April 2024

MARC Celebrates Dan Gurney’s 93rd!

Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 13, 2024 – On what turned out to coincide with the middle day of the first Modelville Retro (1/24th) Marathon, Catfish International hosted its annual MARC date.  A small, hearty crowd came out for Can-Am G-Jet and Spec Racer competition on the 82-foot Brystal Catfish.

I decided to dedicate this race to one of the greatest of all American racing car drivers, and my own personal hero, the late Daniel Sexton Gurney.  Winner of the Belgian Grand Prix in an Eagle F1 car of his own design and manufacture, and taking the top step at Le Mans for Ford, with AJ Foyt, the very next weekend, Dan was a star at Indy, in F1, in endurance racing with Ford, and in stock cars at Riverside, his home track.  Dan was born on this very day, 93 years ago.

America’s Top Slot Car Spouse, Gretchen Adams, made magic happen for us with donuts, fruit, and immense good cheer.  Gretchen looks forward to our race date at CIS every year, and had missed seeing everyone during the pandemic.

A surprise attendee-racer was the one, the only, John Stezelecki.

Almost exclusively a 1/32nd man these days, Stez has a very soft spot for the G-Jet, and so made the trek for the first race of the day.  He did us the favor of staying to race-direct the second program, then headed off for an early evening of parking lot drifting, and Indonesian cock fighting.  Always full of surprises, our Stez.  😎

Our first class of the day was G-Jets with vintage Can-Am bodies.  We decided to Bring It this year, and reward those who decided to do the work, and create realistic entries.  There were some very sharp-looking cars indeed, entered in the Concours d’ Elegance.

Terry Ayer took the top beauty spot, with his Chaparral-white McLaren M8B, sporting a sharply crafted, high wing!  Tom Gray was second with a vintage, Bruce Beaulieu Ferrari 512 Spyder in yellow and blue.  Tom Jahl answered the call for third with a beautiful Porsche 908 Spyder, ala the Targa Florio.

For their efforts, each of the top three Concours entrants received their own fruit mini-pie from Petsi Pies, and had their photo taken with our smiling race queen.

We ran the G-Jet Can-Am round robin, nine racers, with the Sportsmen and Pros together.  Five minutes per lane.  Some very quick cars!  

Catfish Sr. took the checkered flag first, with his long-wheelbase, Dan Gurney #48 McLaren, with 191.03 laps. Neither the one-lap record, nor 20-minute lap total mark were broken today.  Rob was about 21 laps ahead of the estimable Tom Jahl, who had 170.30.  

In third, Tom Gray cleared Hakim Harris by just three track sections, then came Stez, Terry Ayer, Hal Pierce, Tom Bussmann, and Cedric Prevoe. That was the finishing order.  Our top Sportsman in G-Jet Can-Am was Terry.  He bested four other Sportsmen.

After post-race tech, we began practice for our second programme of the day, Spec Racer, also known in some quarters as Spec Jet.  Open hearth pizzas from Stoked arrived, much tearing and munching ensued, and practice continued.  

At about 1:00, our musicians, No. California baritone saxophonist Noa Zebley and bassist Jan Portisch, from Cologne, Germany, performed the gorgeous American Songbook classic, “If I Should Lose You,” and of course the U.S. national anthem.  Truly amazing, sensitive players, and lovely people.  They’re Berklee students, so, like of course.  They got a well-deserved hand from our grizzled, hard-bitten, racer-savages.

While we ushered the musicians toward the remaining few pieces of pizza, Spec Racer practice showed that some very fast cars were in the house.  There would be no rest for Catfish Sr.!  Practice completed, our round robin was set to begin, Sportsmen and Pros running together once more.

But… with his car in hand, back from tech, and lining up to begin

his first heat, Catfish Sr. realized that the quick, pristine racer he’d handed to the tech inspectors was now sporting a badly bent rear wheel!  Great Hairy Hematoma!!!  What had happened?

It seems the answer will eternally remain cloaked in mystery…

In the Pro column, Tom Jahl and Tommy Gray made Catfish Sr. work like a Longshoreman on meth.  It was a very tense, very close, crazy fast race, with Jahl, Gray, and Catfish Sr., all right up on the very edge.  Catfish’s car was thumping like mad, but he had made no backup rear end (!), so there was no choice but to stay with what he had.  Would the car be enough, bumping along as it was, to hold off the screaming-fast visitor-competitors?

It was, barely.  Catfish Sr. totaled 277.27 laps to re-ascend the top step, with Tom Jahl right there, a mere six laps behind, and less than three laps ahead of Tommy Gray, who came third.  Then Terry, Hakim, Tom Bussmann, Hal Pierce, and Cedric Prevoe.  The Sportsman field was Terry, Tom B., Hal, and Cedric.  Tom Jahl had fast Spec Racer time for the day, with a 3.878 on Blue.

When the throbbing controllers were laid aside, Apple, Cherry Crumb, and Strawberry Rhubarb pies came down the stairs, and much happy eating ensued.

Thanks to everyone for making the trip, the great racing we shared, and the teasing, Hakim.  And much less thanks to the many of our friends who weren’t able to be with us for this, for one reason or another (pickle ball, really?).  You’re still our friends, but probably somewhat less so.  😎

Our final MARC championship race of the 2023-24 season will be

Saturday, May 11, at LenJet.  First race of the day will be Super Stock on the Bear.  Then the programme will split:  Sportsmen will race Modifieds on the Boomerang, and the Pros will be racing Neo on the Brystal Viper.

Thanks to everyone for coming to Big Dan’s Birthday!

– Rob Hayes