EPIC POC SPIRIT – Laguna Seca 2010

By Bob Thacker
Photos By: Bob Thacker

It’s Friday, August 20, 2010, at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway, on the first morning of our annual three-day event at this historic site. At 11:05 AM, in the Second Orange Group practice session, on the second lap, exiting Turn 2, in 2nd gear, I shift into 3rd and…


I pull off the race line, into the shade of the Yokohama Bridge. My car, Lucille, and I wait together for the hook. Damn it! Disbelief. What happened? What have I done?

Back in the paddock, all confirm it is the transmission. Fluid. Bad ugly noise like rocks going through your garbage disposal.

But did I mis-shift into 1st instead of 3rd? Done that before. But it didn’t sound like that this time. It sounded loud, with a bang and then rubble in motion. I dunno. But it must be my fault. What a fool. I’m mortified. Humiliated. Physically, I sit in my truck with my head down. Mentally, I’m stuck up someplace dark and smelly, thinking I will just pack up Lucille and drive south.

What I did not know, is that behind me, in the Waterhouse/Aase paddock camp, my competitors had put out the call — MAN DOWN.

“Thacker! Where are you? Get your ass over here”. Steve Alarcon removes his cell phone from his ear to say, “We got it. Dude, get your car over here fast. Who has Erickson’s cell phone number?”

“Huh? What? No. Don’t worry about me guys. I’ll just go home.”

Steve Parker doesn’t agree. “Don’t be such a quitter!”

Steve Alarcon has a spare transmission sitting on the bench at Aase Motors, in Fullerton, recently rebuilt by Alan Faragallah to Steve’s particular

But by the time they reach him on the phone, Jeff Erickson is halfway between his shop in Fullerton and Monterey, driving his Suburban full of
parts and tools in support of the “Aase Team.” He’s too far gone to turn back.

But Alan Faragallah, a licensed private pilot, has a pilot friend, Fred Geller, who owns a Bonanza A36…

Drs. Steve Parker, Jeff Erickson and Steve alarcon go to work12:00 PM – Jeff closes Aase Motors so that Alan and Fred can load Alarcon’s transmission into Fred’s plane to fly it from Fullerton Municipal to Monterey.

Alarcon says we are going to need a garage. Dennis Bennett volunteers to vacate his garage for as long as it takes. We get Lucille up on jack stands.

3:00 PM – I meet Fred and Alan at Monterey airport, where we load Alarcon’s transmission into my truck.

4:30 PM – Erickson arrives at the track having driven all day.

5:00 PM – Lucille’s transmission transplant surgery begins.

Doctors Alarcon, Erickson and Parker, assisted by willing hands from others (some with a drink in the other hand), proceed to drop Lucille’s engine, remove the old transmission, hand fashion parts as necessary, attach Alarcon’s “loaner” transmission to Lucille’s engine, reinstall everything, put in the oil.

8:00 PM – We roll Lucille out and push Bennett’s car back in.

Jeff Erickson and Steve Alarcon hard at workI say that is a spectacular example of EPIC POC SPIRIT. It is what makes being a member of this club so much more than just driving fast. I can’t thank these friends enough for what they did for me that long day into night (though I did give Dennis Bennett a can of Bud Light the next day).

Epilogue: I did not mis-shift! Turns out Lucille’s differential case cracked, allowing the ring and pinion gears to disengage in a nasty manner.

I ran Saturday morning, VERY concerned about not blowing up Steve’s loaner transmission with its tall first gear that I had never experienced before. As luck would have it, the ground wire on my transponder came loose resulting in my qualifying DFL for the Orange race Saturday. In the last laps of that race, I saw Steve Alarcon’s car parked off the side of the track between 1 & 2.

Irony is a word often misused but it fits in this event. Steve’s differential broke in exactly the same manner and with the same result as mine the day before.

Back at the paddock, I graciously offered to return his loaner transmission with the small caveat that he would have to get it out of my car
and put it into his. Understandably, that was a bridge too far for Steve that night, and he left Sunday morning, but with a smile.

Lucille and I had a fun time on Sunday with Mike Takaki, and none of it would have happened without the incredible effort afforded me by my friends Alarcon, Erickson, Bennett and (yes, you too) Steve Parker.

All Hail POC!

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