By on April 17, 2012

“Light and shade” the man said, that man being the man, Jimmy Page. From a race that barely qualifies as a race, we go to racing at its two-fisted best… or worst.

The video above, taken from the Traqmate and rollcage camera of SCCA racer Kent Carter, will reward your attention. It demonstrates a lot of what is wonderful about small-bore amateur racing in just two minutes. There’s a bunch of actual on-the-limit driving, in cars for which the drivers are personally responsible. There’s passing, re-passing, skill, and anger. Finally, there’s a bleak reminder that you can get hurt doing this stuff.

Click the jump for comments from the driver.

Quoth Dr. Carter,

It’s a sad end to a great car. The JohnPhillipsRacePrep #91 was one of the first Spec Miata’s built back in 2004. The car was built by Tim Buck (formerly of Mazda now with Traxxis) and AWR Racing in California. While hard to get in and out, the cage is solid and safe… as proven again today. I acquired the car in late 2005 and have campaigned it in SCCA Spec Miata in the John Phillips Race Prep stable since then. John and I will miss this little Miata. Typical of Mazdas, this car has always been solid, fast and reliable (as well as safe). I have to give a shout out to the folks at Safecraft for the fabulous harnesses that kept me in my place and to HANS and Arai for keeping my head on my shoulders. There isn’t a single part of my body that isn’t sore today, but I’m really quite well and happy that’s the limit of my injuries. Also, a bit thanks to all the volunteers in the SCCA for working corners so we can race and especially to the wonderful team at Hallett.

It was a hard fought weekend at the SCCA BF Goodrich Super Tour at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit. This is a beautiful little track nestled in Oklahoma where Connie Stephens and crew run a great event. I have always run among the top 5 there. This time, however, I qualified poorly (19th) with a very pushy car on sticker Hoosiers. John Phillips had made major adjustments to the car between qualifying and the race to nix the understeer and by the first turn of lap 1, I knew I had a horse that could run for the front. By the beginning of lap 2, I was in the top 10 but I followed Adam Poland off in turn 1 and fell well back in the field. Determined to fight for a good finish, I rapidly picked off car after car culminating in the late-braking pass in Turn 10 on cars #62 and #73. The torque of the 99+ car allowed #73 to pull up along side me down the straight. I was fully prepared to run side-by-side into 1 with car #73, but never got the chance. His sharp move right punted me off the course and into the tires at a little under 90mph. This is the danger of falling back in the field in an amateur event: the quality of the drivers falls off rapidly in the back half of the field. Such is amateur racing!

A word about the steering wheel. This car had one prior high-speed encounter with a tire-wall in the past that left me with 9 screws in my right hand from the steering wheel. This may have weakened the shaft. While the internet is all abuzz about better welding techniques that would have prevented the steering shaft from failing, I’m thankful it did at that moment. Stronger isn’t always better. That said, this driver must learn when to give it up and take his paws off the wheel!

Glad you’re okay, Kent, and I look forward to seeing you back on track!

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15 Comments on “The Final Minute: Death Of A Miata...”

  • avatar

    Massa also drives in SCCA?

  • avatar

    Sorry to see that, Kent. Glad you are okay.

    Jack, you should one day discuss the catty world of racer gossip, cliquishness, etc in amateur racing. It’s like high school all over again!

    I’d like to think someone wouldn’t destroy a car over a beef, but I wouldn’t be too terribly surprised.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d like to think someone wouldn’t destroy a car over a beef, but I wouldn’t be too terribly surprised.

      My family used to be involved in dirt circle track racing locally, we stopped going to the local tracks because they raced rough, culminating is someone putting our driver into the wall purposely due to an off track disagreement. We pulled out completely when it became too expensive to stay competitive and drive across the state to better ran tracks.

  • avatar

    Man I wish I had the funds to drive race cars…

  • avatar

    Mike Stephens, the late and long time owner of Hallett Circuit (as seen in the video) once said, “The slowest guy in the slowest class is having more fun than the guy sitting in the bleachers.” I also heard him exclaim some more pointed language on occasions, but that’s the truth. A sport largely populated by unpaid volunteers and self-funded racers can muster plenty of color, action, and drama on their own.

  • avatar

    Yep, that appeared to be a pretty blatant punt. Dr. Carter sems to have a great attitude about it—not sure that I could have been as magnanimous under the same circumstances.

    Was there any disciplinary action taken against the driver of the #73? A little bumping is one thing. A blatant punt is quite another.

  • avatar

    If I were the track operator or sanctioning body, I would make sure the “punter” was banned for life. There is no excuse for that. There’s “just racing”, and then there is a deliberate action to take someone out. The result could have been much worse.

    • 0 avatar

      The #73 is at fault b/c he did not safely complete his pass on the straight and looks to have intentionally moved right to create contact when the straight kinked to the left (similar to how back straight at Mid Ohio does). The unfortunate results is a major crash. Though I do not see enough in this video to tell – the #73 was at fault for causing the contact.

      I would really want to see the video from the following red Spec Miata. That would give the best video to apportion fault / penalties.

  • avatar

    Yeah what a total asshole move to do that to a fellow racer.

  • avatar

    Have to join the others here…the clown in #73 must think he’s a Nascar driver. There’s no excuse for that…he has no place behind the wheel of a racecar.

  • avatar

    I peeked at the Spec Miata forums. The instigator admitted fault and made an apology, and the wreckee accepted. The internet can debate red mist and intent, but both sides at least publically agree that it was talent that ran out before tempers.

    We might note that this is the first year of mandatory head-and-neck restraint in SCCA events, and that this was one of the first major SCCA ClubRaces in this part of the country. A Spec Miata with hardtop, low-slung racing seat, cage tubes, and helmet/nets in place is already (surprisingly) claustrophobic. Even a street Miata has a big blind spot with the soft top up.

    Get caught in the heat of racing, and even paid pros make mistakes. This was a Sunday racer who wasn’t expecting to tangle with someone holding his line from the pointy end of the field.

  • avatar

    Looks like he got punted at about 82mph, and hit the tires at 62mph. No surprise he’s still hurting – though thank goodness his tires were able to scrub 20mph on grass… At that speed every little helps!

  • avatar

    Hey Jack, I was at this race with Formula Mazda supporting a couple drivers. Our hauler was parked on the opposite side of the track from where this happened just after turn 1. There were a few offs and close calls at this race, and while this one was probably the gnarliest, the one I’d pick as my most memorable was the one involving the Lotus 7 copy coming out of turn 9. The driver wanted the line and there was another car in his way that didn’t want to give it up. They exchanged paint once, twice, three times before the 7 driver realized that his car didn’t have the mass or the momentum to muscle the other guy out of the way. He ended up backwards and in the dirt. I have some pictures I’d be glad to share after the film is developed if you are interested.

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