The MGA With An Attitude
TWIN CAMS from the Production List - TC-107-964A

53rd Mobil-SVRA-12 Hours of Sebring - (March 2005)

MG finishes 2nd and 3rd in class at the 10 lap Vintage Group Mike Stott-UBS Financial Sprint Series Race and 2nd in class in the combined Historic and Vintage Classes Motor Check 1 ½ Hours of Sebring Enduro.

3 MGA’s entered the SVRA portion of the 53rd Annual running of the 12 Hours of Sebring. MGVR membersJoe Tierno, Dave Smith and Jim Holody made the trek to Sebring, Florida in March of 2005. All 3 MGA drivers werefirst timers to the event. The warm weather and the excitement of being at one of America’s most historic tracksbecame the pinnacle of this racer’s driving experience.

Registration and ½ hour of practice was scheduled for Tuesday. The first time around the track it felt like you werenavigating a large shopping center parking lot with occasional trips to an airport runway. Further complicating matterswere a large number of cones blocking the connections to the short track or the beer store. The directional signsturned out to be a huge help as we navigated the 17 turn 3.7 mile circuit. By the second lap, a late 60’s Corvetteroadster had flipped as it came into Cunningham Corner (turn 10) too hot, looped at the apex of the corner, the rearwheels dug into the soft sand and the Vette did a slow roll landing on all fours.

As our confidence grew and our internal gps mapped the course in our brains, lap times started to drop. My MGA TwinCam engine started to stumble under hard acceleration at 4200 rpm. déjà vu the last race at Watkins Glen last fall. Theline through turns 16 and 17 were still a mystery. The driving line became the topic of conversation by many SVRAdrivers at the daily morning drivers meeting. Interestingly turn 17, a very large radius right hander exiting on thegrandstand start/finish straight, is the only turn unchanged from Sebring’s first race endurance of 1952.

Thursday was a rain day, and the traditional parade of race cars to historic downtown Sebring was cancelled asmerchants were concerned about their sidewalk sale merchandise getting wet. All race groups had practice in the rain,which at times involved avoiding significant standing water on the flat track.

The SVRA racers had only one event scheduled for late in the day and it was the combined Vintage and Historic MotorCheck 1.5 hour enduro. In anticipation of running at dusk in the rain, my crew of John Burgess and Joe Roberstonscrambled to get head and taillights functioning and adjusted the floats on the S.U. carbs (using the locating pin on theaxle stands as a measuring tool) to cure the engine stumble. Being a rookie at endurance racing, crew members DanBurgess, Rob Holody and MGB racer Dave Burroughs (who was sidelined while recovering from a recent herniaoperation), sorted out the “who does what”, mounted the rain tires and prepped the car for its first enduro under itscurrent stewardship.

2 MG’s plus a field of 41 other Vintage (pre1970 cars) and Historic (1970 and later) cars faced the wet track andbattled the on and off rain. Jerry Richards with his MGB/GT V8 left after 5 laps, but was back for the sprint races onFriday and turned hot laps of 2.33.488 and earned the top gun honours for the MG marque.

Although I hate racing in the rain and during my rain conditions experience at VIR two years ago I found the car verytwitchy, both the driver and MG were at one with the track conditions at Sebring. The lightweight small bore cars hadthe advantage over the large bore heavy weight competitors. The twin cam brakes and tires gripped the line andalthough every attempt was made to miss the standing water, the occasional hit would send my heart rate soaring!However the grin could not be removed from my face as the MG would frequently out brake and drive under the V8powered Mustangs, Corvettes and Camaros. Even many of the big rear tired Porsches were no match for the MG.Several times the big boys would pass the MG on a straight only to go too hot and deep into the next corner and theMG would pass them again.

The MG finished 2nd in class (21st overall) behind the Alfa Giulietta of Orlando native Steve Piantieri (the Alfa iscurrently for sale at $12,900). A late caution while the MG was in the pits for its’ second mandatory 5 minute pit stopmeant that many of the cars passed earlier had their finishing order secured as the race ended under a caution. OnlyStan Crawford’s 911R Porsche was able to advance as he passed several cars under caution on the last lap on theback straight.

Thursday night featured the traditional driver’s reception at Sebring’s Conference Center. The food, drink andentertainment were superb. There I had the pleasure to enjoy a beer over a conversation with Mr. Don Hansen whoalong the eight other members of the 1950 Sebring Fire Department organized the first 6 hour Sam Collier Memorialrace at the airport/airbase in 1950.

With ideal racing conditions, Friday morning featured two separate 10 lap races for Historic and Vintage race cars. JoeTierno’s #029 MGA from Honeoye Falls N.Y. with a hot lap of 2:53.3 finished 2nd , 30th overall, behind LawrenceShaffer of Harrisburg Pa, in an AH Sprite. The MGA twin cam finished 3rd in class with a 3:00.3 and 32nd overall in afield of 47 cars. Dave Smith #49 MGA and from Holt, Michigan, had consistent fast laps of 2:51 and had some excitingduals with Joe Tierno, but was forced to retire early with electrical problems.

On Saturday, race day, the SVRA cars drove two parade laps prior to the 12 hour main event. The crowd wasestimated at over 10,000. The 12 hour race started at 10:45 sharp. The SVRA group hosted a lunch and beer tent asthe attention shifted to the featured race.

The fans, especially the ones in the Green Park area, reminded me of the movie Animal House. Only these fans coulddrink more! The race winning LMP Audi R8 finished 1, 2 as expected, they were so consistently fast and trouble free.The real uncertainty was who would win the GT1 Class. Ferrari went out earlier, Corvette was strong all day and leduntil 8 pm when the #3 Corvette had a carbon fibre front brake rotor explode and sent driver Johnny O’Connell into thetire wall at turn 17, shortly afterwards the #4 Corvette slid off the track at turn 5 and damaged the rear suspension.Both cars spent several laps in the pits as the V12 Aston Martin powered by and finished 1st in class, followed by #3Corvette and #4 Corvette 3rd. In the GT2 class, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR finished 1,2 and 3.

Am I going back next year? Stay tuned.

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