As the renowned Southern sage, Ovid Bolus, once remarked: "Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess." That wisdom is especially applicable to long-distance motor racing, a sport that must rank with the most excessive human activities on record. Unlike such benign excesses as flagpole sitting or marathon dancing, long-distance motor racing is very noisy, very dirty, very complex and sometimes very dangerous. One need only visit such sacred shrines of the sport as Le Mans, Sebring or Daytona to get the picture. Take a look at the stands or the pits at, say, about three o'clock in the morning halfway through a 24-hour race. Spectators, crewmen and drivers alike wear expressions of sublime ennui, their ears beaten flat and their senses scrambled by the unremitting roar of big motors.
There are some few moments of spectacle—blown engines that bang like frag bombs, flaming wrecks that brighten the night like fireworks, or the case of the Corvette that vaulted the wall during last year's Daytona Continental and crashed on top of a camper whose owner (fortunately) had just gone out for a hamburger. But for the most part a long-distance endurance race is dead beer, stale cigarettes, gritty eyeballs and the endless orbit of flatulent machinery.
Until recently the practitioners of this masochistic art were perfect copies of their sport: sobersided, deadly serious men and women who droned on and on through the night about things as thrilling as valve seats, brake wear and snaffle settings. The trouble was they hadn't listened to Ovid Bolus. Their excesses were not excessive enough. Well, if you're wearing the right colored brakes and you've lubricated your valve seats thoroughly enough, pull up a snaffle and sit down. The times they are a-changin' on the enduro circuit, thanks to Ovid Bolus and his partner, Flem Snopes.
The venerable firm of Bolus & Snopes, Ltd. was much in evidence at Daytona International Speedway last week. The occasion was the 24 Hours of Daytona, the world's most enervating road race now that Sebring has bitten the dust. This event is the first of 11 such events internationally, the only one in the U.S., with all of them reaching for a thing known as the World Championship of Makes—in which a brand name, not a driver, emerges as the hero.
Cars parked in the infield muck sported a ubiquitous blue and white decal proclaiming that "Bolus & Snopes are Good & Nice." Stern lawmen prowled the grandstands in search of the Bolus & Snopes team mascot, a celebrated sorrel mule named Dick Johnson who has been missing since June 1970 but might turn up anywhere. Many fans eagerly awaited the arrival of the firm's dirigible, the Graf Bolus, not realizing that the famed airship had been hijacked only a week earlier from the B & S aviation proving grounds at Chicken Little, N.J. Others attended a gala "Ground Hog's Day dinner and pre-race victory celebration" sponsored, though clearly not financed, by Bolus & Snopes at Daytona's prestigious San Remo Restaurant. But for the most part race fans were content to congregate around an orange Camaro wearing the familiar No. 94, in which resided the hopes of Bolus & Snopes during this event, and to beg autographs from the car's three irascible drivers. One of the drivers was Dave Houser, a gentleman racer of some repute ("Most of it ill," adds Ovid Bolus), who offered a pithy criticism of both the rainy race-week weather and his two co-drivers. "What's the title from Robert Frost?" asked Houser as the skies glowered down on his partners during one practice session. "Yeah, "Two Tramps in Mud-Time.' "
"Nuff said," growled one of the team's torque-wrench supervisors. "We're too durned literary already."
Not at all. In point of fact, the cockeyed wit and absurd wisdom of Bolus & Snopes have given endurance racing a dimension that too long has been missing from all motor sports: a sense of fun. In a sport that has grown nearly as serious as it is costly, in terms both of life and dollars, the Bolus & Snopes team provides a refreshing breeze of native humor—literate, ludicrous, antic and witty. It also provides good racing.
For the past two seasons the team has gone barnstorming for a modest outlay of $15,000. It was clearly money well spent. Last season former SCCA national champion Bob (Robert) Mitchell wheeled to his second straight Southeast division B-production title in a Bolus & Snopes "grabber blue" Shelby GT-350H (the H means that it's an ex-Hertz rental car). He scored three victories and only two of the debacles usually favored by the team.
The B & S endurance racer, the 1969 orange Camaro, finished 11th overall and first in the touring class of last season's shortened 6 Hours of Daytona, and the team placed second in its division at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Dismayed by these successes, B & S this year plans to campaign a Dodge Colt in IMSA's B.F. Goodrich Radial Challenge Series in addition to running the Camaro in endurance races.
And at last, international acclaim is just around the turn: the team recently received a communication from Le Mans. It was addressed to "Monsieur le Directeur, du Bolus & Snopes," and it was a Demande de Participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Last year, when the team tried to enter, it was brushed off. This year Bolus & Snopes is toying with the idea of reciprocating, though the prospect of racing in France is inviting, if they can get the backing.