By Dave Hutchison
Last August, we attended LOG 36 in Princeton. It was a very nice well-run event. At the banquet it was announced that LOG 37 was to be held in May in Birmingham, AL, at the Barber Motorsports Park. Sounded interesting to me since it stirred memories of when I had the opportunity to get a ride on the track at Barber in a Seven back in 2004 at the first LOG in Birmingham. It was also announced that they planned to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Lotus Super Seven. Ok we are in! I offered a client transport of his Seven, rented a trailer that would hold two Super Sevens, found a friend who wanted to join the run, and soon Al Anspaugh and myself joined of a twenty-Lotus-car, for a two-day caravan to Birmingham!
Our first day put us in Wytheville, VA for the night, with a short hop the next morning to a road known as the "Back of the Dragon", no relation to the Tail of the Dragon. More about that later, as that was to be our last run of this trip. We unloaded my Birkin Seven in a parking lot and headed west on a section of road that crossed three foothills, each with increasing twisty tight turns, some very hard to see around. We found that it was easier to follow someone through these hills than it was to lead. We all ran out and back with only minor damage to an Elise spoiler. It was a good first day of what we hoped would be five driving events. We arrived at the hotel late at the end of day two after we ran sweep while looking after an Esprit that wasn't getting enough fuel. Day three was a planned trip to Talladega. I had registered for an autocross in the afternoon and was just planning to watch Lotus cars with better aerodynamics than a brick (my Birkin) take on the high banked oval. Once we arrived, I saw several Sevens on the false grid so I signed up! What an experience to go into turn one at 90–100 mph and hold the steering wheel straight all the way through the turn! The steep banking does all the turning work for you! Wow! Later that afternoon, I briskly navigated the temporary autocross course on the back straight to earn a Second Place in my class of about 4-5 Sevens! This was Talladega!
Day four, Saturday was show day on the lawn of Barber Motorsports Park. About two hundred Lotus cars formed a semicircle for a group picture with the Lotus Sevens up front. We did our part and brought two Sevens, but I was a bit disappointed that only eleven other showed up. Our client flew in and was there with his black/orange 61 Seven with the wobbly wheels and original top! He and I both took home Second Place awards. The show ended early as heavy rain moved over the track. That was the best time to take in the best motorcycle collection in the US, the Barber Motorsports Museum, also home to the largest most complete Lotus collection here in the states! It was well worth the trip. The museum recently doubled in size so they now have space to bring in traveling exhibits.
Day Five, Sunday, was a down day for us and we went back to the track to see a couple of vintage races. We wandered the pits and Al quickly passes a very inexpensive racing Elite for sale. Only 63 entries were there racing in the HMSA Barber Historics racing weekend as there were several other competing vintage races that weekend. We did get to see a two of the five of Lotus X180Rs dice it up driven by Jaime Gaufoux and Kevin McGovern in a 12 lap race. Later we prepped the Seven for the the track day.
Day six, Monday, was Track Day! We arrived and attended the drivers meeting and I was assigned Tim Heaven as my my instructor. He is a local Porsche enthusiast who was about to get in my Seven with me after we just met! Truly a brave man! In the first half hour session out he helped me learn the line via hand signals. During the next two sessions, I found I was up-shifting sooner and gaining more speed! Then came the smell of the tires working, That was very good. By the last session, I was feeling more comfortable with most of this 16 turn very technical circuit. I got close to the edge and got loose a couple of times as my confidence grew. I am pleased to report that we loaded the Birkin Seven into the trailer in one piece and I had a big smile the rest of the day! I just NEED to go back and master two turns, the corkscrew and the late apex at turn 15 by the pit entrance ! Another great day!
On day seven we started our journey and headed north towards our final drive, The Tail of the Dragon! The weather was off and on rain and was improving as getting closer. A half mile from the base of the Dragon, the skies let loose with a torrent of rain. With track tyres on the Seven that are downright dangerous in the rain and remembering our promises to our wives, we turned around and will live to run the Dragon on another day! It was truly a great trip! We met many fellow Lotus enthusiasts, made new friends and will have to run the 318 turn 11 mile Tail of the Dragon on the next trip!
Here at Ragtops & Roadsters we encourage our clients to get out and use their car, drive'em on the road. You don't have to go racing, or even drive fast, but driving is what they were built for! And going to any of these great, local or national shows, fun drives or just down to the local ice cream shop is a great opportunity to meet other like-minded enthusiasts. Maybe you'll get to introduce somebody who has always watched from afar to the very unique world that we enjoy with our special cars.