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?

Anyhow…

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….

2 Comments »

  1. Jacques N. Dresang Said,

    November 24, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

    Great summary Mike.

    Sorry if it seemed as if I was holding up the pack in the first heat. It is my first year in FF and I had only been on the pole once before, when two cars started the Kettle Moraine Regional at RA. I’ve heard horror stories about getting black-flagged for jumping starts in SCCA, so I figured keeping the pace would be in my best interest. My apologies if that messed up your race.

    Respectfully Yours,

    Jacques

  2. mike Said,

    November 24, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

    Jacques!
    Thanks for the apology but it isn’t needed.. I’ve since looked at the video with others – and it IS normal practice to maintain the pace of the pace car… actually a rule, I learned.

    I was told that given the corner 1 incidents, keeping the slower pace on the start is preferred by the powers-that-be.

    You had a great race – I didn’t even see you after the start… amazing fast car and driver, it seems.. Very impressive on your first FF outing, and in a CFF at that.

    Have a good holiday season, I look forward to racing with you next year.

    -Mike

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