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Race Daddy!

I’m officially worn out from my first NASA race weekend at Mid Ohio. I neglected to book a hotel for Thursday night so Friday morning i left at 2am and arrived at the track bright and early, hoping to get my car tech inspected first thing. Well i guess only the HPDE easy techs get done in the morning, so off to Mid Ohio comp school for the rest of the day. The first two sessions on track were nice and wet but finally the track started drying out in the middle of the day. Finished school and ran two fake races and did good enough that i earned my certificate- name spelled wrong- but i did it either way. Saturday started wet again, the rest of the spec guys showed up and practice went rather smoothly for a slippery track full of 50+ cars. Qualifying was an hour or so later and i managed to grid fourth of 13 in our group, not bad! Then i slid off turn seven into the gravel trap. Once the wrecker pulled me out i stopped in the paddock to weigh my car- 2775lbs- about 175lbs over the minimum weight requirement. Back in the pit i decided to start pulling extras from the car, headlights out first. Neal went out for a ride in my car to give me some pointers during the HPDE, and i hardly even noticed that the gravel had knocked the power steering belt off the front of the motor. Once back in the pit, i decided that if i didnt miss the power steering that much, it wasn’t necessary. Off comes the pump, lines, reservoir, cooler and fluids. While i was at it i felt that the passenger seat and harnesses were due to leave as well. Back to the scales- 2680- i had dropped almost 100lbs from the car in under an hour.¬† Four hours later, after playing with some other cars and pacing around the pit we were on the grid, ready for my first real race.

A rolling start is intense. After a lap one of the spec guys lost it coming out of Madness and some quick maneuvering was required. Amazingly he caught back up and passed me within that lap! The GTS cars started catching up and passing which is like sitting on the side of the highway. Its hard to concentrate on your race when you are driving off line to allow faster cars to safely pass. I had to take a wide line into the keyhole for a couple faster approaching cars when another spec car got past me in the train. Lesson learned, i’ll take my line and let the faster guys work their way around. A few laps in i realized i hadn’t dropped the tire pressures from that morning which was very cold, the car had started skating around badly on my hot, overinflated rear tires. I had a few “oh crap!” moments, one super Tokyo drift over madness which was received well by the crowds watching behind the fence, and a spin a lap or so later coming out of madness which was scary but resulted in no loss of grass or position. By the end of the race fourty minutes later i was totally soaked in sweat but glad to have finished the race in one piece, and in FIFTH!! Not bad for my first real race. The guy who spun out ended up taking the checkered, followed by Sam in the grey car i have posted up building on this blog, and Neal Agran who had driven the Dragon a few times in my other blog.

The next day was much nicer out, the sun was shining and we set out for practice on a much drier note. I spent some time just practicing lines and making adjustments to the car so i was a little further back in the grid for qualifying. During qualifying i was getting quite loose in a few spots again even with the tire pressured dropped, so before the race i dropped the rear sway bar tension down some. Under the car i noticed my trans covered in blue Swepco fluid, probably the reason why i smelled gear oil during the race yesterday. Looks like my new front seal didn’t quite take so now I’ll be pulling the trans again to fix that. ūüė¶¬† Before the race my buddy Alan showed up with his wife and kids and headed over to the top of Madness to sit with my wife, mother in law, sister in law and daughter who were watching as well. No pressure! This time i qualified fifth place so my start was on the right side of the back straight, giving me a slight advantage in the first corner. The flag dropped and we headed down to turn 7 – or so i call it- full speed ahead. I managed to drop in front of the sixth place guy and was doing pretty good keeping up with the pack for a good lap or so. Once again Shannon in the red spec car sneaked past me at the key hole and the race was on. About twenty minutes in i was still chasing Shannon when coming down the back straight i got whacked in the left rear quarter by a quick approaching 911 who “i guess” didn’t realize we were on the left side of the track and tried a pass on the left. I slowed for turn seven then once i realized everyone was still moving, got back on the throttle and the chase resumed. Coming out of the carousel onto the front straight i saw the white flag waving. One lap left, if im going to pass this guy it will have to be now. Nose to tail i almost pushed the red car through turn one and up towards the key hole. I waited for the brake zone and once he turned in i ducked inside on the curbing and pulled up next to him. Down the back straight we had a spec drag race towards turn 7 and since i was on the right again, i had the advantage. At the end of the straight he braked before i did and i ducked in front of him. Sliding and drifting the rest of the track i almost lost it coming out of Thunder Valley, two tires in the dirt, but recovered and slid into the carousel¬† and out onto the front straight with him inches off my bumper. I managed to hold him off and took the checker, fifth place once again. I couldn’t wait to watch my video when i got home, but unfortunately my video died right after my accident. Exciting stuff anyways. Besides the awesome time on the track i met quite a few new people in the spec camp, and hung out with a few i already knew from other track events. These pics were taken by Eric Kuhn’s wife, thanks for those since i neglected to take any myself. Already pumped to sign up for my next two races in October, Road America here we come!


LSD anyone?

Finally friday afternoon the rest of the trans gaskets showed up so friday night Andy came by and we installed the rear cap, seals and linkage on the new LSD trans and topped it off with some Swepco 201 fluid. I also picked up a new tube of Window Weld 3M sealant and filled my trans mount with the stuff which really stiffens up the movement side to side, saving your drivers side axle from being pinned. Today after some running around i got back out to the garage and installed the new trans and stiffened mount, which went pretty smooth and took about an hour. Took it for a drive up the block a few times and it felt very smooth and tight so i guess i did something right. Afterwards I got out the bug and tar remover and went to town on cleaning all the roadkill off the front of the car and applied a quick coat of wax to the front and top to help new debris be removed more easily. Alan stopped by and while tinkering with his Jetta we also made a camera mount for my Flip Camera and mounted it. Basically just bought a 1.5″ muffler clamp and then used a heavy piece of metal, bent in a couple places to mount the camera to with two holes to bolt it onto the clamp. A small bolt with the thread of the camera was used with a rubber cam box gasket o-ring to bottom the camera on and wala. Eventually i’ll paint it black but for now it works.

The boys are back in town

Last night i got a few hours late in the garage and set the cars ride height, or dropped it i should say. I thought i had the car set pretty well before alignment but i believe he raised the car some to get the specs i wanted. Once i dropped the rear accentrics back down, i do have some more rear camber but with that and a spin of the front coilovers i now have just under 24″ at the top of each wheel well to the ground. Now to figure out how to adjust these damn rear shocks….

Finally back out in the garage again, time seems to be much less abundant these days. Since the race day is approaching i was planning on getting some last minute things done like adjusting the rear shocks, tightening the rear swaybar to add some over steer since i have alittle push in really tight corners, and swapping the antifreeze back to water. We finally lined up some schedules tonite for Alan and Jim to be here at the same time, so i put them to work. Another project that i wasnt planning on doing yet was swapping in my LSD trans i picked up awhile back. The open diff seems to do well but at mid ohio i was having some wheel spin in spots and i also needed a shorter fifth gear for the back straight. Since everyone else there will likely have the LSD and short fifth, i dont want to be left in the dust so now is as good a time as ever. Last weekend i cleaned the trans up some and spray painted it silver, as well as swapping in a short fifth from a donor turbo transmission a friend of mine wasnt using. Once the gears were swapped over, just have to wait for the new seals to show up so i can fill it with swepco 201 and stick her  in there. But first, the old must come out. This is pretty much the only part in the car i havent had removed yet so it was the nastiest as well. I put Jim to work tightening the rear sway and disconnecting the rear shocks for adjustment while Alan and I pulled all the bolts from the axels and got the trans loose. Once she was ready, just a few wiggles and the old trans was out on the floor. Now just to wait on parts, hopefully i can put the new trans in this weekend and get to the rad. flush soon.


BTW- update on Sam’s grey spec car. After pulling the oil filter housing and inspecting, i determined that somehow i had installed the oil thermostat upside down. This was blocking oil from coming back out of the oil cooler so under hot temps the oil would thin out and drop oil pressure. Now the car is running again and oil pressure is perfect. Sam got the car on a dyno and laid down a perfect 136rwhp which is awesome for us, basically all you could ask for from a stock new build motor. Last weekend he got in some racing and scored a 3rd and 2nd place finish which is awesome as well! Glad to finally see his car doing what it was meant to do. August i will be there with him at Mid Ohio so we’ll see how my car stacks up.

Critical Numbers

Since i’m finally signed up to race, i want to be sure the car is on its best behavior. Talking to some other Spec racers it seems that gauges are a must for keeping track of all of your critical numbers . The factory VDO oil pressure gauge seemed to work fine, but readings on these twenty-some year old gauges can be questionable at times. Since we installed a mechanical gauge in Sam’s car, i figured this would work just as well in my race car. Nine feet of AN3 oil pressure line, an M18 x 1.5 x 1/8″ NPT fitting and an Autometer Sport Comp mechanical oil pressure gauge 2 1/16″ was ordered for the job. The lines and gauge come with enough fittings to do the job, and the only other thing required is some power to light the gauge up. Now since i’m monitoring the pressure of the oil, another critical number to watch is temperature. Another Autometer gauge was ordered, same size, this one an oil temp gauge that reads 100-250 degrees. The gauge comes with a sender, so i pulled the plug on the left side of the pan, drilled and tapped it to 1/8″ npt and installed the sender easily. The hardest part of the install was where to put the gauges. I originally wanted to leave the vents in the center of the dash alone, I like the stock look, but since i also wanted to be able to see these gauges easily, the vents came out and a plate was to be installed. I made a Z shaped plate for the gauges which places them at a slight angle towards the driver. Once the plate was fit i glued it into the dash with some two part epoxy, then sprayed it with some Wrinkle Black paint. Now to order another case of Amsoil, adjust the rear bar and shocks and charge the fire bottle. Time to race.


A Fest-ivus for the Rest of Us

Made it to the Fest with no problems and set up camp late thursday night with Sam, Alan, Ben and Elliot’s Chumpcar team in tow. Friday morning we made our way through tech and awaited our turn on the track, which was delayed awhile by a 928 that dumped oil on half the track and decided to drive it in. After an hour or more the track was clean and we had the green light. Sam, Alan and I pulled out on the track and gave it hell for about fifteen minutes. Sam’s car was running well and my car seemed to be well matched on the straights which is a good sign for both of us. Sam ended up pulling off once again with oil pressure issues which i think we now may have figured out, I stayed out awhile ¬†which didn’t end the way i had anticipated. The car was running well and the tires felt very good although i knew they were not long for this world. I started getting some push through the tight right hand key hole turn and i figured the tires were heating up. Entering the kink after the back straight at 105mph suddenly the left front tire let loose and the car veered to the left, which i counter steered and then the car set off sideways down the track for a few hundred yards. The result was one destroyed front left tire and three others that flat spotted down to the chords. After this i swapped on a set of wheels i bought that came with Hoosier R6 tires which i figured i would burn up and lasted the rest of the weekend before chording on the last session. ¬†The car did pretty well all weekend though, not sure of my fastest time but according to a couple other guys i was running with we were in the 1:20-1:21 lap time range. Meanwhile a friend of ours Dan Pearson who started the Fest, blew his motor in his TurboS just ahead of me on the back straight, number four piston rod making an appearance and a BMW one series taking a wild spin down the straight behind him and the James Bond oil slick. Alan’s car did great and was a big hit with everyone including Sammy who took it out for some laps. Alan won Best Modified at the car show and somehow my spec car got Grand Champion which was a surprise. Packed up on saturday and headed out once again towards home. I decided once home that i needed to do some actual racing and not just burn my tires up at DE events, so i have now signed up for Mid Ohio in August with NASA, comp school to get my race license and then races saturday and sunday with Sam, Neal and the guys. Alan is coming as well, hopefully he can do some time trials in his car there. Im pumped now, need to make some tweaks on the car, stiffen the rear shocks and sway and charge up my fire extinguisher system. More to come!


Boys under the hood

The Fest is coming up fast and i am surprisingly out of projects to do besides packing up my stuff. I did however want to clean the car up some, and one thing thats bugged me since the build has been the bottom of the hood. I had flaked off the hood insulation leaving some nasty looking glue under the hood, so tonite Alan, Jim and I pulled the hood and scrubbed off the bottom with various harsh chemicals- well ok Jim did most of it. Alan and I had a few cold ones and messed around with his car for awhile. Once the bottom of the hood was ehh, pretty clean, i stuck on some misc. stickers and we bolted it back up. Gotta be pretty right? ¬†A few days ago i installed my front sway bar support brackets – and changed my water for some pre-mix coolant since i won’t need to run straight water until I’m racing with NASA. Sam stopped by last weekend and picked up his car, so this weekend it will be at Gingerman Raceway up in Michigan. Can’t wait to see it on the track at the Fest and see how closely are cars are paired.

Just add gas

Tuesday I bought a 3/8-18 NPT tap and a pipe plug for the water pump to cap off the extra port we are no longer using for the heater. The cap we used split and leaked so now this shouldn’t be a problem. Wednesday Alan and Jim came over to help and it was much needed. Jim sanded and repainted the exhaust which had flaked off much of my original “heat” paint – guess it gets hotter than a pot belly stove- and then he mounted it up under the car and bolted everything up tight. Alan swapped the fuel rail parts over to the new zinc plated rail while i was mounting the water pump, belts and rollers. I made Alan put the new DME in which he loved doing,i could tell. Once the timing was set, fuel lines tight and radiator and hoses all snugged up, I cranked the motor over to get oil pressure, dropped in the DME relay and she fired right up! ¬†After idling for a little while the temps were great, fans came on and cycled off, oil pressure perfect and the motor was sounding very healthy. We had bypassed the oil cooler since out original Setrab unit was most likely contaminated so we ordered a new unit. Today after work the new cooler arrived and i bolted it up to the bracket and attached the lines. A quick leak check and add some oil and the engine was officially completed. I did do a quick check over the whole car to make sure every bolt we touched was tight from the exhaust and suspension to the fuel rail and covers. I ran the car around the block a few times and she runs very well, can’t wait to see it out on the track finally- without any problems!!!! I did end up rerouting the catch can lines after these pics were taken, now the AOS line goes under the intake and out the front to the can, making a much cleaner look and staying away from the hood. Sunday Sammy picks up the car and we will be at the Fest in two weeks for the Spec car Shootout!