Thursday, May 28, 2009

meet naughty tyres

My little Alfa GT Junior race car.
by Pierre Martins

aaa1 Many moons ago a buddy of mine asked me to take a little ’76 1600 Alfa GT Junior off his hands, for free, gratis. He had the car for donkey’s years, but it was just sitting under a carport at his house. I didn’t know what the hell to do with it, so I followed that rule that says when-you-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-an-old-classic, you-turn-it-into-a-track-car, problem solved.

That's when a track buddy of mine, Olly, came in. I got him involved and before we could wipe the snot from our eyes another track toy was born. The car turned out sweet. Dead slow, but GT Juniors are inherently good handling jobbies and we had BMW E12 528 brakes fitted, so the little thing could stop on a dime. We ran it on and off in historic racing in a handicap category intended for old street-legal cars, called "Fine Cars".

They still run the some class today. Cars don’t need roll cages and owners are encouraged to drive their cars to and from the track. Racing is conducted over two ten lap heats. For the starting procedure they line the cars up in pit lane, slowest car first, fastest car last and release them one by one at intervals according to qualifying times. A break-out rule is in place to prevent drivers from sandbagging to improve starting positions and you're automatically disqualified if your lap times during a race are more than 2.5 percent quicker than qualifying, or something like that...

The theory is that all the cars would get bunched up during the closing stages of the race and it will be anybody’s race and even the slowest car stands a chance of winning.

Alfa 2 Anyway, Olly and I were sharing the Alfa and not interested in championship points and whatnot, just wanted some track fun. Didn’t care much about their rules either, arrived for the first race with the Alfa on tyres that weren't strictly legal. Some geeky dude in a Lancia Beta saw the tyres and muttered something about “naughty tyres” and that’s how the car got its name...

Thing is, Olly was always a tad slower than me, so I sandbagged in qualifying to give him a better starting position for race one. He had a fair race, finished somewhere midfield. And then it was my turn, he-he-he… I decided to hell with the breakout rule for the second race and carved through the field like a deranged axe murderer, crossed the line in first place when the flag dropped, only to be disqualified afterwards.

Kinda dumb, yeah, I know. But who cares? I passed more cars than I care to remember and it was a hoot slicing past two or three cars under braking into some corners.

Naughty Tyres, he-he-he… It was a good stand-by track toy, not really all that ‘valuable’, so we could thrash it about at track days without having to worry too much about binning it. On one occasion we had the car at Zwartkops along with our Porsches. The plan was to do some back to back laps in the Alfa and compare notes. I went out first and stuck in four or five flying laps. Well to be honest, I’m not so sure whether “flying” is the operative word for such a slow car, he-he. Olly did a few laps and we got talking about sweet the car was under braking. We were both impressed by how late we were able to brake in the Alfa. The BMW 5-series brakes were designed for a much heavier car, so when you hit the clamps the little car literally stopped on a dime...

Alfa 3 The next session Olly went out in his Porsche and I followed suit a lap later in mine. Two laps into the session I arrived at the Table Top to see Olly’s cheeky black 911 parked in the run-off area with him standing looking at the car and scratching his head in confusion even though he still had his helmet on. He-he-he, too funny for words! Mind you, he actually spoiled my lap. I packed up laughing and almost stuffed up the next corner.

It was one of those funny track moments you never forget, it sticks in your mind like a movie clip. Just as well the session got red-flagged a lap later. Some dude in a brand spanking new Nissan Skyline locked up all fours under braking into the Hairpin and pitched it into the corner anyway, but he carried way too much speed and went off sideways into the kitty litter. The car dug in and flipped onto its roof, poor bastard. It was all too obvious. The skid-marks told the story.

Back in the pit I questioned Olly about his mishap in the Table Top. He had no idea what happened, told me he hit brakes and the car just skidded straight off into the runoff. Gave me the proverbial Oil-on-the-track excuse, he-he. I didn’t swallow that. I was on the same line and would’ve joined him in the runoff if there was any fluid on the track. A few well-aimed questions later and I got behind the truth – He was braking at the fifty metre mark like he did in Naughty Tyres. In his Porsche he probably carried three times more speed there, a dumb mistake that became a good party story, he-he-he…

And that was that. Olly joined the emigrating gravy train to Australia a few years later ‘cause he got fed-up with the increasing violent crime in South Africa. I was too busy with other things to worry about Naughty Tyres for the next few years, so I parked it.

deon And then one day I got the crazy idea to make the car available somebody who wanted to get into racing.

I heard about a youngster, Deon van Schalkwyk, who gave up his life in Cape Town and moved to Johannesburg simply because there were more opportunities to get involved in motorsport up here. His story kinda touched my heart and I gave him the car to race. I’m happy I did that, he put his heart and soul into Naughty Tyres and is still racing the car today and doing very well too.

And that's another sweet story about a car that could have still been standing under a carport, rotting away...


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