Archive 2008 - 2019

One Lap of America: Part 5 of 6

by Roy Maranhao

 Day 8 - Thursday May 10: Brainerd International – distance traveled: 462 miles

When we arrived at the track, Don took a close look at the radiator and discovered our fan was missing. It wasn’t completely gone; the hub was still there but all the blades had broken off. This explained why the car overheated when the motor idled while waiting for the autocross, but ran fine as long as the car was moving. It was lucky for us that the fan didn’t poke holes in the radiator when it disintegrated as that would have stopped the fun. I called all the local junk yards to locate a fan but had no luck. I was confident we could get through the day without a fan if we didn’t idle for long periods. I called the BMW dealer in Rochester, Minnesota and they had a fan in stock so I arranged to have it shipped overnight to the track scheduled for the next day – Road America near Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

What was left of my fan.

The Brainerd track is considered very fast. It’s 3.1 miles long and includes ten turns and a one mile long straight that ends in a banked 60 degree right turn that is intended to be taken flat out. Professional drivers regularly enter that curve at speeds greater than 150 miles per hour. My major concern was survival so during the first lap, I entered turn one at a sedate 115 mph. which seemed incredibly fast to be going other than in a straight line. Other One Lap competitors with more experience (and courage) took that turn at 140 mph. I was having a great run and caught up to the Mercury Marauder and managed to pass him at the end of the long straight. This boosted my entry speed a bit into turn one. Also, I started the turn in the middle of the track rather than at the left edge which would have given me the greater turn radius. It was a little scary but I managed to stay calm and not lift my foot off the gas as that would have lightened the rear of the car and surely make me spin out with the 4000 pound Marauder right behind me! I lost a lot of concentration and the next few turns were taken slower than necessary. By this point the Marauder had nearly caught up to me. I then committed another rookie mistake and spent too much time watching my rear view mirror. At the next turn I left the track but thankfully I was going fairly slow and managed to drive a ways on the grass completing the turn and getting back on the track.


 The Marauder

Everyone got a big kick out of the appearance of the car when I got back to the paddock. I had what must have been 50 dandelions sticking out of the grill. Dan, the driver of the Marauder is a retired plumbing contractor from Kansas City, Kansas. We were both really excited about our “brush with danger”. We slapped each other on the back and congratulated each other’s driving skills and generally acted like a couple of teenagers with learner’s permits. Later, Dan told me a funny story about the Marauder that happened the night before. He and his co-driver stopped at a motel looking for a room for the night. Dan was waiting in the car while his co-driver was registering at the front desk. Two very drunk individuals climbed into the back seat and told Dan to drive them to a nearby tavern. The Marauder has a large checkered flag decal on the doors and the two drunks thought the car was a taxi cab.

 After the second event, drag races were held. This involved long waits in line for your turn and I knew that the car would overheat if I let it idle too long. I kept shutting off the motor after every time I moved forward and managed to keep from overheating but the car was definitely running hotter than normal. I ended up with an elapsed time for the quarter mile of 14.9 seconds which was .3 seconds slower than previous years. I got to run a few more times and each time the car got a little slower. With the extra events we ran it was getting late and we had 460 miles to go. So, we packed up and left.

We still didn’t have a fan. Our major concern was to not overheat by avoiding stop and go traffic. We had to drive through Minneapolis/St. Paul on our way eastward. We wouldn’t get there until around 7 pm and we were hoping traffic would be flowing by then. Traffic was light so we had no problems. As we entered Wisconsin, we were passed by a pack of One Lap cars going slightly faster than we were. We fell in behind them still more or less observing our ten over the posted speed rule. We all passed a little pickup truck overloaded with what appeared to be scrap sheet metal. He decided to join our parade. After a bit he decided he wanted to lead the parade and started passing us with his load of scrap sheet metal flopping around precariously. We thought something might fly out the back of the truck so we parted company and continued on our own. Twenty or so miles later I ran over something which ripped a hole in the sidewall of my left rear tire. I couldn’t see what it was but as I ran over it I heard a metallic rattle. Fortunately, I had a good spare tire and we were back on the road within 10 minutes. I can’t help but think the junk in the road that cost me a tire probably came from that truck.

We stopped for the night at the Best Western in Waupaca, Wisconsin.

Comments (1)

This event is as much an "iron man" for the drivers as it is an endurance race for the cars. I am amazed at the Marauder's performance on the track.

Paul | 2012-07-28 07:32:42