TriHard Racing

TriHard Racing


The weather was sunny and beautiful in Julian for the Annual Julian Classic Motoring Show at Menghini Winery on Sunday, May 22 and the now somewhat infamous Julian Apple Pie Grand Prix on Saturday which is an unofficial race from Main St. down to the winery about 3 miles away. The race features a LeMans start whereupon the drivers line up across the street from their cars and at the sound of the gun sprint over to their mounts, start the engines and peel out as fast as they can! The show this year was titled V8’s in the Vineyard and featured Trans Am cars from the 60’s and 70’s. A plethora of amazing vehicles showed up. Real 427 and 289 Cobras, a real Trans Am Boss 302 Mustang and Z28 Camaro as well as an AAR ‘Cuda, Pontiac GTO, Shelby Mustangs and the usual boring Ferrari’s, Maserati, Jaguar E-Types, Corvettes, Ford GT, Mercedes as well as drag bikes from the 50’s and 60’s. All in all an impressive weekend as my co-driver Tammie and I stayed overnight at the Apple Tree Inn in nearby Wynola so that we could attend both days events. We arrived Saturday at noon, checked into the motel, unloaded our bags off the luggage rack of my trusty Morgan Plus 8 and proceeded into town. We signed the obligatory release forms at the town hall for the race and went looking for a place to eat. There I ran into friend and event organizer Steve Sheppard (who btw had promised me the number one starting spot on the grid). Steve needed a ride back to his home in the Julian Estates so that he could pick up his 427 Cobra. I naturally accommodated him and feeling the need to see how the Morgan would work at altitude, I gave him the E-ticket ride back to his abode. The Monster Mog (1700lbs, 5.0 liter TVR V8) worked well. Steve was adequately frightened. Now starving I went back into town, located Tammie and we headed off for a late lunch. Unfortunately by the time we finished and headed back out onto the street, we were horrified to see the cars already lined up and my promised number one starting spot occupied by a certain 427 Cobra. Now I had to line up all the way down in 20th place. So much for getting a good start. But wait, a half hour later the number seven spot was abandoned by a Corvette owner who decided to take a reconnaissance run to the winery. You snooze you lose and so I slotted Morgana into the now unoccupied to a 650hp 427 Cobra on one side and a new 650hp AMG Mercedes on the other. Talk about a small fish in a big pond. At 4:45pm we received word to warm up our engines. I let Morgana run for about ten minutes, shut her down and proceeded to take my place across the street with my fellow racers in anticipation of the 5pm start. Eyeing the competition, I felt sure that I could beat most everyone in the footrace to their respective cars and sure enough when the gun went off I sprinted across the road and leapt into the mighty Morgan, hit the starter, released the clutch and was stunned to see a Shelby GT350R who started at the end of the line go flashing past my bonnet at about 70mph. The Shelby driver, an accomplished SCCA and vintage car racer from the mid west and henceforth known as “Peter the Cheater” had decided that his delicate ankles couldn’t handle the incredibly difficult task of running 15 feet and decided to go ahead and belt himself into his race car before the actual start. Being a bit unnerved at seeing this white whale streaking away, I gave Morgana a wee bit too much welly thus spinning my tires and causing my ride to not only get sideways but totally using up first gear in about twenty feet. And much to my chagrin, allowing a rather intimidating 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge to run right up on my rear bumper. Wait a did HE get there? Seems that although he actually did the sprint across the street, he had a little help from his passenger in getting the car started before he was actually in it. So at this point, even though I’m only going about 20mph, I have no choice but to grab second gear and mash the throttle. Pleasantly surprised, I watched the GTO disappear in my rearview mirror and set my sights straight ahead on the Shelby which by this time had about a hundred yard head start on me. Behind us there is mayhem as 30 plus cars and a zillion plus horsepower are all fighting for the same spot on the road and trying to avoid running over any of the crowd who are still milling around in the street. Thankfully, Morgana loves the thin mountain air which allows her to actually gain horsepower and about 500 more rpm than normal due to the fact that she normally runs way too lean. So now as we’re shrieking down Main and heading out of town, the road starts to rise up to a crest about a quarter mile away and as we reach the top doing about 120mph I have closed to within a few inches of the Shelby’s back end. The drawback being that now I can’t see what’s in front of me because the view is blocked by a very large white barge with blue racing stripes. As we crest the hill he moves way over to the left and I see my opportunity. I stick the nose of the Morgan up alongside only to have it almost chopped off when he suddenly moves over on me. I can now categorically state that EBC brake pads are worth every penny. I back off and try again a few corners later only to get rudely and unsportingly blocked once more and almost run into the embankment. This goes on for a few more turns. However, a couple of corners later he makes a mistake. Thinking I’m going to the right, he moves over to block as I now head to the left. Heading into a short straight section we are both accelerating at full maximum and as I pull alongside he realizes there’s no way he’s going to make the approaching left hand turn and thus backs off the gas which allows me to just sneak in front of him. Unfortunately I now realize that at this rate of speed, I’m not going to make the turn either as Morgans tend to define the word understeer!!! Turning left as hard as I can and still heading in a perfectly straight line I have no choice but to ease up on the brake pedal and hold on. As I see my life flash before my eyes and the image of a very crumpled up Morgan, let me just state one more time about the quality of EBC brake pads and the new and very grippy asphalt with which the roads in Julian are thankfully surfaced with. Coming within an inch of a very serious embankment, I somehow managed to avoid catastrophe and execute the turn opening up quite a few car lengths on Mr. Shelby. Then as the road straightened out I proceeded to check out and take the checkered flag. Woo hoo!! Winner of the Julian Apple Pie Grand Prix for which I received the accolades AND admonitions of my co-driver AND........well......nothing really. Turns out there are no awards for this event. Just the satisfaction of knowing that I beat a whole bunch of cars with a whole bunch more horsepower. So as the rest of the field slowly filed onto the lawn at Menghini Winery and Morgana sat sizzling and popping away in victory we joined our fellow racers in the private reception provided for all of the official entrants. And what a reception it was. This being a charity event for the Julian Medical Clinic, many volunteers worked tirelessly to provide an incredible experience. Fabulous food and great wine was served up in abundance along with an endless amount of camaraderie and lies. Peter the Cheater walked over to offer his “sincere” congratulations by stating, “Just to set the record straight....I let you by”. I replied, “Just to set the record straight....I was going by whether you let me or not”.

And then there was the car show on Sunday. Wow. Talk about overload. Amazingly it was almost a completely different group of cars for the Concours. More food, more wine, live local music, raffle prizes, exceptionally nice regalia and I have the t-shirt to prove it! And then the awesome awards. Beautiful magnums of Menghini wine, engraved with the official car show logo in silver.

And....oh yeah......Morgana received one for best in class.

What a weekend!!! I felt like Charlie Sheen. “WINNING!”

Let’s see some more Morgans there next year.

Randy Zoller

TriHard Racing News

5/22/2011 Randall Zoller wins Julian Apple Pie Grand PriX