Rockets Sponsored Race Car
Retro Rockets is pleased and proud to provide ignition parts for this 1971 Merlyn MK16 Sports Racer owned and driven by Joe Rodomista.
Merlyn, an English company best known for making Formula racecars throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, built this one-off Sports Racer in 1971. It is powered by a Ford Cosworth BDD engine and runs a Hewland FT200 gearbox. It was imported to the States from the UK by Bill Ippolito who put the car on the pole for the 1971 SCCA National Run-Offs. Joe Rodomista purchased the car in 2009 and now runs it in vintage races.
PerTronix Parts in the Racecar
PerTronix Ignitor (conversion from points to electronic ignition), p/n LU-148.
PerTronix HV 60,000 V Coil, p/n 60115.
PerTronix Rev Limiter, p/n 600.
Joe Rodomista began racing in 1969, although you’d never believe it was that long ago to look at him (unless he started when he was 5, which he didn’t). His first racecar was a ’59 Bug-Eye Sprite that he ran in the Eastern Motor Racing Association events winning the series in 1971. He moved up to the lower Formula cars for a short time before putting racing on the back burner to raise a family. He returned to racing in 1990.
Joe currently has three racecars: 1996 Toyota-powered WSR (World Sports Racer) running in the SCCA Regionals of the North Atlantic Racing Championship Series; a full-race small block ERA Cobra running in club events and vintage races; the 1971 Merlyn purchased in 2009 for vintage racing.
Lime Rock Park Historic Festival Vintage Races
Joe entered his Merlyn in the Lime Rock Park Historic Festival held on
Labor Day Weekend. There were over
40 cars in his group. During
Saturday morning qualifying the Merlyn developed some hydraulic clutch issues.
It became impossible to up shift using the clutch.
Joe had to match engine RPM with speed to get from 5th to 3rd
gear. That slowed his speed at the
end of the main straight going into the Big Bend right-hander.
(See this page for a turn-by turn description of the course http://www.limerock.com/images/stories/TurnByTurn_ClassicLimeRock.pdf).
In spite of that, Joe qualified the Merlyn second.
The time between the Saturday morning qualifying and the afternoon final was spent
trying to solve the hydraulic clutch problem.
The clutch master cylinder was in and out four times alternating between
the original master and a new one. The
lines had to be bled each time. Linkage
adjustments were made. Finally,
with the original master cylinder back in the car and more linkage adjustments,
Joe was able to get a little pedal. The
clutch would disengage with the pedal just off the floor.
If that little bit of pedal went away during the race it would be back to
up shifting without a clutch.
Joe started on the outside of the first row with the top-qualifying 1963
Lotus 23B on the inside. For the
first few laps the Lotus maintained the lead with Joe right on his tail. Then the Lotus got caught behind some lapped traffic and Joe
was able to make the pass. Joe held
the lead for a number of laps with the Lotus in close pursuit. Then it was Joe’s turn to get held up by lapped cars
and the Lotus again took the lead, which it held to the end of the race.
Joe finished second.
The winning Lotus and Joe’s Merlyn were closely matched and by far the
two fastest cars in the field. The
Lotus’ fastest lap in the final was 58.969 seconds; the Merlyn’s fastest was
58.993 seconds – a difference of 0.024 seconds over the 1.51 mile course.
There is no racing on Sundays at Lime Rock, but Monday saw a full card of events. Group 9, which included the Merlyn, had two races scheduled. The first went off in the early afternoon and the second was the final race of the entire Labor Day weekend. Grid positions for the first race were determined by the order of finish from Saturday's race, so once again it was the Lotus 23B on the pole with the Merlyn on the outside of the first row. Just as in Saturday's race, lapped traffic helped decide the outcome. This time Joe was able to deftly negotiate around the slower cars and take the lead from the Lotus which he held to the checkered flag for the win. In this race Joe and the Merlyn set the fastest lap time for Group 9 for the entire weekend, 58.284 seconds.
In the last race it was the Merlyn on the pole with the Lotus on the outside. The two cars pulled away from the rest of the field just as they had done all weekend. Once again, after several laps with Joe in the lead and the Lotus on his tail, they came up on the back of slower traffic. This time Joe got blocked in the Ss and the Lotus was able to take the lead. With two cars as evenly matched as the Merlyn and the Lotus, once you lose a lot of speed and momentum behind a slower car, it's almost impossible to make up the lost ground. The Lotus won the final with the Merlyn finishing second.So in the three races for the weekend, Joe and the Merlyn had one first, two seconds, and set the fastest single lap time for Group 9. Congratulations, Joe, great racing.