Feature Article, Other Motorsports, Washington — July 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Greg Lovell (issue 102)

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By Steve Heeb

In 2004 Greg Lovell followed his uncle’s course into vintage racing. It was 30 years earlier that the Lake Tapps, Wash., driver had started racing Conference in 1974.

He says his parents were against him taking up racing when they preferred him taking college courses instead.

“I dropped out of Tacoma Community College to give racing a chance,” he says of turning laps in a 1960 Lotus 18. “I was racing Formula C, which is up to 1100cc. We raced in with the Bs. I always wanted a Formula B.”

In 1975 Greg teamed up with Jim Muntz to import a Lotus 59/69.

“That partnership ended badly,” Greg says of eventually buying out Jim’s share in the car. “The motor was not competitive. I sold the engine, but never scraped up the money for the Cosworth BDJ.”

Greg kept racing through the 1976 season before stepping away from the cars.

“I quit low on funds and life got in the way,” Greg explains. “Work, buying a home, etc.”

He wound up selling the car to Northwest racing icon Pete Lovely, who was looking for parts for his Lotus 69 F2 car.

Three decades later, Greg had an opportunity to get involved at the race track again.

“My uncle Dave Bean used to come up from California with his Lotus 7 and I would watch him race,” Greg says. “I crewed for him in 2002 on his Lotus 26R and got the bug again.”

Among the many Lotus parts his uncle had at the time, an unfinished Lotus 41 caught Greg’s attention.

“I bought it and built it into a roller,” Greg recalls. “It was 90 percent done and I sold it.”

After parting with the Lotus Greg became aware of a Forsgrini race car being sold in the midwest.

Jay Hadley had restored the Forsgrini locally in 1996, and it was then bought by Fritz Hamns, who moved it from the Northwest to Omaha, Neb.

“The car then went to Ohio, then Chicago,” Greg says of the Forsgrini’s travels before he purchased it in 2006.

“I knew the Forsgrini was a Northwest car and I wanted to bring it back to the Northwest,” Greg says. “I convinced him to hold it for me until I could sell my other car.”

The seller agreed and the ’68 Forsgrini Mk. 10 was eventually shipped to Greg.

Designed by Issaquah, Wash.-based car builder and racer Lyle Forsgren, the Swedish name was changed to Forsgrini to give it an Italian sound.

In 1968, Greg’s newly acquired Forsgrini had been the Pacific Northwest champ in Formula C with a Cosworth SCA, and its Cosworth MAE-powered sister Mk 10 won the Nationals that year driven by Michael Campbell, who would become the first manager of Portland Int’l Raceway a few years later.

“It was supposed to be race-ready,” Greg says of getting the car in 2006. “But the first weekend it threw the flywheel because it had been improperly put on. It ruined the crank so I had to get a new crank and flywheel.”

One of the challenges of competing in such a rare vintage vehicle – only two Mk 10s were built – is maintaining the car when parts are not readily available.

“If any of the suspension parts get broken they have to be made,” Greg says. “I tracked down the original owner Lyle Forsgren living in Wisconsin so I do have a few spare parts now.”

Greg says getting used to the Forsgrini was a struggle.

“The car didn’t come with an instruction manual,” he laughs. “It’s a hard car to get back into racing with. It’s a complicated car.”

He says all of the members of the the Society of Vintage Racing Enthusiasts (Sovren) were very helpful, and especially thanks former Sovren president Al Murray of Monroe, Wash., for his assistance early on.

Al says Greg’s Forsgrini was the first race car he’d driven.

“We’ve been friends since then,” Al says of Greg. “We trade parts and help each other out. Greg is fun to race with and I trust him.”

Al has competed since 1996 in a ’72 Elden and a ’67 Brabham , and respects the work Greg has done with the lighter Forsgrini.

The 825-pound Forsgrini is powered by a 1965 street block Lotus twin-cam 1600cc race engine with 13:1 compression producing 180-190 hp. It has a Hewland Mk V transaxle with cam-and-pawl limited slip differential; and independent suspension with lower wishbone and upper trailer arms.

“Lyle Forsgen did not believe in sway bars,” Greg says. “He said that if the car was designed right it did not need them. So the only adjustment for over steer and under steer is tire pressure. So this car tends to be loose.”

His track-gripping Avon tires are mounted on 13-inch American Racing Torque six-bolt magnesium wheels that are eight inches wide in the front and 10 inches in back.

Support for the machine work comes from Ken and Tracy Dye at DND Fabricating in Puyallup, Wash.

But Greg mostly thanks wife Jenny for letting him pack up the 16-foot wells Cargo trailer and Western Wilderness camper for five or six race weekends each season.

Greg has competed at Northwest tracks such as Spokane, Portland, Bremerton and Pacific Raceways. He says he also expects to compete at events in Shelton and Maryhill this season.

“I like Portland,” Greg says after considering the venues he’s been to. “The track is nice and smooth. I’ll take this out in the rain there.”

His best lap times have come at Pacific Raceways with a 1:32 on the 2.25-mile circuit.

“I’ve had to do a lot of work to get the car where it’s getting the lap times it should be getting,” Greg reflects. “If I was to go and do it all again I would buy a Formula Ford. Those have stock engines and are simple cars.”

“Greg’s done a superb job with a car that’s pretty diabolical,” Al says with a nod to Greg and his sleek Forsgrini.

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