The 2001 race season is underway with a myriad of changes. Team Margarita is fielding a new Class 10 Mirage chassis powered by a VW Rabbit water-cooled engine. This is the first time in the history of Sam Berri racing that a water-cooled power plant has ever been used. Sam is competing in both the pro/unlimited class and class 10 on the short course and will compete exclusively in Class 10 in the three VORRA desert races.
Sam Berri. Photo: Team Margarita
Under the dynamic leadership of promoter Dennis Kordonowy, VORRA has made dramatic leaps into 2001. Sacramento radio station KSEG Eagle 96.9 has been providing advertising for the short course event as well as a live simulcast from the track on Sunday. Competitors now qualify for starting positions on Saturday before the race and the starting format has changed to an "Oklahoma Land Rush" in which all of the competitors line up side by side and charge to the first turn fighting for position. Saturday's events also included a tire changing competition with the take from Saturday's gate going to the winning team. This weekend, the winner took home over $400. Last, but certainly not least, is the "DASH FOR CASH". Any vehicle in any class may enter the 4-lap event to compete for a winner take all purse which is provided by spectator's donations. This Sunday, the purse exceeded $500.
Team Margarita qualified in both class 1 and 10 in second starting position during trials on Saturday. The new transmission failed to perform as hoped on Saturday and had to be changed Saturday night to be ready for the race on Sunday. During the change, a wire from the starter arced to the radiator resulting in a water leak, which also had to be repaired. The weekend was not off to a good start and Sam was uncomfortable with the water-cooled engine set up.
Competition was furious in Class 1. In the first heat, Dennis Dougan in a Porsche powered buggy, a mid-engine V-8 powered buggy and Jerry Wald in his class 1 truck were all ready for the season start. The V-8 buggy and Dennis ran away from the field and it became apparent that the Rabbit just wasn't going to provide the needed power to compete. During the last lap, the V-8 buggy lost an engine giving Sam a second place finish. In the second heat, Sam pursued Dennis through the 8 laps and was unable to run him down until Dennis had a rear tire going down. The heat ended in a photo finish with Sam taking another second place giving Team Margarita a second place for class one for the day.
The team. Photo: Team Margarita
The "DASH FOR CASH" was a surprise even to Team Margarita. After the conclusion of the class 10 competition, the team was picking up preparing to go to the pit and pack up for the trip home. Sam, instead of driving to the pit, pulled into the line-up for the competition. Cars from various classes pulled to their starting positions to put on a show. At the start, it was a mad dash to the first turn that found Sam second and really pushing. When the dust settled, Sam had another second place or, as it was so appropriately put, first looser. This weekend proved to be a learning experience for the team and Sam but hold onto your hats, things are going to change.