I was racing a 1959 Lola Mk1 in a Vintage Sports Car Club of America (VSCCA) sanctioned and Dodge sponsored event at Lime Rock Park in 1999. Several laps into the race, I had just passed under the bridge and was taking the right-hander onto the straight (notice the cant of my rear wheels in the photo) and ready to shift into 4th gear the split-second I was pointed straight when … BANG!! From the corner of my left eye I saw something dark and round rocket from my view. Instinctively, I put “both feet in”. At some point in the middle of about five 360s, and with zero visibility from the dust storm I was whipping up as my car spun down the edge of the straightaway, I was slammed by what I would later learn was an early 50’s Allard race car (approx. twice the weight of my Lola). I recall something thumping my helmet visor, which I later concluded was a large section of the body torn off by the impact of the Allard. Before the dust had settled, I pulled my five-point harness release and and jumped out of the cockpit.
I am seen here looking back at the remains of my Lola – a slightly bent chassis and engine, the yellow rollbar the only recognizable part seen in the first photo. Only two wheels were still attached and parts of the body (luckily NOT the original body) were spread over approx. 40 yards of track. I would later learn that there was a 30 minute fishing expedition in the small brook to locate that ‘rocket ship’ of a rear wheel that broke off. (I am sure that the rainbow-trout which I had caught and released with my fly-rod that morning in the very same brook said “oh man, not again!” but the search warrant this time was for a “lost Lotus Mk1 wheel”.)
Seconds after the third photo was taken, the corner worker – an earnest-looking young man waving a fire-extinguisher – appeared from nowhere and yelled, “You okay?” Still in shock beneath my helmet and tight chin-strap, I yelled back “Ya see any blood?” He ran around me and said “No blood!” Still looking for the other driver, I asked if he was OK. After conversing on his walky-talky, he assured me that the driver of the other race car was fine but that they were going to have medics check us both out just to be sure.
A minute passed and the corner worker was speaking in low tones with another corner worker as they both stared at me… I remember thinking “Is my head twisted around 180 degrees from this accident and they’re not telling me?” Just as I slowly began to look straight down, half expecting to see my derriere, one of them stammered (and I paraphrase here), “I am really sorry about your car…and I know that this isn’t the best time to ask this question but … I watch that show on PBS, The Antiques Roadshow, where you appraise things, and my grandmother, she, she has this table. As he kneeled down to begin describing it, the ambulance – lights flashing and sirens screaming – raced up the middle of the track and I was beckoned. With apologies, I headed down the track. I did, of course, help the young man with his question about his grandma’s table, but sans helmet and visor, through the mail!
Before getting into the ambulance for a check-up, I walked over to the wrecked Lola and looked over the backs of several officials examining the rear axle. It was clear that my wheel, due to stress from racing, had snapped clean off from the axle. I recall thinking that the stub axle looked like a large piece of salami cut clean off as if by a butcher’s meat cleaver. VSCCA determined that the axle had failed due to stress cracks which would have been caught if the axle had been tested by my crew for cracks. Breaks such as this occur when vintage metal is not magnafluxed (ie: checked for stress cracks) before a race. As for the driver of the race car that crashed into mine, it was determined that there was no way for him to avoid hitting me, with zero visibility. (See second photo.) He hit the brakes in a straight line, but could not have possibly known where I was in the cloud. So, happily, it was determined that there was no driver error involved and that the accident was caused by mechanical failure.
In the ambulance, the driver who had, through no fault of his own, literally bumped into me, introduced himself. I was amazed to learn that I was sitting next to the very fast and experienced racer, Eno De Pasquale, whose name had once graced the door of the 1980 Series II Ferrari 512 BBLM chassis 29511 which I had recently bought from my friend and client Tony Wang. I was having the car race-prep’ed to participate in the Brian Redman Challenge at Elkhart Lake and at The Historics at Laguna Seca during Pebble Beach and had, through my research on the car, recalled his name. Eno’s wife was also a dealer in Americana whom my mother, Norma Keno, had known. What a small world it is! Eno De Pasquale, Steve Cohen, and Bill Gelles had campaigned chassis 29511 back in 1984 at the Lime Rock IMSA Coca-Cola 500 in May, 1984, placing 16th on the very same track that Eno and I were at – sitting side-by-side in an ambulance – 15 years later. The Ferrari was later raced by Cohen and Gelles at the 24 Hrs. of Daytona where it came in 16th, (the only 512 BBLM to ever finish this grueling endurance race). Bravo!
Endnote: I went on to enjoy many a race with the Chassis 29511 in the Ferrari Challenge Historics. The car is now actively and very successfully raced by Todd Morici. It is still one of my favorite race cars. BTW, I had the 1959 Lola MK1 fully restored and it has a very happy new owner who makes sure that his crew regularly magnaflux the axles! (After all, there are fewer than 40 in the world!)