Part One – Getting There

A weekend in mid-March, 2008 would see Laguna Seca Raceway play host to the 2008 MGVR focus event. Vintage British racers of all types were gathering from around the country to fight it out around the track for two days of classic racing bliss. This would be the perfect event to bring the MGC GTS to, so we loaded up a weekend worth of luggage and headed north.

This was the first time the car would be out of the garage since a really expensive paint job. It was so expensive in fact that I was terrified to drive the car down the street. I figured that I would have to get over this fear sometime so off we went toward the 101 Freeway and the Monterey Peninsula.

I will admit that I spent a lot of time deciding whether or not I wanted to put some clear vinyl on the rear arches where hundreds of rock chips lived before the re-spray. Those chips were one of my favorite things about the look of the car! I also never liked the look of the stuff because it makes a car look less “properly used” so to speak. As the sun set the night before we left, I was out in the driveway applying a couple pieces, figuring that I should probably protect my investment in Glasurit paint. I can always peel them off if I want to, right?

Driving on the freeway, I found myself leaving a lot of room between us and the traffic ahead, in order to avoid the usual front end chips you get with such a low car. I hated being so paranoid and hoped this nervousness would go away very soon. The drive went quickly as we passed through Ventura, Santa Barbara, Solvang and many other towns along the Pacific Coast.

In San Luis Obispo we turned west onto Highway 1, which is quite literally one of the best drives on the planet. One section of road had been washed out and the temporary section ran very low and close to the breaking waves. As we passed through this part of the road, it was amazing to see waves crashing into the rocks and launching themselves 15-feet above our heads, right next to the road! Of course the inevitable happened as a huge wave broke, spraying salty water all over the car. So much for all the time spent detailing the car yesterday!

Gradually I let go of the concern over the wear and tear the road was putting on the car, and it was not long after the waves that I was forced to let go even more. The road disappeared and in its place was a few hundred yards of gravel. We were fortunate to make it though just before a bit of oncoming traffic appeared. At this point I was pleased with my decision to put that embarrassing clear vinyl on the rear arches. The next 100 miles was full of small scree and other natural road debris and I was fighting to stay out of the way of other cars kicking the stuff up at me. This is how it goes on Route 1 in springtime, and despite the concern over the new paint there was no way it could overpower the sheer pleasure of driving this incredible road.

We arrived safe and sound in Monterey, and after dinner with some friends we settled into our hotel. That night I heard heavy rain on the roof, but since there was nothing I could do about the fact that the car was sitting uncovered I chose to ignore it.

Part Two – A Weekend of Racing

The next morning I went outside to wipe down the GTS but noticed something very strange. It looked like there was ice on the fenders but I knew it didn’t get that cold overnight. A bit of panic set in as I rushed downstairs, wondering what happened to my paint.

As I approached the car I realized it wasn’t ice, but piles of hail! The car, during its first night out of the garage, had sat out in a hail storm. It was a sickening thought but all I could do was clean it up as best as possible and press on! The damage to the finish was barely visible anyway, and would polish out without much effort. At this point I tried to clean up the car using a new detail spray, which decided to streak and refuse to come off the paint. I had to scrub it away, which didn’t really work, so it dried in place. I also realized that the car’s rear hatch seal was installed incorrectly so there was a pool of rain water in the rear compartment.

While driving to breakfast, my detailing efforts were once again thwarted as it began to rain… again. This is when I realized my wiper blades were coming apart, so I would have to find an auto parts store to buy some refills. By the time we entered town it had stopped raining and blue skies were showing so I figured I wouldn’t need the wiper refills after all. We drove to a restaurant where I quick-detailed the car again, removing the water spots and dried-on detail spray from earlier. Linda was only slightly embarrassed that I brought in my wet detailing towels to dry while we ate. She’s a trooper, you know! When I came out of the restaurant, it was raining again. Of course once I finally found an auto parts store, waited for it to open and installed the wiper refills, it stopped raining.

Driving to the track, we were treated to a few muddy roads and tire spray from oncoming vehicles. Finally, we arrived at Laguna Seca to the sound of vintage racing engines roaring through the hills. There were cars of every type, and the best part of all was that there was practically no one there! This was almost as good as the Monterey Historics, only without any crowd whatsoever. We parked in the paddock alongside a friend’s pre-war racer for much of the weekend.

It began to rain again and continued on and off for most of the day which wasn’t so bad. At this point I was definitely getting over the “newness” of the paint and the car in general.

Photos from the paddock…

It really felt a bit silly bringing a car that is basically ready to race but not racing it. However I decided when I bought this car that it would not be a racer, but a road car and that’s how I have kept it. Still, I had to explain to a lot of people why the car was not entered in any events!

During the lunch break we went out and drove the GTS on the track. This was our first time driving on Laguna Seca and I have now a new appreciation of what a great track it is. The corkscrew was fun and the turns well laid out. Some day I’d like to return with a racer and give it a go at full speed!

Photos from the lunchtime drives

The MG Reunion race was very entertaining along with the other great heats, and the lack of crowds made it a real pleasure to watch. The most people I saw lined up at the corkscrew at any one time was less than 30!

On Sunday we again drove the track during lunchtime, only today we changed it up a bit. I took a friend for a ride in the GTS, and Linda got to ride around in a 1934 MG NE racer! I was quite jealous but thrilled for her at the same time. The great racing continued throughout the weekend, and eventually came to an end late Sunday afternoon.

MG Reunion races and Group Photo

Part Three – The Return Home

We packed up and left the track, and due to the lateness of day we decided to take Route 101 home to save time. It isn’t as spectacular as Route 1, but still a beautiful drive. It’s always fun seeing the parade of racers returning home with their prized possessions being towed behind. We got even more waves from them than usual while driving the GTS.

We were nearly half way home before the winds of hell arrived. As if the new paint job had not been broken in enough, we got hit by three big blasts of sand, various small pieces of who-knows what and then the best of all… Coming through Santa Barbara at 70 MPH, the wind picked up a piece of counter top or something the split second before we got there, so it was standing upright as I plowed through it with the valance. At least the valance is nice soft aluminum so the wood thing wasn’t hurt too badly. Driving through Santa Barbara was like an obstacle course as we dodged palm fronds, blown onto the roadway by the high winds. Who in their right mind would plant palm trees in the center divider of a freeway?

After 750 beautiful (and eventful) miles we arrived home, where I was pleasantly surprised how well the car had fared against the elements. There were only a few small nicks in the usual areas of the front end, all easily touched up. The valance had miraculously survived unscathed as well. I considered leaving the car in the driveway overnight so I could clean it up the next morning, but I thought that might be pressing my luck! The GTS had a comfortable night’s sleep in the garage, and it was well earned.

Various racing action photos from the weekend…