Archive for formula ford

Indy (O’Reilly) Raceway Park Regional

So I will keep this one short (hah!).

I planned to shake down the car last Friday at Mid-Ohio, but, wrecking the tow and trailer does not lead itself to doing much testing.

Then I planned to do the full test day (Friday) at Indy Raceway Park just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana (O’Reilly Raceway Park for those corporate types).   Well, if you read the prior Mid-Ohio post, you’ll know that you can’t test unless you get to the track (on-time).

I started out Friday with a desire to replace all 4 trailer brakes on the 28′ trailer I now have.  I had an adjuster spring distenigrate after the panic stop last week, and one shoe separated from the shoe-housing-thingy inside the drum. So, $230 later I have 4 new 12×2″ Dexter self-adjusting (and yes, they work!) electric brakes.  I just have to install them. On Friday morning before heading to the track.

In the first time in my life, I actually finish a job in the time I thought it would take – I finish replacing all 4 brake housings/etc by 11am on Friday (after getting off an airplane from Dallas at 12:30am the night prior, no less).

I hook up the trailer and am off by noon.

After a few eventful wrong turns, based on some “new exits” off the interstate that apparently were not on the interstate I was taking, we make it to the track around 2:45pm (its a 2.5hr drive…. so not all that bad).

I am now hoping that I can park the trailer, get the car out, quickly get it ready and be on the track by 3:30 to run the test sessions until 5pm.  It starts pouring. It has been pouring rain for a while.  The paddock is pretty empty, so I decide to dock this rig in a grassy area between two gravel roads. I get out, walk the area and make sure it is somewhat stable and dry.  My flip-flopped feet with 200lbs (ok, 208) think its okay.

I get about 15 feet into the grass and stop. Not voluntarily. But something else stopped me.  I give it some gas. Stopped. Backup? Nope! We’re stuck.

At this point, Jim from Colletti Motorsports (also from Dayton) comes over and tells us that the folks in the corner of the paddock had to pull him out of the mud/grass earlier.So, 10 minutes later, with the help of a V10 4WD Ford Excursion I am out of the mud and back on gravel.  We park in an area with light-grass-coverage, but with little water and good drainage.

As good as this spot looks, it is terrible. The trailer sunk in 2″ into the ground.  I decide at this point there isn’t going to be any testing today.  I’ll just do the practice in the morning, qualify and then race.
Friday evening is uneventful – unloading and prepping.  I find out through the schedule that there is no practice session on Saturday morning like I had thought.  This means that I will be on a new-to-me-Formula Ford, with brand new brake rotors (not broken in!), on a track I have never seen or walked, much less driven on. Awesome.

Saturday morning comes around and Elizabeth helps me prep the car. I still need to adjust brake bias, the belts, make sure the new HANS fits good, and some other little things.

Qualifying

About 20 minutes before qualifying, I think its a good idea to actually drive the car for the first time around the paddock.  I get in, and find the clutch is not working at all. Uck oh.  A quick bleed and adjustment gets that going (hopefully it is resolved, but sounds like the pilot bearing is grabbing a little still).

I get out to the qualifying grid.  I am about ready to throw up at this point. I haven’t been in a racecar since the October Looong Race with Midwestern Council at Blackhawk (where I still need to write the blog write up… i know… racing in sleet gets to you), and I’ve never been in this car, and the thoughts are going thru my head – will the brake pedal go to the floor?  Will the transmission even shift (I swapped all the gear sets and dogs)?  Is the car timed right (if I rev this thing to 5k in my neighborhood to time it, I think the local yokels will shoot me on sight)? Does the new transpoonder work? etc etc…

Well – I headed out to qual – I waved a few folks by and then went at it.  The car is amazingly easy to drive.  I set the sway bars are near full-soft for this first time out.. and the car was great. I ended up qualifying 9th out of 13 or 14 cars in the FF/CFF/CFC/F5/FV group.

I come in without indicent.  Things are looking good.

Race

Since I am in group 6, I have a few hours before I race.  We make some lunch, fuel the car ($8.50 a gallon! I’m glad I run $2.85 AvGas) and run thru the checklist.  It is amazing how many locktite’d things come undone on a racecar.  I check everything I can – an, in general, at least 3-5 hose clamps or nuts need tightening between sessions. Given my record of finishing races last year – it is important to do this every time you can….

As I am casually getting ready to run the race, I hear the annoucer call group6 (me!) to the grid for the second call. None of us heard the first call.. So, I quickly get dressed in all my fireproof goodies – which could be misinterpreted as my durka durka outfit.  No, I do not board planes dressed like this.

I hop in the car (already warmed up) and drive over to the grid, expecting to the be the last one there and late.

Well, they screwed up – it was first call to the grid.  I was there with about 3 other cars.  Everyone else is out of the car milling about.  I am sitting in the car baking in the sun. Luckily, it is only about 70 out.  And, I have an umbrella courtesy of my pseudo pit crew.

I will note now, that this is the only checkered-colored thing I’ve ever held in a race car. (sniff, sniff).

The pace lap was uneventful, other than this F500 dude next to me pointing at me to get behind him.  Last I checked, we grid up the same way we drive out, so maybe he was missing something or I was.. but, Once he got behind my at the start, I never saw him again.

The start was easier than I expected – as we came onto the drag strip and got 2-wide, the green flag dropped and we all took off.  The right side of the grid seemed to slow down, with a yellow Formula Ford or similar slowing down real quick and pulling off to the right.  There were 4 cars in front of me at the time, and they took off (damn good drivers!).  I kept seeing glimpses of them for about 2 laps, and then never saw them again.

I saw a few cars in my mirrors on the first 2 laps, then about lap 7 a silver FF got up close when I screwed up twice on the same lap, and promptly passed me.

It took me up to lap 4 to realize that I can go around turn one in 4th gear with my foot on the floor, but I still did about a 1/4-second chicken-lift on the throttle to get the nose pointing in the right direction.

Now is a good time to point out 6,500rpm in 4th (24:26 gear) is 117mph.

On lap 6, however, I got a little ballsy and didn’t lift.  Well, lap 6 is when I say I got stupid.  I ended up sliding the tail of the car out, and the counter steer took me to the inside of the turn at 100mph where it is really, really, really really really (x5) rough.  This shook the hell out of me and bounced the car across to the other side of the track (the outside, near the safe haven of lush green grass hiding nasty mud).

After lap 6, I decided to lift a little on the throttle to prevent having to dry clean my race suit.

The rest of the laps I spent trying to figure out the track – I’ve never been on it, and there are tons of open areas where you can really try 3 or 5 different ways thru a corner before you know what is fastest.

I ended up running 4th out of the whole group 6 of 15 cars or so. The 4 that took off ahead of me at the start almost lapped me (I saw the yellow CFC in my mirrors on the last lap), but one ran off or didn’t finish so I ended up with 4th place; and 1st in CFF.  Fastest lap was 1:48-something.

Full grandstands! yay!

Full grandstands! yay!

Overall, a successful day. I would have preferred to run the test day on Friday (if it wasn’t raining donkeys and elephants), and run the national race on Sunday (if I could…but I haven’t applied for my national license yet – which I am this week).

Thanks for reading this far. Really. Who does read this far? You should email me and I’ll send you something for doing so….

-Mike

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Picked up a new car

(So this post is a little late, about 7 months late.. I know.. been busy!)

So, given the distance to Chicago from Dayton, and the desire to run a few events in the south over the winter; I think it is a good idea to let Don run the Lola and I’ll get another car to run around Dayton and further south.

After some looking, and hoping that prices would drop off given end of season and the economy, I found a 1975 Hawke DL-12.  Some of you will know the car from the Midwest – it was heavily ran there since 1975 but a fair amount of folks who are still around (I’ll have the history and logbook posted soon).  Most recently, Erik Shep rebuilt the car in 2006, and Tod Powers purchased it and ran it for almost 2 years in the Northeast.  Well, Tod is a tall dude like me (even taller, actually) and switched to a Reynard setup for really tall dudes (whilst I fall into tall-dude and not really-tall-dude groupding).  So, short story short – I flew into NYC last weekend for work (which I do about every other week), and headed up to CT to check the car out.

The car is clean. Well rebuilt, well cared for, and well documented (original logbooks to 1975, original sales documentation, setup sheets, CAD drawings, etc etc). Sold!

Now I have to get it from Connecticut to SW Ohio.  Not exactly neighboring states.  And, since I don’t own a truck or trailer in Ohio, I can’t really just drive up and pick it up.  Helllllooooooo budget-rent-a-truck.

So, 5 days later I am sitting on a train from Grand Central Station heading to Norwalk, CT with my girlfriend, Elizabeth (who, at this moment, thinks we’re stopping at a hotel a few hours into the drive. maybe. or maybe she’ll drive some. or maybe it wont snow. or maybe she thinks I’ve printed directions. or maybe….).  After an hour train ride, we arrive at the train station (yeah, no shit, eh? train takes you to the train station) to get a cab.

Renting a truck

We take a cab to the Budget Rental Truck place, which is in a corner of a strip mall which has a pet store and a Chinese restaurant (keep that in mind for 14 seconds).  I ring the bell on the Budget door, no answer. I call them, no answer. I walk around. No one is home.  We entertain ourselves for the next 20 minutes making jokes about the Chinese place being next to the pet store. Come on – now that is comedy.

Did I mention it is 24 degrees (Fahrenheit, for those of you who found this site searching for Hawke, a British manufacturer) out, windy, and Friday at 4:47pm.    Afternoon timing like this dictates being in a dimly lit bar with questionable liquor being served from plastic bottles at cheap prices.  Did I mention its cold out?

Ah ha! Big blue truck comes careening around the corner into the strip-mall-Chinese-slaughter-house-parking-lot containing one dude-who-looks-like-he-works-at-budget.  Success! We’re good, a quick grab of the keys and we’re back on schedule! Or not.

To describe this guy, think of who is at the other end of the phone when you call technical support, or the yahoos at United Airlines – not to stereotype (but, honestly, they are a timesaver) but until last week this guy probably was living in a campus-like sitting outside of Mumbia and heating up talapia-curry in a corporate microwave.  He explained every little detail of the contract. Every. Little. Detail. Over and over again.  It took 42 minutes to actually take possession of the keys from him.  Think about it – that is almost it took you to read this far in my rambling blog. Go figure, karma.

The only thing that sticks out in my head is “Do you want the insurance?” and before I can reply he says “Let me explain” which takes 28 minutes.  I already decided – yes, for the $88 or whatever I want whatever you will give me to protect whatever I put inside this 26x8x7.5′ box of fun.

Home Depot

So, race cars do not just live inside 26 foot long rental trucks natively.  They’ll roll around. Or slide. And all the spare parts will fly everywhere.  That is bad.  So, I gotta tie this new car down.  But, rental trucks do not have tie-downs on the floor (just the walls).

So, the plan has always included going and getting tie-down D-rings and bolting them to the floor.  Since I was in Manhattan all week – I decided to goto the Home Depot in Manhattan (yes, a Home Depot inside the city – it is 3 or 4 floors underground and HUUUUUGE. Pretty neat).  Well, I get there and find D-rings – they are $12 each. What?! These should be $4. No way, Manhattites. Take your high price of land correspondent to your high priced D-rings… I’ll just get them in Suburbia Connecticut and save some money. And, the suburbia store will have a better selection.  At the time, saving $16 on D-rings when buying a racecar is a clear thought.

Well, after finding the Home Depot, which is on the wrong side of the street (well, everything is when you’re driving a 26′ moving truck in 5pm traffic an hour outside New York City) and parking this behemoth,  I enter the HD in search of the aisle containing my bargain of D-rings…..only to find the exact same selection as the Manhattan Home Depot. And, at $12 each.  This is the first, of many, outbursts of profanity followed by deep breaths.

So, I grab the D-rings. Did I mention there are ONLY THREE D-RINGS?  The Manhattan store had a bazillion (who needs that in the city? who even owns a car?).  So, I buy some “hitching posts” looking things – which hopefully are good at deception and don’t reflect their weak appearance.

Driving to Tod’s house

For those who skipped ahead of the last ramblance of text, Tod is who I am buying the car from.  Driving has gotten much more interesting in a 26′ truck at night. In 5pm traffic.    Did I mention that Tod lives on top of a hill.  This place takes about 7 miles of twisty 2-lane road to get to.  If you haven’t visualized this yet – think of trying to push a square of jello around a banister. Red jello. Over white carpet. With your crazy great aunt looking over you.  It is that much fun. Really.

Get to Tod’s.  Realize it is cold out. Real cold.  5 minutes out of the truck and I can’t feel my toes. Oh, wait, there is feeling again – oh, that is the shooting pain of frostbite setting in.  It is around 20f now.

We load the car. It is suprisingly easy with the help of a small valley in his yard that we put the truck into, so the car only has to roll up a 15 degree slope or so.  We load lots of spare parts.  And then a spare frame. And more parts.  Good thing its a huge truck – used up most of it.  Glad I didn’t skimp and get the 18 footer.

Elizabeth and I have some pizza, and find out that Tod went to college literally across the street where I now live in Dayton (University of Dayton).  And, that he got stabbed by an old lady with a pen while panty-raiding the dorm across the street from me (Sorry Tod, that’s too good not to mention).  Fantastic. So did I. But I was 27 when I did that and it was a felony.

Drive to Ohio

We get all loaded up and ready to head out – Tod gives us some final directions, which match up with the Budget provided GPS.  All sounds good to get out of this twisty-road mess in 3 or 4 miles and onto some highway.  Awesome.

We get 3 miles down, turn where directed and promptly see that the road now has an 11′ height restriction 5 miles ahead. We’re 13′ high.  Ah, damn.  It is dark out. Crazy dark. Like, middle of nowhere dark. But, in that mystical darkness, the eerie glow of Garmin technology shines like a North Star.

We tell the GPS to detour us.  The GPS is telling is to turn off 2.5 miles up.  Cool.  We take the recommended left turn, then go 150 feet, then take right.  Sounds simple – but no. doh! – the 2nd road is closed.  Closed as in barricaded (cause, in a rental truck ‘closed’ is relative).

Here is my thought process at the time:
Keep going, it’ll recalculate!
This looks dark.
Real dark.
Is this a road?

This is Elizabeth’s thought process at the time:
Oh shit.
What is he thinking?
Moron. Wrong turn.
See above x24928

While driving, the GPS thinks about it, and says to turn right a mile or so up.  It is very dark. Very very dark, and the headlights on this thing suck.  I turn right. About half way into the turn we realize it is a dirt road.  Gray or black dirt, but dirt.  Wonderful (see above Elizbeth thought process. Now we’re both on that line of thought).

There’s no backing up in the dark with this thing.  Who knows what ditch I’ll fall into. So we truck ahead (pun intended).  We are less than 10 miles from our starting point and already doing horrible. Yay.

It is about 10pm now.  The 8 miles to get away from Tod’s house to the highway take almost 45 minutes.  I believe we got sucked into a Langolier portal or something, as I don’t exactly know what happened during that time.  Maybe it is because it was 10pm on a Friday night and my mind is used to not remembering this time period.

We get on the interstate.  I’ve never felt so good to see that little 5-star sign honoring Eisenhower’s Interstate System.  I floor the truck and believe I said ‘giddiup’.  We hit 57mph.  58mph. Nope, back to 57.  What?!?!?!?   We did 65-67 on the way to Tod’s.  I think that with the load it cant go this fast. But, no, it sounds funny, too.

We drive 8 or 9 miles at 55.  The engine sounds like its revving high.  I goto turn on the dome lights to grab the manual or something. And, in the process of hitting buttons that I thought turned the dome light on earlier – the truck shifts into overdrive, propelling us to a newfound top speed of 70mph! Apparently, when we were trying to turn on the truck interior lights earlier, I hit the overdrive-off switch.  Whew! For a while I thought we were going to drive 670 miles at 55mph. That is so 1965.

We drive through the night, at least a few hours.  Then it starts to flurry (thats light snow for those who don’t follow weather north of the Mason-Dixon line).  Then, about when we’re into Pennslyvania, it starts to really really snow.  I later learn that the areas we drove through at 1-5am got 6″ of snow.  We stop for gas about 2am somewhere in PA, and the snow on the ground is about 2″.

We stop the sleep twice. Well, I stop to sleep – Elizabeth sleeps when she wants.  Which generally is until I fall alseep while piloting this beast and run off the road in the snow and it makes lots of noise.  She wakes up for that. Or, she wakes up when really bad country music came on the radio.

At about 4am, I realized how much snow there was as I was going up a hill on interstate in PA.  The rear wheels started spinning going up a hill at 50mph.  The back of the truck slid out of the lane as we were going up hill.

At this point, we pulled over and slept an hour or so.  If you ever want to make your chairopractor earn his pay – sleep in a moving truck for a few hours. Ow.

We kept truckin’ (I’ll be honest, I giggle everytime I type that) through dawn.  We go by Mansfield Ohio, which has the Mid-Ohio Raceway which I plan to be my first event, at about 9:30am.  Columbus about 11am. And home by noon.

So, after 16 hours of driving thru twisty roads, a dirt road, snow, traffic and no sleep – its time to throw the car in the garage for me and Elizabeth to go watch Michigan football….

I enlist a few friends to unload the car and we’re done!

Me unloading car

unloading car. ghetto ramps!

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SCCA Firecracker Race

This will be a brief post… In summary, we went over the car’s troubles over the past two weeks – the biggest issue being – life was hard given the lack of a functioning starter.  The overwhelming consensus of the folks at the track and on Apex was to buy a Tilton Superstarter, and forget about it.

That sounded like a good idea.  Implementing it at $480 for a silly starter (oh, right super)was a little disturbing; but, I think we have established this hobby is not cheap, especially if you want to do it right.

A new Tilton starter was acquired from Pegasus and installed.  It only required minor tweaking to get it installed.  We had to use a few flat washers to get the proper clearance between the bendix and some other piece of metal in there.

New Tilton Starter

Some other new goodies included the steel rain rims being blasted and powder coated.  They came out quite nice.  Jared @ High Performance Powder Coating did them for us – http://www.hppowdercoating.com – If you’re local to Crystal Lake/NW Chicago ‘burbs we’d recommend them for coating.. They’re very shiney!

Rain Wheel - Post Powdercoating

So, lots of little things (as you can see from the post down below, too) to make our weekend a little less stressful.. Possibly, even allowing us to drive the car and not work on it all weekend.

This was also our first event using the newly aquired RV as our tow and home vehicle for the weekend..  Having the RV for inside storage when its rainy is very, very nice.

Thursday (getting to the area)

This week, I had to work in Parkersburg, WV.  I was hoping to leave around 2 or 3pm on Thursday, which would give me 3 hours of westward driving to Dayton, which is home.  Then, I have an hour of packing things up into the BMW, and Elizabeth and myself would be on our way to Don’s in Crystal Lake.   The plan was to stay
If you like pictures – start at A, go to B and pack car, then drive to C.  Then finish packing and loading the racecar stuff into the RV on Friday at 6am, then drive to D- Blackhawk Farms Raceway. Horrible idea. Who thought of this?

Well, as usual, I get out of West Virginia a little late – around 5.  So, in our current plans, I get to leave Dayton around 9 – for a 6 hour drive to Blackhawk Farms.  Some folks will tell you “we race in Chicago, at Blackhawk”.  No. No, you don’t! You race 2 hours from downtown Chicago and 300 feet from the Wisconsin border!  I only stress this because, I can drive from Dayton to Chicago in 4.5 hours. Blackhawk in South Beloit, IL, is well into 6 hours.  Crystal Lake is 350 miles – which is a pretty ballsy 5hrs.

So, with this wonderful idea in place, we head out sometime between 8 and 9.  We hit a spectacular summer thunderstorm about an hour south of Gary, IN… All I remember was sunshine on the right of the car (illuminating the big-yellow-adult-porn-store sign, which, I am a firm believer that all porn shops on interstates are required to have a horrible hand-painted yellow sign.  If I ever repaint a racecar, it’ll be in porn-sign-yellow.) and on the left, was a humongous thunderous looking pile of black elevated moisture.  Someone with an education that starts not with ‘liberal’ and knows science would call it nimbus-something-special, however, I’ll refer to it as damn-big-rain-cloud+lightning.

Well, with that, our 5-hour hopeful drive turned into about 6 and change.  The BMW did get a good dousing, which is beneficial, as I haven’t washed it since April.

Friday (getting to the track)

Friday morning consisted of throwing the remaining stuff into the RV and heading out to Blackhawk.  Elizabeth wanted to take a shower before we left, and much to my encouragement of showering in the RV’s shower while we drive there, she did so only in the non-portable comfort of the house.  So much for roughing it this weekend.

Here’s Don doing work on the car, while I slack around and take pictures.  Note the very green grass.  That’s because it had been raining for, oh, uhm, the last week.  A tad bit “marshy”.

RV Setup

Tech

Prior to getting on the track, we have to get the car tech’ed.  The SCCA stewards are, uhm, sometimes a bit oppressive.  It is probably all in the interest of safety, but sometimes it can be very frustrating to get to the track only to find out you have a headrest that is 1/16″ too small (fixed with a layer of duct tape), or you don’t have a fuel sampling port just in case you win the race (we don’t have that issue) and someone says you cheated with some new fuel (if you find any other fluid you can put in the tank to make these things faster, let me know!)..

The April SCCA school+race had a few tech stewards inquiring about the ability of the Lola to be towed given the setup of the engine cover.  The engine cover went over the main roll hoop, which meant a cherry-picker type lift could not yank it out of the grass to bring it off-track in the event we did something stupid on the track.  We argued for a few various reasons, decided it was useless to argue with these stewards, and let them tell us what to do…

They told us, in April, to remove a certain piece of metal on the cover that would allow access to the roll hoop.  These pictures show what we did (look behind the helmet).

So… fast forward to today, when we’re prepped to race with no tech issues on our mind.  The same guys are running tech, so, Don and I think this’ll be quick and easy.

Well, no.

The stewards (some of the same guys!) look at the logbook, look at the changes (as you can see in the pictures), and say it will work to tow the car with (probably, gruff gruff) but they think the opening has created two problems –
A)  – they say it is a duct.  Which, without my big old head in front of it, it might push some air down there to cool the engine more – but no way is it supercharging the air going into the engine.
2) – they say we know do not have a barrier between the engine compartment and the driver.
Us: “Huh? You told us to take this thing out. ”
“And, look at the all the other cars – most don’t even have a high engine cover – so they don’t have firewalls up this high either”
“And, ok, fine, here’s a twenty”

Anyhow..The stewards let us off, with our promise to investigate the setup in the near future.

Saturday

It was a bit damp on Saturday morning.  The sun was apparently sleeping off the night before, so the track remained pretty wet for a while.  We decided Don would go out first, as he’s never driven the Lola, and given our history – there’s a chance I’ll blow it up within a few minutes and he’ll never get to drive it.

In brief – its wet, Don’s never driven this thing before, the slicks are cold, and did I mention that Don has never driven this thing before (although he’s quite good in his Vintage Vee):

Don does a few slow laps.
Don comes down the straight a little faster.
I think, “wow, he’s going a tad fast”
Don touches brakes around the start/finish tower.
Car spins on the front straight, out of my sight to the right.
I wet my pants, and, promptly start running down the side of the track.
Somehow…. The car spun completely around, stayed on the track, and was pointing forward.
While I go change my pants, Don comes in, apparently to change his shorts too.

Well, that was Don’s practice session. His next ride is Sunday morning for qualifying.  We’ll see how that goes (maybe).

After a short while of another group out on the track, I get to head out.  The car actually doing something when I mashed the start switch was a nice change.   I go out for my practice session and it is somewhat uneventful.  Nothing spectacular on old R60 Hoosiers – but it was hot – so the were pretty sticky.  Nowhere near as sticky as the R25 compound I might have used (by budget, not purpose! I promise…) in a Club Ford before, however :-).  No timing on Friday, so no idea how fast or slow I was.

The group was pretty light… I went out and returned without incident.  The car ran great – seemed to rev thru 6400rpm (soft redline for those of us on a tight budget!) or so, the new gearing selection was great (thanks Brad!), and the car seemed stable even at speed.  I came in, parked, and we waited until the next test/practice session.

Well, it wouldn’t be Don and myself racing if disaster didn’t strike.  We go thru the car to get it ready for the session,  and we don’t find anything wrong with the car, compared to last events – tires still have pressure, nothing is oozing out the bottom (well, we paddocked in the gas so it wouldn’t be so obvious this time), and we don’t have any spare parts on the table that belong in the car.

We goto start the car. Nothing. No groaning. No click. Nothing. Sonofabitchnofriggenway!

While we frantically look at switches and wires – the heads of Don and myself end up at the starter solenoid about the same time.  Well, what is left of the solenoid.  The brand new (less than 2 hours of engine time) Tilton Superstarter XL-whatever-shininess had shit itself.  The solenoid is attached to the starter housing with 2 long bolts, that, you might expect a $480 racecar starter to have lock-tited, or saftety wired, or something.  Well, no. Tilton apparently did not do that to ours (more on that in a minute).

What happened? Well, in the last 2 sessions, the two bolts holding the starter solenoid (the thingy that engages the bendix (the thingy that turns the flywheel on the engine to start it)) decided to take a break from their holding duties and are sitting somewhere on 1.96 miles of track.  Oops.

To get me out on the track, we unbolt the wires to the solenoid that is now dangling by the hot-wire from the battery (a hazard in itself) and tape the wires to whatever doesn’t look conductive (well, more tape, and then more tape). Then we do what we know best, we push start the car!

Qualifying

We had a rough time in April with the T-440, and we were really hoping to have an unstressed race, but, we already lost the starter so that was out the window.  Hopefully it’ll be ok the rest of the weekend….

I get ready for qualifying, which, means getting all ready, then yelling like a 4 year old in a wagon “Push! Push! Push!” at Don (and whomever else happens to be around to help) until I can pop the clutch in 2nd gear and start the sucker up.

I grid up for qualifying and head out.  Qualifying was uneventful as my last session, as my track time was blessed with a warm track and hot tires.  I qualified somewhere around 4 or 5 out of 8 Club Fords, with a “I’ll blame crappy tires” time of around 1:21 around the track.  I’ll also blame my fear of running off track and stalling, which means I can’t restart the car (thanks, Tilton!) and that would suck.  Or something like that.

Race

I was psyched for the race, even though I was pretty stressed that the car would blow up.  So I started the car; rather, Don started the car by pushing me down the gravel paddock area with me yelling at him again (get to the gym, tubby, really)… and… headed down to the grid.

My big stress point is getting to the grid without stalling the car.  Then, once I get to the grid in this heat, I have two concerns – one, the car overheating (although it never has), and two, me overheated (black suit + helmet + hot car + sun).

So I don’t explode, and the car sticks around 190f water temp.  Onto the next stress point – not stalling the car pulling out of the false grid to get onto the track.  Ok, that works out ok – although I probably took half the life of the clutch with me.  I try to stay slow and hopefully make it to my grid spot on the track just as the pace car takes off – so I don’t have to come to a complete stop.  Well, dammit, that doesn’t work. I have to come to a stop.

Now the pace car starts to move.  I get the car moving without stalling it. We’re moving now! Yes, this is the big deal so far today for me.  Yes, I agree, that is sad.

The pace lap is ok. Car feels good. Granted, we’re only doing 40-60mph.  We come onto the straight, and somewhere in the distance the green flag waves.  I do not know this by sight, I know this by feel.  You can feel the 25 car engines revving to 7,000 RPM.  I will make note that a downside of being in the pack of the grid, is that by the time this occurs, I am pretty sure the air I am breathing is about 0.0002% oxygen and the rest pure exhaust nastiness.

The start is good. I end up on the inside of turn 1 and actually might have passed a car or two that was on the outside, as those folks slowed down a bit due to some traffic (I’m really ok with being in the back on starts…).

The first lap I just play follow the leader – everyone is slow enough that I can play.  I just don’t want to get someone elses paint on my car.  I’m sure they don’t want my paint on theirs, either.   On the straight it opens up a little – and the guys behind me that didn’t qualify but have fast cars zip on my me.  I generally have enough time and lack of attention to wave at them.  They wave back. They feel bad for me, I am sure.  I also make a point to wave, or at least make sure they’re there, at the Lindstrand group in the pit.  I am sure I’ll need their help soon.

Oh, did I say I’ll need help? Right. About lap 5, I am heading down the front straight and had just shifted into 4th gear. I guess (and estimate based on a worker with a radar gun later that day)  doing about 115-120mph (someone correct me here if I’m way off), when, get this – the nose of the car flies off!  I barely even saw it – all I know is it was no longer there, and my legs were much cooler than a second before.  I am positive I was the only one out there with forced air conditioning.

From witness accounts, the nose flew up in the air high enough to let three cars pass under it.  Luckily, it landed about 100 feet from our paddock area – so it was easy to retrieve.

On this lap, I decided to come into pit lane and see if anything else was hanging off the car.  Luckily, I found Bruce Lindstrand, which, I promptly stopped in front of (see, waving earlier helps) and yelled “Do I need this?” pointing at the nose-within-a-nose setup of the Lola – the other piece of fiberglass body work that was probably also going to fly off now that the other part was off.  Bruce agreed that I didn’t, pulled it off, and sent me on my way.

On this lap, the folks standing at the fence spectating were now pointing at me – like, maybe, they were surprised to see me come around again. Or, maybe they were saying something like “Hey, watch this dude, I wonder what else is gonna fly off his car! <swig of beer> hah hah”

Well, nothing else came off my car, but, another car had their nose fly off as well, but on Sunday – you can read about it here on John Haydon’s blog – http://haydonracing.blogspot.com/2008/08/firecracker-double.html )

About a lap later (yes, I know, we’re only on lap 7 or so now), I started getting a high-RPM miss. It was for sure electrical.   About a lap later, I couldn’t get the engine over 5,500RPM, then it was 5,000RPM max… I knew I had to keep going for a few reasons –
I had used my pit stop quota with Lindstrand.  He was probably (and should) going to send me a bill if I stopped in front of him anymore.
I knew I had to complete half the race in order to make this race count for my SCCA license, which I needed.

So, I kept going – I played with throttle position to get the maximum revs out of the engine before having to shift.  On lap 10, 9 completed (whew!), coming up to the carousel (turn three) – the car completely quit. Luckily, I was near a corner station, which I was frantically waving at in hopes they’d tell me what to do while I was still coasting.  They were quick and smartly guided me around their corner station and behind the wall.  They asked if I was ok, probably made some side jokes, and then gave me some water as it was crazy hot outside, much less in a race suit.

I watched the race for a bit from the corner station.  Then a little SCCA Subaru wagon came to tow me back to the paddock.  The irony of it all is, if I hadn’t removed the engine cover metal to expose the rollbar – they wouldn’t have been able to tow me, and I was a long way from the RV 🙂

What happened?

Well, two issues – first, the nose.

I had put the nose back on, as I clearly remember doing so earlier that day.  I must have slipped the bottom lip of the nose OVER the aluminum floor pan extension, rather than UNDER it like it should have been.  Thus, once it got enough air under there it just pulled up, ripped the screws out of itself, and took flight.

Second, why’d the engine die?

Don and I had rewired the coil, and most of the car since April.  Somehow, we wires the hot/+ wire TO the condenser on the distributor, rather than the negative/- wire.  This cooked the condenser over time, thus having no spark.

Lessons learned. Beer drank.  Sunday’s entry money down the drain, as we didn’t have a starter to crank the car and troubleshoot, we called it a weekend. Oh well.

However, I did end up officially “finishing” the race – 9 laps did that for me.  So, I earned my SCCA regional license. Yay!

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