Way back in 2006 I found myself entered at the Monterey Pre-Historics and Historics in one of Syd Silverman’s Lister-Jaguar Knobblys, the No. 38 BHL-3, a car I’d mamboed with at a number of circuits around the country. Becoming quite comfortable with the right-hand-drive seating position, left-hand shifter and its tail-wagging propensity, I found the Lister happiest when I drove it like I stole it. The Lister “Knobbly” also had all its bumps in the right places, like pinup girls of the 1950s. I loved staring at it from any angle.
The tight cockpit fit me quite well, sitting at floor level with legs stretched out slightly to the right, pointing into the tiny footwell, just large enough for my size 8 racing shoes. The wheel had a quick disconnect feature, making it easier for ingress and egress, also handy should the car be on fire and I needed to bail out in a hurry. The windscreen worked as it should, keeping the high speed air blast off my helmet, without any buffeting, and the car could probably reach 140mph on the long straight at Road America. Here at Laguna, I’m guessing perhaps 110mph on the front straight?
Certainly not one of the faster Listers (its 3.8-liter inline-6 tuned for reliability rather than max horsepower), I could work with the other Listers in the corners and the usual great mix of Group 4A machines, but when we hit the straights the Lister-Chevys would leave me in their wake, making good use of about a hundred more horsepower.
So at Monterey that year, with (wow!) 45 cars entered in my race group and a fresh set of Dunlops, off we went at the wave of the green, my qualifying run thankfully putting me up into the front group of cars before the fast ones disappeared over the rise on the front straight. And after a few laps I found myself in a lock-step battle with one of those tiny what I call roller skates — a really well driven Lotus Eleven — and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t put distance between it and my Lister.
I’d power away a few precious car lengths on the straights coming off the turns, but then he’d catch up again under braking, and would even get under me into Turn 5. I was hoping he wouldn’t try an Alex Zanardi move down the Corkscrew! The best thing about our scrap was I could tell the driver of the No. 25 was in complete control, fast but also safe. I knew we could charge fender to fender, feeling comfortable doing it.
At the wave of the checker I had edged the Lotus by a few car lengths, finishing 3rd, but as soon as I clamored out of the cockpit I had one of those, “Who was that guy?” moments. A crewmember clued me in. “You had one hell of a race with Pete Lovely!”
Wow. Pete Lovely. The Pete Lovely. He won the first-ever race at Laguna Seca and was a racing legend. I had to go find him.
And I did. Smiles all around and handshakes, Pete offered me some water and we chatted for half an hour. About our little race, about his racing career. It was wonderful. It’s a race weekend I’ll never forget.