The Final Minute: Death Of A Miata

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
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“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 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 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!

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Thinkin... Thinkin... on Apr 17, 2012

    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!

  • Sexyhammer Sexyhammer on Apr 18, 2012

    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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