Chuck Christ Recalls the Final Two SVRA Events in 2003
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2006
SVRA Blue-Gray Challenge, September 25-28, Summit Point
Most of my memory of the event is clouded in two specific things that transpired there. First was my excitement to see Steve Church finally bring out his car, yet with a bit of dismay over all the things he needed to do to get out on track. I’m so glad he did get out! Sorting out the things he needed to do, and find out, are very important to future, less complicated competition for him.
Second was my running most of the hour enduro with no brakes in my car, but finding out only AFTER my pit stop four laps into the event! [Webmaster: Drivers must complete one five-minute pit stop per enduro hour. Chuck chose to pit very early during this particular event. His brakes failed shortly after he pitted.] Thoughts of my father and his friends telling stories of running entire events with no brakes came to mind while out on course.
Chuck negotiates the challenging Turn 6/7 combination (R. Harrington photo)
So, I continued, and I got braver and braver as I learned to drive with no brakes! I had no idea what was wrong -- sometimes I’d hit the pedal and feel it steadily fall away to nothing, and other times I’d hit the pedal and it would fall flat to the floor!
I had no idea where I stood in my [Group 1] run group. All I wanted to do was finish. The Group 3 traffic was hectic - I was dealing with fast Datsun 510's and early V8 corvettes trying to pass at every opportunity. [Webmaster: SVRA combined Groups 1 and 3 for this run session.] Yet, I decided to press on, and ‘Yes!’ I took the checkered flag!
Once I was in the pits, I found I had a pinhole in the steel brake line to my left front wheel. Some hectic hunting found a fellow competitor who had a piece of tubing and a tube-flaring tool, and together we made a new tube before noon the next day. I missed only one practice session because of the brake line, and continued running the rest of the weekend’s events.
Turn 6/7 again, this time with a Group 1 1956 Lotus XI LeMans close behind (W. Pietrowicz photo)
The odd part of the whole experience was that all the brake tubes were no more than 3 years old! When I rebuilt the car for competition, I replaced every line on the car with new tubes because I knew the old stuff was not going to be good enough for a racecar. The hole in the failed tube erupted from the inside out, and was not the result of external corrosion nor any kinds of race inflicted wear or damage. It was either a manufacturing defect or internal corrosion from the tube sitting in stock at the auto parts store for an undetermined period. I’ll never know. It’s repaired now, and I finished the event thanks to the kindness and courtesy of a fellow competitor.
As for the enduro, ... I ended up eighth overall in a 30-plus field of cars! Not too shabby for the smallest displacement (Group 1) car in a mixed Group 1/Group 3 field of cars! Traffic was incredible out there! Yet, a respectable finish for the Saab was achieved!
I also had a wonderful race with a Fiat 850 Spyder that was trying desperately to keep ahead of me and succeeded by the checkered flag! Lap traffic had interfered with my plans of badgering the Fiat into letting me pass somewhere in the corners. Nevertheless, a safe race without incident is far more important than being one position further ahead.
More company .. This time big, Group 3 (1955 Corvette) company (R. Harrington photo)
I had a chance to congratulate the driver after we got back and out of the cars. The driver, Mr. William C. Harding of Richmond, was a true racing gentleman. In addition, he’s a fellow Saab racer! He was impressed with how well the 93F was performing out on course. (So was I!)
Turning hard out of Turn 7 and into Turn 8 (W. Pietrowicz photo)
SVRA Season Finale, October 9-12, VIR
I ran a practice session in the rain that was rather exciting! I had fitted a set of reinforced front control arms with new nylon bushings, and a custom-built set of adjustable Koni shocks, for this event. The second modification completely changed the handling of the vehicle. It was like driving a completely different car compared to the one I had raced just a few weeks earlier. The car's body roll was almost completely under control. Wow! Now it will ‘corner’ faster and flatter!
I had become rather comfortable with the new chassis setting by Sunday’s feature race. I ended up running hard behind a beautiful 1955 Austin Healey 100-4 Lemans. The Healey would slowly pull away on the long straights, but I’d late-brake into the corners and catch him every time! I was so close behind him in the corners I could see his eyes in his mirrors.
This give and take went on for the entire race. I wanted to pass but a safe chance never presented itself. Oh, there were a few rather unsafe chances but I refuse to race "dirty" and will not endanger a fellow competitor or their car for the gain of one position out on course.
Chuck chases a 1955 Austin Healey .. thinking .. waiting .. (W. Pietrowicz photo)
In retrospect, I feel that if I had completed a pass on him that I could have gotten of a good lead through the corners. Then, while he might have caught me on the straights, he would have been unable to pass me before the next series of corners.
Fortunately, there will be another opportunity next year. There’s always next year!