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Personal memories of Bruce Campbell

14 September 2014

BVC Mk.1 Can-Am 1969


We had got this message from Bruce Campbell, who is best known by entering a mystery BVC Mk.1 into the late season Can-Am racing in 1969. It was actually an old Lotus 19B renamed as BVC in order to increase its chances to be accepted by SCCA to the Can-Am races. We found the story interesting enough to publish Bruce's email and share it with you once Bruce gave us his permission.

Memories (by Bruce Campbell)

Having had the opportunity to compete over several decades with so many really famous drivers, teams, friends, and competitors and their incredible race cars, I feel blessed to still be able to enjoy those memories.

I first met Dick [Richard A. Caillouette, Attorney at Law] and became life long friends at one of our Cal Club-SCCA race drivers’ licensing schools in 1969. Schools were held on weekends almost monthly both at Riverside International Raceway and at Willow Springs Raceway throughout those years. I was so enthusiastic about race driving that after I completed my SCCA licensing a couple of years prior, I entered every SCCA regional & national race, and Porsche club time trial for the next two years at those race tracks, Las Vegas Stardust Raceway, and soon was invited to become a Cal-Club SCCA driving instructor.

I eventually even opened a commercial race driving school at Riverside International Raceway with Dr. John Pennington, SCCA course physician, soon after which Bob Bonderant moved his school from Orange County Raceway to the new Ontario Motor Speedway.

Porsche factory and the Southern California Porsche Distributor had produced a large poster and nationwide magazine ads of my showroom stock black Porsche, white circle and number, the headlights cris-crossed with duct tape… that read, “All you need to race a Porsche is a roll of tape and a number.”

At the time Dick Caillouette appeared with that famous Dan Gurney Lotus 19B, now disguised in light green paint, at our Spring or Summer Cal Club-SCCA licensing school at Willow Springs, I was Assistant Chief Instructor of the schools. [Maj. Larry Cress, SCCA Chief Instructor for our Cal Club region was usually flying B-52s out of March Air Force Base.]

As I gave the morning ‘chalk talk’ of rules, course flags, and safety to our multitude of students and assigned groups of formula car or closed wheel students to each of our instructors, I realized that none of our local 200mph grand prix diver/instructors were present. Having recognized the extreme acceleration and top end speed of which that Gurney Lotus 19B was capable, I chose to supervise Caillouette myself.

Then near the end of the first lap under speed, the throttle stuck wide open as I lifted to brake at the decreasing radius of Turn 8. I calmly reached for the two red switches by the gauges and turned off the ignition and the electric fuel pump, told Callouette ‘the throttle stuck’, braked into Turn 9, then coasted up the front straight into the pits. I suggested to Callouette’s mechanics that a Webber carburetor jet may have backed out into the linkage. Yep !

Caillouette stood up in the Lotus, removed his helmet, and exclaimed, “I’m sure glad that you were driving.”

I answered, “Mr. Caillouette, you brought probably the fastest USRRC grand prix race car in the entire United States to this drivers’ school… You must be capable of responding just as I did to any event, calm and quickly.”

While the mechanics remedied the stuck linkage, I had Dick sit in the driver’s seat memorize all the switches, gauges, gears, clutch & brake peddles, etc… then close his eyes, meditate, and practice with his eyes closed.

The remainder of the weekend was great and Caillouette returned the following month and requested that I be his instructor again. Dick said his purpose for licensing at a drivers’ school was to become a professional race team manager and to fully understand what happens inside that race car.

With Dick’s on track driving sessions complete and his SCCA Novice License Log Book signed off at the end of that weekend, he asked me to take the Lotus around Willow Springs for a few laps, and critique the car for the upcoming races.

I received a phone call and lunch invitation from Dick the following Monday Morning at my UCLA research lab. He said he had just spent the morning with Dan Gurney at All American Racers in Santa Ana and that Dan not only knew who I was ['wow'], but that my lap times were very consistent and equivalent with SCCA national lap records for Willow Springs… So would I consider driving the Lotus 19B at the final CanAm pro races of the year at Laguna Seca, Riverside International Raceway, Texas International Speedway.

In preparation for the CanAm events, we entered that SCCA regional or national race at Willow Springs. I do recall hanging out that weekend with my friend Scooter Patrick, who gave me endearing advice about risking one’s life to drive very fast in older race cars… Scooter must have been driving Otto Zipper’s Alfa Typo33, and finished 1st in A sports racing class.

Regret that this treatise is so long winded. Brought back many great memories.

Bruce Campbell