New Car for 2013

Wes driving from last year.

Wes driving from last year.

New car

So I realized I didn’t make a post about the new car for this year.  It probably goes along with not making a post in a year and playing catchup. I know, poor form. I promise this year will be better.

I digress – new car.  Back in November, a little birdie called me on a Wednesday evening and said I must look at a Formula Ford for sale in Lexington.  It had been checked out, was a competitive car, and was a good deal (because all race cars are good deals!).  On a windy late-morning 3 days later, Elizabeth and I flew 757YG down to Lexington to check it out.

The car being checked-out is a 1992 Piper DF-2. It’s chassis is still quite similar to the cars Doug @ Piper is making today.  The major differences in the Hawke (from last few years) and this car is that the Hawke ran in Club Formula Ford (CFF), where the suspension had to be out-board of the body, and this car is a true Formula Ford (modern) where, as you can see, all the suspension and widgets are inside the body to minimize aerodynamic drag.  The difference is quite substantial in speed.  A softer tire compound is used as well.  The car is incredibly more complex – both in all that physics stuff as well as technology.

The biggest factor in my race car pickin’ (and airline choice, and rental car, etc..) is finding something I fit in.  Well, the first factor is it has to go fast. And go fast with my fat big ass in it.  Generally this means cheating to win, but the folks I race with are all kosher and shizzle. So the morning of checking out the car included some awesome times like this:

A) Measuring how much my spine will compress if I roll the car over. Note: don’t roll car over.
Wes says: yeah, you're tall.

Wes says: yeah, you’re tall.

2) Seeing if my size 13-feet will operate in a fuselage that is 11.5″ wide
Wes says: you got big feet

Wes says: yeah, you got some big ass feet.

 At this point – I fit in the car.  The pedals will need to move forward about 2″, but there is room once you cut enough metal and re-weld 3 bars.  And the brake pedal will have to get cut in half.  Simple stuff. Right.

I looked over the rest of the car and spare parts with it…Everything was clean…

and lots of spares to fix my driving whoopies…


The only small issue was that it did not have an engine…and the last car I raced without an engine was a 6″ pinewood derby car in the Boy Scouts in 1989.

So at this point, there is a race car in Kentucky that needs A) an engine and B) to get to Wisconsin and 3) needs some rearchitecture done in the front to get the pedals workable for me. Sounds great!

On a cold, wet morning 4 weeks later Wes, Bruce and Cindy (Lindstrand) and myself met in a Starbucks parking lot in Indianapolis to make the swap.

Wes and Bruce ponder the lack of an engine. Wes feels it will go very fast downhill; Bruce feels that if we put a treadmill under the car, it will go very fast as well.


Piper all buttoned up ready for the trip to its new home in Wisconsin.
Piper all buttoned up ready for the trip to its new home in Wisconsin.

To-dos: buy new engine, install engine, new belts, move pedals, move steering wheel, new tires, need rain tires, align car, new oil cooler, new oil lines, and a few other items….

Up next… Spring testing and race…



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Hi, been a while

I know it has been two years since a new post here.  Something clicked differently and I lost most of my spare time to write.  In 2010, I was traveling for work nearly 100%, and mostly in places that didn’t have much to do after hours (cue: West Virginia banjo music), so I had time to write the blog (and some other stuff).  Now, I’m still traveling nearly 100% but with some other folks rather than alone; so after working until 7-7:30pm, finding a place for dinner that has something non-fried on the menu (cue music again, with rabbit noise), and dealing with other hobbies (like my instrument rating for flying) – the blog took a backseat.  There are no backseats in racecars.
All these have greatly reduced the blog-o-writing here. My sincere apologies to the loyal fan club.
Both of you.

So, to recap the last few years:


Ok, well, let us talk first the Looong Race, circa 2010

Coming into Spring of 2011, I last ran the Hawke in the MCSCC Looong Race in October of 2010 (click here to see all the pictures, which most of us didn’t know existed! thanks to whomever took them!).

It was a great weekend. Just look at the weather…

Finally got to use those pricey rain tires!
Luckily, this was just practice and qualifying.  The actual race was in much better weather – like 46f and partial sun.  Between the weather and the dudes with bad teeth, we might as well been at Brands Hatch in February.

Anyhow. Let’s get 2010 over with:
After driving a 100-mile race at the end of the season, you really don’t do much to the car except get out, find the nearest beer, and forget about the car until later.
Later came a month or two after when LMI cranked up the car in the shop (there might have been some question of “whats that noise” before this….) and there was a different sound to the idle. Long story short, the camshaft sprocket had decided to loose one of its baby teeth. The problem with these sprockets is, they don’t always grow them back.

At the Sebring 12 hour race, just before I got into my LMP2 car to qualify, Bruce Lindstrand presented me with a zip-lock baggie of metal parts. I should maybe say pieces of parts, or parts of pieces that were once a cohesive unit inside a racecar engine. Either way, I was so traumatized I couldn’t qualify my LMP2 ALMS car, and quit my professional driving career right there. Now you know, when someone asks “why didn’t he go pro” you can blame Bruce and his baggie of stuff. And to think, baggies of stuff mean so much to kids these days.

You might ask if that was a serious breakage. I don’t really know. But, when you gotta replace all this stuff, it probably was close to blowing up:

So, 2011 started with an engine that had been pulled out and gone over, relatively new rear suspension and brake changes, and otherwise no big problems. Yay.

May 1st – SCCA regional @ Blackhawk Farms Raceway

Video of first lap.  Car ran great, fun event, however not too much CFF competition (just a few FF’s).  Check out turn 6 where I braked too early and how that hurt dearly the rest of the lap.. I believe the maroon FF is John Luxon (in one of his two Pipers).



July 9th – SCCA regional and national @ Gingerman Raceway

My first time at Gingerman.  This was on the changed circuit, so I cannot compare to the old layout… but, wow, it was fun.  Lots of technical parts where being a foot the wrong way really felt slower.  Click the image below to watch qualifying.


On Sunday, I ran the national.  I can’t recall if we even put R35 tires on the car or ran the harder R60’s.  Here is a brief video of the start and me getting schooled that you don’t bring a knife club ford to a gun fight national.


July 13th – SCCA regional @ Road America

This weekend was eventful.  I had planned to rent an Evolution Formula First (FST) to see if I liked the car.  There was rumor that my 6’3″ self would fit.  Combine rumor with my lack of time to get up to LMI to try the car on for size and I was left with not feeling comfortable in the car after 2 laps on the Friday test day.  Too broad of shoulders.
LMI was quite hospitable (after numerous sasquatch jokes); after a little beg/borrow/go-now: we were able to pick up friend-Orie’s Spec Miata from the LMI shop in Darien and return to Road America for the Saturday morning sessions so I could race the weekend. Thanks to Dave Wheeler @ Advanced Autosports for lending a trailer to run down and pick up the car!

Let’s clear this up now: I’ve never driven a Spec Miata. I’ve never driven a Miata. I’ve actually never driven a Mazda until this day.

Long story short, SM’s are a blast.  Short story laundromat, see video (they didn’t tell me to drive on the pavement only):


It wasn’t 2 hours later since we returned Dave’s trailer, when we returned to the Advanced Autosports rig and had to beg for an urgently-needed set of spare wheels and tires after I flat spotted 3 out of the 4 here… Thanks, Dave!  I imagine Bruce knows some serious blackmail shit about Dave – or Dave is just a really really nice guy. Either way, I tend to get the benefit of both situations.

October – MCSCC Looong Race

After my great success with someone else’s Miata, somehow I was allowed to share Orie’s Spec Miata with Nick Temple from the LMI crew.  She drove first and I played clean up. Except I think I made more of a mess in the 2nd half of the race.

Racing SM is like gang on gang violence: it isn’t really talked about except those in the fight club, and second, miata on miata carnage is like one meth dealer taking out a coke dealer – no one in authority seems to care. Sorry, Orie, I really don’t know how that green paint got on your red car.

The real memorable part of this race was the driver change: Nick drove first. She is a tad shorter than I am, so there was a bead seat setup in the usual seat so that we didn’t have to change the seat position during the driver change. In my haste to get in the car and get driving, I neglected to wait for someone to pull that out.   I will note that I had a helmet on and couldn’t hear a damn thing, but I might have ignored someone tapping on my helmet with a stop motion at this point.
I hopped in the car like I normally do, all dukes-of-hazzard style (except the door was open, but theres a big bar in the way.. and no girls in short shorts… ok, you get the idea), and promptly whacked the big rear view mirror with my helmet, causing it to shatter.  No one really noticed the breakage, until I think Bruce says “hold on” and then realizes there isn’t much he can do.  When the door shuts, you can hear what is left of the mirror falling to the floor board (at 11 seconds into this video):



The Hawke stayed tucked away @ LMI for the winter, with no major work to be done.  Finally, a cheap winter of racing!

April 29th – SCCA school and regional @ Blackhawk Farms Raceway

This was the race after the 2 days of SCCA school, which I used to get my feet wet after a mild winter.  The first open track day was chilly rain, which was good to get a feel for the car without much go-fast pressure. Second day, Saturday, was nice but still cool out.  Good day to scrub in some new tires and pick up the pace. I was somewhere in the low 1:19’s and maybe one or two high 1:18’s for a lap.  Fastest I’ve been at this point was a 1:18.6xx last year.

The red car in front here is Ethan Mackey.  If you want to watch the whole video with mapping and speed, click the video below (contour GPS camera).  If you want to watch just the good engine, click here for the quick youtube version.  If you want just the “incident” with GPS data, click here.

This was on the last lap.  Ethan was in FF and I was in the CFF class.  So it wouldn’t even matter if I passed him; well, it would matter for after race bragging rights.  As you might be able to tell, on the entrance to turn 5 there is an access road coming from the right.  My goal is always to get really really close to that road and start my turn-in right as it begins.  Well, this time I was really motivated to make it perfect – too bad all the racing of the day had left a 4″ rut in the grass.  My right rear tire got caught and it just flung me around for the ride.  The impact into the tires was 37mph.  Bent some tabs on the upright, put a nick in the front nose, and got to finally use the HANS setup on the helmet.

I am still amazed how violently my head snapped forward (and was caught, as designed, by the HANS). You can see here how the black tethers hold the helmet and your head in one unit to your body.  Without them, you end up looking like a giraffe. And dead.scrp_0609_01_z+HANS_device+crash_test


Luckily, this was the last lap of the last race for the day.  So the race finished about 30 seconds later and I still kept my #1 spot in CFF class.  They plucked me out of the grass and mucky tire-wall water and all was well.

The best part of this race was I got my fastest laptime ever at Blackhawk, a 1:16.8.  Faster than any other event by a second.

October 20th, 2012 – MCSCC Looong Race

So what happened to the summer? The car took a little time to get fixed, I had alot of traveling to do that conflicted with racing weekends, and had two weddings to attend that also conflicted.  So, didn’t do any racing 🙁

For the looong race, I raced Orie’s Spec Miata on Saturday and my Hawke Club Ford on Sunday.  Both races were fun without incident.

Spec Miata race: Orie and I co-drove this race, with Orie starting out the race and running about 22 laps, them myself taking over.  The Miata will go the whole race on a single fuel fill, so while the pit stop is quick, it still takes a lap or two to get Orie out of the car and stuff me back in.
Out of 24 cars, we placed 17th with our driver change. No one ahead of us changed drivers or had to stop for fuel. Not bad. Really fun and enough other cars to have some competition.

CFF race: Most formula cars can’t race 100 miles without fuel.  The looong race 50 laps, but with the S2000 and Atlantics on the track the slower classes get 40-45 laps.  Many of the CFF drivers will either A) have a bigger fuel cell for this race or 2) short shift or otherwise drive a little slower in order to get better gas economy and not have to take the penalty of a 2-3 minute pit stop.  Fueling, by the rules, requires the driver to get out of the car for safety.

My Hawke should be able to do 24-26 laps on full fuel.  About lap 24, I felt a gurgle in the engine coming out of the last turn.  Every once in a while this was normal, but not this time.  I, stupidly, didn’t just pull into the pits (I was scheduled to go in NEXT lap!).  About 3/4 of the way around the track on this lap, I ran out of gas.  I coasted to about 200 feet from pit entrance. Drat.

I was this close.
Note: I am stopped in this image.

Now we’re getting going!

So, for the second time in one year, the wonderful wrecker workers come help me out. At least this time they were quickly able to throw on a tow strap and tug me into the pits for fuel.  In April, it involved a cherry picker to pluck me outta there.

Lesson learned: 24-26 laps of fuel should probably be rounded down a few.  Math, not just for dorks.

What I didn’t know, was that at the end of the race I caught back up to Bob “spongebob” Fleming and was only 16 seconds behind him. And he didn’t stop for fuel, drat again!.

Here are the results just for FF and CFF (out of 27 total cars):


and… we’re done..

Thanks for reading this far!

So, in summary. Not too much racing… but that hopefully is about to change in 2013!



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2010 Fall Sprints

I know I slacked on the blog writing, again.  The last time out racing, Road America in July with SCCA, I still haven’t written up.  I will – but it wasn’t too exciting being the only club ford there.  Racing was good – but nothing really really exciting.  I guess that is a good thing in car racing – all too often things break, people do something stupid, or the weather sucks.  No news is good news, yeah?


Friday Practice

I arrive at Blackhawk Farms early Friday morning.  Weather was a bit chilly, but fantastically clear and calm like October never is…. splendid.

This is the first time I’ve been at Blackhawk since the attempted April national.  And, the first time since the brakes in the car have been moved from inboard (on the Hewland) to the outside, within the wheels on the uprights.

See before:

Old location of rear brakes (inboard)

As you might recall, the inboard brakes had a few issues – first, they transferred all the braking force thru the CV joints, axles, yokes, stub axles, and finally the wheels.  This adds a lot of stress to components that don’t need to be stressed.  With the stress and the heat, the CV bolts were loosening up to the point of falling out during a race.

And after:

So – actually driving the car…

The first session was a relearning experience; as I haven’t driven the car in two months, and have not been at Blackhawk since April.  I didn’t push the car hard, and didn’t do anything stupid except whacking a high curb once or twice. Oops.

The next session, and the following 3-4 sessions – I was convinced that the rear tires were locking up under braking.  Everytime I got hard on the brakes, the rear of the car would dance around.  This was unnerving to me, as I felt the ass-end of the car was going to come around and I’d end up in the bushes/trees/tire-wall/grain-silo off track.

So, I adjusted the brake bias with the little knob in the car.  I kept adjusting. And more. And then it would not adjust anymore. Uck oh.

You really want the front tires to lock up before the rear tires – if the fronts lock up, you generally keep going straight.   If the rears lock up, you can easily end up in a spin.  Well, people with my skills can easily end up in a spin.

I was convinced that the recent changes to the brake setup had caused the braking force to be much greater to the rear.  Thus, the rear tires would lock up before the fronts…  makes sense in my head.   So adjusting the bias to the rear seemed like a good idea.
In between sessions, Lindstrands and company made numerous adjustments to attempt to resolve… including more brake bias, new brake pads, and scolding me for simply using the brakes. The static check of brake bias indicated that everything was setup properly beforehand, and that with the adjustments I should be locking up the fronts well before the rears.. Nonsense!

So, I just dealt with it… I think everyone thought I was crazy, and damned if I didn’t think they were crazy too (see next blog, re: Looong Race, to find out they are in fact, not crazy)!

Saturday Qualifying

Qualifying with off without a hitch – good weather, and no changes on the car.  I still felt an instability that I was sure was rear lockup under braking.. But I just adjusted to it.  Qualifying got me 4th overall in group 2.

An 18.8 was near my fastest time ever at Blackhawk…So, given the excusotron was enabled due to the rear-brake issue, I was justified in saying I could do better.

Saturday Sprint Race 1

The Fall Sprints scheduled is qualifying, then 3 sprint races, and a feature race.  After qualifying, each race decides your position for the next race.

The first race start was interesting.  It was slower than any start I’ve ever done.  I’m not sure why, but the pace car was going about 40mph when it pulled off (a tad too slow?), and the lead car kept that pace (per the rules…).

Tom Tipsword is the blue car in front of me.  He will prove to me my new archnemesis for the weekend (as John Haydon’s excusotron included not having tires made this decade, and not having been in a racecar since 2009).

Around 1:39 into this video, I get passed by a ton of cars.  Somehow I ended up shifting into 4th and not actually flooring the car.  Maybe my foot was angled on the pedal, or maybe I just didnt push it all the way down – but it shows you what 1 or 2 seconds of half-throttle will do to your whole race… I lost those few positions and never gained them back. Oh well…

Results from the race…

Saturday Sprint Race 2

So, the sprint race 2 was basically the same as the first one.  I lost two positions again… finishing 8th.  Tom Tipsword in the blue club ford was still just out of reach in front of me.

Sunday Sprint Race

Sunday morning started warm again, relative to October in South Beloit, with not a cloud in the sky and the 55 degree mark getting tickled by the the thermometer.

Elizabeth and I got a late start to the morning from the comfort of the Best Western – so we got through the gates into the infield about 3 minutes before they closed them for the group 1 race.  Looking back, driving 7hrs on the highway to drive an 8-laps on a racetrack is silly; it would have been real silly to miss the race due to sleeping in.  Oops.

I arrive and the Hawke was warmed up and ready.  I received only a small heckling about my timing, and Elizabeth received kudos for not appearing hungover.

After my performance yesterday, I qualified 8th. Someone didn’t show up so I was gridded 7th, which meant I was starting on the inside of the track finally.   Tom Tipsword was next to me on the left, as he finished just ahead of me yesterday in the last sprint race.  The other CFF, driven by my usual nemesis John Haydon, was directly behind me on brandy new tires (and wearing a brandy new suit, too.. but that is discussed in his blog, here).  There was a car that looked like an FF in front of me, but I think it was dripping rice and smelled of bad sushi – and it might have had a Honda engine in it.  Oh well – they’ll let anything race these days.

Even though the track had a cold evening with no blanket, the plentiful sunshine and the group 1 cars (Miatas?) on the track for the last 15 minutes had really warmed things up.

The pace lap confirmed the track was heating up – the car felt good in both the grip and power department.  I was still struggling with a high-RPM miss (above 6700rpm) that I just resolved with short-shifting at 65-6600.  I found that making formula-1 sounds in my head helped me shift earlier (It was so fun I kept doing that even when driving my usual car home to Ohio that afternoon.  You should try it).

If you want to watch a video and learn how to start a race – this is not for you.  This was a horrible start.  I look back and wonder what I was thinking.  Even with Brandon on the radio calling the green flag, I delayed almost a second before putting the pedal down.  Maybe I was too high in 1st gear or maybe I was day dreaming; oh well.  You can see how I get left in the dust.

The race was a blast – Tom and I were behind some faster Formula Fords (err, Formula F with a Honda engine…grrrr..) that were a little slow (1:23) in the first few laps , then everyone picked up the pace.   You can watch the video to see the fun.  Moving pictures do a much better job than my memory.  I was behind John Luxon for a while, then he passed a few cars and I ended up behind the blue Club Ford again….Tom Tipsword (again….in front…. the whole time….).

First part of race:
(sorry about the video and sun reflections – I forgot to clean the lense after yesterday’s race)

Second half of race:

So, as you can see – I didn’t pass Tom.  Soooooo close.  I tried. Really. He is a really good driver and really knows how to play defense.

Sunday 18-lap Points Race

More on this soon….

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