One of the coolest thing about publishing The Garage over the years is that we’ve had the opportunity to make some great friends from all over the world. Fortunately, some of those friends are closer than others. We first met Andre Rousseau through The Garage, while he was publishing a build blog that followed the restoration of his rather stunning Triumph GT6. A trip to the vintage festival at Watkins Glen, driving the Triumph, sealed his fate: he had become hooked on racing. The GT6 was far to pretty to be turned into a race car, so the hunt for a race car began.
Meanwhile, another friend was vintage racing a Fiat Spyer, a low buck racer that proved to be a lot of fun and as reliable as one can expect from an old race car. Rousseau found a similar 124 Spyder for sale in the States and suddenly he was working on Italian tin instead of British. Like most old race cars, race ready meant it ran under its own power and had a roll bar. Andre began tearing things apart and upgrading basic systems. For the most part, this project dealt with safety and reliability issues rather than performance. The basic roll bar was added to, to create a full cage. The fuel tank was removed and a modern fuel cell installed in its place. The safety harness was replaced with a new, up to date set and if I recall correctly, the car was completely rewired. The result was that the little red Fiat was turned into a reliable, safe race car that is a perfect starting point for a first time racer.
When I spoke with Andre on Friday afternoon at the VARAC Festival, he was grinning from ear to ear with the kind of smile that looks like it will take weeks to wear off. Other than having the exhaust fall off part way through a session, the car ran flawlessly and Andre had no issues on the track. Shooting from trackside on Saturday afternoon, I could see that he was taking a very conservative approach and was working hard to stay out of the way of faster cars. Let’s face it, even a veteran driving a 110 horsepower Fiat would have a very busy time keeping out of the way of the cars Andre was racing with. The 50 plus car field included a pair of very fast GT350′s, a couple of equally fast Kiki’s and a Chapparal 1 that was actually the first one of its kind.
In the following in car video, you can ride along with Andre for the complete feature race on Saturday afternoon. Be sure to keep an eye on the mirror as some pretty hefty machinery approaches from behind. If you are really eagle eyed, watch the bottom of corner 4 and you’ll catch a glimpse of yours truly shooting.
Normally you can find Andre’s Fiat build blog at 124racer.com but he is having server issues at the moment.