This was one of many corny statements that drivers, crew and volunteers were forced to listen to while I took over the announcing duties at the Cajun Challenge, a two-day event held at Belle Chasse Naval Air Station on
of smoke filled
the air on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons after the racing was
finished. Luckily, it was only the
I heard that on Sunday Benson Young was turbo-charging the coals
them hot by using a lawn blower. The event
co-chairs threw a cook-out style party with free drinks, hamburgers
dogs (dressed any way you wanted ‘em) to
everyone who stayed around. That seemed
like a good time to draw door prizes each day and we had some great
donated by Pep Boys Automotive Supercenters,
There were 29 drivers in 17 classes on Saturday who enjoyed the luxury of getting 6 timed competition runs. On Sunday there were 48 drivers in 18 classes with 4 timed runs each in regular competition. Saturday’s competition was considered one event with no trophies. Sunday’s event was a separate points event with trophies presented at the end of the day. If you entered and participated on both days, you qualified for a special trophy for the Cajun Challenge. The results that are posted on Delta's website from this event will speak for themselves. You’ll be able to see for yourself who competed against whom in which class, who was fastest in their class, and who topped out on the pax. What you won’t see there is the battle that went on between the fastest drivers and who qualified to go on to the King of the Hill competition held each day.
On Saturday, when Ken Orgeron made his 1st run in his Honda S2000 in B-Stock, he ran only .039 seconds faster than Chip MacLaughlin, who was co-driving a 2004 VW R32 in STX on street tires. That was the closest anyone came to Orgeron as he got faster and faster with each run he made. His 5th run was his fastest at a 46.587 giving him FTD for the day’s event. But now it was time to look for the qualifying competitors for the King of the Hill competition. We would be bringing the 5 fastest drivers back to the grid for a 1 run shootout. The competition times would be put aside and each driver would get only one chance to let it all hang out to see who was King of the Hill.
Orgeron was automatically in the 1st spot with his FTD time. MacLaughlin’s fastest time for the day was a 48.121 which put him in the 2nd spot. In the 3rd spot was Mike Wells, driving the only American car in the lineup, a Ford Mustang Cobra. Wells’ best time was a 48.432, which was not bad for an ESP car. Hassan Malik, co-driving a Mazda RX8 in BS, slid into the 4th spot with a time of 48.723 which he pulled out on his last competition run. A surprise qualifier in the 5th spot was Mike Gaudet with a 49.025 driving a VW GTi 337 in GS. As an alternate, Paul Storey, with the next fastest time of 49.263 driving a CS Miata, was put on standby in case one of the top 5 competitors would not be able to compete for the King of the Hill.
To build up the excitement, the slowest of the 5 drivers would go first and the reverse order continued until the pressure was on the guy who had the fastest competition time. First up was Gaudet who ran a clean but slower time of 49.867. Not to worry, anything could happen. Malik picked up a cone on his run and still managed a time of 49.790(1) which was .077 faster than Gaudet. Wells ran clean with a 48.146 and was the only driver that actually went faster than his fastest competition time. With a lead of 1.644 seconds, Wells watched as MacLaughlin ran a slower raw time and picked up a cone. With a 50.309(1), MacLaughlin went to the bottom spot. Everyone watched anxiously as Orgeron moved to the start line. With the RPMs revved up, he launched the S2000 and drove through the course with one cone called in against him. Tension grew as he approached the finish lights. The numbers came up on the timer of a 45.763, but with a cone. The final time was a 47.763(1) and was still .383 seconds faster than Wells. Orgeron was King of the Hill!
The prepared Corvettes showed up on Sunday to support the event which spiced up the rivalry between the American-made cars and the imports. There were 5 prepared Corvette drivers (including yours truly) between 3 cars and it wasn’t long before the import drivers and Corvette drivers were talking smack. Remarks like, “It smells like fiberglass burning out there” from Ken Orgeron to Mike Poupart’s “I think the rice is sticking to the pot” were flung back and forth all day. Poupart, co-driving with Johnny Walter in the #98 Liberto Cleaners BP Corvette, put down a 47.314 followed by a 45.557 for FTD in the 1st heat. Walter was only .027 behind his co-driver with a 45.584. Remember, the course was altered only slightly from Saturday when Orgeron’s FTD was a 46.587 which would be too slow today.
The 2nd heat drivers were up and the gauntlet had been thrown down. On his first run, Orgeron ripped a raw time of 45.313, but caught 2 cones adding a 4 second penalty, followed by a clean 2nd run of 45.540, taking FTD from Poupart by .017 seconds! Chip MacLaughlin pulled out a 46.327 for his first run which would end up being his best for the day. Time for the 3rd heat and the Corvettes were back in grid. Poupart ran a 45.6 on his 3rd run leaving Orgeron feeling confident, but that wouldn’t last long. Poupart came back on his 4th run and threw down a 44.666 to take back FTD, an improvement of .874 over Orgeron’s best run. Walter was the only driver for the rest of the day that got close to that with a 45.276.
And so the
stage was set for
the second King of the Hill competition.
Mike Poupart in a BP Corvette would be in the top spot since he
FTD. The rest of the line-up would include
Johnny Walter with the next fastest time of 45.276 co-driving the same
Corvette with Poupart. The 3rd
spot would go to Ken Orgeron in the BS
with a time of 45.540 followed by John Centanni in the 4th
his AP Corvette whose fastest time was a 45.930. In
the 5th spot would be Chip MacLaughlin
in the borrowed VW R32 he was running in STX
whose fastest time was 46.327. The
alternate was Eric Johanson who drove a
in SM with a fastest time of 47.204.
Since Poupart and Walter were co-driving the same car, Poupart
volunteered to run 1st to allow the car time to breathe
Walter would make his challenge for King of the Hill.
Poupart ran a 45.203 and no one was able to
best him. MacLaughlin’s
time was a 54.023(2) followed by Centanni’s
clean 45.855. Orgeron
ran a 49.836(2) and Walter finished with a 46.184.
The prepared Corvettes finished
On a personal level, I had not autocrossed in about 2 years, but racing
again proved 2 things. 1) You don't really forget how to
lessons you learned stay the same, the skills you once perfected just
aren't as fine tuned as they used to be. 2) Mike needs to finish
race car - SOON!!!!