into Wilkes-Barre and find the Thai Thai Restaurant at 41 South Main Street. Dinner for two inc tip $41, bring your own alcohol.

Next morning back at the track and I give an interview on WYLN 35 TV about hillclimbing. A downpour halts proceedings but soon the track is drying and this classic event unfolds. The McLaren is giving rides on the hill driven by Ted Klaus Junior. After another shower we pull out for Ronks, PA.

No comments: