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A Day at the Races

By Ed Wolf

 Some years have past since I went to Oran Park Race Track about 40 km SW of Sydney driving my trusty Jowett Jupiter.

 The last weekend in January is traditionally the time when the Sydney based Historic car movement has its moment in the sun. Since the Amaroo race track was closed down some years ago, the venue has been Oran Park.

 Car no. 51 the Silver Sand Jowett Jupiter had been entered in the event in the previous year (2000) prior to the pilgrimage to Rockingham WA.  Then the engine had been on its last legs with the best time in practice of 1.10:5 and by the third event on the second day recording a 1.19:7 on a disappearing oil pressure as I still had to drive the car home!

 My usual routing is to drive to the track, unload the superfluous items like the spare wheel, hood, hubcaps and tools prior to scrutineering then to install the numbers, tape the lights etc before entering the fray.  At the end of the two day meeting all is reversed and you drive home again with or without a trophy.

 For the 2001 season I now had my car in “W.A” trim meaning a revised engine (VW pistons & 1680cc, aluminium tappet covers, oil cooler and a 4.1 diff.). That should make it go!

 The drive out to Oran Park was pleasant as always.  Leaving home at 6 am to be there for scutineering at 8am with a local motel booked for overnight accommodation so as to be ready early on Sunday morning without a driving hassle. Just before arriving at the track I refuelled at a nearby service station where another competitor in an Austin Healey 100 was doing the same . In previous years this Healey owner had been in the same events as the Jupiter but as he then pedalled a Healey Sprite the Jowett would get away from him on the straight.  With his new charge the situation was going to be different.

 At practice on Saturday I got the time down to 1.08:38 my Healey friend did 1.08:88 not much to choose between us. We were going to have an interesting time.

 The first regularity event was not due to start until 2pm on Saturday so the time was spent reviewing the other cars and generally meeting up with old friends amongst the competitors.  The fast cars in the field were a 1964 Bolwell Mk 4 at 55 seconds and a Nota FJ at 56 or so, whilst in my immediate era was the 1954 Bristol Arnolt at 1.04 and a Wolseley 1500 at 1.09. I settled on a nominated time of 1.09 for the regularity as for each 0.1 second OVER time you lose 1 point and for each 0.1 second UNDER time you lose 2 points so it pays to err on the high side when nominating. The aim being to do the precise time nominated for each of 4 observed laps in a 6 lap event.

Jowett Jupiter of Ed Wolf touring This is how Ed Wolf's Jowett Jupiter NORMALLY looks when in touring mode at least.

In the event itself I managed to circulate in 1.09:7, 1.12:23, 1.10:41 and 1.11:57 for the timed 4 laps losing a total of 78 points.  The Healey had nominated 1.08 which meant that he started in front of me on the grid as the fastest cars go first.

As his times were 1.10:36, 1.11:23, 1.09:48 and 1.10:03 he not only lost more points but also baulked me along the way until finally on lap 5 I managed a 1.08:66 to squeeze past him and stay ahead.  The joy of passing a bigger car was almost overwhelming.

 There were no more regularities planned for Saturday so I could relax and enjoy the close racing amongst other classes from a spectator point of view.  During the afternoon and into the evening a very heavy downpour saturated the track and the infield.

On Sunday morning there was an early regularity at 9.45 for which I had nominated 1.09 again as I felt confident that but for the baulk I could maintain the pace.  The Healey had nominated 1.10 so was behind me in the field at the start.

When the results showed me running at 1.11:13, 1.08:77, 1.08:87 , 1.09:10 for a 28 point equal second I was more than a little chuffed. I always like to move into the groove slowly so as to allow the engine and tyres to warm up. 

My fifth unrecorded lap time was a 1.07:89 so I was motoring!

 During the lunch break Leo Geoghegan came along for a few words of encouragement as I lined up on the dummy grid for the next event. Leo used to drive his father Tom’s Jupiter in the early fifties.

I made the comment to him that I always found the car so predictable in its reactions as evidenced by the close lap times.  I also mentioned to him the “win” over the Healey. He wished me luck and off I went.

 I had again nominated 1.09, the Healey had gone for 1.08 so he was again in front of me.  I was out to prove to Leo and the crowd that the Jupiter was the faster car.

 From the start the Healey drew away as it got a clear run in the traffic.  By the commencement of the second lap I knew I’d have to pull out all stops to catch him. 

The first turn after the straight is a tight 160° left hander that I normally take very wide to get plenty of speed on the exit.  This is followed by a slow right hander in which I usually find that the tail moves to the left but I catch it on the way.

 In my hurry to catch the Healey and to make a good impression with Leo Geoghegan I entered the right hander with more than the normal verve. The result was a more than normal movement of the Jupiter tail which swung to the left across the track,

I caught it only to send the tail now twitching to the right.  “All right” I thought, “It will be OK in a second as the speed rubs off in the slide” but I was concerned as I was now almost facing the oncoming traffic.

Jupiter of Ed Wolf beginning to roll over

The driver’s side front wheel hit the kerb went over it and then dug the wheel into the soggy infield causing the car to stand on its dug-in wheel. This had never happened before.  “Bloody Hell, it’s going to roll” went through my brain as the car lifted in the air from the passenger side.  The next few moments are lost in a haze until with a “whump” the car completed its 180° inversion.


Jupiter of Ed Wolf upside down The wheels are still spinning and Ed is under that lot!

First thoughts on recovery in order were: "I'm not hurt", then "The engine is still running" then "I'm not hurt" then "Better switch off", then "I have to let the crowd know I'm OK".

Lying upside down with one leg under the steering column and my body under the passenger side tonneau cover it took me a while to determine what was what. 
The ignition was switched off and then I tried to figure out how to get out of the car.
Not easy with a crash helmet on and the seat bottom being above you but still being held in by a lap belt. I guess I must have stayed there for about a minute by which time an anxious flag marshal
was asking how I was.

Jupiter of Ed Wolf being put back on its wheels

The paramedics were next on the scene and by this stage I had managed to

a)      untangle my right leg from under the steering column

b)      unclipped the tonneau from its “lift the dot” fasteners be able to slide out through the gap between the top of the passenger door and the creased quarter light.  As soon as I was out of the car I waved my arms in the air to let the officials and the crowd know that I was not harmed.  I’m sure the Clerk of the Course heaved a sigh of relief as an upside down sports car with no roll bar is a sorry sight.

The paramedics gave me a quick check on site and then escorted me to a waiting ambulance which took me to the medical station on the outside of the track.
There I was checked over by the track doctor with blood pressure up and a pulse rate of about 180. Fifteen minutes later when the pressure was down and the pulse rate normal I was discharged and walked back to the pits, everyone along the way offering me sympathy.

 The reaction from my fellow competitors was equally astounding. The fastest woman driver of an MG who does 59 sec a lap, came over and kissed me so pleased was she to see me alive. 

My mate in the Bristol Arnold apologized for not stopping in the middle of the race as he did not know what to do.  The Clerk of the Course came to see that I was OK.

All I got from the roll was a green grass skid mark on the right shoulder of my overalls, other than that not a scratch!

 The car looked miserable when I saw it back in the paddock after it had been turned over by the crash crew and loaded onto a flat top truck. Some wags suggested I could drive it home,

but the lack of  windscreen and the battery acid spilt over the upholstery and the presence of laminated pieces of glass  made it all look sticky and uninviting.

 I arranged for a flat top truck to take the car home with me sharing the cabin with the tow truck driver. Once home we pushed it off into the garage whereupon I reported to my wife Alison!

Other than crushing the windscreen frame and the quarter-lights damage is quite mild. The luggage rack on the rear deck took quite a bit of the strain and surprisingly those windscreen pillars can take a fair hit.

Do you know of any windscreens and quarter lights available in the UK? I intend to restore the car to road use and hope to build up another for track use - this one will have a solid roll bar fitted.

I suspect that the lack of a harness saved my bacon. With only a lap belt I was able to swing my body under the scuttle before the final big bang. This sounds as if it was thought out and in a way it was,

as I always intended to duck under the scuttle if anything went amiss. Don't know whether it was instinct or faith that helped me to be able to tell the tale. Let's hear if you can help with the screen.

Final comment from Ed Wolf "I bought copies of the photos from the photographer, later looked at them carefully and had diarrhea for a week.  Sometimes you can be lucky"

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