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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Spring Training 2010

Welcome to 2010.  Thanks for reading.  I know I slacked on writing up the last two events last year, but work consumed me and winter left me without much motivation to do, well, anything productive.

But, before you think that my lack of work on the car will lead to a thrilling year of metal-wrecking-breakdowns and frustrated weekends, let me remind you my racecar didn’t even see my garage this winter.

Hawke and Lindstrands

The Hawke lived even further north in Darien, Wisconsin, tucked away between a Formula Continental and a Lola Sports 2000 at Lindstrand Motorsports.  You can see what they did to it on the bottom of this history page.  The big work for the winter included rebuilding of the tired (4 seasons?) engine by Curtis Farley.

So, unpeel a harsh winter to the morning of April 17th.  I arrived at Blackhawk Farms around 7:30am.  The weatherman, which has generally been reliable as Lucas electronics, said it was going to be sunny and 60.  The morning was chilly, somewhere between “it’ll warm up nicely” and “where’s my awesome-warm-hat from the last cold event at Blackhawk”, but there was not a cloud in the sky… Very nice.

Saturday Testing

Saturday was Midwestern Council’s Spring Training school day.  For those of us with licenses already (I obtained my SCCA National license over the fall, by the way), we could run the event just for track time.  On paper, it looked like a ton of driving – 6 or 7 sessions.  However, at the drivers’ meeting in the morning, us track-timers found out that we would be kicked out of 3 sessions.  This was fine with me, as after 3 or 4 sessions a day I’m pretty whooped.  And, given that some of the school students were experiencing a race car and race track for the first time ever, I’ll be happy to give them some room!  I remember my SCCA school, and it was quite intimidating to have experienced drivers in fast cars whizzing by when I was still learning not to use the clutch to shift.

Scrubbing tires

Over the winter I acquired a new set of Panasport Ultralite wheels, and wrapped them in new R35 tires.  The R35 tire is an option for the Formula Ford class, and illegal for Club Ford (where I normally run).   Why, you ask? Because I plan to run a few National events this year (scary, eh?).  Old tire, meet new tireAnd for my regular Club Ford events (regionals and Council races), I replaced the worn R60s from last season with new ones. This is the first time I’ve ever had “stickers” – which is a term used regularly by the guys with more money than I have (“How yer tires?”  “Oh, they’re stickers” “Ohh, gonna be fast today, aye?”).

So, with new tires, err sorry – stickers – you need to break them in.  They call this scrubbing.  Not having new tires ever before (always leeching off someones used ones) this was a new concept to me.  The idea is to go out and do 1-2 laps gently, to get the manufacturing-slick-crap off the tire surface, then 1-2 hard laps to get the tires heated up, then 1-2 cool down laps to, well, cool down, and then let them sit for a day.  All this supposedly does magic to the rubber compound and lets them stay sticky for a long time. Or something like that. I just listen to what the Lindstrand folks tell me.  It seems to work better that way.

My first session I went out on last year’s throw-away R35s, just to get re-acquainted with the car and track.  The car felt good. The engine rebuild made a difference – the combination of more power and the lighter spinny parts inside make it a ton easier to rev-match when downshifting.

Over the second and third sessions I scrubbed the R35 and R60 rubber.  The only change needed to the car was softening-up the front sway bar one notch, in order to get a little more grip up there and reducing understeer.   The between-session maintenance, performed by Jeff with Lindstrand (with the occasional head-scratching-commentary by Bruce), consisted of the usual uneventful nut-and-bolt checking and refueling; except that every session, the CV joint bolts were loosening up.  We had this issue last year, and since then replaced the hardware – but it was really happening much worse now.  I’m blaming the combination of engine having more power and the stickier tires putting much more stress on the drivetrain and suspension.

Left rear corner

Scrubbed too hard

I didn’t know it would be an issue, but for some reason I took a picture of the left rear corner on Saturday morning.  Little did I know, it would be an issue later in the day (cue suspense-movie-soundtrack here).  Take a look at the picture (go on, click on it) – notice how the black thingy from the right (the driveshaft) is connected to the silver thingy (the yoke).  There is a U-joint in there (a Hardy Spicer 1200, for those that have to know – the same joints used on Land Rover 4×4’s).  Note that the U-joint at this point of the day is in one piece (suspense-movie-soundtrack volume up, please).

The fourth and final session of the day was going quite well until about lap 11 of 20.  I came out of turn 3D, the slowest corner of the track (track map from Trackpedia), in first gear (which is normal).  I shifted into second and was only on the throttle for a second or two before a quick stab of the brakes to make the late-apex left turn-4.  When I returned my right foot to the floor atop the gas pedal, I heard what I describe as a bad noise – like a tornado tearing up your shed out back.  Metal on metal.

Along with the noise, I noticed I wasn’t moving any faster.  I was slowing down.  I initially thought that 2nd gear or the dogring broke – so I shifted into 3rd. Metal on metal noise again.  Ok – I should stop that.  I put it in neutral and coasted. I was too fast to make it into the service road at turn 5, so I coasted off-line , then into the grass, to the corner station at turn 6.  I quickly hopped out (which is what the corner workers really prefer) and told them I was fine, and told Jeff on the radio that something was broke.

Bruce and Jeff from Lindstrand motored over on their ATV (this is where having radios is quite nice).  They immediately spotted what I clearly missed – the left side driveshaft was no longer connected to the yoke and wheel.  Thus, whenever I put it in gear – it just flailed all over the place (see “metal on metal” above).

Back at the ranch

Upon towing the Hawke back to the trailer, disassembly begins by Jeff and Bruce. Disassembling the yoke from the driveshaft was surprisingly simple – as you can see from these two pictures that the t-bone thingy in the middle (the Hardy Spicer thingy) broke.  And, that rash on the upright was not there before this session.  It seems that the driveshaft flailing did some damage.

How much damage?  Enough to need to take all these parts off and replace or fix.  Note the shiny upright (undamaged)…Luckily, I had a spare right upright with bearings and a stub axle that came with the car a long while back… very lucky to have that with us.  The sway bar linkage was also bent, however, a few minutes alone with Bruce and it was straight again.

The spare upright was meant I might end up back on the track tomorrow, so I celebrated with a beer.  The problem was, the spare u-joint we had was a Hardy Spicer 1300, and what the car needs is a Hardy Spicer 1200 (didnt know that at the time).  It was too late on Saturday night, even in the bustling metropolis of South Beloit, to attempt to find a spare – of either a 1300 or 1200.  So, after much lamenting over this around the compound I drowned my sorrows in more beer. It is a very fine line of celebratory-beer vs grief-beer, and you don’t want to mix them – thus I recommend drinking each in its entirety before switching purposes of said beer.

The problem was that the needle bearings in the u-joint we had were too long, just by a little.  We thought we had enough short ones, but it seems the spare joint did not have as many as needed.  So Bruce and Jeff went at what they do – grinding, poking, pulling, more grinding, some profanity, too much grinding, more profanity, and on and on.   I went about what I do – getting in the way and asking too many questions.   About two hours later things looked good.  Hooray! Back to celebratory beer!   About this time, we found the remainder of the short needle bearings – they fell out on the ground in the disassembly process earlier. Whoops.  Well, now you know that you can grind long needle bearing down into short needle bearings.

In my most important activity of the evening, I was used as dead weight in the car so they could realign it – it was surprisingly close to being on-target, requiring some minor tweakage best left to the morning light hours.

Sunday Morning

Practice was around 9am.  The weather was a bit chilly still, but the sun and prior two run groups had warmed up the track nicely.  I got down to a 1:21.997, which was 10th fastest out of 18 cars.  Very impressive for a car that got flat-towed off the track 16 hours before.  My fastest time for Saturday was around a 1:19.7 on the R35 tires, which I was really hoping to better even on the harder, less grippy R60s.

While qualifying went without incident, it was not the best session.  Given the school yesterday, there were some novice folks out on the track, as well as some people with more car than they could drive.  I’m all for learning so I’ll be nice – but use your mirrors, people! I’m not the quickest guy out there by far, but I am generally courteous.

I will admit that a few times I had a faster car behind me (like F1000 fast) that wouldn’t pass with a point-by, I eventually moved off-line and let off the gas to force them to go around.  Bad idea, I know, but I ran out of ideas for emptying my mirrors – it gets tiring looking at the mirrors every 2 seconds to make sure someone isn’t about to declare war on physics and rub tires with ya.

I qualified 2nd out of 3 cars in Club Ford, with a 1:22.979.   Scott Durbin was ahead of me with a 1:22.189.  I was starting 14 out of 18 cars.

Sunday Afternoon Race

The race for group 3 started just before 3pm on Sunday.  The track was warm from the sun but the temperature still hovered around the low 60’s, which is a real good combination for good grip (warm track) and making engine power (cooler intake air).

Qualifying results had my club-ford nemesis, Scott Durbin/#41 to my right in the grid.  The pace lap (expectedly)  was uneventful.  I’m still not completely comfortable with starts – especially that I knew there were a few much faster cars behind me.  However, this wasn’t much of an issue and the different-speed cars quickly sorted out who was where.  Scott was on the inside of the track and was able to get slightly ahead of me on the start.  I ended up going into turn 1 just behind and outside of him, with another car nosing between us.

At some point in the first lap (I promise these race-recaps will get better once I get video hooked up) I got around the yellow Formula-Indy thingy between us, and hooked onto Scott’s tail.  For the next 10 laps I stayed behind Scott – unable, unskilled, and uncohonied at times to pass him.  A few times I ventured out into virgin air to pass on the front straight, but unable to get around him.  I later learned that there is a wake off the lead car (which should have been obvious, growing up on the water with boats) that I should have avoided – I basically sat where the air from his car was pushing me back.   Oops.

I was building up my confidence to pass Scott, as Jeff on the radio was giving me newfound confidence.  I am sure I was faster, but just couldn’t cleanly get around him.  In the car, I was getting irritated that this evil man in front of me wouldn’t get the hell out of my way (later, Scott found me in the paddock, and he’s quite a nice guy – has an many evil qualities as an NPR jazz special).  On this lap, maybe end of lap 8 or 9, I was getting a little splat of oil on my visor every few seconds.

We came down the front straight and there was more oil hitting me.  Bastard! He can’t shake me with his driving, so he’s resorting to his 007-trickery of spraying oil on the track to slow me down. What is next, I ask? Smoke screen? Spikes on his wheels?

Well, with not much time to ponder the evilness he was doing at 100mph down the straight, with braking (probably too early), downshifting (4th to 2nd, but at least I dont use the clutch), and turning in (again, probably too early or late – I’m new at this, ya know) – I disregarded this oil as typical spit from a race car.

As he exited turn 1, he was a little loose.  He slid around a little more than normal.  Odd, I thought. But maybe I am breaking him down. Yes…

Going into the carousel  (turn 3), I saw heaven. Or something really bright and sparkly.  Oh – that’s oil. Oh, my, my – that’s a ton of oil.  Oh, my – what is this?  The Gulf of Mexico?  I’m sliding now. I can’t see.. sliding to the outside of the track.  This is bad.  All I see is visions of little ducks covered in crude oil.   Where’s the Dawn, dammit? Where is Greenpeace to cover this?  Someone clean this off of me!
At this point (you’d think it was eternity), I’m at the end of the carousel (at least 300 feet further down the track).  Scott’s evil plan to lay down a little oil for me backfired, it seems – apparently his oil sender plug came completely out of the engine block – spurting 5 quarts of (most likely not crude, but expensive synthetic goodness) oil out – all over his wheels, onto the track, onto my car, my helmet, and everywhere else in sight.

At this point, Scott has realized his oil pressure light is on and something is wrong.  He pulls over just past turn 4 and I wizz on by.

The last 10 seconds of radio communication with Jeff went like this:

  • Mike: He is getting real loose out of one –
  • Jeff: He’ll make a mistake. Just be there to pass him.
  • Mike: He’s spitting. Something. Oil. A little.
  • Jeff: (blank stare probably)
  • Mike (in carousel): $&@$! Oil! Ack! $&@*! He’s dumping oil. All of it! $&!#!!
  • Jeff: Pass him!
  • Mike: (blank stare into visor. Oil-covered-duck-visions)
  • Jeff: Make your move. (other things I cant remember)
  • Mike: I dont need to. He isnt going further.
  • Mike: I can’t see shit. I got oil all over me.
  • Mike: (pulls visor tear-off off – cue “A whole new world” song)
  • Mike: If I didnt have tear-offs, my race would be over
  • Jeff: Now you know what its like to race Formula Vee!
  • Jeff: And, that means your in first place
  • Mike: yay

At this point, I knew the other Club Ford was far enough behind me that, as long as I didn’t do anything stupid, I could actually win.  The stupid part was harder than expected, however.  On the next lap, I saw the whole oil spill – it was right in the the racing line of the carousel, all the way through turns 3D and 4.  I played put-put through those turns, and then kept on trucking the rest of the track.

It mostly sucks when something like this happens for two reasons: first, I felt I could have eventually got by Scott with my driving skill (keep your laughter to a minimum) rather than Jack Bartlett’s nut-tightening-skill (which I found out later, might have contributed to the issue.  Scott’s engine is fine, by the way.)… and, with this much oil on the track it really makes for unpleasant, and possibly dangerous, driving conditions.

The remaining 12 laps (22 or 23 laps total) were uneventful.  I lapped a few cars, which is new to me.  On the last lap, I got shown the checkered flag and did my cool down lap… And while I realized I won my class, I was still surprised to be given a flag and allowed to go do my checkered lap.

This was a new experience to me – how in the hell do you hold a flag, steer, shift and expect to wave to everyone?

Run group results: MCSCC Spring Training Race Results - Group 3

Results by class: MCSCC Spring Training Race Results - Group 3 by Class

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Formula Ford 40th Anniv @ Road America

Pregame

So now that Lindstrand Motorsports has my car, I’ve mitigated my bad luck of just getting to the track a fair amount..

On Thursday, my prep for the 3-day weekend involved grabbing my gear from the closet, throwing some spare parts in the truck that I forgot to send with the car, and driving the 400 miles (well, with a brief stop in Milwaukee Airport to pick up a friend, Christian, who flew up from Florida) from Dayton to Elkhart Lake.   Much less stress than loading and driving the truck and trailer setup….

This is a welcome change of the usual prep – which involves taking a day off work, getting the trailer from storage yard, loading it up, loading the car, fixing whatever breaks on the truck, etc etc…

The drive up was uneventful, other than Chicago traffic at 2pm in construction, and my first experience with Leinenkugel’s light beer, for two reasons –

First – this beer sucks.  I stopped at a grocer just outside the Milwaukee Airport while waiting for Christian’s delayed flight to arrive, and stocked up on beer, some snacks, etc.  I’ve had Leinenkugel stuff before – mostly Sunset Wheat and some other fruity variation – so I figured their light beer might be good.  The two lessons I learned in college but didn’t stick include: do not buy beer if it comes in 20-count cases, and don’t buy beer in a can.  I broke both of these rules with this crap….
bad beer
….and Second – when drinking this imitation beer (if you haven’t associated this with something yet – think Keystone and Busch beer – ass in a can, good for putting out fires, etc), if you desire to pour it out because it inducing vomiting in your mouth, do not do this while in the cell-phone waiting lot at the airport.   With a laptop. And a camera.  In a big white truck with a tinted contractor shell full of boxes and gas cans.  It is frowned upon by airport police.

Anyhow. I digress. We get to the track around 5pm, where registration lines are surprisingly short.  I have to say, that, with hundreds of people coming in for this event – the SCCA volunteers really did a fantastic job of getting everything right (thanks for Kay Imig!) and done quickly.

As we drive through the paddock to the trailer – the place is covered with Formula Fords.  They’re everywhere from all levels of ‘investment’ – everything from small SUVs towing single-axle open trailers to 53′ race rigs that have more square footage than my house.

Friday practice

So onto racing, or least practice – Friday morning I arrive at the track to find my car under a tent at Lindstrand’s trailer.  I must say this is a nice way to show up at the track.

Until today, I have only driven two laps at Road America.  This was two years prior in my Porsche for some casual Sunday drive around the track at the KIC.   Luckily, there are a ton of newbies to RA like me; so, they are offering instructional-rides around the track in the morning.

It seems all the track vans were down at the river, so Bill Bonow offered up his stylishly-creepy, yet functional-as-seen-like-in-this-pic Sprinter van down to tote around us Road America virgins.  I had the priviledge to have Duck Waddle at the helm (no, really!), who has more years of racing than I do on this earth, and is an instructor with SCCA and Skip Barber at Road America.

He took us in a stop-and-go trip around the 4+ mile track for one lap, explaining and showing what to do at each corner.  Then, we took a faster lap (well, as fast as the sprinter will go without mimicking a tour bus on a cliff-edge road in Pakswanistany) bouncing around the track’s rumble strips.  It was very educational.

So, finally onto the track. Well…..maybe.  About 15 minutes before the first morning practice session started for Club Formula Ford, with a planned 100+ car count (as seen with my #171 – which you never see 100+ at an event), I got all suited up.  Jeff, with Lindstrand, strapped me in; which, I must say was much more accommodating in the seatbelt + nuts department than my girlfriend was at the last event.  I’m still unclear if it is because I’m a jackass to my girlfriend (you’re the best, Elizabeth! don’t pull so hard on that strap) or Jeff likes me too much (highly unlikely).

I fire up the already-warm engine, and Nick and Web start to push me out of the comfort of the trailer and tent into the paddock for the first time.  We get about 12 feet.

I hit the brakes, and, since no one can hear anything (I’m in a helmet, and they’re 2 feet from the tail pipe), frantically waive my arms (see picture below) and clap to get their attention.  I’m pretty sure I look like a retarded sea otter clapping at this point.  Nick runs up, and with a what-the-hell-is-your-problem look on her face, asks “What the hell is your problem?”

To which I reply, “Where do I go? I’ve never driven here before!”

IMG_0398

It seems that during my brief drive around the paddock in my truck, and Bill Bonow driving me over to the track in the Sprinter for our morning tour; I had no idea where to get on the track, or even where pit lane was.   After a brief set of directions – go down here <points left>, go past the bathrooms, past the big white tent, then there is a chain link fence,turn before that, turn right, then you’re in pit lane.

So, I follow directions and get over to the pit lane entrace.  I am just at the end of the cars heading out (mildly late), which was somewhat planned and ok by me – this means I do not have to wait to go out on track.  And, in most situations mean that I will have a good amount of time to myself, at the back of the pack of cars out practicing, to learn the track at a tad slower speed.  Well, with probably 60 cars showing up for practice, this is a horrible idea.   I exit pit lane at about 50mph thinking that there will be no other cars around except the other late-arrival behind me, and quickly find my left mirror useful as a early-out car whizzes by me at 110+ mph going into corner one.

So, now I am out on track with all the fast guys that showed up early to practice.  At this point in authoring this thing, I looked at mylaps.com at the practice session – 87 cars!  That’s a ton of racecars in a 4 mile one-way road.

For those of you who read this for the racing and car content, my first lap was a 3:20 something (yeah, that sucks) and after 4 laps 2:50.  Thats an average speed of ~70mph up to 85mph, which is slow as congress but for a first time out with a ton of traffic (and I passed people!) I was happy. I should say now that this is the first time I’ve been out since Grattan with the Hawke, and Bruce and Nick did a baseline suspension job at their shop.  The car feels fantastic – at speed in a straight the car is much more stable, most likely attributed to having a negative rake setup before, and the car just being aligned properly.  And, most amazingly, the car turns equally left and right.  I used to think I should give up this road course thing and just goto ovals that turned left – as my car turned left mucho better than right, due to some suspension quirks (never the driver, promise).

My practice time was #82nd out of 97 cars.  I suck ass.

Rather than explain why I suck, I’ll just say I went out for the next session – an FF70/Vintage FF group – where I was running 23 out of 41.  Much better than 82/97, but still disappointing for some reason.   My best lap was a 2:48…with my two best laps only 0.039 seconds apart.  I felt I hit my best after maybe 10 laps around Road America.  Oh well.

Friday CFF qual 1

Around 2pm on Friday, I went out for qualifying.  This session – to my own little personal victory – I actually got to the track on my own.  I also had the awesomeness of having radio communication in my helmet back to Jeff w/ Lindstrand.  Bruce Lindstrand and Larry w/ Trackside Communications put a nice radio system in my car between the sessions – I’ve wanted radios for a while, and the price discouraged me.  However, once I get at the track that caution seems to go away – so without asking price, I decided it would be a good idea.

Two afterthoughts on this – first, it was a good idea – for the knowledge that a radio-equipped-crew-member can provide, including pit talk (including Bruce’s horrible jokes), speed (its hard to remember how to take a turn when there are 14 of them) and safety (flags, when to pit, what to do on a black flag, etc) – which reduced my retarded-sea-otter-clapping……. and second, you should know what you want and what you can afford; as, a setup that will work at every corner at Road America (a 4+ mile track with lots of woods and elevation changes) will cost $1500.  Ouch, says my 401k.

The qualifying was busy – real busy – while I will not complain that “I could get a clean lap out there, cars where everything” because I was the “everywhere car” for the fast guys – it was a blast.  I was surprised with the courtesy and smoothness of the operation.

I dropped only a little to a 2:47, which got me 80th out of 97 – not too thrilling.

Saturday FF70 qualifying

fri_grp_4_pract_462Summary: 15th out of 48 FF70/vintage cars.  My best time was 2:44.693.  Down 3 seconds from the last outing.  I’ll note that I was on heavier rims sporting Hoosier R35 tires (courtesy of Allen, thanks!), and not the usual CFF R60s.

In this qualifying session, I seemingly lost the idea that it was qualifying and not a race.  I believe I was following one of the Lenhart crew (Ian or his dad?) for a lap or two, and knew I could pass him.  So, on the carousel, I got a good run and decided to go out on the left to pass, about 200 feet before you return to the apex at the carousel.  I get out to the left of the track and realize why no one ever comes out here – its really slick – rubber curds everywhere, a cactus, some oil, a small fishing hut, etc, its all out here on the outside of the carousel.
Well, at this point in the top of 3rd gear I decide to slow down and get back into order before I go off the track and annihilate myself, which I think I’m doing about 85-90mph, I hear Bruce in my head saying “it only gets worse if you lift”.
So, in good order to learn from my elders (and I’ll tell you, Bruce is waaaaay my elder) I do not lift, but I do feather the throttle a little and let the car continue its direction.  This takes me off the left of the track, into the grass.  I believe I ran right over the outer yellow-and-red rumble strip, which I heard thrash and scrape the bottom of the car.
I now think it might be a good idea to slow down in the grass – but – I hear Bruce in spirit – “it only gets worse if you lift”. So, my right foot is somehow planted at this point.

For the folks who have been here – I exited about 100 feet before the Suziku bridge on track left.  I kept my right foot in it all through the grass.

I end up flooring the car all the way on the grass, and gradually move back onto the track well past the Suzuki bridge, only a short distance before the kink.  The best part is – the guy I went to pass that got me in this mess (yes, maybe you Lenhart crew!) was only a few inches in front of me when I reentered the track after my off-road excursion.

What did we learn here? Know when you’re just qualifying and not racing..and.. Keep the throttle on all the time. Grass is just a different colored track.  What’s the worst that could happen?

Saturday CFF qual 2

#78 out of 98 cars total (FF and CFF).. Here I will note that I am back on the harder (slower) R60s and ran a 2:42, which I’ve gone from an average of 85ish to 89mph – which is a sustantial fun difference when you’re ass is big-mac-height off the ground.

I am also 45 out of 58 cars in CFF.  It seems everyone is improving.

Saturday FF70 race 1

Late Saturday was my first real race this weekend.  Without going into all that mushy foofoo crap – I’ll say that coming up the hill and then the front straight at Road America with 35-40 other Formula Fords from 1965-1980 was awesome.  I’ll also throw out there that I ran a 2:38, 6 seconds faster than my previous time (!!) this race.  I ended up 7th place (both class and group) out of 43 cars.  While I’ll admit that most vintage guys were on less-sticky tires, my time were not that much better depending on r25 or r60 tires.  To most good drivers, there should be a difference. uck oh.

I’m now up to a 91.7mph lap.  At this point, I realize that practice and coaching does help – I’m dramatically dropping lap times.

Rock the Cat Box

After driving a ton Friday and Saturday, we finish up around Saturday 5:45pm.  I’ve not spent much time in Wisconsin before, but damn – its cold compared to “summer” elsewhere.

I think this is valid excuse to drink heavily.  Christian, my Florida-blood-like-friend, also agrees.  It seems that everyone agrees – as Saturday evening quickly turns into drinking a lot without much else to do.

I’ll note now that my car was not unscathed.  Lindstrand Motorsports spent a few hours on the car before imbibing on my car as well as a few others.  My Hawke was mostly OK except a few broken CV joint bolts – it seems to snap the left inner bolts. Maybe the heat from the exhaust on that side, maybe the stress being on the mostly-outside of the track, maybe I have no clue.  But, the bottom line is that I had no clue and it got fixed – I think this was the first time I really appreciated doing the whole prep-shop thing.

On this above-note, it was nice to be on the other side of fellow racers coming up to the Lindstrand trailer looking for help.  I’ve been there many times before; where I beg of their help to fix some quirky issue.  Not that I prefer drinking beer over working on racecars; but, after a day of racing – that math works out to desiring to drink beer rather than trying to figure out if its a 13mm or a 1/2 socket. I’m no good at that.

About now – you might ask (if you’re a good ADD-kid and taking your ritalin) why this section is called Rock the Cat Box.  Well, the entire race weekend is called the Cat.  You can find various reason for this – mostly because the following of the Brian Redman story (which, you can find a version  of here – http://www.september8th.com/news_br_cat.htm) which seems to be the most accurate.

Soooo…. the fantastic workers at this event, along with Mazda’s sponsorship of a beer-trailer, puts on the Cat Box Races.  You can read the rules here – http://www.scca-milwaukee.org/RoadRacing/2009/4th_Annual_Cat_Box_Races.pdf – which might be painful and boring if you’re used to the useful, strict SCCA rules and regs that keep us safe and in compliance.

Long story, that I honestly do not remember (see above: beer-trailer), includes Bruce Lindstrand and myself being on one team, against Nick Webb and Bill Bonow (of the aforementioned creepy Sprinter van, which you know this guys has issues to begin with).
Nick and Bill have one offspring from Jeff, in their LMI-tuned Cat-box, Annie-

And Bruce and myself have Aimee in tow, in a much more protective, well prepared, cardboard box…..

Which, this physical exertion of crazy proportions resulted in my only checkered-flag of the weekend

Checkered flag

Checkered flag

You can view more pictures from the Cat Box Races here – http://www.tobinschuster.net/2009/catbox1/index.htm

And, you can watch this awesome video – note at 38 seconds into it where one of Jeff’s children goes.  Hopefully his wife doesnt find this – I think he told her everything was ok and she fell on the stairs.  Uck oh.

So, Saturday’s essay might be cut short because I don’t really recall everything. The things that we did do included having dinner courtesy of Mazda (and the beer trailer? they must have mis-funded it for the margarita-trailer for the spec-Miata guys) and the corner workers, including the really loud and big corner worker in the orange suit dropping the F-word around the kids every 4.23 seconds.  Yeah, you know him. He’s a fun guy, though.

I will say, as a driver – someone who doesn’t get to spend much time with the workers much (and I’m sure the same gig on Saturday nights at other tracks) – this is a great time.  I learned stuff from the guys and gals that watch me drive around, picked up some safety stuff, and learned some SCCA rules in the progress.

Sunday race

#62 out of 97 overall, or 35 out of 63 in CFF.

This race was fun. Then boring. Then fun.

We started out like family – similar to qualifying and the rest of the sessions.  Somewhere on lap 3 – a few guys got tangled up into turn 1.  Someone ended up on their head (anyone know who? I can’t recall) in the gravel, along with a few others immobile, which resulted in a black-flag for all of us.

We pulled into the pits, and waited for 35 minutes..

Then we went back out.  Luckily, they parted us in FF and CFF, so us CFF guys didn’t hold up the FFs.  I can’t recall the race -but I had a blast.  I do remember getting passed by a ton of FFs, and passing some other cars.  There is always action when there are 100 cars on the track.

More to follow…..

In the meantime, check out these pictures from the event –
Pictures of my car (the good ones by purple frog, who has a bazillion other pictures of the weekend if you want good pictures – purplefrog48@earthlink.net

Doug Carter/ApexSpeed pictures

Pictures of all groups, all days by (I think) Bill Valet

Sunday FF70 race 2 in the wet and DQ Cheese Curds

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