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Blackhawk Double National, errr, 1-lap-single national for me

Since no one really told me that running my first national in a club ford was a completely bad idea, Friday morning I showed up at Blackhawk in this run group.

Discounting the 35 year old car (in theory, its only a few seconds slower than the newer Formula Fords when on the same tires) and moving to who I am racing with, the list of drivers could have been a copy-paste from the runoffs last year.  I am clearly out of my league.

Our group 4 as both Formula Ford and Formula Enterprise cars.  The FE cars are substantially faster on the straights, having much more power, but they corner similar to an FF (or as I heard at the track, corners like a pig, but I’ve never driven one…).  So around the twisty parts of the track, the FEs shouldn’t be too bad of a fast-moving-swarm.. and on the straights they have enough power to scoot around the FFs in short order.

Friday Practice & Qualifying

Well, all that stuff up there didn’t matter.  Since I am late making this blog post, and most folks will skip ahead to watch the video, I’ll summarize:

Practice goes well – scrub in some tires.. But realize that other drivers are much faster than me.

Car still does not like sticky tires (see prior post).
In qualifying, brand new Hardy Spicer U-joint declares jihad on itself.  Breaks.
Tooth fairy arrives.
Car is flat-towed off the track.
Replace U-joint.  Crank up car to warm up for next session.  Loud noises are now present.
Realize why Tooth Fairy was around earlier – she took a tooth from my 2nd gear.   What a bitch.
During the time from warm-up to grid, Nick replaces 2nd gear and reassembles transaxle (note; this takes me 3 hours to do in a garage what she does on the dirt at the track…)

I qualify at the back of the group, given I had 3 laps to do a whole lot of crappy driving….
and…. get out in the race and…. see here @ 1:25

Drive axle breaks completely in half!  Apparently, while concentrating on the tooth fairy breaking my gears.. the axle fairy was doing her magic on a 1″ thick piece of steel. Oh well.

That was the end of the weekend.  No more nationals or sticky tires for me 🙁

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Mid-Ohio Test Day

So there is some stupid saying that knowing is half the battle, or whatever.  Well, knowing isn’t everything you gullible kids – you can know you’re gonna race, but if you don’t even get to the track, then knowing everything doesn’t matter.  That’s my rant about smart kids. Now back to my famous quote:

“If you never make it to the track, it is going to be hard to actually drive the race car to figure out if you screwed up when working on it all winter”

This post is cut short due to the facts outlined below:

First. The before. This is what a Ford F-250 bumper looks like, normally.

and after you’re doing 55mph and hit the brakes and:

the brake pedal goes to the floor
the truck and 8,000lbs trailer decide to stop stopping
you hit the construction trailer stopping in front of you on interstate at 40mph
you hit him again as you bounce his truck and trailer off your bumper
you finally come to a stop, pumping the brake pedal to the floor wondering what the hell happened…..

So, what did happen?

the rear hard-line (steel) from the front brake master-cylinder to the rear brakes ruptured (rusted and facing the roadway – maybe hit by a well-placed rock?). This caused all braking pressure to go right out that hole – spewing brake fluid everywhere and not letting the front brakes stop at all.

Lesson learned: When the brake pedal goes to the floor when driving a contraption weighing 13,000lbs, you should squeeze your ass cheeks together to prevent shitting yourself.  It is mildly scary. Inspect your brake lines!

All things done now – it is great that this happened on interstate in a panic stop behind another big truck+trailer rig, rather than thru a city street with pedestrians and small cars.
So, I never made it to Mid-Ohio.  I sat on the side of I-75 just out of Dayton and drank my celebratory beer (that was planned for when I had a successful track session).

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Don’s first VSCDA event

The weekend of June 13th brought Don and myself back to Blackhawk Farms, this time for a VSCDA event with Don’s 1962 Formcar Formula Vee.  This car is the 2nd Formula Vee ever made.

This car hasn’t been run in just about 20 years.  What’s the worst that could happen?  In general, the inappropriate but normal answer is, you die in a fiery crash.

This weekend, that was about the norm.


On Friday, I met Don out at Blackhawk just as he was gettting out of the car in the paddock (our favorite spot, the wonderful garage spot next to Tom’s office).   He had just finished his first session of the test day.

Not to sound like a broken record, or a record that is playing the Formula Ford song – but Don hops out of a car that is dripping oil.  OIL! No no no no no no, this must be a mistake.  Don must have kicked over a can of oil.  Or….not…. Oil leaks – This seems to be typical with anything we try to put on a track at Blackhawk.

It seems that the valve covers that came on this Formula Vee (which, by the way, was another impulse race car purchase by Don) are incorrect.  There is a cut-out on the top of the valve cover, that apparently needs to be the right size in order to let the cork valve cover seal make, well, a seal.
The culprit was the cut-out on the valve covers currently on the 1200cc stock VW motor are too small.  After 30 minutes of walking around trying to find a Formula Vee racer with a spare, we find Tom and his bench grinder.  10 minutes later and some metal shavings on the floor, Don has the problem solved.

Don gets suited up, I stuff him in the car, and he gets out for the last test session of the day.  He got a little late, and it was a short session – so he only got about 8 laps in.   He was somewhat slow on the straight, which is caused by the car refusing to rev over 4,000rpm due to (most likely) the transaxle fluid being the consistency of molasses.  We’re planning on changing this – tomorrow looks good.

So, I pulled out my stopwatch, but found that it rolled over by the time Don came around.  So, I pulled out my sun-dial and was able to get a semi-accurate lap time of 1:39.  In all fairness, Don’s 40hp 40+ year old car running 3/4 power is still faster than your street car around a race track 🙂

The car ran good – handled well per Don, and was overall a good 12 minutes of track driving after 7 months of prep work (no, really, this one only required about 2 months of work).  It seemed that the races tomorrow would go well.  Then, Don $&@*@D everything up on our departure from the track by saying “What could go wrong now?” (I’ve now learned to kick him everytime he says that, in hopes that pavlovian response will make him stop saying that).


We made it to the track about 9:30am, just in time to start our checklist of things to do before putting the car on track.  Don got to checking fasteners and I was putting gas in the car.  The fuel filler neck felt a little soft when I removed the fuel cap.  The cap isn’t bolted to the container, but rather is attached to the soft fuel bladder, so a little wiggle is expected.  I filled up the fuel tank in anticipation that Don will actually finish a race.  About 5 gallons, which should be plenty.

At this point, we should note that Don filled up the fuel cell to the top and let it sit for a month, to ensure there were no leaks.  No leaks. Keep that in mind as you continue reading, before you say “those morons took a leaky fuel tank to the track.”

Don gets suited up and in the car for the 30 minute qualifing session. Today, the car that now is not leaking any oil.  This is a first for us.  And yes, there is oil in the car (at one point in the past, I declared victory to a oil-leaking Porsche, when in fact the oil had been drained from it. Mr Bush, can I get a “mission accomplished”?).  The car fires right up (this car, differing from the Formula Ford, has a working starter!) and Don drives over to the grid.

– Don on track 0:00 – I walk over to the pit area in preparation to see Don come around the track after a couple of minutes.

– Don on track 0:30 – I finally figure out to make my phone act as a stopwatch.  Start timer.

– Don on track 1:30 -At speed, Don should do a lap around 1:35-1:39.  Should be coming around any time now!

– Don on track 1:40 – Hmm. Its the first lap. He must be taking it easy.

– Don on track 2:00 – He’s taking it REAL easy. Hurry up, slacker.

– Don on track 2:30 – I discard the stopwatch and setup my sundial for timing.

– Don on track 3:10 – I discard the sundial and tack a calendar to the post in the pit.

– Don on track 3:30 – I see the safety truck on the track around turn 4 behind us.  That’s not good for anyone.

– Don on track 3:45- Don’s not on the track anymore.  Don pulled off the track.  I hop in the Jeep find him near turn 5.  I find Don and the car smelling of fuel. Lots of fuel.  For safety reasons, I put my cigarette on the tire before leaning in to talk to him.. The entire cockpit area is slick with fuel and filled with gas vapor.  Fun.

What happened?   The fuel cell is old.  Maybe even older than Don.  The car is over 40 years old, and hasn’t been raced in 20 years.  So the fuel cell is most likely original (ack!) or 20-25 years old.  The bladder itself is fine, but the bonding agent used to attach the fuel filler neck broke down, seemingly in a few hours of fuel being in contact with it.  The fuel filler neck become unattached/unsealed to the fuel cell bladder, resulting in copious amounts of fuel sloshing around all into the cockpit.  Here is a picture of where the tank was:Dude, where\'s my fuel cell?

Those fuel lines used to connect to the fuel cell. We took it out in hope we could get the thing sealed back up….

Dissapointed Don

But, no go.  The entire filler neck is toast.  It disintegrated.

At this point, we realized our weekend was over.   Tom, our infinetly useful keeper of the track with his office next door to our garage place, offered free beer from his fridge and some consoling words and advice, including “just tape it up”.  Did I mention Don was covered in fuel and Tom was smoking? Awesome.

We tore off our red wristbands (which, while wearing, creates frowns while drinking beer) and became spectators.. we watched some great racing, packed up, and headed home.

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