Greg Vannucci was rounding Turn 12 in his 2007 Lotus Exige Cup Car at Road Atlanta during the NASA Eastern States Championships when he hit a patch of fluid and the front washed out. The rest of the story is flying bits of British fiberglass, a displaced engine, and a left rear axle assembly that exited the car and came to rest on the track. Greg walked away unscathed but the Lotus chassis was a total loss.
Vannucci wanted to return to racing immediately with another V-6-motor-swapped Lotus, and he wanted to do it at the NASA Western States Championships just a few short weeks away. That was where his father-in-law, Tim Muchow, came in to save the day. Tim had been the brains and brawn in shoving a Toyota Camry engine into Greg’s first Lotus. He knew every idiosyncrasy with the car and told Greg, “We can rebuild it.” While driving back to Ottumwa, Iowa, the two men found a race-prepped Lotus Exige with a blown engine for sale on the West Coast.
Just a few weeks after the big crash, they had a new tub to work with, but only three weeks to build the car from the ground up. The good news was the mechanical components of the original Lotus were in good shape — just sitting in the wrong places.
“The left rear axle assembly that flew out of the car was fine,” said Greg. “We just knocked the Road Atlanta red dirt off of it, and slapped it into the new car.” The two men estimated they had nearly 500 hours into the build in a mere three weeks. “Tim was the more optimistic of the two of us,” admitted Vannucci. “He would say, ‘We should be done by 4 p.m.’ and then around 5 a.m. we would still be working on the car.”
Not only did they have to build a car from scratch, but they were building a machine that doesn’t have any factory support or technical assistance. “We are using a stock Toyota Camry V-6,” Vannucci said. “We haven’t found a lot of support for Camry ECUs or other motorsports development for the Camry.”
After all the hard work, the chrome-wrapped, V-6-powered No. 25 Lotus was on the track in Sonoma putting down respectable times. “I have to thank Tim for all of his hard work and determination,” Vannucci said. “If it weren’t for him, I never would have made it to the Western States Championships.”