so its been awhile since my last post. I have since sent Sam’s car to the body shop, waited a couple weeks and picked it back up in one piece. Harrison Frame and Axel did an awesome job and you can hardly tell it was ever hit! They also told me that a previous fix on the car was never right and explains why i had so much trouble trying to line things up when i built it the first time. Now its back in the garage, today i pulled the head off to send to the machine shop for a three angle valve job and new guides, head decking and im also having the bumper welded up in a couple spots where it was damaged in the wreck. Once that stuff is out at the shop, i still need to track down our pesky oil leak and replace some other parts piled up next to the car.
Meanwhile my car has been sitting. We’ve been talking about moving for some time now but her being off work for almost a year and me racing and buying parts seemed to slow things down a little. Ive come to the realization that i need to step back, take care of things before i start racing again. I sold off my new parts i just bought, and i’m selling my Martini race car to another NASA racer that also just started out. This will put some cash in my pocket towards another house and will get the car far enough away from me to temp me from spending more money on it. Of course, while ive been arranging the sale of my race car i traded in my truck on a new Toyota Tundra pickup, which i have been buying new toys for as well. Oh well. I agreed to have the head rebuilt for my old car and install it before he picks it up, and most of my race spares will go along with it. Once the garage is more or less empty and Sam’s car is gone, i can just worry about selling our house and where we will be moving to. To add on top of my rush to find a new house, we also found out that we will be expecting another child by the end of July! We actually planned this although it happened a lot quicker than we expected this time. Hopefully by then, we will be in another larger house with more importantly, a larger work space so i can either build another spec car or maybe a time trials car, or a street rod, or a kit car….or…..well we’ll see.
So its been almost a month i would have hoped to be much further along in repairing Sam’s car but it seems that unless you drive something new, no one has the time to work on your car. After waiting for weeks the first shop told me to try another shop. This one seems much more promising but there is still a wait. He also said he wanted a front clip to make the repairs, so the day before Thanksgiving, Sam and I met up in Connorsville Indiana and cut the front off of a parted turbo with a saws all. Today i spent a good amount of time removing all of the stock stuff from the front clip, including the radiator, condensor, power steering hoses, oil cooler, horns, headlights and wiring. As much as i would like to think that i could weld this front clip in myself, it looks pretty daunting- i’ll leave it to the pro’s. After messing with that for awhile, i moved inside and pulled the fenders from the car. Since i want to try and save these fenders to avoid having to source all new stripes/stickers etc, i figured i would keep them here safe and let the frame guy fit the car with some used fenders i have upstairs. We have managed to build up a pretty good parts collection while waiting though. Sam’s car will be getting fresh paint and also a front engine reseal to figure out the oil leak, new front struts, new tow straps, a new partial exhaust to free up some ponies, a full head refurbish at the same time as mine, new Griffin radiator, then obviously and alignment etc. We also have a few new gauges to install in his car as well as sensors for warning lights that will hook into the traqmate system. Last thing i did was remove the fire bottles from both of our cars and store them in the house. Since these are basically water mixed with foam, you don’t want them to freeze in the winter and explode, so don’t overlook this if you have one.
My car hopefully will be much easier. I did pick up a Traqmate system with the standard display, which eventually will be traded for a TraqDash like Sam’s, since my stock gauges are about useless. I also picked up two used Go Pro cameras and a box full of mounts and accessories, so maybe i can get some good video this year. I’ll probably need to pick up the Traqmate video thingamagig that hooks the videos into your Traqmate system, overlays the data and allows you to turn the cameras on remotely- which is nice when you are strapped into the race car. My car is also slightly heavy, so in the spirit of adding lightness, i am ditching the Autozone battery for a 6lb Braille battery i picked up new. I’ll write up some details on mounting it when i get that far, as the mount they sell is pricey. I also picked up a new set of Hawk pads for the front and rear of my car, not sure if i need them yet, but its a probability after driving at Road America, the brake pad killer of the Mid West.
Now that the race season is over, for me at least, its time to go into winter time mode. Maybe i’m early but i usually have more winter projects than the norm. Sam’s car is in the garage now awaiting some frame time, so to prepare i pulled everything in the way from the front of the car. The lower valance, nose panel, headlights and air box assembly is all out and i had to do some maneuvering to get the radiator and fans out since they were pinned against the motor. Today i talked the frame guy from a local body shop into stopping by the garage to take a look at the car. His first impression was ” oh my” but i think he will be able to pull it out somehow. Hopefully next week the car will be all straight and i can just make it pretty and put it back together again. While the car is here it is also getting a new Griffin radiator, some custom exhaust mods from Hanksville Hotrods, a new j-boot which is ripped now and some other maintenance items.
Meanwhile other projects are in the works. Elliot, a local Chumpcar guy who runs a 944, blew his motor over the weekend at Road America of all places. He is stopping by this week to pick up Sam’s old motor from the grey car to replace the spot under the hood where he used to have four pistons. My car will be getting some refreshers this winter as well. I’m pulling the head from my stock motor- also under the bench – and sending it out to the machine shop for a valve job ,new guides and to be decked down some. Meanwhile i have some other things planned for my car, hopefully one being a Traqmate system. This is a device that keeps track of your location on the race track via GPS and can measure cornering G’s, compare laps to other competitors and tons of other stuff that i’ve only started to learn about. Pretty pricey but well worth the investment. Of course other crap i need includes brake pads, tires, oil change, brake fluid flush, etc etc. Its going to be another long winter…..
Friday morning i packed up the truck and the car and headed for Indy to meet up with Sam on our way to Road America. RA is a great track, way up in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin and has been host to years of racing from many famous racers from NASCAR to ChampCar. We visited RA alittle over a year ago with our former Chumpcar racer the “Dragon”, but this time it was slightly warmer and no snow. Our trip up took forever since we went through Chicago traffic at 4pm and then stopped a few times for gas, but we finally arrived in the dark at the track and dropped the cars off and headed to our hotel over in Sheboigan. Saturday morning, 7:15 drivers meeting was followed by cold tires and a cold track. I miscalculated how much heat my tires would gain and practice was pretty slow with the car sliding around pretty bad. I swapped on my other set of track rubber for the qualifying session but once again, still didn’t bump the pressures up quite enough, but still managed to qualify sixth out of eleven cars. Unfortunately in the morning two more of the cars had oil issues, one with a leaking pan gasket and the other with a blown oil cooler, dousing the side of the car with a healthy coat of race oil. Sid had loaned his car to Neal Agran for the first race as an attempt to hold his points position for the championship, so the car needed to be back up for race number one. After some scubbing and rerouting the car was back on the track, making ten for the start of the first race. My start was pretty bad and i didn’t get a jump on anyone, but i stayed in my position until Sid’s car with Neal driving decided that the lack of oil earlier compromised the rod bearings and the engine let loose after Canada corner. I finished the race in fifth position which was pretty decent, but then went straight to my paddock instead of checking the impound board for my number. This decision cost me my fifth place and DQ’d me for that race. A DQ meant that i would have to start last position for the next race as well, and i wouldn’t have enough races this weekend to get my provisional book signed off….ugh. Race two was a few hours later and i started dead last. As we inched up to the start line for the rolling start i tried to think of a way to gain positions right away, but as luck would have it I didn’t need to do much. Angel missed a shift in the other lane, causing three cars to slow just after the start and i jumped ahead of all three immediately. Eventually i chased down Brad Raum for a pass, but Angel caught me and passed, using the long straights to draft me. In corner 5 just after the long back straight, Sam spun on the exit and i passed him, only to be stuck behind some Miatas that although fast, were slowing me down enough for Sam to eventually catch up and pass. This pass was interesting, i saw Sam behind me on the front straight, i set in for turn one and then he is gone. I look to my left-on the outside of the corner and there is Sam in the marbles just off my driver’s door! We had a slight bump then he managed to get past on the outside, a very risky but evidently effective move. If i remember correctly Ray Freundt’s car died and i passed him after this. The chase after Sam was on. I spent a fair amount of time behind the Miatas but once i found a way to draft both of them down the front straight, i made an awesome pass and was right on Sam’s back bumper. We had a few close laps before the finish but Sam held me off. I may have been able to draft him on the front straight but a fudged downshift to third before the last corner sent me off into the grass for a moment, along with my chances for fourth place. Awesome race and i managed to get the whole thing on video, i’ll post it once i figure out how to compress it enough. After Saturday’s dust settled we headed for Siebken’s bar in Elkhart Lake for a few beers, a bar located on the location of the original Road America that has seen many famous racers stop in over the years. Great experience and a great time with friends.
Sunday was an array of fun races and enduros, so i figured i would use up my gas and go out a couple times. The first was started slowest cars first with about every different class on the field at one time. Sam and I lost track of time and got out late but managed to get some quick laps in, he was scrubbing in some new Toyo RR tires for Dan Pina. I was pulling away from Sam the first few laps but once the new tires gained some temp he was moving pretty well and caught back up. Once again the long straights worked for him to draft me and he made the pass, but i stayed surprisingly close for many laps. I had noticed that he was going pretty hot into turn five every lap and getting very loose and sliding out pretty far each lap, and eventually this cost him when the car snapped back and ended up nose first into the concrete barrier at the inside of turn 5. He was ok, but the car needs the front frame rails pulled back out and a fender and some body work. I managed to keep the shiney side up for the remainder and turned probably my fastest lap at 2:48 around the long track. I went out one last time for a 4/10ths race which required you to run each lap withing 4/10ths of a second of each other. I kept pretty consistant and turned some smooth clean laps but i never did see the race results. After some Angel cooked burgers we headed back home, only a 7 hour drive this time. Interesting weekend and i’m wiped but it was an awesome time at the track-for me- and i met alot of new friends and got some decent track time in. I think after Sams car is back together i’m pulling the head off my car for a rebuild and refresh.
After doing some negotiating during a used car purchase, Alan, Elliot and I ended up with some free dyno time at a local shop. Elliot is a co-worker of my friend Alan who also runs a 944 chumpcar. We all had our reasons to strap the cars down today, mine was to try and tune the AFM to squeeze some more performance out of the old spec car. After the car was on a warmed up i laid down a couple base runs. The dyno we used im not sure was set to the standard that most others are, because my first few runs were about 10-15hp lower than would be expected, but i figured i would improve on what we were seeing. My car was running pretty rich down low, so jump on the throttle out of a slow corner and the thing was sluggish to about 5k or more. After tightening the spring on the flapper door i was finally able to lean the car out enough that the tach swing was much faster, torque was improved by about 15-20ft/lbs and horsepower probably went up 3-4 hp or so. I was pretty happy with this, pulled the car out of the garage and took a quick run up the street to test it out. WOW! Huge improvement on low end, the car felt like it was launching off instantly when i jumped on the gas. Now the car pulls very hard- for an n/a- through the entire range. I cant wait to try it out on the track now since the last race i felt like i was being left behind in certain spots where the rpms were low.
Next up, Alan loaded the swapped turbo onto the dyno and showed what a modern v8 could do, putting down 350 rwhp with little effort. The car was running really rich, into the 10:1 range which means with some tuning there is plenty more hp to be made. Then up was Elliott’s chumpcar the Larry Racing special. The car started pretty low on horsepower, especially since its already an early car with a lower compression engine, etc. After some adjusting and experimenting with the AFM, we managed to squeeze an extra 10-15 hp from the car and the torque was up quite a bit. Thanks to the guys at R-style for allowing us to kill about four hours making alot of noise in their shop and messing around under the hood.
The Spec car is sitting waiting for an oil change and some tires, so life in the garage has been pretty slow. I have eight shiny wheels with no tires, and a budget for about one, plus my $100 Toyo bucks. Last weekend Sam and the guys were racing at Mid Ohio for the National NASA races, so i was getting updates here and there about car issues, who finished first etc. One big one was when I heard the news about Neal’s big wreck in GTS1, pretty much took out the whole drivers side of the car, luckily both drivers were ok. Since Neal also runs with the 944spec series, his absence dropped the number of entrants down to 9 cars, just low enough to drop the contingency for the top finishers drastically. Eric Kuhns was calling around, looking for someone to volunteer their car to start the race, for just a lap or so, to boost the number or entries. Although i was last on the list, i got the call to come up to Mid Ohio on Sunday, which i did. We came up with a plan that we agreed on, packed up the car, the daughter and the wife and made our way up to the track. Once Neal was in the car and headed for the grid, we walked over to the other side of the track, just behind the back straight to watch the Spec boxter, Spec 944 and Spec E30 race. It was pretty cool to see the view from the other side, and seeing my car out there was sweet. After watching a great race we headed back to the paddock to hear some stories and pack the car up. Eric hooked me up with four great used RA1 tires dated this year, enough to last me through Road America in October. They also turned me on to a guy who was selling some new full tread RA1 tires for rains, half price! Finally, truck loaded with tires, we headed back.
Monday I headed to the shop to mount up all my new tires on my shiny rims. Once they were laying back in my garage i went back to my previous project, looking for a stock chip for my DME. When i bought my motor, the DME had “autothority chip installed” written on the cover. Since an aftermarket chip is technically illegal in the 944spec class, i’ve been searching for a stock one everywhere. This week i located a guy on Rennlist.com who said he would trade DME computers, my chipped unit for his stocker. To be sure of which chip i had in there, tonite i pulled the box open, only to reveal i already have the stock chip installed. OOOOOkay……? Since the deal had been struck i turned the guy to Sam who had the same issue, hopefully they can make a good swap. I went back out to the garage for awhile to re-install my DME and decided to do alittle DIY corner balancing on the car. Out comes the tape measure and the jack, ended up doing some fine adjustment on the rear ride heights and left front corner which was way too high and could explain my abnormal wear on my tire there in my last race. Tomorrow i’ll drive the car alittle and make sure everything settles ok, then remeasure from there. Then maybe i’ll quit procrastinating about my oil change.
So the dust has settled on my first race weekend and now i’m preparing the car for my next race come October at Road America. First thing to do was try and fix the pushed in quarter panel on the drivers side of the car from a failed pass at Mid Ohio. With a slide hammer, some wood blocks and a large hammer i managed to pull my quarter out about an inch back into position and it looks pretty close, not perfect but better. Next i had to address my leaking trans. The new front seal i installed didnt seat properly and leaked out pretty badly. Alan and I dropped the trans in a couple hours, swapped the seal and reinstalled it quickly. After pondering my over steer problems at my first race i decided that a last minute lowering of the rear end had caused my rear suspension to toe out badly, which was already slightly out since my suspension was out of adjustment for a proper alignment. Talking to my alignment guy I learned that if i slotted out the front of the three trailing arm bolt slots that i would have more adjustment. After pulling the rear trailing arms loose and slotting the holes on the spring plate with a dremel tool, i trailered the car back to the alignment shop. This time the result was slight toe in on the rear suspension with 2.5 degrees neg. camber and zero toe up front with 3.5 neg. camber in front- perfect!!! Ok so the car will go straight and not leak. Whats next. Before i head out, i’ll be needing another set of tires. Eventually i will have three full sets, the last being rain tires- full tread RA1 toyos to use only in the wet. I have three sets of wheels already, two sets are painted red to match, but the last set i have not touched yet. When looking in my cabinet of paint, i realized that i dont have enough red to do another set of wheels, but i have plenty of blue/light blue from my stripes left over. I picked the light blue color and started sanding the last set of wheels down. I also had a set of wheels to paint for Alan so we simultaneously sanded and primed both sets. After plenty of blue and two coats of clear they are ready for some tires, when ever i have the funds. Meanwhile my heavy duty NAPA jack decided to quit working. This was a perfect excuse to buy a lightweight track jack while im waiting to get the big guy rebuilt. Off to Harbor Frieght! Next up, rotate the tires on the car and change the oil. Hopefully my Toyo bucks i earned at the last race show up soon so i can order another set of shaved RA1′s and mount them.