Part 11 - Halloween Hooptiefest 2012
I honestly didn't think this race would go well. I just didn't have faith in the car. Despite the test drive I had a week prior I was convinced we were going to break early and often. Regardless, Thursday night came and somehow I had the car loaded, packed, and ready to go. 5am Friday morning rolled around and I got up, threw the rest of the stuff in the truck and headed towards NHMS. Dad and I arrived at 7:30 and set to work unpacking.
Friday brought the strange feeling of "what do we do now?" for the second race in a row. The car was running and working. So we decided to mess with it (we are engineers after all). The turbo was setup in the stock configuration, however since the wastegate can wasn't the right one, we were only getting about 4psi with the wastegate fluttering. Turns out Bryan had a manual boost controller out of an evo in his car. Sounds perfect. So we threw it on with enough tubing to run out the hood and into the car via the window. I mean what could go wrong?
I had Bryan jump in the passenger side and we went for a spin around the pits to dial in the boost. I hit the gas and instantly we spiked to 16psi..... when stock was 12. Shit. Panic and twist it down, down, more, all the way to the lowest setting. With the boost controller set to minimum we made around 6psi, which was absolutely perfect. enough to keep the ECU happy and build some power, but not enough to over stress the engine. And the boost built fast. I mean really fast. If you even went near the gas you were almost instantly at 6psi. So the race would be interesting.
We finally rolled the car to tech and went about getting it approved. Jay greeted us with enthusiasm, gave the car a once over, pointed out a few things wrong and set us on our way. As we're waiting for BS inspection Jay comes back and says "I think we all know where this is going, give me your sheet." C class, zero BS laps. Sweet. We were still trapped in the tech garage so we waited for Phil to be done with the car ahead of us, then with a huge grin "we're pre-approved for zero laps". With a laugh we were sent on our way.
The rest of the day was spent tidying up the car slightly and finding things to do. As it grew dark we setup the PS3 and driving setup for some GT5 sessions and set about enjoying a stress free night before race day. Exploring the pits proved amazingly entertaining. Between the burning man mobile dance floor, the Halloween living room lounge, and all the other madness it was just a great night.
Somewhere around 9:30 or so we decided that it would be an awesome idea to walk the track. and by walk I mean ride around on razor scooters. (yes, we're a scooter gang as well as a race team). So we found a gate with enough of a gap and slipped out onto the pit lane and took off. After climbing the hill we set off on the sketchiest drop into the bowl ever. Flying into the banked turn far faster than should ever be done on a scooter designed for children I just could not stop grinning. It was a friday night, i was with great friends, and i was running a race track on a scooter. Finally completing the lap we slipped through the gate and back into the pit area.
Saturday morning rolled around and we slowly got going and checked the car once over to make sure there was nothing blatantly wrong. The drivers meeting came and went and suddenly I was being strapped into the car and sent on my way out onto track. Oh god this was still terrifying. Many many caution laps later the green flag dropped and we were off. For one brief moment we were actually in 10th overall, until many many cars divebombed and blew their way past our miserable little daytona. The car was still just terrifying and awful to drive as it ever was, but we were racing. End of the first stint I came in and we put the next person out.
Despite my gut feeling that something was moments from going terribly wrong, the car just kept going. And going. And going. We only had a few tiny stops to check things on the car and we just kept making laps. Amazingly we were climbing in the standings too. From somewhere deep into the 80s we moved up to the 60s. Finally it was within the last half hour of the race and I was back at the wheel searching for the limits of the car buried deep inside the zero feedback controls. And I found them. Braking hard for the turn up the hill I locked up the rear wheels and sent it sideways. I saw the wall coming and just dumped both feet in preparing for the worst. Somehow i came up short, planted on the grass and fine. A quick cranking to restart the engine and I was on my way, right to the penalty box.
Rolling into the penalty box Jay comes over with "you were so close to a checkered, what did you do?" "well, i got into the brakes too hard and sent it sideways. Stupid move." "get back out there and stay out of the brakes." And off we went. A few more laps and for the second time ever i was greeted with the sight of a checkered flag waving above me. We pulled into the pits, parked the car, and marveled at the fact that we didn't have to start changing an engine. So we set back up the GT5, found some beer, and set about giving the car a once over.
We decided to try and mess with the front suspension to try and induce some more camber. So we loosened the front struts, forced the lower bolt all the way out in it's adjustment slot, and clamped it all together again. The result actually was most more camber, it was impressive. We'd just have to see how it worked in the morning. We also discovered that our rear passenger side bump stop had rotted off and was now free floating inside the rear spring. Well, guess we found the source of one rattle....
Sunday morning rolled around and I found myself awake at 6:30 and checking the car over. Everything seemed fine, so following a drivers meeting we loaded our first driver and send them on their way. Now, if this is all seeming a bit too reliable and normal, our first setback came after our second driver came in. The car had been making a few new less than great noises, but now there were some serious grinding noises that sounded quite fatal. Assuming a starter issue we set about pulling the intake piping to get at the starter. What we found terrified me. We were missing a bolt holding transmission to engine, and most the others were loose. That wasn't good..... We had torqued them all during assembly, so there must be enough vibration to shake them loose, great. A little time with a breaker bar and a new bolt and everything was tight again. An hour lost but the car sounded normal again.
Our next setback came with our third driver. "I'm off the track, no power, trying to get to the pits" Shit. Running back to the garage i see our car limping by the other side of the garages absolutely pissing fluid from the back. From the back? oh SHIT, that's fuel! "KILL IT!!, GET OUT!". Our driver had tried to pass the inside of another car, who was pitting, and as a result had gotten nudged off the track. In the process he hit a cone and pinched a hard line, cracking it. Unfortunately it was the supply line, so anytime the key was on the fuel pump tried to build pressure and puked fuel. Another hour and a half or so later and we had the line replaced, and with an approval from HQ we headed back on track.
As I climbed in for my last stint the starter died. Hooray. Lets start pushing again. After a few caution laps to rescue a car that had gone into the wall in the bowl I got some clean laps, and amazingly I started to enjoy the car quite a lot. The camber adjustment had actually helped. It still pushed like a pig, but it now turned in before pushing. The car had a great personality at this point. It was like it was trying to make up for all the disappointments of the past and prove it was worth something. Even shifting at 4k it actually had some power. Once you figured out it's poor handling characteristics you could start actually enjoying corners again. Turn in, let it lean over 6degrees, and give it a foot-full, done right and it would somehow manage to pull through. Down the front straight and we were licking at the heals of triple digit speeds. If I had been brave enough to pass our 4500 rev limit we would have be really flying (and exploding).
As the afternoon pushed on the car started to come undone. The car started to burn and leak more and more oil. By the end of the day we were losing at least 1/3 of a quart of oil in a 20 minute stint. But we kept adding oil and sending drivers out. We didn't care, the end was in sight. A goal that previously seemed impossible was now in sight. Keep it going. Just make it get there. 4:10pm and we put our last driver in and told him to get it home. 4:30 and the checkered flag goes out to the glorious sight of our car still turning laps. I was stunned. How on earth did this pile of absolute crap make it through 286 laps without a major drivetrain failure? no matter it had.
Elated with what we had accomplished we made our way to the awards ceremony. Expecting nothing, we were absolutely thrilled to hear a description of our team being announced for the organizers choice. I couldn't have asked for more. 68th place of 122 cars, and 286 laps. If we hadn't lost time sunday with our off-road shunt we would easily have surpassed 300 laps, a goal I had jokingly set after the race in May. So what do we do now? Well I think we go for top 3 in C class. (assuming we stay there of course) I think with an improved cooling system, oil cooler, properly adjusted brakes and suspension, and a few other reliability improvements we could have a decently fast car. I'm not sure it will ever be reliable, but it might have a shot.
20+ Time Loser FutilityMotorsport Abandoned E36 Build2008 Saab 9-5Aero Wagon
Retired - 1989 Dodge Daytona Shelby
2011-2015 "Lifetime Award for Lack of Achievement" IOE, 3X I got screwed, Organizer's Choice