The museum boasts one-third of a million sq ft of more than 15,000 International Tank and Cavalry artifacts dating from 1509 to present. And, yep. Naturally, the Swedes are represented. If you're not at VIR for a Volvo event, you'll need to see the Swedish tanks here, instead of on the racetrack.

And speaking of local color, stop at Aunt Millie's in Milton, N.C., when you're at VIR. This unassuming spot serves up pizza which compares with some of Chicago's finest, and proprietor Gwen McGuire is intent on creating the Seneca Lodge of VIR, just outside the racetrack property. You can help create a legacy.

HSR offered me the opiton--at no extra charge--of participating in two race groups for the weekend: the Volvo-only group, and assignment to their normal race group for each car, depending on age, unique car preparation, etc. I enthusiastically opted for inclusion in Group 3, as well as the Volvo group, allowing for six sessions on track on Friday, four on Saturday, and three on Sunday. What a racing bargain, and what a great way to get a jump-start at new track.

Turned out #122 was essentially a rolling chicane for the Porsche 914-6s and 911s of Group 3, but I got a lot of seat time, especially the first day on track. And, my god! did those Porsches blow by me. But by the end of Friday, I was feeling like I at least knew my way around the track and had selected a line for each corner. Keeping to it was now going to be the trick. And, of course, driving with at least one eye on the mirrors at all times, especially whenon track with Group 3.

By the end of the day, my times had dropped to the vicinity of 2:30 for the 3.27-mile course. Certainly not spectacular, but not bad, considering it was my first weekend on this very challenging technical course. The full course has three sets of esses, (the Snake, Climbing Esses and Roller Coaster) substantial change of elevation, and at least two full speed sections. For the Porsche guys there are more than two, of course. I'm talking about an old Volvo here. Charging at full speed into the dip just before the incline that becomes the Roller Coaster, my heart was in my throat for most of Friday. My mind kept saying, "Wait to brake. Wait to brake," and my sphincter kept saying, "NOW! NOW!"

(Go to www.virclub.com/track_info/track_layout.html to see the full course map. You will find that VIR boasts a website second to none in motorpsports.)

Meanwhile, Duane Matejka of Foreign Auto Tech (www.volvo-1800.com) was turning in times around 2:18, driving the fastest old Volvo in the country. So I could see I definitely had my work cut out for me to keep finding seconds on the track. It's great that Duane gives us something to shoot for, you know?

Duane is probably the winningest Volvo racer in the country, as five-time Champion of the Volvo Historic Series. He was joined this weekend by Sam Moore, the legendary IT-B racer, and two-time IT-B National Champ who hails from North Carolina. I've watched Sam race at Road Atlanta, where his red '72 142-E sedan blew the doors off assorted VW Rabbits and other IT-B types.

John Parker (jparker3@twcny.rr.com) of Syracuse, N.Y., driving one of the country's fastest P-1800 Volvos also made the trip. John exhibited the P-1800 supercharger set-up he has created for street Volvos, designed to let older Swedes terrorize the rice rockets in stoplight derbies.

Steve Alander, of Naples, Fla., brought the only model 242 Volvo racing in the country. Most of the familiar faces from prior Vintage Volvo Grans Prix, and some new ones. Unfortunately, we lacked most of the West Coast contingent who had been able to travel to Watkins Glen. Our mututal loss.




During Saturday's sessions I began to experience some minor difficulties with the car. First a stalling condition developed in sharp right-hand corners. This provided the opportunity for each and every car in both race groups to pass me coming out of the signature Oak Tree turn at the far south end of the course.

On prior occasions a broken carburetor part had caused these same symptoms. Sure enough, I found and replaced the broken part. But the condition persisted. Later I found more carburetor parts needed replacement. Sputtering at high speed also suggested perhaps the points need replacing. In the heat (literally 90*F or so and 90 plus humidity) of a 5-min. paddock stop between back-to-back sessions, I was unable to successfully swap and reset points, so missed the Volvo Qualifying race on Saturday afternoon. Okay. I'll start the Volvo Feature Race on Sunday from the back of the pack.

Saturday afternoon wound up with a Monsoon, literally. Several inches of rain fell amid heavy winds reminiscent of Elkhart Lake in the fall. There, I commonly lash the canopies to the race car in order to keep them in this county. Same at VIR. And the adjacent motorhome. And extra stakes in the ground. And all the spare race tires I normally keep on the trailer. And somebody was trying to tell mr they don't have all that much wind in the mountains of Virginia. Not!

Sunday dawned bright, sunny and predicted to be hot. By race time it was in the mid 80s and the Volvo types were sweating and pacing around nervously. Me included.

Duane Matejka (#1 )posted a 38.9-sec. victory over second-place finisher, John Parker (#177). Rich Conklin (#68) of Long Beach, Calif., finished third. Interesting note here: Parker built Conklin's P-1800 for him, so two Parker-prepped cars were in the top three. Not bad, eh? And Sam Moore (#26) went on to finish fourth. Keeping in mind that his IT-B car runs a stock Volvo engine, this is a very strong finish, indeed, against cars whose engines are permitted under vintage rules to take maximum advantage of technology available in the '60s and early '70s. One hint: look for telltale signs of Bob Griffith!

Ordinarily, when racing a vintage Volvo you're one of only a couple at the track that weekend, competing against British, Italian and German cars. While Volvos are known for mechanical reliability and consistency, a funny thing happens when the Volvo racers all face each other--maybe we overreach a bit. In any case, more mechanical failures occur than at any other time in the season. Just six cars finished the race.

Though I 've been developing the car more in each year since 1996, #122 was less reliable for this outing than any in the last few years. Starting from the back of the pack, the throttle would not work freely during the pace lap--more carburetor problems. After only a couple of laps in the race, I found myself running on just one of the two carburetors, and knew the wise choice was to retire. My first mechanical DNF in years with trusty #122. As they say, "That's racing."

And just in case you're wondering, the weekend was terrific!

(Race results are available at: http://www.hsrrace.com/04_vir/results/G10_Volvo.pdf)

By Jack Babcock
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