Penticton driver gets coveted red hat

It took just over a decade, 11 years to be exact, but the Black Opel racing team has its red hat.

FRANK KINNEY of Penticton stepped into the drivers seat of this 1970 Opel GT and set a new speed record of 209/mph. The previous mark was 202/mph set by California’s Gail Phillips.

FRANK KINNEY of Penticton stepped into the drivers seat of this 1970 Opel GT and set a new speed record of 209/mph. The previous mark was 202/mph set by California’s Gail Phillips.

It took just over a decade, 11 years to be exact, but the Black Opel racing team has its red hat.

The Summerland-based team achieved their ultimate goal by breaking the record of 202 miles per hour held by Gail Phillips of California. Frank Kinney reached 209/mph during a Southern California Timing Association speed racing event.

“A lot of the kids don’t know how fast 200 miles an hour is, as my oldest grandson told me. At 200 miles an hour ,you are doing over five kilometres a minute,” said Kinney of Penticton.

Kinney, along with Larry Ryll, Ken Brown, Lance Brown, Marc Piccioni and Dick Knorr make up the Black Opel team (www.blackopel.com). The 1970 Opel GT that set a new standard is owned by Kinney, Knorr and Ryll, who with help from their longtime sponsor, Lordco Auto Parts, built over the last 13 years. The Opel was heavily modified to meet class rules, running an (E) 260 cubic inches max, gasoline, modified engine, which is a two-seater. It has 440-horse power in a 2006 GM Vortec inline 6 with race tec pistons, crower rods, Bates valve train and custom crank girdle and Fliudamper.

Their desire to set a new mark simply stems from their interest in racing. Knorr said there was an Opel GT that campaigned in the northwest for drag racing and they felt it would make a nice car for Bonneville, Utah.

“It was just kind of a dream to go fast down the Bonneville (Salt Flats) and see what it’s all about,” said Knorr. “That is sort of how it evolved.

“It was pretty awesome,” said Knorr of them setting a new standard. “It was pretty neat to finally, I shouldn’t say beat the Americans at their own game, but we did take the record away from the American that held it.”

And they accomplished it with the help of the Americans. Knorr said some of the Americans supplied them with materials and parts, adding that they are all on the same side.

“It’s like a big family down there,” said Knorr. “Everybody helps everybody. They will help you beat their own record. We would too.”

Kinney said hitting that speed is a big rush and one that was fun.

It’s the car that is in control.

“The car goes where it wants and hopefully straight most of the time,” he said.

Kinney, a retired BC Tel employee, said he’s just lucky, as any of his friends could have earned the record.

Kinney said it’s the big show of the year with over 500 race cars and thousands of spectators. They have teams from all over the world, eight or 10 other countries represented besides the United States and Canada.

“I just happened to be the guy that got in the car first,” he said. “It is a team effort. I’m very lucky that it’s me that’s got the red hat. Now we have to get one for Dick.”

The SCTA is a volunteer organization that provides safe and friendly land speed racing events for enthusiasts in southern California and Utah.