Right about here Mike makes a basic fish-or-cut-bait statement, something to the effect “…if you want to get up in the pack and really be serious about this racing thing you need to get more power”. Translated loosely this means we have to spend some money (actually lots of money) to improve the basic elements of the car that yield performance and reliability. The operative word here is money. In the world of racing at any level there is a direct correlation with speed, performance and the dollars invested.

We put into practice what Mike has been researching, planning and preaching. We acquire a 1098cc long stroke engine with the preferred 2-inch main and Mike begins to mold it into the form that will take us well into the future. Oh yeah, a long way back I said that the car came with a 948 cc and it basically had to stay that way to be period compliant? Well, we discussed this with SVRA and in the Group One car specifications we find some wiggle room. It states that this car, in this body style actually was produced with the 948 and the 1098 engines prior to 1965 / 66. This opened the door for the development of the 1098 drive line.

Mike employs Carrillo rods, aluminum pistons, hardened crank, a tuned head from England, larger SU carburetors, Cooper-S distributor and more goodies designed to coax horsepower from the engine. The suspension parts of the car get redone as well…down it goes. A lower center of gravity is critical to handling after all. We take out anything that translates into unnecessary pounds. We try to achieve a front to back balanced weight. Words like caster, camber, under steer, over steer and power band start to sneak into my vocabulary; words that I have never even uttered, let alone understood until now, become common place.

Two seats? No, no; this just won’t do! Forget the thought that we may be able to use this car to race on weekends and drive out to the country orchard for apples in the fall. It isn’t going to happen. In place of the second seat a battery box goes in. More roll bar structure is added. Stiffen this, replace that. Get rid of those steel wheels; add fatter tires with softer rubber compounds. More and different gauges; “we need accurate telemetry! This is an expensive engine and feed back is critical” I’m told. And so it goes…….

We learn from the previous race season’s efforts and every year we add here and tweak there. The lap times begin to reflect our collective efforts. With Mike’s input we are now consistently in the middle of the pack, up in the top of our class and racing competitively. My driving skills are improving. We begin to collect the hardware to show for our efforts. First, second and third place ribbons and medals start to adorn the office wall. We concede that in a real world we probably will never have a Group winner, but no matter; my original vision has been met, and exceeded. How could this possibly get any better?

But it does get better….my entire family begins to get more involved. My wife, Gale, begins to do timing and scoring and develops her own circle of friends from that side of the track. My multi-talented daughter-in-law Julie, gets her competition license and is driving with us from time to time. Our west-coast family (you remember Dave the “cartoonist”) gives us lots of moral support from afar. Our grand daughters pitch in to help in the pits and with the timing and scoring duties; and, of course, Mike keeps everything working mechanically. Man, is this fun or what!

And so it goes; Team 51 and that wonderful little Austin Healey Sprite make their way to such tracks as Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, Pocono Raceway, Summit Point, Roebling Roads, Virginia International and other great and historic venues. From our rather weak beginnings in 1990 and on through the 2002 season our little troop grows in experience and level of performance. All this, having more fun than I could have ever imagined when I reflect back to that first fall day at the Glen and said to myself….”I can do that!”